Where to Sit When You’re Out & About & Around Philadelphia

From parks to people-watching, here’s where to settle in for a lunch, a movie, a great ride or a good cry.

Best seats in Philadelphia parks: Lounging in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park / Photograph by Matt Stanley

In a city like Philadelphia, finding the perfect spot to sit and relax can feel like striking gold. Whether you’re looking for a quiet corner to read, a peaceful place to shed a tear, or a scenic spot to take in the view, we’ve got you covered. Here are the best seats in the city where you can unwind and enjoy a moment of calm amidst the urban hustle.

Best seat for … indoor reading

The best kind of used bookstore is one where you can find great titles and somewhere to read them. The cozy upstairs at Bookhaven offers several­ secluded nooks and crannies in which to hide … plus Emma and Jane, the house cats, wandering around. Fairmount.­

Best seat for … outdoor reading

Pastorius­ Park’s historic warming hut, wide benches, and sweetgum trees towering over a picturesque pond are right out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Oh, and check out the moat! Chestnut­ Hill.

Best seat for … crying in peace

Hey, we’ve all been there. It doesn’t get much more private (or pretty) than the tiny floral oasis that is Perth and Addison Street Park, at the corner of two different no-parking streets. There, there now. Washington Square West.

Best seat for … summer

Few Philadelphia traditions top escaping the sun (and catching a snooze) in the shady hammocks along the Delaware at Spruce Street Harbor Park. Society Hill.

Best seat for … going places

With all due respect to Inga Saffron and SEPTA, the view you get from the front row of PATCO as you go over the Ben Franklin Bridge into the city is one of the best Philly skyline panoramas anywhere.

Best seat for … just going

Need a bathroom while you’re out in the wild? Most hotels offer lobby restrooms you can (clandestinely) hit, but the centrally located one at the Ritz-Carlton is particularly luxe and lovely. Also worth noting: The Bok Building is open to the public, and so are its numerous regularly cleaned bathrooms. Center City, East Passyunk.

Best seat for … people-watching

Grab a fresh-pressed juice at Kamal’s Middle Eastern Specialties counter at Reading Terminal Market, right by the 12th Street entrance, and watch the staggering array of humanity (locals and tourists!) trickle in and mill about on a busy day. Market East.

Best seat for … alfresco lunch hour

Get away from that desk! John F. Collins Park, a vine-covered pocket park so pretty that it occasionally doubles as a wedding venue, is a leafy respite from the drone of the city. There’s always a table or bench available. Center City.

Collins Park in Center City / Photograph courtesy of Center City District

Best seat for … feeling like a kid

The main attraction at FDR Park’s new Anna C. Verna Playground is undoubtedly the 20-seat Skyline Swing, from which you can view the city skyline and nearby lagoons. And truly: All ages are welcome. South Philly.

Best seat for … actual kids

The hood of your car will do at Fort Mifflin parking lot, where you can park (for free!), sit, and watch the planes fly overhead every three to five minutes. Magic! Southwest Philly.

Best seat for … getting work done

The second floor of the reading room at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia — a landmark and library — is accessible with a $15 day pass and outfitted with plenty of seating. And the Italianate architecture is like nothing you’ll see at your go-to coffee shop. Society Hill.

Best seat for … catching a flick

The fancy updated seats at the AMC Fashion District 8 — think heated recliners­ and food delivery — work for us. Good snacks, too. Market East.

An Insider’s Guide to the Best Seats in Fairmount Park

With thousands of acres in East and West Fairmount Park and too many destinations to name, there’s (literally) a lot of ground to cover when it comes to finding the best places to park yourself. But with the help of Maura McCarthy, CEO of the Fairmount Park Conservancy, we’ve put together a bucket list for bumming around. Make sure to BYOB — blanket!

Get Your Own Piece of Park

best seats in the city

Illustration by Melissa McFeeters

Here’s one way to buy a tiny slice of immortality (and also a seat!) in this town: Adopt yourself a bench. Rittenhouse Square, Schuylkill Banks, Franklin Square, Clark Park, Wissahickon Valley Park, Anna C. Verna Playground — all of these have benches, and all of those benches can be “yours” (well, the ones that aren’t already taken), and so marked with a plaque, for donations ranging from $2,000 (Schuylkill Banks) to $10,000 (Rittenhouse Square — though half-benches there are a bargain $6,000). At Anna C. Verna, you can even go for a seat on the continent’s biggest swing set ($10,000) in addition to the concrete benches ($5,000) that line the park. Too rich for your blood? Maybe claim a white oak or apple serviceberry or black tupelo ($2,500), perfect for sitting under with a picnic.

>> Click here to return to The Best Seats in Philadelphia

Published as “City Sitting” in the July 2024 issue of Philadelphia magazine.