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The exterior of Philadelphia City Hall. The facade is elaborately decorated with multiple columns and windows. Getty Images

Philly’s most iconic buildings, mapped

From the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Independence Hall, these buildings are the heart and soul of this city

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For whatever reason, Philly doesn’t often count among the list of cities with great architecture. Sure, New York is, well, New York, and Chicago is the city of skyscrapers. But what Philly has over most cities is age and wisdom, and buildings steeped in rich history.

That’s why we’d argue that Philly has some of the most iconic buildings in the U.S., from Independence Hall (It was the birthplace of America, after all) to the always dazzling Philadelphia Museum of Art.

It’s not just old buildings that are worthy of the “iconic” status—there are newbies like the Comcast Technology Center (the first and second towers) and the Barnes that can’t be ignored. The following 24 (we just couldn’t keep it under 20) buildings, listed from west to east, have all left unmatched marks on Philly and are must-know works of architecture.

Plus, this is a great chance to take your relatives for a building tour around the city this holiday season and show them what Philly has to offer.

We know this is not a complete list, so if you have another favorite Philly building that you consider iconic, please share in the comments!

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1. Vanna Venturi House

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Vanna Venturi House, Millman St
Philadelphia, PA 19118

The iconic Vanna Venturi house in Chestnut Hill was designed by Philly starchitect Robert Venturi for his mother and built in 1964. It’s often considered the first post-modern home in the country and has been named one of the 10 Homes that Changed America. It has oddly fascinating features like a pitched roof, random curves, and a staircase that leads to nowhere. Today, it has a new owner and is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

The exterior of the Vanna Venturi house in Philadelphia. The house has a sloped roof and a white facade. Melissa Romero

2. Margaret Esherick House

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204 Sunrise Ln
Philadelphia, PA 19118

Of all of Louis Kahn’s few and far between residential designs, the Margaret Esherick House in Chestnut Hill is perhaps his most iconic. Kahn designed the one-bedroom home for Esherick in 1959. It’s a 2,500-square-foot concrete-and-stucco rectangle, with a flat roof and a wall of windows in the two-story living room. Today, it is home to new stewards who restored the modern home from top to bottom.

The exterior of the Margaret Esherick House. The facade is concrete with a flat roof. Heidis Bridge

3. Fisher Fine Arts Library

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220 S 34th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

The Fisher Fine Arts Library stands out on Penn’s campus, thanks to its fiery red brick facade and its jaw-dropping interiors. Designed by Frank Furness between 1888 and 1890, the library’s soaring reading room made a prominent cameo in the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia. It’s been praised by modern architects like Robert Venturi, as well as Louis Kahn, who chose to teach his studios at PennDesign here instead of in the design school next door.

The exterior of the Fisher Fine Arts Library. The facade is red with a tower and arched windows. Melissa Romero

4. Boathouse Row

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1 Boathouse Row
Philadelphia, PA 19130

We know: Boathouse Row actually consists of 12 buildings, not one. But for the purposes of this list, we’re grouping them all into one. After all, Boathouse Row is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. The boathouses date back to the 19th century and were designed by architects like Frank Furness and the Wilson Brothers. They range in styles from Victorian Gothic to Mediterranean to Colonial Revival and they all continue to be used by rowing clubs to this day. Fun Fact: The Sedgeley Club boasts the only lighthouse in the city.

5. 30th Street Station

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2955 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

The 30th Street Station we know today is considered one of the last-remaining grand train stations in the U.S. Built between 1929 and 1933, it was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White with a neoclassical exterior and Art Deco details within. The main concourse stretches the length of two football fields and its 95-foot tall ceilings are no doubt the most striking features of the train station. Despite its iconic look, the structure is being renovated and should see some contemporary updates soon.

The exterior of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. There is a street in the foreground. In the background is the station which has a flat roof and columns flanking the entryway. Shutterstock

6. Cira Centre

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Cira Centre, 2929 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

The 29-story Cira Centre earns a spot on this list because it was the first new building to pierce to sky west of the Schuylkill River in 2005. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the glassy, diamond-like structure has four sides at its base and six at the top. While no longer the tallest building in University City (that honor goes to its neighboring FMC Tower), it’s fare to say that the Cira Centre kicked off the development boom of the neighborhood and its ever-changing skyline.

