The 20 Best Neighborhoods in Philadelphia in 2021
Like few others in America, Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. The best neighborhoods in Philadelphia run from family-friendly to working class to high-rise living. Some are bustling skyscraper districts and others suburban-style sprawl. It stretches from North Philly to South, Somerton to Eastwick. It is diverse in both population and lifestyle.
No matter your tastes and budget, there’s a Philadelphia neighborhood for you. Many lined with bars and restaurants. Some surround sports arenas and music venues. Others have friendly, stooped rowhouses. And nearly every one is by an incredible park or riverfront.
But among the 150 or so Philadelphia neighborhoods which are the best post-pandemic? We evaluated every one for livability. Factors include commute time, green spaces, schools, walkability, entertainment, drinking and dining, waterfront access, safety, recreation, rent prices and cost of living.
From this, we determined the 20 definitive best neighborhoods in Philadelphia to live in in 2021.
Imagine the beating heart of fine Center City living. It’s usually Rittenhouse Square that comes to mind. It’s one of the oldest Philadelphia neighborhoods. But it’s also exciting, vibrant and filled with modern shopping and dining.
The Rittenhouse Square neighborhood surrounds Rittenhouse Square park. One of Philadelphia’s five original public squares, Rittenhouse is one of the city’s favorite gathering places. It’s a hub for dog walkers, artists, the after-work crowd couples lunching and people watching. Some of Philly’s best shops, cafes and restaurants, both traditional and trendy, surround the square.
Upscale condos and chic apartments tower over the park. These are among some of the most desirable in the city. But Rittenhouse Square’s cost of living is also among the highest in Philadelphia.
Rising over the west bank of the Schuylkill River is Philly’s second downtown. University City is home to major universities and sparkling skyscrapers. Here are the campuses of Penn, Drexel and USciences. It’s the site of gleaming Cira Center and FMC Tower.
That mix of higher ed and corporate offices is a draw for young professionals and recent grads. And new construction like Schuylkill Yards and 30th Street Station Plaza is drawing even more residents to this section of West Philly.
As a hub for young professionals and millennials, University City is one of the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia for dining and entertainment. Trendy restaurants mix with cheap college student eats. A mix of shops, galleries, farmers markets and university museums further add to the lively atmosphere.
Spend a day at legendary college sports venues The Palestra and Franklin Field. Or enjoy an evening of live music at World Café Live.
Away from the campuses and towers, University City is highly residential. It features a mix of luxury high rises, upscale condos and affordable off-campus student housing.
Photo source: Fishtown Neighbors Association / Facebook
The historic, industrial neighborhood of Fishtown lies along the Delaware River. It is now one of Philadelphia’s trendiest areas outside of Center City. The quirky community is an art, culture, foodie and entertainment district. The stylish North Philly neighborhood attracts hipsters, yuppies, artists, young families, entrepreneurs, restauranteurs and incubators.
The district’s former fisheries now house interesting apartments and artist lofts. Surrounding them are galleries, breweries and co-work spaces. Fishtown features many of the city’s most popular music venues. Among these are the Fillmore, Foundry, Johnny Brenda’s and Kung Fu Necktie. And fortune seekers can press their luck at Rivers Casino on the Delaware.
Fishtown is one of the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia for food and drink. Fette Sau, Joe’s Steaks, Evil Genius Beer Company, Pizza Brain and Pizzeria Beddia are among the most popular spots in the city.
Along the Delaware on Center City’s east side is Old City, the oldest district in Philadelphia. Settled in 1682, Old City retains much of its historic charm while infused with modern living. Here residents live in the shadows of history. Independence Hall, Liberty Bell, National Constitution Center and Betsy Ross House all call this area home.
Old City is the city’s primary tourist area for Revolutionary War buffs. But the neighborhood is still popular for full-time residents. Located among historic structures are hip gastropubs, improv theaters, galleries, boutique retail, cafes and popular eateries. There are plenty of entertainment and recreation spots as well. Some include Penn’s Landing, Blue Cross RiverRink and Summerfest and Cherry Street and Race Street Piers.
These are the streets where Founding Fathers like William Penn, George Washington and Ben Franklin once roamed. Want to really live among the history? Old City’s Elfreth’s Alley is the oldest continuously occupied residential street in North America.
Photo source: Chesnut Hill PA / Facebook
Two hundred years ago, Center City elites escaped the city’s summer heat in then-rural Chestnut Hill. Today, the tree-lined neighborhood is known for its bucolic beauty. The Northwest Philadelphia district is known for buzzy cobblestone streets and chic dining and drinking spots.
Germantown Avenue is the main thoroughfare. It’s often filled with music and conversation spilling out of its beloved bakeries, pubs, eateries and charming shops.
