Neighborhood Walking Tours

The Preservation Alliance’s guided walking tours interpret the past, present and future of the Philadelphia region as expressed through architecture, urban design and social history.

Tour Information

WHO? Tours are led by experienced, volunteer guides from a wide range of backgrounds.

WHAT? We offer dozens of tours on a regular basis. If the tour you’re interested in is not on our upcoming schedule, you may arrange a private tour. Private tours are available for groups of any size.

WHERE? Because our tours cover so many diverse areas of the city, each tour meets at a different location. Check the listing of tours for each meeting location.

WHEN? Tours are offered at 10:00 am on Saturdays and 2:00 pm on Sundays May through October.

WHY? These tours do not cater to your “typical” tourist market. Our tours are more specialized and more in-depth, making them a great option for adventurous tourists and inquisitive locals alike.

HOW? Tickets must be purchased online in advance. Tours run approximately 1.5 to 2 hours. Tours run rain or shine.

Private Tours

Is your group interested in a private tour? Private tours cost $20 per person. There is a $100 minimum in order to book a private tour. Private tour requests are accepted year round. We offer educational discounts for children ages 18 and under. Contact us at 215-546-1146 x4 or email tours@preservationalliance.com to arrange your tour. Learn more here!

TOUR SAFETY UPDATES:

The Preservation Alliance is committed to following guidelines from the Philadelphia Health Department. Starting March 29th 2022:

  • During tours, facemasks will be optional for all individuals including the tour guide
  • Facemasks are required to enter buildings on certain tours. Please bring one with you in case it is needed 
  • Preservation Alliance walking tours utilize an audio system that transmits from a headset worn by the guide to earpieces worn by tour attendees. The equipment is thoroughly sanitized before and after each use. Tour attendees can also plug in their personal headsets or earbuds that use a standard headphone jack (Not compatible with Bluetooth or with Apple headphone jacks)
  • Be sure to bring water and wear comfortable clothing 

 2022 TOUR SCHEDULE:
Saturday, May 21st at 10AM- Society Hill Sacred Sites- Click Here to Register– sold out
Sunday, May 22nd at 2 PM – Manayunk – Click Here to Register– sold out
Saturday, May 28th at 10AM- Jewish Immigrant Philadelphia- Click Here to Register
Sunday, May 29th at 2 PM – Northern Liberties – Click Here to Register– sold out
Saturday, June 4th at 10AM- Spruce Hill Victoriana- Click Here to Register
Sunday, June 5th at 2 PM – Queen Village – Click Here to Register
Saturday, June 11th at 10AM- Underground Philadelphia- Click Here to Register
Sunday, June 12th at 2 PM – Bella Vista – Click Here to Register
Wednesday, June 15th at 6PM- Ben Franklin Parkway- Click Here to Register
Saturday, June 18th at 10AM- Frank Furness: A Talk and Tour- Click Here to Register
Sunday, June 19th at 2 PM – Around City Hall – Click Here to Register
Wednesday, June 22th at 6PM- Art Deco- Click Here to Register
Saturday, June 25th at 10AM- Spring Garden- Click Here to Register
Sunday, June 26th at 2 PM – Girard Estate – Click Here to Register
Wednesday, June 29th at 6PM- Emergence of a Modern Metropolis- Click Here to Register
Saturday, July 2nd at 10AM- Underground Philadelphia- Click Here to Register
 SPECIAL TOUR SCHEDULE:
Wednesday, May 4th at 6 PM – Dina Wind Art Foundation– Click Here to Register 
Wednesday, May 11th at 6 PM – Wayne Junction featuring newly restored Autograph Apartments– Click Here to Register *Rescheduled to June 1!*
Wednesday, May 18th at 6 PM – Kreate Hub– Click Here to Register 
Wednesday, May 25th at 6 PM – LaFarge, Furness, and Art Glass at First Unitarian Click Here to Register 

Please email tour@preservationalliance.com to join a waitlist for sold out tours.

Please continue to check back for announcements of more tours and special events. Have a question or looking to join the waitlist for a sold out tour? Email tours@preservationalliance.com.

  PRIVATE WALKING TOURS

Private tours from our Neighborhood Walking Tour series can be arranged year-round to suit your schedule.

There is a $100 minimum in order to book a private tour; this deposit covers up to 5 attendees. Additional attendees are $20 per person. We offer educational discounts for children ages 18 and under.

For more information and to request a private tour, contact us at 215-546-1146 x4, tours@preservationalliance.com. Please be sure to include your preferred tour(s), date(s), time(s) and expected group size.

