Philadelphia puts many U.S. cities to shame with its historical relevance, authentic attitude and central location between New York and D.C. Although this East Coast metropolis is seeing prices rise quicker than its skyline, smart travelers don’t need to pinch pennies in order to see all that Philly has to offer. On your next visit to the City of Brotherly Love, think about heading to one of these free Philadelphia attractions.
Free Museums in Philly: 10 Fantastic and Free Attractions to Visit in Philadelphia
Independence Hall - Image Credit: www.uwishunu.com
1. Independence Hall - 520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA
Independence Hall is one of the many buildings on the grounds of Independence National Historic Park. As the former Pennsylvania State House, this building provided the backdrop for the birth of the United States: great statesmen drafted and signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution within this historical attraction. Visitors may stand in rooms restored to their appearance in the 18th century, complete with quills, candlesticks, paintings and furniture familiar to Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin. Across Chestnut Street is the iconic Liberty Bell, though visitors are no longer allowed to touch the bell for security reasons. Independence Hall is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; advance tickets cost $1.50 and walk-up admission is free.
2. Woodmere Art Museum - 9201 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA
Situated in the lush Chestnut Hill neighborhood on a sprawling six-acre estate, Woodmere Art Museum’s castle-like appearance boasts beautiful high ceilings in its Kuch gallery (which also has a balcony-level viewing area). Unfortunately, the special exhibitions require a $10 admission fee for adults, unless you have a student ID. The permanent collection on display is excellent on its own, featuring artists exclusively from the Delaware Valley region and spanning several hundred years. The unique architecture around the property makes it an excellent “photo-op” location. Except for Monday (the museum is closed), Woodmere opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 8:45 p.m. on Friday and 6 p.m. on Saturday.
3. The Institute of Contemporary Art - 118 S 36th St, Philadelphia, PA
ICA once hosted Andy Warhol and Laurie Anderson’s first art shows, but hasn’t wavered from involving itself with influential artists. The venue hosted cult-status cartoonist R. Crumb some years back and deals with all kinds of creative media. Currently on display is British artist Josephine Pryde’s “lapses in Thinking By the person i Am,” a collection of photographs of manicured hands touching surfaces that subverts generic fashion photography. Stop by on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., but double check with the museum’s website for holiday hours.
4. Edgar Allen Poe National Historic Site - 532 N 7th St, Philadelphia, PA
Literary genius Edgar Allen Poe had some productive years in Philadelphia, during which the poet penned “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” This preserved house is far from the only home where Poe lived, but has many connections to his most well-known works (a treat for lovers of literature). Disappointingly, the rooms are not furnished in the style of the mid-1800s in an attempt to minimize damage to the decaying property—although the decay seems fitting given the spooky nature of Poe’s work. The house is open Friday through Sunday from 9 a.m to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
5. The Chemical Heritage Foundation - 315 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA
Who likes science? The museum at the Chemical Heritage Foundation has interactive exhibits to pique the interest of young, curious minds and seasoned thinkers alike. In Old City a few blocks away from Independence National Historic Park, CHF houses pieces of intellectual history dating back to the 1500s, such as documents explaining the rise and fall of alchemy as a serious field of study. More modern displays include chemistry equipment through the ages and diagrams of color theory. Children will love the astronaut suits and the temporary exhibit “Science at Play,” where they can test out kid-sized microscopes. Aside from holiday closures, the wheelchair-accessible facility is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Between March and December, CHF is open until 8 p.m. on the first Friday of every month.
6. The Barnes Foundation - 2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
Having relocated to a new address three years ago, the Barnes Foundation museum still offers the same awe-inspiring array of legendary art—allegedly worth $25 billion in total. The new structure is angular, made of marble and surrounded by an infinity pool; inside, one can grab a drink at the swanky coffee bar after gazing at Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse paintings. While regular admission can cost as much as $25, Barnes offers free tickets starting at 9 a.m. at the ticket office window on the first Sunday of every month — the deal is limited to two adults and two children per transaction.
7. Awbury Arboretum - 1 Awbury Rd, Philadelphia, PA
Get about 20 minutes outside of Philly proper to enjoy the solace of birch trees and wildflowers in Historic Germantown. A popular place to get married and throw fundraisers, Awbury Arboretum was started by well-to-do Quakers whose descendants built a handful of Victorian-style houses in the immediate area. The relaxed atmosphere is a great setting to unwind or bring a dog or small children to explore and run about, especially with ponds and meadows to discover around the property. Also in Germantown: the Deshler-Morris House, an estate where President George Washington took up residence on two occasions. Arboretum grounds are open from dawn until dusk.
8. U.S. Mint - 151 N Independence Mall East, Philadelphia, PA
Across from Benjamin Franklin’s grave on Arch Street stands the highly secure and imposing U.S. Mint, where currency is printed and distributed. Take part in a surreal experience that may change your relationship with money; the institution we take for granted details every aspect of creating pennies, nickels and dimes. A short film at the David Rittenhouse Theater remembers the Coinage Act of 1792, which established the Mint and its right to produce currency, and if history feels a little dull, the tour is self-guided—feel free to skip ahead to the physical striking of the coins. The Mint’s tour entrance opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 4:15.
9. Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul - 18th St and Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Philadelphia, PA
Built between 1846 and 1864, this cathedral next to Logan Square stands out from the vast majority of landmarks in Philadelphia. Constructed during a time of anti-Catholic tumult, the architechural choice to exclusively install hard-to-reach windows reflects a fear of vandalism and rioting. Visitors need not be religiously observant to savor the beauty of this cathedral; students of art history might notice that the cathedral shares a fresco painter with the U.S. Capitol, Constantino Brumidi. Visit the cathedral during the week between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
10. Shoe Museum at Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine - 8th and Race Streets, Philadelphia, PA
Head to Chinatown to view a low-key yet quirky collection of important footwear, found on the sixth floor of Temple’s grad school satellite campus. A tour of about 250 pairs of shoes takes visitors through historically and culturally significant artifacts, from Egyptian burial sandals to famous World Cup cleats, with a specific focus on vintage footwear that caused physical pain. Even if your family isn’t full of shoe experts, many will appreciate the items worn by celebrities and heads of state. Visits must be scheduled in advance; contact curator Barbara Williams at [email protected] for a tour.
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This article was written by Juliana Cohen and edited by Lexi Perman.