The exterior of Cira Centre in Philadelphia. The facade is glass and the roof is sloped. Shutterstock

7. Philadelphia Museum of Art

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2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19130

In 1893, the city decided that it was time to build a new art museum. It chose to build the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the hilltop of Fair Mount, and tasked prominent architect Horace Trumbauer to design it. Much of the design, however, can be owed to Trumbauer’s partner Julian Abele, the first African-American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s architecture program. Built in 1928, it is a monumental work of architecture, made even more famous in modern times for its prominent role in the Rocky movies. The museum is currently undergoing a $196 million renovation led by Frank Gehry

The exterior of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum has columns flanking the entryway and a large courtyard in front. Shutterstock

8. Barnes Foundation

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2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19130

When plans were announced to move the immense and quirky art collection of Albert C. Barnes from his home in the ‘burbs to a new museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway, many were skeptical if not aghast. But Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects’ Barnes Foundation proved them wrong. Built for $150 million in 2012, the museum has already won a slew of accolades, including a 2013 AIA Institute Honor Award. It was also named one of the most iconic works of architecture by Architectural Record, along with the Vanna Venturi house and the PSFS Building.

The exterior of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. The facade is glass. There are trees in front. Courtesy of the Barnes Foundation

9. Eastern State Penitentiary

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2027 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19130

This colossal Gothic Revival prison in Fairmount is steeped in history, and when it opened in 1829 it became one of the most famous and expensive prisons in the world and the first penitentiary in the country. Designed by architect John Haviland, Eastern State Penitentiary was groundbreaking in that it was the first prison designed to make prisoners feel true regret and penitence for their crimes. The penitentiary sat on 11 acres of farmland called Cherry Hill. Today, the historic landmark is open for daily tours year-round and nightly tours during the Halloween season.

The exterior of the Eastern State Penitentiary. The facade is stone and there are multiple towers. Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary

10. Comcast Innovation and Technology Center

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Comcast Innovation and Technology Center
Philadelphia, PA 19103

The glossy new Comcast Technology Center just opened this year, with designs meant to complement its neighbor, the original Comcast Center. Whereas the OG center saw a super industrial, contemporary design, this one brings a little more nature and creativity to its spot. The first floor lobby is covered in wood, with live trees growing in the middle. Plants decorate the walls of a cafeteria upstairs, and colorful murals run throughout the upper floors. Plus, it’s all topped off with a Four Seasons hotel—and stunning, 360-degree views—at the very top.

11. Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

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1723 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at Logan Square holds the title of being the largest brownstone structure in the entire city, as well as the oldest building on the Parkway (It was one of the few buildings that weren’t demolished to make way for the Parkway.) Open since 1894, the basilica was designed by local architect Napoleon LeBrun, who was only 25 at the time. The interiors, considered some of the most beautiful in the city, feature murals, mosaics, and stained glass windows by Constantino Brumidi.

The exterior of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The facade is red with a green domed tower. Shutterstock

12. Comcast Center

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Comcast Center, 1701 John F Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19103

Designed by Robert A.M. Stern, this 57-story tower became Philly’s tallest building—and tallest LEED-certified building—when it opened its doors in 2008. It’s an impressive work of architecture, and the 83-foot-tall LED screen in the lobby is a building highlight. It remains the glassy headquarters of Comcast, and recently saw a new, equally glassy (and iconic) neighbor—Comcast’s second headquarters just opened next door.

The exterior of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. The facade is glass and is reflecting the sky and surrounding buildings. Shutterstock

13. One Liberty Place

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Liberty Place
Philadelphia, PA

One Liberty Place will go down in history as the first building to dethrone Philadelphia’s City Hall as the tallest edifice in Philadelphia. When it was built in 1987, One Liberty Place became the first skyscraper to break the so-called gentleman’s agreement that no building should ever surpass the height of the William Penn statue atop City Hall. The 61-story tower was designed by Helmut Jahn and has been compared to the Chrysler building in New York City.

