THE HIPSTER AND THE HISTORIAN'S GUIDE TO PHILADELPHIA, PA
When the English Quaker William Penn touched down on an unblemished 45,000-square-mile parcel along the Delaware River, he christened the land Sylvania, for its endless acreage of pristine forests. Though he had great plans for the city of Philadelphia, he could hardly have imagined that his footprint would blossom three-and-a-half centuries later into one of America’s most exciting urban hubs—one that’s drawing food connoisseurs, travel buffs, and history fanatics in droves.
In response, the city’s neighborhoods are upping the ante, offering new hotels, restaurants and shops, but each continues to maintain a distinct personality. We compared two such enclaves—Old City and Fishtown—and their surrounding nabes to see how they stack up.
Despite Philadelphia’s newly minted reputation for urbanity, most people still visit the City of Brotherly Love for historical context. After all, it was here that the first Continental Congress met, the Declaration of Independence was drafted, and the Founding Fathers plotted much of the American Revolution. There’s no better place to discover much of that lore than in Old City, where the cobblestone streets are dotted with landmarked buildings, each more significant than the last.
Philadelphia’s central corridor has no shortage of lodging options, but if you truly want to experience town like the residents do, reserve a room at Lokal, in a converted townhouse that was once a millinery for Union soldiers during the Civil War.
Brave the steep ascent from street level to stay in one of the hotel’s six loft-style guest rooms, which feel like an Instagram daydream thanks to interiors by social media darlings Jersey Ice Cream Co.
Rustic reclaimed wood floors and Venetian plaster walls play off contemporary brass lighting, midcentury-inspired custom furnishings, and concrete kitchenette countertops. (That cabinetry color you’re obsessing over? Seaworthy by Sherwin Williams.) Light streams in from the oversize casement windows in each and, in the bathrooms, claw foot soaking tubs and classic white subway tile lend a note of historical elegance.
The spaces are designed for both short- and long-term bookings, so it makes sense that the hotel’s service has been dubbed invisible. There is no reception desk—codes for the keyless entry system are emailed to you before you arrive—and housekeeping services are available on demand for a seamless stay (though washers and dryers are tucked away in a closet in each room).