Move Aside New York, Philadelphia Is Where It’s At

New York: modern, busy, influential, movie-like and (let’s be honest) kind of past its best. In a country full of natural wonders and historic sights, New York falls flat on its feet a little, coming across somewhat ‘fabricated’ for tourists… even the Statue of Liberty is half the size you think it is.

Right, so we can’t deny that the bars are fun, the food is great, Williamsburg has coffee gems like here (and here… honestly just check out this article for a full run-down of where you should get coffee in New York!), and the shopping is fantastic, but there is nothing unique about New York anymore – it may as well be London or Madrid.

This is where Philadelphia steps in. Just a few hours away from Manhattan, Philly has that city vibe without the faceless skyscrapers, choosing to hold off on the glass towers in favour of brick buildings covered in unique art, not to mention a noticeably more relaxed atmosphere and a more satisfying selection of coffeehouses to sit in when your feet get tired!

This Philly vibe is encapsulated in the statue of William Penn that stands above the iconic Philadelphia City Hall. Standing at 548 feet above the ground, it was believed that any building that rose above the statue would doom its owners to failure. While the curse has been largely ignored with the construction of One Liberty Place (Philadelphia Eagles fans still blame it for their lack of a Superbowl win) the risk of incurring the curse of Billy Penn has left much of the surrounding area a little short, ensuring that the stunning architecture of City Hall – and the Penn atop it – can be seen from all angles, the cherry on the icing of a fantastic city.

Then we get to the cost of visiting the two. Oh, how I wish money was no object when travelling, but unfortunately – especially as most of us are poor college students – budgeting is a thing that we occasionally should conform to. New York is definitely not on the budget friendly side of things. Yes, you can do things on the cheap in the Empire State (the Staten Island ferry is free and takes you near the Statue of Liberty), but most cost an arm and a leg and even the museums try and force a $22 admission fee. That’s without considering the taxes that are unique to the city that, unless you’re American, you forget to add at the end.

Take for example accommodation – on a recent trip to the city there were two full pages of additional taxes that pushed the otherwise reasonably-priced hotel into a whole other price bracket. Compare this to the measly one page I encountered in Philadelphia (picking at straws but hey a positive is a positive!), there was a clear gap between the costs of staying there.

Then there’s sales taxes because we all know that there is no way in hell that we aren’t coming back from America with at least an extra outfit – or two – okay the shoes too, maybe a coat, and a bag…. Whereas in New York a tax of nearly 10% will leave you trying to decide between the coat and the boots, Philly’s extremely helpful tax-free situation on shoes and clothes means that the only decision you have to make is how to fit it all in your suitcase. This may seem a little pedantic, but when a penny saved equates a penny earned, we can think of plenty more enjoyable ways to spend and enhance your trip over just giving it up in taxes!

Honestly, both are fun cities and have their own vibe that will appeal to different people depending on what you are looking for but, having lived in London, I may as well have jumped on the central line tube rather than a nine-hour plane and seen the same things. Disagree? Leave it in the comments!

Our Philly top 5:

Eastern State Penitentiary – if you’re interested in history this is a must-see. One of the first prisons in America, Eastern State used isolation and the Church to make inmates repent for their actions. Famously visited by Dickens during one of his visits!

Liberty Observation Deck – if big skyscrapers are your thing, then a trip up the liberty building is a necessity. Boasting 360 degree views over the top of the city, the experience offers unparalleled views of Philadelphia and, with it being open until late into the evening, is the perfect spot to catch the sunset!

Art gallery – apart from being the steps from the rocky films, the Philadelphia art museum has a wide selection of art from around the world. A great way to spend an afternoon aimlessly walking around pretty things.

Reading Terminal Market – from cakes to Philly cheese-steaks to Amish-prepared honey, Reading Terminal Market is a foodie’s dream. Just walk in and bask in the wide array of options at your disposal!

Liberty Bell –  A national icon, the liberty bell has been used to symbolise freedom for over 200 years both for independence and the subsequent civil rights/suffragette movements! Now encased in a small Philadelphia museum, it is well worth a quick detour.

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Alex Feal

Alex is a student at the University of Edinburgh currently studying abroad at the University of Mississippi. Originally from Spain, Alex found the cold weather of London and Edinburgh too much to handle so escaped to the American South to get back to sunning himself by the pool. A travel aficionado and complete coffee addict, Alex hopes to get into teaching history at international schools when he's older, using their exotic locations and long holidays as bases from which to further explore the world. Often found with a camera in-hand, you can follow him on his travels on instagram as well as on his blog

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