The top of the One Liberty Place building in Philadelphia. The facade is glass and the top is geometric in structure. Getty Images/iStockphoto

14. Kimmel Center

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300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, the Kimmel Center for the performing arts was built in 2001 at the height of the city’s plan to create a performing arts district along South Broad Street. The showstopper on Broad wows with its barrel-vaulted glass roof, which features a an expansive terrace beneath. Though it has not gone without its critiques, the Kimmel Center remains one of the standout buildings along the Avenue of the Arts.

The exterior of the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. The facade is dark red with a glass domed top and a courtyard in front. Photo by M. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

15. The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel

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200 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Today, it’s simply referred to as the Bellevue, but when it opened as a hotel in 1904, it soon earned the nickname “The Grand Dame” of Broad Street. The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel was designed by G.W. and W.D. Hewitt, with an ornate French Renaissance facade, a slate mansard roof, and 1,090 guest rooms. It even debuted with light fixtures designed by Thomas Edison. The hotel has hosted more than a dozen presidents and dignitaries—it even managed to survive a 1977 outbreak of Legionnaires disease. Today, it is home to a Hyatt Hotel, offices, and retail.

16. Philadelphia City Hall

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1401 John F Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19102

With 14.5 acres of floor space and more than 700 rooms, Philadelphia City Hall is the largest city building in the country. It’s no wonder it took 30 years of construction to build the Second Empire building, which was designed by John McArthur, Jr. and Thomas Utsick Walter. When it finally opened in 1901, it was the tallest building in the world. Today, it still holds the title of having the world’s tallest sculpture on top of a building—the 33-foot-tall William Penn statue by Alexander Calder that gets a bath every 10 years or so. Head here for a video tour of the masterpiece, and make sure to check out the yearly holiday light show that’s projected against its facade.

Shutterstock

17. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

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118-128 N Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Designed in 1871 and built five years later, the Historic Landmark Building at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is considered by some as the first modern building in America. Designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt (they parted ways a year before the building opened in 1876), it resembles a jewel box both inside and out and is a lesson in functionality, heavily influenced by the industrial boom that Philadelphia was relishing in at the time.

Shutterstock

18. The Parker-Spruce hotel

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271 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

The former Parker-Spruce hotel certainly has a sordid past. The building has been around for 100 years, and was a popular spot for boxers and jazz musicians to stay during the early 1900’s. It’s also seen some not-so-great guests, and a whole ton of lore. Nevertheless, the building is an iconic piece of Philadelphia’s history and the history of the Gayborhood where it stands. Recently, it’s changed hands and undergone a massive renovation, as the new owners hope to breathe new life into the towering structure.

Melissa Romero

19. PSFS Building

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1200 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Today, the 33-story tower at 1200 Market is a Loews Hotel. But when it opened its doors in 1932, it was heralded as the country’s first International-style skyscraper and home to PSFS. Architects George Howell and William Lescaze were encouraged by PSFS bank president James M. Willcox design something "ultra-practical" and modern. Indeed, it was the second building in the country to have central air-conditioning. Although it now serves as a hotel, much of the original, high-end finishes and details remain, including custom Cartier clocks in the lobby and above the elevators. Its PSFS signs atop the building remain just as iconic as ever.

20. Divine Lorraine Hotel

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699 N Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19123

Designed by architect Willis G. Hale and built in 1894, this Romanesque beauty opened its doors on North Broad as the luxurious Lorraine Apartments, serving the nouveau rich of the industrial boom. It was also one of the first examples of fireproof steel-frame construction.

It later served as the Divine Lorraine, the first racially-integrated hotel for people of all races and classes in the country under the eye of Father Divine. Over its long history, it has been dubbed an icon as well as a beacon of blight. Today, it has been restored into its original purpose, a luxury apartment building. It’s also seeing nearby growth.

The exterior of the Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia. The facade is brown brick and there is an arched entryway. Melissa Romero

21. Independence Hall

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Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

No list of iconic Philadelphia buildings would be complete without Independence Hall, the very place where our country was founded in 1776. Master builder Edmund Woolley is considered responsible for the design of Independence Hall, which is a great example of Georgian architecture, while Andrew Hamilton oversaw the construction, which ran from 1732 to 1748. Fun fact: The original designs did not include a steeple—this was added in 1750. Independence Hall (known then as the State House) served as the country’s capitol for 10 years before it moved to Washington.

