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Rittenhouse Square is one of my favorite places in Philadelphia. I live very close to the Square and I get to experience the vibe and the ambiance almost on a daily basis. Rittenhouse Square is the name of the Square (a public park) and also the name of the surrounding neighborhood. From a historical stand point, Rittenhouse Square is one of the five squares planned by William Penn in the 17th century.
Philadelphia is the largest city in the State of Pennsylvania, a state that is named after William Penn. King Charles II of England gave a large piece of land to William Penn in 1681. This was the King Charles’s way of paying off the debt he owed to William Penn’s father!!
Rittenhouse Square is home to Philadelphia’s elite. The Square has many high-end condos and a very expensive hotel (The Rittenhouse). The Rittenhouse Square neighborhood is generally considered to be one of the highest income neighborhoods in the United States.
How to get to Rittenhouse Square?
- If you are from the suburbs of Philadelphia, the best way to get to Rittenhouse Square is to take the SEPTA Regional Rail and get off at the Suburban Station. Rittenhouse Square (18th and Walnut) is about 4 blocks away from the Suburban Station (five to 10 minute walk). There is a Barnes and Noble at the corner of 18th and Walnut).
- If you are in New Jersey, consider taking the PATCO Speedline. The last stop is 16th and Locust, which is less than 2 blocks form Rittenhouse Square.
- You can also take the Market-Frankford Subway (Blue Line) or the Broad Street Line (Orange Line). If you take the Blue Line, you can get off at City Hall (15th Street) and walk to the Square (5 blocks). If you take the Orange Line, you can also get off at City Hall and walk or get off at the Walnut-Locust stop, which is a block closer. I like to walk along Walnut Street from the Square to the Walnut-Locust stop. Lots of shopping and nice restaurants along the way.
- You can take the following SEPTA buses to the Square: 42, 21, and 9.
- Then there is the SEPTA Subway Surface Trolly line. I have not taken one of them in a long time. I should. I enjoy taking public transportation (I have to because I do not have a car!!). Although the name is Surface Trolly lines, in this section of the city, it is actually underground. There is a stop at 19th and Walnut, which is about 3 blocks from the Square.
Where can I park in Rittenhouse Square?
Do not drive to the Square if you can avoid it. It is the congested part of the city. Street parking is difficult to find. Philadelphia Parking Authority is very active in this neighborhood.
You should forget street parking during business hours. Also, make sure you are an expert at parallel parking if you are planning to street park!! Parking in a garage can be expensive and sometimes you might not be able to take your car out of the garage in time because the attendants can get busy. I do recommend Latimer Garage (1510 Latimer Street). All my friends park there when they visit me and we never had a bad experience. Remember that this garage is cash only and is about 4 blocks from the Square.
Many people from the suburbs spend the weekend in Rittenhouse Square. There are many hotels that are very close to the square that you can select from.
Who owns Rittenhouse Square?
Rittenhouse Square is a public park, owned by the City of Philadelphia. But for the most part the park is maintained by a non-profit organization called “The Friends of Rittenhouse Square”.
5 Things to do in Rittenhouse Square
These are the five things you can do on any normal day at the Square. There are many special events that happen throughout the year like Restaurant Week, Saturday Farmers Market, Holiday Lighting and Arts and Craft shows that I will write about in a future article.
People Watching: During Spring, Summer and Fall, after work, one of my favorite activities is to read or have a drink and also people watch. The main pathway that cuts across the Square is the best place to do it. You can see people from all walks of life going home after work and many others dressed up and heading to the city for a night of fun. Sunsets are beautiful. I like the way the sunlight reflects off of the Parc which has a red exterior.
Walking: You should consider walking from the Square through Locust Street (important!) to the Schuylkill River Park. From the park you will get to see beautiful views of the city, the Schuylkill River, CHOPS, FMC building and 30th Street Station. The River Park is one of the best ways to end a beautiful evening. A slightly shorter walk would be to walk towards Saint Patrick’s Church through Rittenhouse Square (Rittenhouse Square is the name of the narrow street that is at the corner of the Square (next to the Dorchester condominiums). Make a left on 20th Street and walk a couple of blocks. There are nice restaurants on both sides of the street. Make a right on Delancey Pl. During this brief walk you will see some historic houses. The Square itself and the neighboring streets are some of the most photographed areas of the city.
Restaurants: There are many fantastic restaurants near Rittenhouse Square. Many of the offer outdoor seating. Alma De Cuba (Cuban), Pietro’s (Italian), Parc (French), Tequilas (Mexican) and Devon (Seafood) are some of my favorites. I also hangout at The Dandelion or the Tria Café with my friends. If you are in the mood to watch a European Soccer game, head over to Fado. There are also some Chinese and Indian food options.
Shopping: The area around Rittenhouse Square (along Walnut and Chestnut Streets) are the places to shop in Philadelphia. Granted there are no major shopping centers in the area (except the Liberty Mall). But you do not need the mall. There are several high-end shops on both Walnut and Chestnut from 18th street to Broad Street. I like going to the Macy’s (13th and Chestnut, slightly outside the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood), just to enjoy the historic architecture of the building (It is the Wanamaker Building and still has the Wanamaker Grand Organ, the largest of it’s kind in the world. It attracts a lot of visitors daily). During holiday season, the setting is fabulous.
One Liberty Observation Deck: The observation deck opened a few years ago. It is three blocks from the square itself. The observation deck is on the 57th floor and the views are great particularly during sunset. You can see the Square, Delaware and Schuylkill rivers, City Hall and the rest of Center City, Ben Franklin Bridge, South Philadelphia and University City. The place is rarely busy and you will get a discount if you live in the city.
What is your favorite thing to do in Rittenhouse Square? Is there a particular restaurant that you like in the area? Share your thoughts in the comments below.