**Book tours at least 1 week in advance for the best chance to match availability**

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NEIGHBORHOOD WALKING TOUR DESCRIPTIONS:

69th STREET HISTORIC DISTRICT

Explore the historic 69th Street Shopping District in Upper Darby, a major retail center built at the terminus of the Market Street elevated primarily by real estate developer John McClatchy in the early 20th century. See such notable sites as the Moorish style McClatchy Building, the Romanesque 69th Street Terminal and the Classical Revival Tower Theater along with numerous Art Deco buildings; the most concentrated group of this style in the Philadelphia area. Meet on the 69th Street bridge over Market Street/ West Chester Pike. 

AROUND CITY HALL

Explore the exterior of the most magnificent example of French Second Empire architecture in the U.S., Philadelphia City Hall, the largest municipal building in the country and the tallest masonry bearing wall structure in the world. Its monumental design celebrates Philadelphia’s industrial reputation as “The Workshop of the World” and its location provides this city with a strong “sense of center.” Circling around City Hall, you will experience a wide array of late 19th century and early 20th century commercial buildings and learn about Philadelphia’s transformation into a modern, post-World War II commercial city for the 20th & 21st centuries. (Please note: this tour does not include the interior of City Hall.) Meet outside the  west portal of City Hall, 1 S. 15th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102 (map).

AROUND WASHINGTON SQUARE

Walk around one of William Penn’s original planned public parks. Learn how this square served as a burial ground for over 1,200 Revolutionary War soldiers, then as a potter’s field before receiving its present name in 1825. See The Athenaeum, the first Italian Renaissance building in the US, and learn how the Square became home to the publishing industry in the early 20th century. Today, many of the former office buildings are being transformed into residences as Washington Square serves as an important gateway to the nearby residential Society Hill neighborhood. Meet at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the center of Washington Square (map).

ART DECO

This popular early 20th century style, synonymous with the Jazz Age, has been described as having one foot in the past and one foot in the future. Its sleek appearance foretells the debut of Modernism while its use of Mayan and Aztec motifs echoes the past. Among Philadelphia’s outstanding examples featured on this walk is the flamboyant WCAU Building on the 1600 block of Chestnut Street. Meet at the entrance of Liberty Place on 17th and Chestnut Streets (map).

AVENUE OF THE ARTS

Although William Penn envisioned a grand civic boulevard for Broad Street, he would be dazzled by today’s “Avenue of the Arts” with its rich assortment of building styles and functions. Marvel at the ornate Frank Furness-designed Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, celebrating Victorian eclecticism at its best. Gaze upward to the dramatic glass canopy of the Kimmel Center, designed by Rafael Vinoly, and in between see grand late Victorian and Beaux Arts commercial buildings. Meet in front of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts at 128 N. Broad Street.

BANKERS’ ROW: ARCHITECTURE AND FINANCE IN PHILADELPHIA

In the early years of the new Republic, Philadelphia was the nation’s financial capital, home to the first stock exchange (1790), the Bank of the United States, the US Mint, the first securities exchange, the first commodities exchange, and other early banking and insurance institutions. The epicenter of this activity was Chestnut Street in Old City, where important early institutions were housed in architectural treasures, ranging from Greek Revival “temples” to later brick and limestone buildings such as The Bourse Building and the US Customs House. Explore the history of this important part of Philadelphia by visiting notable architectural landmarks, visible evidence of Philadelphia’s early financial prominence. Meet in Welcome Park at the corner of 2nd Street and Sansom Walk (map).

BEAUX ARTS PHILADELPHIA

Explore outstanding examples of late 19th century and early 20th century architecture influenced by the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. From monumental structures along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to equally grand but more intimate residences in Rittenhouse Square, see why Philadelphia is often described as the “Paris of the US.” Meet at the fountain in the center of Rittenhouse Square.

BELLA VISTA

Bella Vista (“beautiful view”) is a vibrant, historic residential neighborhood and home to the famous Ninth Street Market, AKA the Italian Market, one of the nation’s oldest continuously operating open-air markets. The tour will highlight the lively neighborhood’s architecture, diverse ethnic mix, and social changes. Meet at the Engine Company No. 11 historic marker, 1016 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147 (map).

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PARKWAY

This grand boulevard, named after Philadelphia’s most famous citizen, is Philadelphia’s early 20th century contribution to the City Beautiful Movement and connects the downtown to Fairmount Park, fulfilling William Penn’s vision of a “greene countrie towne.” View the grand neoclassical structures that house this city’s cultural, educational and commercial institutions and view the new home of the renowned Barnes Foundation on Philadelphia’s version of the Champs Elysees. Meet in Love Park directly across 16th Street from the Suburban Station entrance, beside the Visitor Center construction (map).

