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 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
108 Sansom St. | 5 beds, 5 full, 2 half-baths, 5,100 square feet, $2,500,000
301 Race St. #102 | 1 bed, 1 bath, 740 square feet, $259,900
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
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.”
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.