Insider’s Guide to Philadelphia Neighborhoods

Insider’s Guide to Philadelphia Neighborhoods

The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection is made up of a variety of unique neighborhoods, and locals often enjoy disputing where the boundaries are. Looking at the big picture, Center City is surrounded by the North, Northeast, Northwest, South, Southwest, and South Philly sections. Within these are distinct neighborhoods that can have much in common like the homes in Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, or be quite separate from one another, like Society Hill condos and Germantown mansions.

As a general rule, the neighborhoods that are farther out from Center City will feel more suburban, but there are many exceptions to that. Some of the ones closest to Center City are:

Neighborhoods like Kennett Square, Phoenixville, and New Hope are true towns in neighboring counties and are thought to be more out in the countryside though still considered the Greater Philadelphia Region. Chestnut Hill, Mount Airy, and Germantown are in the Northwest, and all three feature a mix of historic and newer luxury properties, abundant green space, and warm, welcoming communities.

An Overview of Philadelphia Neighborhoods

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Society Hill and Old City are right by the Ben Franklin Bridge and often get grouped because they are so similar. There are historic buildings dating back to America’s colonial and federal periods, and as you walk down the Belgian block streets, you can browse through the many restaurants, boutiques, studios, and art galleries. These two neighborhoods have a vibrant arts scene that attracts visitors throughout the year.

Rittenhouse Square has an enviable zip code, and here you will find high-rise buildings with beautiful, high-end apartments. Rittenhouse is also known for its luxury retail stores, world-class restaurants, and of course, Rittenhouse Square Park.

South Philadelphia (South Philly) is divided up into the Bella Vista, Grays Ferry, Lower Moyamensing, Point Breeze, and Passyunk Square neighborhoods. At the heart of it is South Street, a major tourist attraction where visitors enjoy cheesesteaks, soft pretzels, and other attractions that are unique to Philadelphia. Further out from this main street are parks, elegant residential townhomes, and apartments.

Philadelphia’s Outer Neighborhoods

Cities like West Chester and Ambler are not technically Philadelphia neighborhoods, but locals consider them to all be part of the family. West Chester is due west of Center City in the Brandywine Valley and is a charming college town with a fabulous downtown area that has one-of-a-kind boutiques and elegant restaurants like Andiario. It also is well known for its higher education and has 3 Universities within 5 miles of downtown. Ambler is 20 miles north of the City and is a well loved suburb where residents and visitors can enjoy performances by the Ambler Symphony Orchestra and shop at the Ambler Farmers’ Market.

Ardmore is part of Philadelphia’s well-appointed Main Line, close to Bala Cynwyd and Manayunk. The Suburban Square shopping center opened here almost 100 years ago, bringing luxury goods to the area, and Ardmore also has a main thoroughfare that features charming family-owned businesses and historic buildings.

Hilly, artsy Manayunk is a river neighborhood of Philadelphia and is known for its eclectic Main Street, which offers fine and casual dining, unique shops, and art galleries. It has an urban/suburban lifestyle that is especially appealing to young professionals and is a well known gathering place for cyclists.

Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, and Germantown are all in Northwest Philadelphia. Let’s take a closer look.

Mount Airy

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With roots running back to before the Revolutionary War, Mount Airy is just 11 miles northwest of Center City and was originally built as a summer resort. It has two neighborhoods: East Mount Airy and West Mount Airy, divided by Germantown Avenue. Mount Airy real estate properties can be excellent investments, and you can also find upscale historic and newer homes with varied architecture for sale.

Mount Airy is right outside of Wissahickon Valley Park, and boats multiple entrance points to the park throughout the area. The cobblestoned street has cafes, shops, restaurants, and small businesses, and don’t be surprised if you happen upon an outdoor street fair when you are there. Other noteworthy Mount Airy attractions include the Lovett Memorial Library, which was recently the subject of a multi-million dollar renovation project, and the Weavers Way Co-op, the first food co-op in Philadelphia.

Chestnut Hill

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Chestnut Hill is less than two miles north of Mount Airy and, like its sister neighborhood, is close to the Wissahickonm, part of beautiful Fairmount Park, and other public open spaces. It is classified as a National Register Historic District and is considered to be an affluent community. Chestnut Hill real estate centers on luxury row homes, Victorian twins, and historic mansions.

Germantown Avenue is the main commercial corridor of Chestnut Hill and extends down 20 blocks. It is not as densely packed as Center City streets, and many who live here use their cars to get around.  For those who prefer public transportation, Chestnut Hill has 2 regional rail train lines and a bus with service to Center City.

Visitors travel from near and far to shop at sophisticated retailers, jewelers, and enjoy both casual and fine dining.  Antiquing is a major pastime in this area, and Blum’s Antiques is a good place to start your next hunt.. Some of Chestnut Hill’s other best-known attractions include the Morris Arboretum, Woodmere Art Museum, The Stagecrafters Theater, and the Philadelphia Cricket Club.


Steeped in American History, Germantown is a few miles south of Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy. Some of its buildings are 300 years old, and there are 14 historic sites, including the Stenton House, Wyck Historic House, and Cliveden Mansion.  Germantown is the birthplace of the American anti-slavery movement, where the 1688 Germantown Quaker petition against slavery was drafted and signed, and has been celebrating Juneteeth for years before it became a Federal Holiday. Many of the homes in this area date back to the 1800’s and range from large mansions to small row houses. Like its neighborhoods to the north, Germantown Avenue is also the main road of commerce in this neighborhood, and many of the restaurants and bars you’ll encounter are independently owned and operated.  Young American Cider and Attic Brewing offer history goers a modern day watering holes for refreshment.

The Quaker presence is alive and well in Germantown, as are it’s many schools and meeting houses. One of the most popular entrance points to the Wissahickon is in Germantown at the Historic Rittenhouse Town with hiking and biking trails.

Ready to Get Started?

Liz Clark and her expert team of Philadelphia real estate agents are also found on Germantown Avenue, and the talented staff is eager to help you with Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill, or Germantown homes for sale, as well as properties in any of Philadelphia’s other exceptional neighborhoods. For more information on buying and selling in these incredible areas, call or email Liz Clark today.

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