Cool Places to Hang Out in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, one of the oldest cities in the United States, is also one of its coolest. With a very walkable downtown, cute architecture, and a lively and welcoming vibe, Philadelphia has a lot to offer. But as well as tons of history, some fascinating museums, and some fancy old buildings, it has plenty of cool, hip places to check out as well. Here are a few of the best places to hang out in Philadelphia for the non-party crowd, including a bar, cafe, diner, art museum, and bookshop.

Charlie Was a Sinner

Perhaps the coolest bar in town, this sleek place with delightfully friendly staff, minimalist decor, and an inventive cocktail menu is a great place to come for a drink or two after dinner, or indeed to eat at. The food menu consists of light snacks, as well as full meals, and happens to be all vegan, boasting some interesting and unique dishes that you likely won’t come across anywhere else in Philadelphia. Definitely a place for a good time!

Charlie Was A Sinner in Philadelphia by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Menagerie Coffee

A hipster haven in Philadelphia’s Old City, this coffee shop is just as full of freelancers working on their laptops as people coming in to get their coffee fix, and there’s plenty of space for both. Exposed brickwork contrasts with their super-modern setup, making for an appealing aesthetic and comfortable atmosphere to relax in between sightseeing, or simply to people-watch.

Menagerie Coffee in Philadelphia by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

The Tasty

This all-vegan joint, fulfilling all your expectations about the typical American diner, in a very non-touristy part of South Philadelphia, is a cool spot for lunch. Serving up vegan versions of Philly classics, including – of course – the Philly cheesesteak (made with seitan), it’s a great option to try some of the dishes the city is famous for, but without the cruelty or cholesterol. It’s self-service, and you need to clear your table yourself. But, this can make for a welcome break from the sometimes unrelentingly cheerful American customer service!

The Tasty in Philadelphia by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Every Wednesday after 5pm, this impressive art museum opens its doors on a pay-what-you-like policy. As a result, it’s full of young people, tourists, and families; but, because of the size of the building, it doesn’t get too crowded. The vibe is fun and inviting, with cool music played in the grand hall while people doodle on a dedicated table in between checking out works of art. Of course, the art itself is worth coming to see, with an excellent collection of both classical and contemporary art from North America, Europe, and beyond.

Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Giovanni’s Room

Apparently the oldest gay bookstore in the United States, this place dates back to the early 1970s, when it was founded and named after a James Baldwin novel. Situated right in the heart of Philly’s Gayborhood, it’s an important institution in the city’s queer scene and is still a thriving business. With an extensive range of novels, non-fiction, photography books, and rare finds all relating to the queer experience, it’s a fun place to poke around for a while. It also hosts regular events, including readings and book club meetings which can be a fun chance to get involved in the city’s local queer scene outside of the bars and clubs.

Giovanni's Room in Philadelphia by Sam Wood for Smash Transit

Have you ever been to Philadelphia? If so, do you have any suggestions or tips for people? If not, what do you think? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

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Sam Wood

Sam is originally from London, living nomadically since 2010 teaching English as a foreign language, and is now based in Berlin. He's a wannabe minimalist and language geek, working and often traveling with his husband, Zab. On his blog, Indefinite Adventure, he chronicles their journey as two city boys looking for the best vegan food, street art, and most interesting things to do in any given destination.
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