CITY HALL TO CITY HALL

Where else but Philadelphia can you view three centuries of American architecture along a single street on just one tour? The tour begins at Independence National Historical Park in front of the Old City Hall, which housed the Supreme Court when Philadelphia was the capital of the nation. The tour concludes at City Hall on William Penn’s original Center Square, once the tallest building in the world. In between, the astounding variety of Philadelphia’s 19th century and early 20th century commercial architecture is revealed. Meet at the northwest corner of 5th and Chestnut Streets (map).

CLASSICAL PHILADELPHIA

Discover the Philadelphia known as “The Athens of America” in the early 19th century. Hear about some of this country’s greatest neo-classical architects and learn why they turned to ancient Greece for inspiration in designing buildings for the new American democracy. Significant highlights include the Second Bank of the US and the Merchant’s Exchange, both designed by architect William Strickland. Meet at the Pennsylvania Hospital Gate on Pine Street between 8th and 9th Streets (map).

EMERGENCE OF A MODERN METROPOLIS: PHILADELPHIA

Experience the transformation of Philadelphia from America’s 19th century engine of industry to a 21st century capital of business and culture. This 2-hour tour explores Philadelphia’s diverse range of architectural styles and building technologies from the 1860s to the present, detailing the social, economic, and political forces that shaped the modern cityscape. It is divided into three parts:

Era 1 – Late Victorian / Post Civil War (1870 – 1890)
• A period of architectural eclecticism
• Stone-age building techniques (masonry) with lots of ornamentation
Era 2 – Birth of the Skyscraper (1890 – 1930)
• The adaptation of old forms to new functions (mass manufacturing)
• Steel-frame construction disguised behind traditional materials with some ornamentation
Era 3 – The Modern City (1930 – present)
• A period of Modernism & Post-Modernism
• Curtain wall building technique allows vast, minimalist, glass surfaces

Highlights include the spectacular Victorian interior of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art (PAFA); the soaring central court of Philadelphia’s first department store, Wanamaker’s; and the atrium of the Comcast Center. Meet at the Paint Torch sculpture outside of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Broad and Cherry Streets (map).

FRANK FURNESS: A TALK & A TOUR

Explore the work of one of Philadelphia’s most colorful architects by taking this comprehensive, first-of-its-kind tour. Buildings that have been demolished or that are beyond walking distance will be discussed by illustrated presentation inside the Furness-designed First Unitarian Church. After the presentation, join your guide for a walking tour of nearby Furnessian gems. Meet in the sanctuary of First Unitarian Church, 2125 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103 (map).

FRANKFORD

Discover beautiful Victorian residences, churches, and public buildings in this historic neighborhood that developed along an old Native American trail. See the commercial revitalization efforts of today’s Frankford Avenue. Learn about Frankford’s early history that predates Philadelphia and how it figured prominently in this city’s colonial past. Experience its tremendous growth during the city’s industrial era, housing factory owners on one side of the Avenue and factory workers on the other side.

GIRARD ESTATE

Trace the history of this South Philadelphia neighborhood from its origin as a colonial farm to the early 20th century planned development of “Ideal City Homes.” See outstanding examples of Bungalow, Colonial Revival and Spanish Revival residential styles. Meet at the statue of Stephen Girard in Girard Park at 21st and Shunk Streets.

GOLDEN AGE OF RETAIL

Walk the very streets that millions walked during Philadelphia’s heyday as a mercantile mecca. The tour will cover the rise and fall of Philadelphia’s great department and specialty stores from Wanamaker’s humble beginnings in 1861 to the closing of Strawbridge and Clothier in 2006, and all of the glory days in between. Meet in the East (4th Street) lobby of the Bourse Building on Independence Mall.

JEWISH IMMIGRANT PHILADELPHIA

Relive the Philadelphia experience of Eastern European Jews who settled, at the turn of the 20th century, in the area from 2nd to 6th Streets and Spruce Street south to Christian Street. Explore their synagogues and homes and learn about their thriving marketplaces that became prominent businesses. Meet in front of Mother Bethel AME Church at 6th and Addison Street.

JEWISH PHILADELPHIA IN COLONIAL TIMES

Explore the city’s Judaic heritage and learn about its importance in the growth and architectural development of Philadelphia. Hear about Nathan Levy’s connection to the Liberty Bell and the Jewish connection to Christ Church. Meet at the benches at Elfreth’s Alley and 2nd Street.

