Welcome to our extensive guide to the 20 most famous buildings in Philadelphia! Philly, located in Pennsylvania, USA, is a city that has a rich history and culture. Its architecture reflects this very well. From historical landmarks to modern architectural treasures, this stunning city has it all.
In this article, we will take a closer look at the 20 most famous buildings in Philadelphia. We’ll provide you with detailed information about each building, including architectural features, history and significance. And these buildings were selected from various types, including residential, historical, religious and museum structures.
Whether you’re a local resident or a curious tourist, this list will introduce you to some of the most famous and recognizable structures that have come to define the City of Brotherly Love.
We hope that this guide will inspire you to visit these amazing buildings and learn more about them. Without further ado, let’s get started to take a glance at the most iconic Philadelphia buildings.
Most Famous Buildings in Philadelphia
1. Independence Hall
|Architect:||Andrew Hamilton, William Strickland, Edmund Woolley|
|Location:||520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106, USA|
Independence Hall, located on Chestnut Street, is a small red brick building. This is where the Declaration of Independence was declared. It has a historical significance as it is dedicated to the birth of the new republic in the USA.
The other important thing about this historical place is that the American Constitution was formed, accepted and published here. This means the United States of America was founded in this building in 1776. Furthermore, Independence Hall hosted the capitol for 10 years until it moved to Washington.
It has a Georgian architectural style and is designed by Andrew Hamilton. Although the original design date to 1732, it has undergone some changes like the big steeple that was added in 1750. Additionally, the building of Independence Hall has been on the list of UNESCO World Heritage since 1979.
So, if you’re interested in American history and want to see historical documents, tools and furnishings used in that period, don’t miss this structure.
2. 30th Street Station
|Architect:||Graham, Anderson, Probst & White|
|Location:||2955 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA|
30th Street Station is the building that houses the railway and public transportation center of Philadelphia. Management units of different transportation systems like SEPTA are located here.
Moreover, there are two major stations in 30th Street Station, which is one of the busiest and most splendid train terminals in the USA.
In addition to its public significance, the building is also important in terms of Philadelphia architecture. It has a Neoclassical style grandeur architectural design. Featuring gigantic columns, a majestic exterior and high ceilings, this famous landmark in Philadelphia is definitely worth seeing.
3. Vanna Venturi House
|Location:||Millman St, Philadelphia, PA 19118|
Architect Robert Venturi’s postmodern marvel Vanna Venturi House in Chestnut Hill is a five-bedroom house that the architect designed for his mother Vanna Venturi.
Venturi is a star architect born in Philadelphia. His Vanna Venturi House is the first post-modern architecture example in the USA. It is also considered among the 10 homes that changed America.
The house features some interesting characteristics like a pitched roof and an interesting entrance. The design of the house seems like a reaction to modern architectural principles. It is a simple but unpretentious house.
4. Philadelphia Museum of Art
|Architect:||Julian Abele, Horace Trumbauer|
|Location:||2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130|
Another majestic structure in Philly is the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Having gigantic gallery spaces showcasing pieces from America, Europe and Asia, the museum was established in 1876.
The museum exhibits over 240.000 artifacts and many other works, including paintings, drawings, photographs, sculptures and decorative objects. Besides these exhibits, the glorious architecture of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a kind of artwork worth seeing, too.
Designed by the African-American architect Julian Abele, who is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, the building has a Neoclassical exterior. As a matter of fact, the architect was inspired by ancient Greek architecture while designing this architectural masterpiece.
The museum’s architecture is famous for its exterior steps. It consists of three blocks, each one a different museum structure. These are Rodin Museum (Left), Perelman Building (Right) and the main museum building at the center.
The structure is under a renovation and expansion program by Frank Gehry Associates since 2008. However, the museum is still open to visit and you can check further information from the official website.
Whether you’re an art lover or just a tourist, if you have a chance to be in Philadelphia city, you should definitely see this great edifice.
5. One Liberty Place
|Location:||Liberty Place, Philadelphia, PA|
You might think that skyscrapers harm the visual balance of the built environment, but One Liberty Place is an exception. This 61-story skyscraper in Philadelphia is one of the most famous buildings in the city with its iconic architecture.
