The birthplace of American democracy is rife with history, sure, but there’s also a long tradition of art and design flowing through Philadelphia. Betsy Ross designed the flag here, after all. Nowadays, the city buzzes with creativity. Experience it for yourself with a weekend of soaking in murals and mosaics, popping into galleries and boutiques, and much more in the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
The world class collection, meticulously curated by late 19th-century chemist and inventor Albert C. Barnes, includes a dizzying array of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and Modern art, including 179 works by Renoir, and several stand-outs by Matisse. Don’t miss whatever’s on, too, the foundation is known for bringing exciting exhibitions to town.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The 145-year-old institution—the very same one where fictional Philly boxer Rocky Balboa ended his montage run—just got a $233-million renovation last year, led by star architect Frank Gehry. Tour some of the 200-odd galleries, and break for coffee in the Balcony Cafe.
The sister museum to the Philly Museum of Art, the Rodin Museum houses the largest collection of works by the French sculptor outside of Paris. See some of his masterpieces, including The Thinker, and the Gates of Hell, tucked into the museum’s lovely outdoor garden.
Little known fact: With over 4,000 works of public art, Philadelphia is the unofficial mural capital of the world. See some of the highlights on a tour with Mural Arts, the non-profit foundation responsible for the large majority of them. The Mural Mile Center City Walking Tour takes your past works including Untitled by Amy Sherald (the same artist who painted Michelle Obama’s White House portrait) and Water Gives Life by Philadelphia artists Euhri Jones and David McShane.
The Queen Village-neighborhood gem showcases both emerging and established artists from Philadelphia and beyond. Make an appointment to tour the space, or check the calendar for free, open-to-the-public events.
Back in the ‘90s, local artist Isaiah Zagar transformed his home and neighborhood with larger-than-life mosaic artwork, made with glass, ceramics, and a treasure trove of found objects. These days, stroll the Magic Gardens for pure inspiration. Afterwards, walk a few blocks south for a fresh-filled cannoli at Isgro, the Italian pastry shop open since 1904.
Designer and tastemaker Shannon Maldonado’s Queen Village shop made a splash when it opened back in 2016. The ever-changing selection is filled with colorful housewares, locally-made ceramics, that cool olive oil you just spotted in Bon Appetit, and whatever else strikes her fancy at the current moment. Come this fall, her tiny shop is moving into a bigger space, with a boutique hotel, too, on South Street.
Spend a little while perusing the beautifully-designed wares at the Old City shop selling Japanese-inspired office supplies and stationery, from clever desk organizers to a colorful selection of Namiki fountain pens.
In the Rittenhouse Square shop, find owner and designer Angela Monaco’s dreamy selection of delicate jewelry is arranged alongside gems, tarot decks, candles, and other thoughtful gifts and housewares.
The one-time South Philly vocational school is now filled with indie artists, makers, bakers, tattoo artists, and so much more, thanks to urban design firm Scout. The firm transformed the behemoth of a vacant building into a vibrant hub of creatives in 2018. Not every shop is open to the public, but it’s highly worthwhile to check out those that are, including Moore Vintage Archive, Keesean Moore’s expertly-curated selection from labels like Channel and Dries Van Noten, Centerpeak Ceramics, and DNA Floral. Don’t even think about visiting without first placing a pickup order for the best brownies of your life from Second Daughter Baking Co., and stop at Bok Bar, on the 8th floor terrace, for a local beer or cocktail with epic views of the city.
Opened in late 2019, the Four Seasons was designed by Norman Foster with London-based architectural firm Foster + Partners, set on the top floors of the state-of-the-art Comcast Technology Center. Get to the hotel check in, on the 60th floor, via a glass-walled elevator that promises spectacular views of the city as you ascend. Plush rooms have soaking tubs and the pool—with its two story floor-to-ceiling windows and views of the top of City Hall—is reason alone to make the trip to Philly.
The luxury boutique hotel occupies the former headquarters of the women’s group the New Century Guild. Rooms and spaces were envisioned by local designer Kate Rohrer, and are filled with artful wallpaper, jewel tone velvet furniture, and creature comforts like coffee service and bluetooth speakers. Every day, guests can meet in the lounge for a snack, in the tradition of the Guild’s “noon rest.”
After a long weekend exploring the city, stop by Rescue Spa for a bit of rest and relaxation. While you're there, check out their selection of KUSSHI products.
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