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Center City: The Original City of Philadelphia is Still its Hub

Center City is the bustling business hub of Philadelphia right in the center of the city. It’s the grid of streets that spans from the Schuylkill River on the East side to the Delaware River on the West, encompassing much of Philly’s skyscrapers and corporate headquarters. The streets are wide and clean, packed with restaurants, hotels and offices. This is where the action happens, and it’s also probably one of Philadelphia’s most convenient places to live in.

Where is Center City?

Depending on who you ask, Center City either runs the entire width of Philadelphia (between the two rivers) all the way to South St and North of 676, or it’s the small square of streets right in the middle. Rittenhouse Square (named for one of Philly’s most popular parks), Graduate Hospital and Washington Square are all micro-neighborhoods that are a part of Center City. A bike path runs the length of the Schuylkill River, where a well-kept park hosts beer and food pop-ups, movie nights and sunset picnics in the summer.


Originally, Center City was not just Philadelphia’s only neighborhood, it was the whole city. When the city was planned in 1682, Surveyor Thomas Holme and Philadelphia founder William Penn mapped it out between South and Vine Streets to the North and South and to the Schuylkill and Delaware Rivers on the East and West. Four strategically placed public squares are equidistant in this “city” and still remain in the neighborhood today.


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Philly has continued to expand over the decades, but this “central city” never changed, although the look of it certainly has. The area is booming with new construction and development, with newly constructed buildings, like the brand-new Comcast Center buildings, one of which is now the tallest in Philadelphia.


What to do?

Life in Center City is a bit more glamorous than the other neighborhoods. Philly may be known for its grit and toughness, but in Center City, glassed-in buildings and ultra fine-dining restaurants tell a different story.

As with everything in Philly, though, Center City is layered in history. Rittenhouse Square, a well-visited block of green space loved by both tourists and locals alike, is also one of the city’s original parks.


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City Hall was once the tallest building in the world in the late 1800s. Today, it remains as a beautiful representation of early architecture and vibrant public space. It’s where the Christmas tree goes in up in the winter, alongside an ice rink and outdoor holiday shops.

The newly opened Fashion District is a stylish mall east of City Hall. Large shops like H&M mix with indoor activities, including a newly built movie theatre.

The famous Philadelphia Art Museum (AKA where Rocky climbed his victory steps in the original movie) is not just a cinematic destination, it also has an amazing collection of art. It’s right off the Schuylkill River bike path, which stretches along the waterfront through the rolling greenery of Fairmount Park.


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Where to eat & drink

Nearby Reading Terminal Market is one of America’s oldest and largest public indoor markets. It’s filled with local and historical Philadelphia food, with a diversity that represents the melting pot aspect of this city. You can easily munch on a cheesesteak just steps from a soul food buffet counter, all before grabbing a locally churned ice cream scoop.


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Moving to Center City

Real Estate Snapshot

Center City is convenient, fun and pretty, but when compared to the rest of the city, it’s not cheap. The average cost of rent in Center City West (the area west of Broad St) is 36% higher than Philly’s average. Rent over in Center City East (the area east of Broad St) is slightly better than the other side, but still rests 20% over the city average.


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This trickles down to other costs of living as well. Restaurants here tend to be on the high end, as do grocery stores and other shopping. The nicest gyms in the city are here, but they’re also more expensive.


This is probably the easiest place to get to and from neighborhoods in all of Philadelphia. From Suburban Station (located right under City Hall) you can hop on a train to all of the town’s off of the Main Line, head south on the Septa to the sports stadiums, or get to North Philly in a matter of minutes. Just across the Schuylkill River, you can use the 30th Street station to go as close as a neighboring block away or as far as the East Coast Amtrak will take you. Buses are available on the main cross streets for inner-city transportation as well.


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Schools & Employment

Much of Philadelphia’s white-collar employment is housed in Center City offices. Comcast technologies campus alone employs over 9,000 people. Many of the city’s best hospitality jobs are also in the hotels and restaurants here. Aramark and Crown Holdings (two Fortune 500 companies) have their headquarters here as well.

Quite a few public and private school options are available in this neighborhood. Julia R. Masterman Secondary School has a reputation for being one of the best public high schools in the city. There are also several college and medical school campuses in Center City, including Devry University, Drexel University College of Medicine, and Philadelphia College.


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Yes, you might pay a bit more to live in Center City, but it’s for a reason. Beautiful parks are a quick walk in any direction, apartment buildings often offer wonderful amenities like pools and top-of-the-line gyms and a lot of the best food in the city is a quick walk away. So head on over to and start looking for your new apartment in Center City.

Florentina Sarac
Florentina Sarac
Florentina Sarac is a creative writer, editor, and researcher for RENTCafé. She covers a variety of topics, from real estate trends, demographic shifts, housing industry news and multifamily construction to homeownership, smart-home technology, personal finance and business. With a 9-year background in the real estate industry, Florentina has also penned articles for publications such as Multi-Housing News, Commercial Property Executive and the National Apartment Association Magazine. You can connect with Florentina via email. Florentina’s work and expertise have been featured in several major U.S. and international publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bisnow, The Mercury News, Curbed, The NY Post, CBS News, Business Insider and She holds a B.A. in English and Spanish, as well as an M.A. in Multilingual and Multicultural Communication, which serve as a testament to her love of literature and language.

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