Its top floors offer visitors thrilling viewpoints to behold nearby towns and cities. With a height of 945 feet (288m), it was the tallest building in Philadelphia when it was built in 1987. However, the height of the building was surpassed by Comcast Technology Center, which we’ll talk about at the end of this list.
6. Fisher Fine Arts Library
|Location:||220 S 34th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104|
Fisher Fine Arts Library is another famous building in Philadelphia. Located on the campus of Pennsylvania University, its castle-like architecture attracts attention with red bricks covering the exterior.
It served as the university’s main library until the inauguration of the Van Pelt Library building in 1960. Then, The Fisher Fine Arts Library started to be called Furness Building. And lastly, the building was renamed Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library after a renovation in 1991.
Today, it houses the art and architecture works of the university. Furthermore, some architectural design studios are conducted in Fine Arts Library.
Are you interested in visiting Fine Arts Library? It is free to visit this building and is open to public visits from Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., according to the website of the library.
7. Philadelphia History Museum
|Location:||15 S. 7th Street Philadelphia, PA 19106|
Designed by John Haviland in 1826, Philadelphia History Museum is a small building featuring a Greek Revival style. Just like ancient Greek buildings, it has an entablature, with metopes and friezes.
It is located so close to Independence Hall, another important building in Philly. The museum’s immersive exhibitions which showcase over 100.000 pieces and historical documents are waiting for you.
These pieces consist of 80.000 objects from Philadelphia and 10.000 artifacts gathered from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania collection. Additionally, it exhibits a few thousand items from other external collections.
Philadelphia History Museum is on the list of the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) since 1979. Thus, it’s not only an important museum exhibiting artifacts and collections but a historical building in Philadelphia.
8. National Museum of American Jewish History
|Location:||101 S Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106|
There are not only historical buildings in Philadelphia but also some modern and contemporary architectural examples. The National Museum of American Jewish History, which opened in 2010, is a perfect example of this.
The building consists of two blocks, one with a red terra cotta exterior and the other with a modern-looking glass facade. The transparent building is more attractive and it is pleasing to the eye, especially at night.
Established in 1976, the museum moved to its new home at the end of 2010. It has a vast collection of over 30.000 objects. It also includes a theater and an education center for Jewish history.
The museum’s current building, which can be seen in the photo above, is designed by Ennead Architects and was built in 2010. It has a 5-story structure with 100.000sq feet.
A tour to Philadelphia should not be completed without seeing this contemporary structure as it presents harmony between old brick buildings and its own pure and modern design.
9. Philadelphia City Hall
|Architect:||John McArthur Jr., Thomas Ustick Walter|
|Location:||1400 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19107|
Philadelphia city hall is one of the largest municipal buildings in the world and the largest in the US, with 700 rooms. Located in Penn Square, it’s an iconic and historical building in the city.
It houses the government seat, Council Chamber, Mayor’s Reception Room, Conversation Hall and Supreme Court Room.
It is impossible not to admire its architecture, which is a remarkable example of the Second European architecture style. The building also features a gigantic clock tower where a statue of Pennsylvania founder, William Penn is located. This was the tallest clock tower (548 feet) in the world when the building was completed.
The municipality offers guided tours so you can experience the beauty of the building from the inside as well. During the visit, it is also possible for you to behold the impressive architectural texture of the city from the observation room.
10. Christ Church
|Location:||20 N American St, Philadelphia, PA 19106|
This Georgian-style small Episcopal church has symbolic importance for American Protestantism. Dedicated to the new beginning of Christianity in America, it was built between 1727-1744. And this ensures it is one of the oldest churches and Christianity buildings in Philadelphia.
Besides its historical importance, the stunning architecture of Christ Church also makes the structure worth a visit. The church has a marvelous steeple with a height of 186 feet (56.7 m). This bell tower was placed in the building in 1951-1954.
This was an incredible height for that period and it enabled the church to be the tallest structure in the city for almost 100 years. If you’re lucky, you might stumble upon a weekly local farmers’ market on the territory of the church.
The cemetery of Christ Church smells of history as there are many renowned figures of American history who were buried here. Benjamin Franklin, his wife Deborah and four signers that signed the Declaration of Independence are some of the historical personages buried here.
Today, the church is counted among the National Historical Landmarks. It attracts over 250.000 visitors annually, so why not be one of them?
11. Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
|Location:||1723 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19103|
Alongside small churches and chapels, Philadelphia also houses some grandiose religious structures like the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, which is the largest cathedral in Pennsylvania province.
It is famous for its religious events and visits by Papas. The first visit was held by Pope John Paul II in 1979 and the latter was by Pope Francis in 2015. These visits have made the cathedral even more important for the Christian world.
It features an eclectic architectural style, which is a mix of Renaissance Revival architecture, Palladian architecture and Italian architecture. The architect of the building is Napoleon LeBrun, who is a local architect in the US. He was inspired by the Lombard Church of St. Charles in Rome while designing this church.
The interior design, with decorations, mosaics, murals and stained glass windows designed by Constantino Brumidi, is just as stunning as the exterior of the church. It has been selected for the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1971.
12. Franklin Institute
|Architect:||Windrim, John Torrey; Day & Zimmermann|
|Location:||222 N 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103|
Named after the famous American scientist Benjamin Franklin, Franklin Institute is a science museum established in 1824. There are different research centers in Philadelphia, but this is the city’s primary science education and research center.
The institute was founded by Samuel Vaughan Merrick and William H. Keating to introduce and promote mechanic arts. It has contributed to many scientific developments in the US. Plenty of scientists have laid foundations of new technologies and research here.
Along with the scientific works, “Wonderland of Science” also houses education and exhibitions, as well as publishing a science journal regularly.
Its unique architecture combines two styles, Neoclassical architecture and Greek Revival architecture. The building contains some contemporary add-ons as well. It also houses the 200 feet (6.1 m) Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, which is a gigantic sculpture.
Check https://www.fi.edu/ to learn more about the events and visit information.
13. Boathouse Row
|Architect:||Furness & Evans|
|Location:||1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130|
Consisting of 15 boathouses, the Boathouse Row is a historic site on the side of river Schuylkill. These houses accommodate social clubs for rowing and racing shells.
Built between 1860-1904, these boathouses feature Late Victorian, Late 19th- and 20th-century Revivals and Gothic architecture styles. Each house has a different design and was designed in different periods.
Buildings’ exterior lights illuminate the surroundings with different colors at night. This lightings also reveal the contours of buildings.
When you plan a visit to Philadelphia, you should not forget to see this historical site.
14. Margaret Esherick House
|Location:||204 Sunrise Ln, Philadelphia, PA 19118|
Esherick House, a modern architectural marvel designed by the world-famous architect Louis Kahn, is located at 204 Sunrise Lane. This house was built with concrete masonry units between 1959-1961. The exterior is plastered with stucco, a kind of plaster.
The 2500 sq feet (232 sq m) house has a bedroom, two-story living room, dining room, foyer, servant room, bathroom and balconies. It has a simple rectangular mass with a flat roof. Margaret Esherick House contains many windows in different sizes and shapes, adding dynamism to its rough appearance.
It was added to the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places in 2009. Also received some prestigious architectural honors like the Landmark Building Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1992.
15. Barnes Foundation
|Architect:||Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects|
|Location:||2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130|
Albert C. Barnes, who was a chemist, art collector, author, educator and businessman, is a famous character in Philadelphia history. He had a huge personal art collection. The collection was moved from the Paul Cret gallery to its new home Barnes Foundation building in 2012.
It features contemporary and sustainable architecture, which is supported by a well-designed landscape. The art gallery also has the LEED Platinum certificate that demonstrates the building’s sustainability score.
Consisting of three parts, the two-story (one more story underground) building was designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects.
You can enjoy the building’s impressive design meanwhile examining the art collection of Mr. Barnes.
16. Eastern State Penitentiary
|Location:||2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130|
Built in 1929, the Eastern State Penitentiary is a colossal prison complex. The first penitentiary in the US, it is also one of the world’s largest and most famous ones.
Apart from the historical significance, the building’s Gothic Revival style architecture is fascinating. John Haviland, the architect of some other iconic buildings in Philadelphia, designed this building.
Using the psychological aspect of the architectural design, Haviland aimed to help prisoners regret their crimes. It is also on the list of National Historic Landmarks.
If you are willing to see this prison, then you’re lucky. Because you do not need to be convicted to visit this place as it serves as a prison museum anymore.