22. The Bourse Building

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111 S Independence Mall E
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 625-0300
Visit Website

What would this list be without The Bourse, a stunning—and historic—stone structure right in the heart of Old City? Built in the late 1800s, The Bourse was originally a commodities exchange, but has since changed hands several times. In the 1980’s it got a food court (and very ‘80s) interior makeover, and became a hotspot for tourists stopping in for a bite while traversing the historic neighborhood. But recently, it’s seen another change—one that aims to restore it to the historic beauty it once had, with bright white walls and contemporary food stands, the new building tries to draw in tourists and locals alike.

The exterior of the Bourse Building in Philadelphia. The facade is brown brick with a flat roof and multiple windows. Melissa Romero

23. Society Hill Towers

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Society Hill Towers
Philadelphia, PA 19106

This trio of 31-story residential towers was part of an urban renewal effort led by city planner Edmund Bacon in the early 1960s. I.M. Pei won the competition, designing these identical apartment buildings along with low-rise townhouses nearby. The towers were notable not just for their sheer size amid a neighborhood of 18th- and 19th-century rowhomes, but also their floor-to-ceiling windows and poured-in concrete facades.

The Society Hill Towers in Philadelphia, a group of tall skyscrapers surrounded by trees. Getty Images

24. Christ Church

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20 N American St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

Christ Church in Old City is one of the oldest churches and buildings in Philly. Frequented by the likes of Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, and other key players in this country’s founding, the Georgian-style church was modeled after the work of an English architect by the name of Sir Christopher Wren. Construction and designs are attributed to John Kearsley. But the most prominent feature of Christ Church, its 196-foot-tall wooden steeple, was not added to the edifice until 1751-54. From that point on, Christ Church would remain the city’s tallest building for the next 100 years.

1. Vanna Venturi House

Vanna Venturi House, Millman St, Philadelphia, PA 19118
The exterior of the Vanna Venturi house in Philadelphia. The house has a sloped roof and a white facade. Melissa Romero

The iconic Vanna Venturi house in Chestnut Hill was designed by Philly starchitect Robert Venturi for his mother and built in 1964. It’s often considered the first post-modern home in the country and has been named one of the 10 Homes that Changed America. It has oddly fascinating features like a pitched roof, random curves, and a staircase that leads to nowhere. Today, it has a new owner and is listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places.

Vanna Venturi House, Millman St
Philadelphia, PA 19118

2. Margaret Esherick House

204 Sunrise Ln, Philadelphia, PA 19118
The exterior of the Margaret Esherick House. The facade is concrete with a flat roof. Heidis Bridge

Of all of Louis Kahn’s few and far between residential designs, the Margaret Esherick House in Chestnut Hill is perhaps his most iconic. Kahn designed the one-bedroom home for Esherick in 1959. It’s a 2,500-square-foot concrete-and-stucco rectangle, with a flat roof and a wall of windows in the two-story living room. Today, it is home to new stewards who restored the modern home from top to bottom.

204 Sunrise Ln
Philadelphia, PA 19118

3. Fisher Fine Arts Library

220 S 34th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
The exterior of the Fisher Fine Arts Library. The facade is red with a tower and arched windows. Melissa Romero

The Fisher Fine Arts Library stands out on Penn’s campus, thanks to its fiery red brick facade and its jaw-dropping interiors. Designed by Frank Furness between 1888 and 1890, the library’s soaring reading room made a prominent cameo in the Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia. It’s been praised by modern architects like Robert Venturi, as well as Louis Kahn, who chose to teach his studios at PennDesign here instead of in the design school next door.

220 S 34th St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

4. Boathouse Row

1 Boathouse Row, Philadelphia, PA 19130

We know: Boathouse Row actually consists of 12 buildings, not one. But for the purposes of this list, we’re grouping them all into one. After all, Boathouse Row is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. The boathouses date back to the 19th century and were designed by architects like Frank Furness and the Wilson Brothers. They range in styles from Victorian Gothic to Mediterranean to Colonial Revival and they all continue to be used by rowing clubs to this day. Fun Fact: The Sedgeley Club boasts the only lighthouse in the city.

