Neighborhood guides Philadelphia, PA

West Philly Is Philadelphia’s Most Eclectic Neighborhood

A diverse culture mashup, West Philadelphia is one of the most interesting and eclectic of Philly’s neighborhoods. It’s more an area than a neighborhood, a combination of many pocket-neighborhoods, each with their own distinct vibe. Because of its melting pot of residents, West Philly has one of the most interesting and varied food scenes in the city. The University of Pennsylvania also makes its home here, one of the prestigious ivy league schools with some of the best academic programs in the country.

Where is West Philadelphia?

West Philadelphia is stretched between the western edge of the city and banks of the Schuylkill River. It’s more of a wide region that encompasses smaller, more intimate residential neighborhoods. It sits across the river from Graduate Hospital to the east and Fairmount Park East to the north.

History

Like many of Philadelphia’s neighborhoods outside of Center City, West Philly was originally a city suburb that developed between the late 1700s and early 1800s. As transportation and bridges went up in the 19th century, the suburban area fused with the city center and continued to develop. Now, it is a mix of exploding high rises, affordable homes and multiple college campuses.

 

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Lifestyle

What to do

One of the best parts about living near a large, well-funded university? There’s always something to do. College campuses rarely lack in activities and Penn is no different.

Starting with a local campus rock climbing wall that is open to the public with a gym membership. It hosts classes and group sessions for those who want to meet other outdoorsy folks or learn the climbing basics.

Penn Museum houses amazing art and artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Italy, Mesopotamia, Asia, Africa and the Americas. It’s also open to the public with an entrance fee.

After a long day of classes or work, head over to Cira Green, an urban, year-round park situated on top of a parking garage. It’s wedged between two towering buildings, leaving the eastern and western banks exposed. You should also know this is one of the best spots to see the sunrise or set in the city. It also has views of the city skyline and Schuylkill River, a bar and food stand and jumbo TV where sports, movies and DJs play.

When the urge to go outside hits, head to the western portion of Fairmount Park located along the Schuylkill River to access its miles of biking, running and hiking trails on the edge of West Philly.

Where to eat & drink

While this all well and good, one of the best parts of living in West Philly is the food scene. This is where to come for small, authentic restaurants serving up cuisine from all over the world. Like Vientiane Café, a Laotian and Thai restaurant, or Dim Sum House by Jane G’s whose reputation usually draws a line out the door. West African food is also abundant in West Philly and can be tried at Kilimandjaro, Baobab and Aku’s Kitchen. Craving bagels? Schmear It ‘s got you covered – head on over for some of the best bagels in town.

 

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Jezabel’s is also a great place to visit, especially if you’re a fan of Argentine food. You’ll find everything from empanadas and seasonal soups, to pastries like Alfajores de Maizena and Facturas.

 

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A Cinemark movie theatre with cheap, student movie night tickets sits across the street from one of the area’s many grocery stores. Grab a few snacks and head in for a more traditional night out on the town right in the heart of Penn’s campus.

Moving to West Philadelphia

Real Estate Snapshot

Renting apartments in West Philadelphia is generally cheaper than much than in Philadelphia, but this varies quite a bit depending on the neighborhood in question. West Fairmount Park rents, for example, are about 10% lower at $1,492 than the city’s average. University City where Penn’s campus is, however, is actually rather expensive at over 50% than Philadelphia’s average.

 

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Transportation

While it originally began as a separate suburb, West Philly developed via its connection to downtown. A trolly, which still runs today, was one of the first additions. Now, The Market St. Septa line runs from Center City through the heart of West Philly, making stops every 5-10 blocks.

Bike paths loop through the area, running across bridges to connect back to the northern and eastern city neighborhoods.

30th St. station connects West Philly (and much of the entire city) to the Philadelphia suburbs and beyond via Amtrak, Septa or NJ transit.

I-76 runs down the Eastern edge of the area, connecting to I-95 and I-676 which can take you just about anywhere on the east coast of the U.S.

Schools & Employment

West Philadelphia is home to the University of Pennsylvania, a prestigious ivy league school that boasts a competitive medical school in addition to other academic programs. It’s the second largest college campus in Philly after Temple University and brings in almost 50,000 students a year.

Penn isn’t the only campus in the neighborhood, though. St Joseph’s University, a small private college, sits on the western edge of the neighborhood and Drexel University also has its main campus here.

Many people that live in West Philly work at or attend the local colleges, or at one of the related hospitals. In addition, the Science Center, The Children Hospital of Philadelphia, Philadelphia Zoo, Mann Music Center for Performing Arts and The Please Touch Museum all provide jobs to local residents.

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About the author

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 7-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 Realtor.com. 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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