17. Kimmel Center
|Architect:||Rafael Viñoly Architects|
|Location:||300 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102|
The city had the plan to create a performing arts zone throughout South Broad Street at the beginning of the 21st century. Kimmel Center, opened in 2001, was one of the most important parts of this project located on Avenue of the Arts.
It is a performing arts center that has distinctive architecture. The most outstanding element of this architecture is the glass barrel vault that covers almost the whole structure. This barrel-vaulted roof makes the interior luminous, contributing to the art center’s cheerful atmosphere.
Visitors or guests can encounter immersive art activities like circuses, concerts, theatres, dance and social events. These activities are conducted in various spaces and halls, each one with an impressive design.
The great Verizon Hall, an art hall with 2,500 seats, and the 650-seat Perelman Theater are some of these unique art spaces.
If you select the right time to visit here, you will probably want to spend all your day here. Just look at the center’s event schedule!
18. Wanamaker Building
|Architect:||Daniel Hudson Burnham|
|Location:||100 E Penn Square, Philadelphia, PA 19107|
The structure was built to serve as the Wanamaker brand’s department store and house facilities such as its office and the leading shop. Featuring stunning architecture, Wanamaker Building is among the most famous Philadelphia buildings.
The building now belongs to Macy’s and functions as an office building with 15-story, 3 of which are underground. Wanamaker has a really gigantic scale that occupies a city block. It is enclosed by Market Street, Chestnut Street, Thirteenth Street and Juniper Street.
It includes office spaces, shops, a fitness center, an atrium, cafes, a bike room, and more. Wanamaker Building has also the world’s biggest pipe organ that allures guests with its sound in the Grand Court.
Whether you like shopping or not, it’s obvious that you should see this building.
19. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
|Architect:||Frank Furness, George Hewitt|
|Type:||Academy and museum|
|Location:||118-128 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102|
Including an extensive collection of 19th and 20th centuries artworks from America, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is located in a historical building. PAFA exhibits sculptures, art pieces and paintings. It also provides fine arts education as it is an art academy.
Designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt, the building has an electrical architectural style with a mix of Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival and Second Empire architecture.
It features an intricate exterior design using a combination of different materials, such as sandstone, brownstone, red brick, terra cotta and polished pink granite.
Just two blocks away from the Philadelphia City Hall. You should add this historical building to your list of must-see buildings in Philly.
20. Comcast Technology Center
|Architect:||Foster + Partners|
|Location:||1800 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103|
Comcast Innovation and Technology Center is among the newest Philadelphia skyscrapers. Built between 2014-2018, it has a height of 1,121 feet (342 m), with 60 floors. This height makes Comcast Technology Center the tallest building in Philadelphia.
The building, designed by the world-famous architecture firm Foster + Partners, includes TV studios, a retail mall, a hotel, a cafe and restaurants. That hotel on the top floors is the tallest hotel in Philly. The skyscraper also serves as an office building for Comcast workers.
If you are in Philadelphia downtown, you will likely notice this building and recognize its iconic design instantly. Don’t forget to see its 360-degree rooftop restaurant!
In conclusion, Philadelphia is home to some of the most famous buildings in the United States. From Independence Hall to Boathouse Row, from Comcast Technology Center to Vanna Venturi House, these buildings are not only visually pleasing but also significant in their historical and cultural importance.
Whether you’re a tourist or a local, exploring these structures will be a thrilling experience for you. Each building has its unique story and offers a unique architecture.
Philly has something for everyone, including modern skyscrapers, historic sites and iconic buildings. Plan your trip today and experience the city’s unique charm and character.
Thanks for reading! Please share the list of your favorite buildings in Philadelphia with us. And don’t forget to read our list of the most famous buildings in the world.
A: Philadelphia City Hall is the most famous building in the city.
A: The tallest building in Philadelphia is the Comcast Technology Center, which stands at 1,121 feet (342 m) tall. It was completed in 2018.
A: Yes, there are several famous buildings in Philadelphia that have been featured in movies, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Rocky), the Eastern State Penitentiary (12 Monkeys), and the Reading Terminal Market (Marley & Me).
A: The most popular tourist attraction in Philadelphia is likely the Independence National Historical Park, which includes iconic landmarks like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.