North Philadelphia is large area north of Philadelphia‘s Center City that includes many neighborhoods such as Northern Liberties, Kensington, Fishtown, Fairmount, the Spring Gardens, Templetown, Nicetown, and Tioga. Unfortunately, large swaths known as North Central are plagued by violence though they include some of the city’s most interesting residential architecture.
The Art Museum Area is one of the city’s fastest growing neighborhoods, rooted by three unique cultural icons. It’s more than just museums, though, including the neighborhoods of Franklintown, Spring Garden, Fairmount, and sometimes Francisville. Though it is the seat of one the finest art collections in the world (you must see the Impressionist gallery), it also encompasses the Philadelphia Free Library, the Franklin Institute, the Wine School, the Eastern State Penitentiary (where Al Capone sat idle for many years), and an up-and-coming residential neighborhood that includes galleries, restaurants, and bars just east of the Parkway off of Spring Garden Street and Fairmount Ave. Kelly Drive, the most popular recreational destination in the city with bike and running paths, as well as historic Boathouse Row, begins just behind the art museum.
Northern Liberties (so named because when Philadelphia was founded in 1682, land purchasers there were given a free land bonus in the surrounding rural areas, called the “Liberties”) has become a trendy neighborhood in Philadelphia among students, young professionals and artists, is also home to many galleries and shops. NoLib, as its residents call it, is home to artist lofts, architecturally-conscious condo developments, and entertainment from bowling, to restaurants.
The Northern Liberties neighborhood extends approximately from Front Street to 6th Street east-west, and from Spring Garden Street to Girard Avenue north-south. Until about the 1960s, Northern Liberties was home to Philadelphia’s breweries: Ortleib’s, Schmidt’s, and Ballantine. These beers are tougher to find these days, but live on at Citizens Bank Park’s (home of the Philadelphia Phillies baseball team) Brewerytown stand. It fell into disrepair once the breweries declined.
Today Northern Liberties is an excellent place to spend an evening out, with a large number of unique bars and restaurants well within walking distance.
Fishtown, originally part of the Kensington neighborhood, is rumored to have gotten its name from Charles Dickens from the fish smell (it’s on the river). It’s also believed that Penn Treaty park is where William Penn actually met with Native Americans. Many artists moved there after Northern Liberties became too expensive. There is an increasing number of galleries, a live music club (Johnny Brenda’s), and a somewhat burgeoning commercial strip along Girard Ave east of Front St. It’s mainly a rowhouse neighborhood rather than one of lofts, a nice park here is Palmer Park.
Templetown is a neighborhood of Temple University’s main campus, one mile north of City Hall and east of Fishtown. Not many locals actually call it “Templetown”, but prefer to call it ‘near Temple’.