LEWIS & CLARK IN PHILADELPHIA

Follow in the footsteps of these important early American explorers where their historic trek began 200 years ago and learn about the buildings and institutions, past and present, that lined this early phase of their route. Meet on the northwest corner of 5th and Arch Streets. – Note: This tour runs approximately 3 hours

LITTLEST STREETS EAST OF BROAD

Stroll a charming labyrinth of streets west of Washington Square, a village-like setting right in the heart of Center City, developed in the mid 19th century. Experience an intimate “hierarchy of streets” where the larger style-conscious houses are on the main streets, the smaller scale houses built for the aspiring middle class are on the middle-sized streets, and what was worker housing is on the smallest alleys. See Philadelphia as a “livable” city at its best. Meet at the center of Kahn Park on 11th and Pine Streets.

LITTLEST STREETS FITLER SQUARE

Experience yet another intimate neighborhood within Center City, just southwest of Rittenhouse Square west of Broad Street. Learn about the early Irish settlers and other immigrants who first settled here and about their industrial ties to the nearby Schuylkill River. Meet at the center of Fitler Square on 23rd and Pine Streets (map).

MANAYUNK

Often referred to as the “Manchester of America,” learn about this former mill town’s industrial development along the Schuylkill River canal that was opened in 1825, connecting Philadelphia to the interior coal regions of Pennsylvania. See examples of early immigrant housing then stroll along Main Street’s late 19th century commercial buildings and enjoy the fruits of its recent renaissance. Meet at the small park on the river-side of Main Street between Gay and Conarroe Streets (4418-24 Main Street, Philadelphia, PA 19127).

MEDIA (DELAWARE COUNTY)

Media was planned in the 1850s as the seat of Delaware County. Discover architecture dating from the Federal era, see lavish Victorian homes and enjoy the beautifully restored Beaux Arts/Art Deco Media Theater before experiencing the renaissance of its commercial district. Meet in front of the Delaware County Court House at Front Street and Courthouse Square, 201 W. Front St, Media, PA 19063 (map).

NORTHERN LIBERTIES

William Penn stipulated that 10,000 acres north of the original city become “liberty lands.” Once home to many of the city’s breweries, this funky, culturally diverse neighborhood today is the home of many artists and writers. See the old and the new and make note of the many little neighborhood eateries along the way. Meet at Palm Tree Market, 717 N. Second Street.

OLD CITY

Explore colonial Philadelphia and walk some of its original streets. See famous Elfreth’s Alley, the oldest continuously occupied street in the US, and experience the walking/mercantile city, as well as a later generation of Victorian structures. Learn how this area remained the center of Philadelphia’s commercial, retail and governmental activities until the city finally moved “westward” to Center Square in the mid/late 19th century. Meet at the benches near Elfreth’s Alley and N. 2nd Street (map).

CHESTNUT HILL

Take a leisurely stroll through this bucolic “Garden City” neighborhood, a suburban setting within the city limits. Learn how the Pennsylvania Railroad extension to this area, spearheaded by Henry Howard Houston in the 1880s, created this style-conscious development and later, with his son-in-law, George Woodward, continued it into the 1920s. Explore this haven of late Victorian, Arts & Crafts, English Cotswolds and Modern residences and see how it emerged as a desirable and complete neighborhood. Meet outside Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, across from the tennis courts on 500 West Willow Grove Ave (map).

FISHTOWN

Situated to the northeast of Center City, Fishtown figured prominently in Philadelphia’s great industrial age of the late 19th/early 20th century when it was developed to house many of the workers who were employed by the major industries that built factories in this part of the city. Discover how Fishtown’s residences are going through restoration as it becomes a sought after location in which to live. Meet at the statue of William Penn in Penn Treaty Park, 1301 N. Beach St, Philadelphia, PA 19125 (map).

QUEEN VILLAGE

Explore this worker’s neighborhood and be amazed by its history because it predates William Penn. Queen Village was developed in the 1630s, first as a Dutch settlement, later becoming home to a large influx of Swedish settlers. Visit one of the few remaining 17th century structures in Philadelphia today, Gloria Dei Church. Meet at the front door of Olde Swedes Church at 916 S. Swanson Street.

RITTENHOUSE SQUARE EAST

Philadelphia’s most fashionable address was developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Enjoy today’s ambiance and compare the grand homes designed for the wealthy elite to the understated, elegant residences on Delancey Street. Meet at the fountain in the center of Rittenhouse Square (map).

SACRED SITES TOURS

Society Hill Sacred Sites Due to its Quaker origins, Philadelphia has long been hospitable to worshipers of many faiths. See history come to life when visiting reclusive St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, classical Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church, Romanesque Revival Mother Bethel Church, Georgian St. Peter’s Church, and Gothic Revival St. Mary’s Church. Meet at the gate of St. Peter’s Church, 3rd and Pine Streets.

