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16 Things to Know Before Moving to Philadelphia, PA 2021

By: Susan Finch
April 27, 2021

Philadelphia is a city with rich history, iconic food, and a cosmopolitan culture that rivals some of the best Northeastern cities. With year-round entertainment, sports, arts, nightlife, and more, living in the City of Brotherly Love offers something for everyone.

1. What it's Like Living in Philadelphia

Philadelphia is home to 1.58 million people and is the biggest city in Pennsylvania. The City of Brotherly Love sits at the epicenter of American history with the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Philadelphia is a popular choice for university students and young professionals in higher education, manufacturing, oil, food processing, and healthcare, and biotechnology.

Philadelphia's modern history dates back to 1682 when it was founded by William Penn. It rapidly grew into a colonial city, which became integral to the American Revolution. Today, you'll see historical markers around every corner, from Benjamin Franklin statues to the Liberty Bell, all of which draw tourists year-round.

The City of Brotherly Love is also known as a city of firsts. Philadelphia hosted America's first birthday and founded America's first zoo, first hospital, and first medical school. Today, Philadelphia continues to balance history and innovation in a culturally rich city with robust job opportunities.

2. Cost of Living in Philadelphia

Philadelphia will prove more expensive than many other cities like Baltimore but is cheaper than Washington DC and New York City. According to Payscale, the cost of living in Philadelphia is 17% higher than the national average. Housing in Philadelphia is 30% higher than the national average.

Here's an idea of what the cost of living in Philadelphia is, as reported by Payscale:

  • Energy bill: $208.74
  • Loaf of bread: $3.87
  • Doctor's visit: $117.02
  • $3.00 for a gallon of gas

Philadelphia rents are higher than many cities and will command most of your budget. The average rent in Philadelphia rose to $978 for a one-bedroom apartment and $1,133 for a two-bedroom apartment. Like many metro areas around the country, rents in Philadelphia are rising again after a sharp decline during the pandemic. To live comfortably in a one-bedroom apartment in Philadelphia, you should have an income of at least $29,340 per year or $8.15 per hour. For a two-bedroom apartment, you'll need to earn at least $33,990 per year or $17 per hour.

The median income in Philadelphia is currently $45,927, as reported by the Census Bureau in 2019. By comparison, the median income is $61,744 in the rest of Pennsylvania.

The median income estimates differ from the basic living wage. Living above the poverty threshold in Philadelphia requires $14.47 per hour for a single individual working full-time. You'll need to plan for a higher salary if you want to take advantage of the culture and nightlife Philadelphia offers.

3. Who's Moving to Philadelphia?

Philadelphia is a world-class city that attracts newcomers from other metro areas. According to Apartment List's most recent migration report, the highest percentage of people moving to Philadelphia are from New York, Washington DC, and Allentown.

Renters who currently live in Philadelphia, but are considering moving elsewhere, are searching for apartments in areas including New York, Washington, and Miami.

Learn more about how to move out of state here.

4. Philadelphia Job Market

The job growth in Philadelphia increases by 1% each year, especially in the service sector. The city’s job market attracts newcomers looking for opportunities in higher education, research, and government. Philadelphia's largest employer is the University of Pennsylvania and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Comcast and Crown Holdings headquarters are based in Philadelphia as well. Health education and research centers, and the federal and city governments, are also major employers.

5. Philadelphia Weather

Philadelphia's climate is relatively temperate as a mid-Atlantic city. Temperatures rise to around 89 degrees during July and drop to a low of 28 degrees in January. Expect up to 20 inches of snow each year and cold winters.

The sweet spots during the year are Fall and Spring when colorful leaves and blooms line the sidewalks. Enjoy the change of the seasons with a walk through Fairmount Park.

6. Public Transportation in Philadelphia

Philadelphia's public transportation is incredibly convenient for local and regional transit. It’s considered easier to get around than both New York City and Washington DC. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) operates a public transit system that includes trains, buses, trolleys, buses, and subways.

Philadelphia’s public transportation also makes it easy to get to areas in the New Jersey and New York metro areas. Locals can grab a train from the Port Authority Transportation Corporation (PATCO) from Philadelphia's City Center straight to New Jersey.

Owning a car in Philadelphia is a viable option, but it isn't necessary. Parking can get intense Downtown. You can take public transportation, walk, or bike everywhere you want to go. Lyft and Uber are also widely available.

7. Philadelphia's Convenient Location

Philadelphia is near the rest of the Eastern seaboard. You can easily travel to New York City, New Jersey, or Washington DC by train for a quick weekend getaway. The convenience also means you never lack company and visitors when you live in Philadelphia.

8. Best Philadelphia Neighborhoods

Philadelphia's neighborhoods offer something for everyone, from funky enclaves to upscale living. Here are just a few of the more popular communities to consider.