Also, Chestnut Hill is also a green getaway. Next door is 2,000-acre Wissahickon Valley Park. The park offers over 50 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Chestnut Hill is a garden district neighborhood. Streets feature historic mansions and Victorian townhomes along with welcoming apartment communities. Despite sitting 12 miles from Center City, commuting remains easy. The business district is reachable by car in a half hour and by train in under 45 minutes.
Photo source: The View at Manayunk / ApartmentGuide.com
Roxborough is one of Northwest Philadelphia’s urban suburbs. While neighbors with popular Manayunk and East Falls, Roxborough maintains its unique identity. The neighborhood has tons of bike paths and parkland. Trendy restaurants, indie-retail stores, cafes and taprooms line its Ridge Avenue spine.
The riverside district is a site for industrial mills and their employees. But soon after, the wealthy elite moved in and created an oasis. Today, you can still enjoy those large 200-year old Victorian homes and carved-out green spaces.
Roxborough is much larger than its sister neighborhood Manayunk. The Schuylkill River forms the western border, while expansive Wissahickon Valley Park sits at the east. The nearby Schuylkill Expressway, regional rail lines and bike paths make commuting into Center City simple.
Photo source: Northern Liberties Business Improvement District / Facebook
Around 350 years ago, William Penn designated the area north of Vine Street as “Liberty Lands.” Early settlers were granted free land as long as they built on it. And thus, the northern liberty lands, or “Northern Liberties,” became America’s first suburb. Over the next three centuries, “NoLibs” mills, factories and foundries filled its blocks.
Around the turn of the 21st century, redevelopment came to the North Philly neighborhood. Like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, artists, students, musicians, young professionals and hipsters moved in. Warehouses became loft apartments, restaurants and bars opened and music clubs thrived.
Today, Northern Liberties attracts all kinds to its busy streets. Amenity-filled low-rise apartments and lofts sit atop commercial businesses on street level. Some of Philly’s most beloved eateries, sandwich shops, comfort bistros and vegan hangs line the streets. Locals come to visit spots like North Bowl, Honey’s Sit ‘N Eat and Silk City Diner.
But NoLibs isn’t just hipsters and foodies alone. The neighborhood is home to Yards Brewing Company, Franklin Music Hall and Orianna Hill Park.
Photo source: Montclair Duplex Apartments / ApartmentGuide.com
Northeast Philly is usually associated with big box stores, rowhomes and Roosevelt Boulevard traffic. But Fox Chase and the Lower Northeast have become one of Philly’s residential growth areas. Fox Chase sits in a desirable location. It lies just south of vast Pennypack Park and alongside suburban locales like Cheltenham and Elkins Park.
Fox Chase offers suburban-style living with convenience into Center City. Its locale has been long beloved by those escaping the city bustle. Passenger rail lines dating to the 1800s introduced downtown residents to suburbs on the city’s fringes. Here they created family living and built extravagant mansions.
Apartments and houses in Fox Chase remain affordable. Its location is convenient to both central Philadelphia and the corporate hubs of Montgomery County. Popular Burholme Park sits in the neighborhood’s western corner. And Fox Chase Farm is one of the last active farms within the city limits.
Photo source: 2232 Christian Street / ApartmentGuide.com
It goes by many names. Call it Southwest Center City, Naval Square, Schuylkill-Southwest or South of South. But the neighborhood that forms the northwest corner of South Philadelphia from Broad to the river is most properly known as Graduate Hospital.
“G-Ho” (but please not “SoSo”) is a transitional district that fades from Center City’s glitz to South Philly’s residentiality. With a foot in both, Graduate Hospital offers a variety of rentals from chic apartment buildings off Broad to large complexes closer to the river. This allows the neighborhood to cater to both families and young professionals.
The neighborhood’s mixed character invites more low-key nightlife than trendier spots in the city.
There’s charm and beauty between Wissahickon Valley and Fairmount Parks in Northwest Philly. Leafy East Falls is one of the most overlooked Philadelphia neighborhoods. It is one of Philly’s urban suburbs along with Roxborough and Manayunk. Long overshadowed by its more famous neighbors, East Falls has begun to catch up.
East Falls, separated from Roxborough-Manayunk by the lower leg of Wissahickon Valley Park, creates a unique garden district atmosphere. Along the river lie the beautiful Wissahickon and Schuylkill River Bike Trails.
The former sleepy residential neighborhood is getting a cultural makeover to match its rivals. East Falls is celebrating newer shopping districts with bars, restaurants and coffee shops with their own flair. But don’t think that style and cachet has never existed in the district. The late Princess Grace Kelly grew up in the heart of East Falls off McMichael Park.
Unlike most of the specific neighborhoods on this list, South Philadelphia is more of a region than a neighborhood. Sure, there are a number of smaller neighborhoods that make up South Philly. Packer Park, Grey’s Ferry, Point Breeze and Girard Estates are just some of the 30 or so districts. But Philadelphians know that South Philly feels different. A homogenous region encompassing the entire city south of South Street. South Philly is the city’s alpha neighborhood.