1 Boathouse Row
Philadelphia, PA 19130

5. 30th Street Station

2955 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
The exterior of 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. There is a street in the foreground. In the background is the station which has a flat roof and columns flanking the entryway. Shutterstock

The 30th Street Station we know today is considered one of the last-remaining grand train stations in the U.S. Built between 1929 and 1933, it was designed by Graham, Anderson, Probst and White with a neoclassical exterior and Art Deco details within. The main concourse stretches the length of two football fields and its 95-foot tall ceilings are no doubt the most striking features of the train station. Despite its iconic look, the structure is being renovated and should see some contemporary updates soon.

2955 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

6. Cira Centre

Cira Centre, 2929 Arch St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
The exterior of Cira Centre in Philadelphia. The facade is glass and the roof is sloped. Shutterstock

The 29-story Cira Centre earns a spot on this list because it was the first new building to pierce to sky west of the Schuylkill River in 2005. Designed by Pelli Clarke Pelli, the glassy, diamond-like structure has four sides at its base and six at the top. While no longer the tallest building in University City (that honor goes to its neighboring FMC Tower), it’s fare to say that the Cira Centre kicked off the development boom of the neighborhood and its ever-changing skyline.

Cira Centre, 2929 Arch St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

7. Philadelphia Museum of Art

2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The exterior of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The museum has columns flanking the entryway and a large courtyard in front. Shutterstock

In 1893, the city decided that it was time to build a new art museum. It chose to build the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the hilltop of Fair Mount, and tasked prominent architect Horace Trumbauer to design it. Much of the design, however, can be owed to Trumbauer’s partner Julian Abele, the first African-American graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s architecture program. Built in 1928, it is a monumental work of architecture, made even more famous in modern times for its prominent role in the Rocky movies. The museum is currently undergoing a $196 million renovation led by Frank Gehry

2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19130

8. Barnes Foundation

2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The exterior of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. The facade is glass. There are trees in front. Courtesy of the Barnes Foundation

When plans were announced to move the immense and quirky art collection of Albert C. Barnes from his home in the ‘burbs to a new museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway, many were skeptical if not aghast. But Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects’ Barnes Foundation proved them wrong. Built for $150 million in 2012, the museum has already won a slew of accolades, including a 2013 AIA Institute Honor Award. It was also named one of the most iconic works of architecture by Architectural Record, along with the Vanna Venturi house and the PSFS Building.

2025 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19130

9. Eastern State Penitentiary

2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19130
The exterior of the Eastern State Penitentiary. The facade is stone and there are multiple towers. Courtesy of Eastern State Penitentiary

This colossal Gothic Revival prison in Fairmount is steeped in history, and when it opened in 1829 it became one of the most famous and expensive prisons in the world and the first penitentiary in the country. Designed by architect John Haviland, Eastern State Penitentiary was groundbreaking in that it was the first prison designed to make prisoners feel true regret and penitence for their crimes. The penitentiary sat on 11 acres of farmland called Cherry Hill. Today, the historic landmark is open for daily tours year-round and nightly tours during the Halloween season.

2027 Fairmount Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19130

10. Comcast Innovation and Technology Center

Comcast Innovation and Technology Center, Philadelphia, PA 19103

The glossy new Comcast Technology Center just opened this year, with designs meant to complement its neighbor, the original Comcast Center. Whereas the OG center saw a super industrial, contemporary design, this one brings a little more nature and creativity to its spot. The first floor lobby is covered in wood, with live trees growing in the middle. Plants decorate the walls of a cafeteria upstairs, and colorful murals run throughout the upper floors. Plus, it’s all topped off with a Four Seasons hotel—and stunning, 360-degree views—at the very top.

