So You Want to Live in Old City

If you’re thinking of living in the place where Philly began, we’ve got the goods right here on homes, shopping, transit, and more.

The wide sidewalks along Market Street in Old City make it an al fresco dining Valhalla, and dozens of eateries along the street mean you’re sure to find something you’d like to eat outside when the weather’s nice. | Photo: J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

The neighborhood where Philadelphia began is called Old City — please, none of that faux-Colonial e-on-the-end business — for a reason: This was the earliest part of William Penn’s “greene countrie towne” to be developed. (There it’s OK because that’s how Penn spelled it.) It didn’t develop as Penn envisioned, though: The transportation of the era was such that having just one house on each square would have been highly impractical.

Instead, the blocks along the Delaware and Dock Creek filled with houses, warehouses, shops and small factories, all cheek-by-jowl. Most of Old City today still looks like that, only minus the warehouses and factories and plus a few thousand residents and a bunch of restaurants.

Those restaurants are part of Center City’s liveliest nightlife district, which lies south of Market Street. North of it, you’ll find cool boutique shopping, some great designer furniture stores, and cheap commercial cookware and chairs for your kitchen bar. No matter where you are, you have easy access to all of the important historic sites your out-of-town guests will insist on seeing.

Old City Housing Prices at a Glance

Median single-family home value: $1,180,500

Median condo/co-op value: $319,100

Median monthly rent: $1,682

What You Can Buy in Old City

Bright MLS image via BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors

New Construction Luxury Townhouse With Wine Room

108 Sansom St. | 5 beds, 5 full, 2 half-baths, 5,100 square feet, $2,500,000

Bright MLS image via Keller Williams Realty

Street-Level Condo in The Wireworks

301 Race St. #102 | 1 bed, 1 bath, 740 square feet, $259,900

TREND image via BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors

Modern Condo Just Off Elfreth’s Alley

138-40 N. Front St. #2F | 2 beds, 2 baths, 1,108 square feet, $520,000

Public Transit in Old City

SEPTA Market-Frankford Line: 2nd Street and 5th Street/Independence Hall stations

SEPTA Regional Rail: Jefferson Station, all lines, at 9th and Market streets, three blocks west of the neighborhood

PATCO Lindenwold Line: Nearest station at 8th and Market streets, two blocks west of the neighborhood

SEPTA Bus Routes: 5, 9, 17, 21, 25 (on Delaware Avenue), 33, 42, 48, 57

PHLASH Downtown Loop (seasonal)

Food Shopping in Old City

Supermarkets: Acme, 5th Street between Spruce and Pine, Society Hill, 2.5 blocks south of the neighborhood

Local grocers: Mulberry Market, 236 Arch Street

Farmers’ markets: Head House Market, Head House Square, Society Hill, three blocks south of the neighborhood (seasonal); Reading Terminal Market, 12th and Arch streets, six blocks west of the neighborhood attractions

Photo: A. Ricketts for Visit Philadelphia

Local Color

Old City houses the greatest concentration of art galleries and dealers in the city, and on the first Friday of every month, all of them stay open late to showcase their current exhibits, most of them accompanied by wine and cheese. Many of the local merchants join in too with receptions and parties to show off their wares, making First Friday in Old City Philadelphia’s most civilized “bar crawl.”

Elfreth’s Alley during Fete Day in June, one of the two times a year residents open their homes to visitors. | Photo: R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

Did You Know?

Old City is home to the oldest continuously occupied residential street in the nation, Elfreth’s Alley. Residents there are used to throngs of tourists peering into their living rooms, and they even welcome them in twice a year. But unless you buy one of the rarely-on-the-market Elfreth’s Alley homes, you won’t have to worry about that.

Data sources: Zillow Home Value Index, Zillow Rental Index