No one calls the neighborhood that covers the bottom portion of the city “South Philadelphia”. Down here, it’s South Philly. This is the no-nonsense neighborhood, diverse and expansive. It’s where Rocky runs through flaming garbage cans in the iconic scene from the first movie. This is where you find the best non-trendy food in the city, aka food that is actually really good but hasn’t hit the mainstream radar yet, unless it’s on Passyunk in which case everyone probably knows about it.
South Philly has a loyal crew of residents that have lived here for generations after immigrating folks dug in their roots. This is where the locals live and it’s a great place to move if you’re looking for the real Philadelphia.
Where is South Philadelphia?
South Philly is really a giant swath of land beginning below South St. and continuing to the bottom of the city, though many locals have their own opinions about where the “real South Philly” starts and ends. It’s bordered by the rivers on either side, the Delaware to the east and Schuylkill to the west, encompassing many of the smaller, local neighborhoods in Philly, including Point Breeze, Passyunk Square and Queen Village.
South Philly was originally incorporated into the city in the mid-1800s to accommodate the large influx of immigrants, mainly arriving from Italy and Ireland. Ever since then it has transferred and morphed as new cultures came to Philadelphia from all over the world. Now, it is a collection of smaller neighborhoods all woven together with their vibrant culture and stamp. While the rest of the city has shifted in ways that often obliterate its past, South Philly managed to retain much of its original appeal. New developments are being proposed to re-make the Italian market area, adding in new shops and apartment buildings alongside its old-world charm.
What to do
The lifestyle in South Philadelphia is arguable some of the best in Philly. Neighborhood pockets are sprinkled with shops and cafes, outdoor dining and bars. Traditional streets lined with awning-covered rowhomes house families who have lived there for generations.
It is, as many people have noted, a proper neighborhood. The kind of place where people come together on a weekend night with their neighbors. With its rent only recently seeing a boom, it has also been able to host a wide range of new businesses and restaurants in recent years.
At the bottom edge of South Philly, and the city, the old Navy Yard has been transformed into a hodgepodge of corporate headquarters and parkland. In the summer, the area hosts pop-up events like drive-in movies.
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Just up the river from the Navy Yard is Philly’s sports complex. The 76ers, Eagles, Phillies and Flyers all play in stadiums here, easily accessed by the Broad St. septa line. There are bars in the middle of the parking lots and inside the stadiums, but the real fun here is the tailgating before the games.
Where to eat & drink
Bustling Passyunk Square has had a resurgence in recent years, attracting some of the city’s best young chefs opening up delicious eateries such as Fond, alongside old school spots like Marra’s, an Italian restaurant that has been operating for 90 years.
Over in the Italian Market, shops have been serving up traditional Italian goods for over a century. Di Brunos Bros. has been operating out of this area of S 9th St. for 80 years selling meats and cheeses, and yet it still has a line out the door every weekend morning.
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A block down, chef and owner of South Philly Barbacoa was featured on an episode of Netflix’s The Chef’s Table, earning her a following that manifests into hours of waiting for her delicious, traditionally-made barbacoa.
Many of Philadelphia’s most famous cheesesteak spots are here, as well, including the touristy Pat’s and Geno’s (though you’ll find a better sandwich and more locals over at John’s Roast Pork).
Moving to South Philadelphia
Real Estate Snapshot
South Philadelphia was considered one of the more affordable neighborhoods for years, but it has seen a recent uptick in rent prices. The price for apartments in South Philadelphia varies greatly depending on the part you choose. In Bella Vista and Queens Village Pennsport you’ll pay nearly $1,000/month more on average than you would in Point Breeze. Grocery stores, restaurants and residential parks are all fairly common in South Philadelphia, making it a convenient place to live. Overall, South Philadelphia neighborhoods start around the cities average but can increase quickly depending on the street corner the apartment stands on.
South Philly is served by the Broad St. septa line down the center of it. However, many people live too far from this for it to be useful. In that case, there are quite a few bus lines that service the area. It is surrounded by highways including I-95 and I-76, making it easy to drive from place to place as well.
Schools & Employment
There’s a wide range of schools in South Philly depending on what part you live in. Private and public options are available at all levels, from K-5, middle, and on into high schools.
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Corporate employment here is mainly housed in the Navy Yard, where fashion and retail giant Urban Outfitters has its headquarters. Other businesses have opened up since, slowly transforming that area into a business hub.