Comcast Innovation and Technology Center
Philadelphia, PA 19103

11. Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul

1723 Race St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
The exterior of the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia. The facade is red with a green domed tower. Shutterstock

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at Logan Square holds the title of being the largest brownstone structure in the entire city, as well as the oldest building on the Parkway (It was one of the few buildings that weren’t demolished to make way for the Parkway.) Open since 1894, the basilica was designed by local architect Napoleon LeBrun, who was only 25 at the time. The interiors, considered some of the most beautiful in the city, feature murals, mosaics, and stained glass windows by Constantino Brumidi.

1723 Race St
Philadelphia, PA 19103

12. Comcast Center

Comcast Center, 1701 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19103
The exterior of the Comcast Center in Philadelphia. The facade is glass and is reflecting the sky and surrounding buildings. Shutterstock

Designed by Robert A.M. Stern, this 57-story tower became Philly’s tallest building—and tallest LEED-certified building—when it opened its doors in 2008. It’s an impressive work of architecture, and the 83-foot-tall LED screen in the lobby is a building highlight. It remains the glassy headquarters of Comcast, and recently saw a new, equally glassy (and iconic) neighbor—Comcast’s second headquarters just opened next door.

Comcast Center, 1701 John F Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19103

13. One Liberty Place

Liberty Place, Philadelphia, PA
The top of the One Liberty Place building in Philadelphia. The facade is glass and the top is geometric in structure. Getty Images/iStockphoto

One Liberty Place will go down in history as the first building to dethrone Philadelphia’s City Hall as the tallest edifice in Philadelphia. When it was built in 1987, One Liberty Place became the first skyscraper to break the so-called gentleman’s agreement that no building should ever surpass the height of the William Penn statue atop City Hall. The 61-story tower was designed by Helmut Jahn and has been compared to the Chrysler building in New York City.

Liberty Place
Philadelphia, PA

14. Kimmel Center

300 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
The exterior of the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. The facade is dark red with a glass domed top and a courtyard in front. Photo by M. Kennedy for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Designed by Rafael Viñoly Architects, the Kimmel Center for the performing arts was built in 2001 at the height of the city’s plan to create a performing arts district along South Broad Street. The showstopper on Broad wows with its barrel-vaulted glass roof, which features a an expansive terrace beneath. Though it has not gone without its critiques, the Kimmel Center remains one of the standout buildings along the Avenue of the Arts.

300 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

15. The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel

200 S Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102

Today, it’s simply referred to as the Bellevue, but when it opened as a hotel in 1904, it soon earned the nickname “The Grand Dame” of Broad Street. The Bellevue-Stratford Hotel was designed by G.W. and W.D. Hewitt, with an ornate French Renaissance facade, a slate mansard roof, and 1,090 guest rooms. It even debuted with light fixtures designed by Thomas Edison. The hotel has hosted more than a dozen presidents and dignitaries—it even managed to survive a 1977 outbreak of Legionnaires disease. Today, it is home to a Hyatt Hotel, offices, and retail.

200 S Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

Related Maps

16. Philadelphia City Hall

1401 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Shutterstock

With 14.5 acres of floor space and more than 700 rooms, Philadelphia City Hall is the largest city building in the country. It’s no wonder it took 30 years of construction to build the Second Empire building, which was designed by John McArthur, Jr. and Thomas Utsick Walter. When it finally opened in 1901, it was the tallest building in the world. Today, it still holds the title of having the world’s tallest sculpture on top of a building—the 33-foot-tall William Penn statue by Alexander Calder that gets a bath every 10 years or so. Head here for a video tour of the masterpiece, and make sure to check out the yearly holiday light show that’s projected against its facade.

1401 John F Kennedy Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19102

17. Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

118-128 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19102
Shutterstock

Designed in 1871 and built five years later, the Historic Landmark Building at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts is considered by some as the first modern building in America. Designed by Frank Furness and George Hewitt (they parted ways a year before the building opened in 1876), it resembles a jewel box both inside and out and is a lesson in functionality, heavily influenced by the industrial boom that Philadelphia was relishing in at the time.