Much of the image of Philadelphia engendered from movies like “Rocky” is true to form in South Philly. Large chunks of it are residential, sprawling blocks of rowhouses and rentals with families hanging out on stoops. But the region offers a lot more. Each community tells a story.
Deep South Philly houses the city’s sports complex, featuring the Eagles, Flyers, 76ers and Phillies. Passyunk Square is home to Pat’s King of Steaks and rival Geno’s Steaks on “Cheesesteak Corner.” The decommissioned Navy Yard has sprung into office complexes, restaurants, shopping and running trails. The Italian Market features nearly 40 grocers and eateries along awning-covered sidewalks. And Pennsport offers blocks of supermarkets and big-box stores necessary for residential living.
The name Society Hill may sound ritzy. But the Center City neighborhood was actually named for the 17th century Society of Free Traders. That fact never stopped Society Hill from actually becoming an elite district for Philly society.
Society Hill maintains a distinct colonial Philly vibe. It is a collection of historic Georgian rowhomes a stone’s throw from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Many streets retain their original cobblestone, and brick sidewalks are lit by Franklin lamps. One of the oldest Philadelphia neighborhoods, it’s also among the most expensive and safest.
While ghosts of Founding Fathers roam the streets, there is much for modern residents. Leafy Washington Square Park is one of William Penn’s original five squares. Spruce Street Harbor Park is an urban beach and boardwalk along the Delaware. And historic Headhouse Square offers quintessential bars and pubs as well as one of the nation’s oldest farmers’ markets.
The Fairmount neighborhood is more commonly referred to as the Art Museum Area. And for good reason. The iconic Philadelphia Museum of Art dominates its western edge. But across Pennsylvania Avenue is a plethora of residential Philly.
Fairmount is a myriad of housing styles. Central Fairmount is notably dominated by brick and brownstone townhomes from the 1800s. The Spring Garden section consists of smaller terraced homes with front gardens. And across from the museums on both sides are desirable luxury mid-to-high-rise condo and apartment buildings.
The neighborhood’s most unique feature is the 200-year old Eastern State Penitentiary. Tightly surrounded by those residential blocks, the historic former prison was the first in the world to focus on criminal reform over punishment.
Photo source: 1558 N 28th St Apartments / ApartmentGuide.com
Don’t move to Brewerytown expecting a multitude of breweries at your doorstep. The numerous breweries along the riverfront in the North Philly West neighborhood are long gone. Today, the region north of the Museum District and along East Fairmount Park is a residential oasis.
While small, Brewerytown is wonderfully situated. The district’s western border sits along some of the most popular recreational regions of Fairmount Park. The Schuylkill River Trail, Kelly Drive bike trails, Lemon Hill playground and courts and even Boathouse Row are just steps away.
But Brewerytown’s brewing past has not been forgotten. Many of its former breweries have converted into upscale condos and chic loft apartment buildings. Several offer stunning views over the park and over the river.
Still craving craft brew, though? No worries. Crime and Punishment Brewing serves house brews right on Girard Avenue. Drinks go great with a Charlie Brown (bacon, grilled onion, Cheez Whiz) from Spot Gourmet Burgers down the street.
Philadelphia’s Far Northeast is becoming a popular getaway neighborhood for renters. One of the most desirable is convenient Bustleton. Its low-rise suburban vibe appeals to families and seekers of affordable properties and good schools.
Most of Bustleton is residential. It’s a mix of sprawling apartment complexes, duplexes and rowhomes and single-family homes. Its charm lies in its safe and peaceful atmosphere. But every convenience is close by. Busy Roosevelt Boulevard forms its southeastern border. Along its lanes are innumerable cheap eats, chain stores and service centers. It is also a direct link into North Philly, I-95 and the rest of the city.
But just next door is the north leg of massive Pennypack Park. Close to anywhere in Bustleton, the park is a popular getaway for hiking, recreation, horseback riding and wildlife adventure.
The heart of Philadelphia’s Museum District is the park known as Logan Square. Surrounding the park is the neighborhood of Logan Square. The intriguing area is home to many of Philly’s cultural museums, popular pubs and restaurants. The area houses many of the city’s archetypal green spaces including Sister Cities and LOVE Parks.
Logan Square’s backbone is iconic Ben Franklin Parkway. The boulevard’s length from City Hall to the Art Museum bisects the neighborhood. Along its streets are the Franklin Institute, Rodin Museum, Barnes Foundation and Academy of Natural Sciences.
Between the Parkway and Market Street are many of Philly’s tallest skyscrapers. Casting shadows over the Parkway are Bell Atlantic Tower, Mellon Center, IBX Tower, Comcast Center and Comcast Technology Center. And Logan Square is a haven for downtown dining. Some popular hip spots include Urban Farmer, Pizzeria Vetri, Bāo-logy, Kite & Key and Misconduct Tavern.