Old City Sacred Sites Learn how religion affected 18th century society on this tour of the city’s oldest religious structures: from the simple design of the Arch Street Friends Meeting House built in 1804 to the exquisite Georgian-style Christ Church built 1727-1741. Meet at the entrance of Christ Church, N. 2nd and Church Streets.

Rittenhouse Square Sacred Sites Visit outstanding examples of religious architecture in the Romanesque Revival and Gothic Revival styles in the Rittenhouse Square area and trace the city’s development west of Broad Street from the mid 19th century through the Gilded Age era. Meet in front of the First Baptist Church at 17th and Sansom Streets.

SKYSCRAPERS OLD & NEW

Penn Center, one of the country’s most acclaimed examples of 20th century, post World War II urban renewal, is a lasting legacy of Edmund Bacon and the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. Learn how this world-famous city planner based this commercial development complex on William Penn’s vision that Market Street would be a commercial thoroughfare and see two generations of commercial architecture: Modern & Post-Modern. Meet at the exterior north portal of City Hall, N. Broad Street & JFK Boulevard.

SOCIETY HILL STROLL

Society Hill received its name from the “Free Society of Traders” who were granted a strip of land in this area by William Penn in 1683. Take a leisurely walk through this country’s largest, intact collection of original colonial and post-colonial residential architecture. Learn about this neighborhood’s mid 20th century renewal efforts and its contribution to establishing Philadelphia as a “livable” city. Meet at the Northeast corner of 2nd & Spruce Streets (map).

SPRING GARDEN

Stroll through this early city suburb, developed in the late 19th century, that was home to merchants, workers and even prisoners. Enjoy a diversity of exuberant late Victorian homes and view the world-renowned Eastern State Penitentiary, built in the 1820s and studied by penal experts from Asia and Europe at that time. Meet in front of Jack’s Firehouse, 2130 Fairmount Avenue.

SPRUCE HILL VICTORIANA

Walk tree-lined streets graced with homes that are crowned with Italianate towers and Queen Anne Revival gables. Hear how public transportation encouraged development of this West Philadelphia neighborhood as a streetcar suburb. Meet in front of University City Arts League, 4226 Spruce Street.

UNDERGROUND PHILADELPHIA: SUBWAYS, RAILWAYS & STATIONS

Discover the Philadelphia Plan which gave us two Art Deco masterpieces, the monumental 30th Street Station and Suburban Station, the first all-underground rail terminal. The tour starts at 30th Street Station and proceeds via trolley to 19th St. From the Comcast tower lobby descend into an underground concourse network to the site of The Fashion District, formerly known as The Gallery at Market East, before ending at Reading Terminal and the Marriott Hotel. Along the way, lament the loss of Broad St. Station and learn about the 1905-mid-50s trolley and subway lines, the Broad Street subway (1928), the Commuter Rail Tunnel (1984), and the former Reading Terminal, now part of the Pennsylvania Convention Center. (This tour requires climbing some stairs, though escalators and elevators are available at most points.) Meet at the Angel statue in the main concourse of the 30th Street Station, near the east entrance. PLEASE NOTE: Guests must provide their own SEPTA fares.

UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA

Stroll the campus of one of the country’s most prestigious Ivy League schools. See old and new buildings designed by such notable American architects as Trumbauer, Cope & Stewardson, Furness, Kahn, and Venturi Scott Brown. Hear about campus planning and the neighborhood’s revitalization and enjoy the University’s award-winning landscape. Meet at driveway entrance to the Penn Museum, 3260 South Street.

UP AND OVER THE BEN FRANKLIN BRIDGE

You’ve crossed it by car or viewed it from afar; now experience this magnificent bridge from a whole new perspective! Walk from Philadelphia to Camden with our guide to learn about the history and construction of what was once the longest suspension bridge in the world. Look down on the mighty Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Get acquainted with the past, present and future of waterfront development on both sides of the river. At the end of the tour, walk through the Rutgers-Camden campus for a return trip to Center City on the PATCO Hi-Speedline (not included in price). Meet in front of St. George’s United Methodist Church on N. 4th and New Streets (map).

VICTORIAN GERMANTOWN

This city neighborhood, dating to colonial times, underwent industrial development with the arrival of the Philadelphia, Germantown & Norristown Railroad in 1832 and this development continued rapidly with the arrival of the Pennsylvania Railroad in the 1880s. Learn more about this transportation impact and see some of Philadelphia’s finest examples of Victorian eclecticism. Meet on the northwest corner of Germantown Avenue and Tulpehocken Street.