118-128 N Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19102

18. The Parker-Spruce hotel

271 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Melissa Romero

The former Parker-Spruce hotel certainly has a sordid past. The building has been around for 100 years, and was a popular spot for boxers and jazz musicians to stay during the early 1900’s. It’s also seen some not-so-great guests, and a whole ton of lore. Nevertheless, the building is an iconic piece of Philadelphia’s history and the history of the Gayborhood where it stands. Recently, it’s changed hands and undergone a massive renovation, as the new owners hope to breathe new life into the towering structure.

271 S 13th St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

19. PSFS Building

1200 Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19107

Today, the 33-story tower at 1200 Market is a Loews Hotel. But when it opened its doors in 1932, it was heralded as the country’s first International-style skyscraper and home to PSFS. Architects George Howell and William Lescaze were encouraged by PSFS bank president James M. Willcox design something "ultra-practical" and modern. Indeed, it was the second building in the country to have central air-conditioning. Although it now serves as a hotel, much of the original, high-end finishes and details remain, including custom Cartier clocks in the lobby and above the elevators. Its PSFS signs atop the building remain just as iconic as ever.

1200 Market St
Philadelphia, PA 19107

20. Divine Lorraine Hotel

699 N Broad St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
The exterior of the Divine Lorraine Hotel in Philadelphia. The facade is brown brick and there is an arched entryway. Melissa Romero

Designed by architect Willis G. Hale and built in 1894, this Romanesque beauty opened its doors on North Broad as the luxurious Lorraine Apartments, serving the nouveau rich of the industrial boom. It was also one of the first examples of fireproof steel-frame construction.

It later served as the Divine Lorraine, the first racially-integrated hotel for people of all races and classes in the country under the eye of Father Divine. Over its long history, it has been dubbed an icon as well as a beacon of blight. Today, it has been restored into its original purpose, a luxury apartment building. It’s also seeing nearby growth.

699 N Broad St
Philadelphia, PA 19123

21. Independence Hall

Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

No list of iconic Philadelphia buildings would be complete without Independence Hall, the very place where our country was founded in 1776. Master builder Edmund Woolley is considered responsible for the design of Independence Hall, which is a great example of Georgian architecture, while Andrew Hamilton oversaw the construction, which ran from 1732 to 1748. Fun fact: The original designs did not include a steeple—this was added in 1750. Independence Hall (known then as the State House) served as the country’s capitol for 10 years before it moved to Washington.

Independence Hall, 520 Chestnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

22. The Bourse Building

111 S Independence Mall E, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The exterior of the Bourse Building in Philadelphia. The facade is brown brick with a flat roof and multiple windows. Melissa Romero

What would this list be without The Bourse, a stunning—and historic—stone structure right in the heart of Old City? Built in the late 1800s, The Bourse was originally a commodities exchange, but has since changed hands several times. In the 1980’s it got a food court (and very ‘80s) interior makeover, and became a hotspot for tourists stopping in for a bite while traversing the historic neighborhood. But recently, it’s seen another change—one that aims to restore it to the historic beauty it once had, with bright white walls and contemporary food stands, the new building tries to draw in tourists and locals alike.

111 S Independence Mall E
Philadelphia, PA 19106

23. Society Hill Towers

Society Hill Towers, Philadelphia, PA 19106
The Society Hill Towers in Philadelphia, a group of tall skyscrapers surrounded by trees. Getty Images

This trio of 31-story residential towers was part of an urban renewal effort led by city planner Edmund Bacon in the early 1960s. I.M. Pei won the competition, designing these identical apartment buildings along with low-rise townhouses nearby. The towers were notable not just for their sheer size amid a neighborhood of 18th- and 19th-century rowhomes, but also their floor-to-ceiling windows and poured-in concrete facades.

Society Hill Towers
Philadelphia, PA 19106

24. Christ Church

20 N American St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Christ Church in Old City is one of the oldest churches and buildings in Philly. Frequented by the likes of Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, and other key players in this country’s founding, the Georgian-style church was modeled after the work of an English architect by the name of Sir Christopher Wren. Construction and designs are attributed to John Kearsley. But the most prominent feature of Christ Church, its 196-foot-tall wooden steeple, was not added to the edifice until 1751-54. From that point on, Christ Church would remain the city’s tallest building for the next 100 years.

20 N American St
Philadelphia, PA 19106

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