But among the sculptures and skyscrapers are a variety of residences. High-rise apartment hotels and chic condos line the Parkway. Rowhouses fill the blocks south of the Art Museum. Midscale apartment complexes surround the campus of Community College of Philadelphia. And luxury apartment buildings offer views along the river.
Photo source: Pelham Park / ApartmentGuide.com
Tucked away in Northeast Philly are the up-next Philadelphia neighborhoods of East and West Mount Airy. Just south of Chestnut Hill and east of Roxborough, the Mount Airys have taken on the overspill charm of each. Stretching north from Wissahickon Valley Park along Cresheim Creek, Mount Airy is the gateway from the Northwest into North Philly.
Over the last decade, Mount Airy has experienced a cultural revival, with affordable housing and safe streets. Less affluent than its Chestnut Hill neighbor, the region houses a diverse and progressive population. The neighborhood has a high population of residents with advanced degrees. Nearly two-thirds of inhabitants are Black. And the region is one of Philly’s most LGBTQ-friendly.
Housing in Mount Airys is as diverse as its population. Old world three-story Victorian mansions and Colonial revivals are remnants of the neighborhood’s elite past. Low-rise apartment towers dot the tree-lined streets of West Mount Airy. And apartment complexes spread out across East Mount Airy.
If you love brewpubs, taprooms and sports bars, Washington Square West is the Philly neighborhood for you. This Center City district features popular spots such as Fergie’s Pub, Finn McCool’s, Brü and Tabu Lounge & Sports Bar
But the OG is McGillin’s Olde Ale House. Opened in 1860, is the oldest continuously operating tavern in Philadelphia. Several of these sit in Philly’s Gayborhood in Washington Square West’s Midtown Village section.
Washington Square west isn’t just about the drink, however. It is one of the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia for foodies, from fine dining to takeout. Many of Philly’s most popular eating spots line the blocks around Locust, Spruce and Walnut. Some include Green Eggs Café, Little Nonna’s, Bud & Marilyn’s, Middle Child and Vedge.
Sitting just south of the central business district, the region is a mix of residential housing. Both affordable and luxury high rises line the edge of Center City. Rowhomes mix with historic houses across from Independence Hall. And apartment complexes and single-family homes spread out towards South Philly.
It was cool before hipsters were hip. For decades, Queen Village has been the happening spot in Philadelphia. The city’s legendary South Street carves a swath through always-vibrant Queen Village. The lively corridor has long been home to Philly’s subcultures. Multitudes gathered from bohemians to riot grrrls, punks to bikers, queer folk to emos, goths to hip-hoppers.
South Street has always been unfashionably fashionable. The district is a hodgepodge of iconic cheesesteak joints, dive bars, head shops, punk boutiques, used record shops, public art and music halls. Deeper into Queen Village are a handful of historic districts. The cobblestoned Headhouse District features one of America’s oldest farmers’ markets. And vintage clothing stores and thrift shops line the turn-of-the-century 4th Street Fabric Row garment district.
All in all, Queen Village features walkable streets, a hip nighttime vibe, good eats, public art or a quirky store down every alley. The north end offers many rental apartments above retail and dining. Further south is apartment complexes, unique houses and Courtyard Apartments at Riverview, the tallest building in South Philly.
Photo source: 5714 Wyndale Ave / ApartmentGuide.com
In West Philadelphia, born and raised, Overbrook is where a young Will Smith spent most of his days. In fact, it was Overbrook’s Tustin Playground where he enjoyed shootin’ some b-ball outside the school. But despite those guys who were up to no good, the neighborhood is one of the friendliest and desirable in the city.
Overbrook lies in extreme West Philly, just over the city border from the edge of Montgomery County’s ritzy Main Line. The welcoming district is a suburban-style, upper-middle to middle-class family neighborhood. Leafy streets line up with rowhouses, early 20th century brownstones, low-rise apartment buildings and duplexes known as “semi-detached twins.”
Also, the neighborhood features several hospitable green spaces. Morris Park and Haddington Woods dominate Overbrook’s western side. Commercial-heavy Lancaster and City avenues offer retail shopping, fast-casual dining and big box stores. And a large portion of Saint Joseph’s University, one of Philadelphia’s Big 5 basketball schools, lies at the north end of Overbrook.
Finding the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia
Did your favorite Philadelphia neighborhood make the list? Is where you live or thinking of moving to one of the best neighborhoods in Philadelphia? No matter where you decide to reside, from Olney to Overbrook to Oxford Circle, somewhere in Philly is exactly the right place for you.
If you’re ready to find your dream Philadelphia rowhome or high-rise with a view, be sure to check out rentals on Apartment Guide or home listings on Redfin.