Old City

Cobblestone streets of Old City beckon 18th-century charm. Live in the middle of a historic neighborhood with the Liberty Bell, Penn's Landing, and Benjamin Franklin Bridge. In Old City, you’re never far from trendy boutiques, galleries, theaters, and nightlife.

University City

University City attracts college students, university staff, and young adults. The area is home to Drexel University, the University of the Sciences, and the Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College. You'll also find plenty of arts and culture.

Chestnut Hill

Chestnut Hill's upscale neighborhood represents the city's garden district with attractions like the Morris Arboretum. Trendy Germantown Ave is full of boutiques, pubs, and cheese shops attracting visitors and locals.

Center City

Center City is the heart of Philadelphia, with attractions like Independence and the Franklin Institute. You'll also find restaurants at Rittenhouse Square, shopping at the Reading Terminal Market, and education through the historic city hall.

Queen Village

Queen Village’s old-world charm features trendy eateries and art galleries. Although you'll find plenty of charming colonial homes in Queen Village, you can also find tattoo parlors and dive bars.

Want to explore more? Learn more about Philadelphia's neighborhoods here.

9. Philadelphia Food and Drink Scene

Philadelphia has a thriving food scene, but also comes with its own quirky hometown dishes. Local icons include oversized Philly Cheesesteaks, Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, Butterscotch Krimpets, and water ice. Locals love their Philly Taco from Jim's Steaks. The cheesesteak is wrapped in a Lorenzo & Sons pizza slice.

Take advantage of the food scene with annual events and festivals. Enjoy the Philly Craft Beer Festival, StrEAT Food Festival, Burger Brawl, and Pizzadelphia, to taste some of the best cuisine and hometown favorites in the city.

Philadelphia also delivers on exotic eats and global cuisine. White Yak's Tibetan menu includes curries, soups, and dishes like chili chicken with hand-pulled noodles. Laser Wolf layers proteins with Israeli flavors, hummus, seasonal vegetables, and a labneh dessert. For jazz, drinks, and good food, try South, whose dishes include macaroni and cheese and upscale po' boys.

10. Philadelphia Outdoors

Philadelphia may be a significant urban epicenter, though it offers tons of green space and outdoor adventures. The city is home to Bartram's Garden, America's oldest botanical garden. The 50-acre free public park is a National Historic Landmark situated alongside the Tidal Schuylkill River. The John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge helps preserve, restore, and develop the natural area of Tinicum Marsh.

The heart of Philadelphia's green space lies in Fairmount Park. The 9,200 acres make up 10% of the city. You could also choose to get out of the town altogether and take a day trip to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area or The Pocono Mountains.

11. Philadelphia Nightlife

Philadelphia's nightlife is easily accessible by walking rideshare. The walkable, urban lifestyle offers something for everyone. Enjoy rooftop bars, Philadelphia's Art Museum on Friday nights, speakeasies, arcades, and ghost tours.

Part retro diner and part nightclub, Silk City Diner feature neon lighting and disco-ball chandeliers. Locals dance along the neon-lit floor at Dolphin Tavern with an eclectic mix of DJs and themed dance nights. For something swankier, the Stratus Rooftop Lounge on the top of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco Philadelphia offers dazzling views with cocktails.

12. Best Places to Explore in Philadelphia

Philadelphia draws nearly 46 million visitors a year to its attractions and culture. It's even better for locals who get to experience the city year-round.

The heart of the city's culture lies at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, with over 200 galleries of world-class art. The museum itself is also a landmark building, completed in 1928 on a hill in the beloved Fairmount Park. Here's a fun fact: Philly is one of the world’s most significant cities for public art.

History is a major draw for both visitors and newcomers. Independence National Historical Park represents the founding ideals of the country. Stop by the infamously cracked Liberty Bell, or visit Independence Hall where the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were debated and signed.

The National Constitution Center in historic Philadelphia offers a hands-on, interactive experience of America's history. The National Constitution Center is a private, nonprofit museum that's devoted to education and insights into the US Constitution. If you want to learn more about the American Revolution, visit the Museum of the American Revolution.

13. Philadelphia FREE Family Attractions

You don't need to spend a bundle to take in the family-friendly attractions around Philly. Famed sculptor Robert Indiana created the LOVE Statue at John F. Kennedy Plaza.

Visitors can see where the bell rang in the tower of the Pennsylvania State House at the Liberty. Bell Center. You'll also learn more about how it got that historic crack.

The Independence Visitor Center is the gateway to the namesake historical park. You can ask on-site staff for information and tips on what to see around Philadelphia, whether you're a new local or want to play tourist.

14. Philadelphia Annual Events

You can explore more of Philadelphia with the city's annual events. Start with the annual Made in America Festival featuring hip hop, rock, pop, R&B, and EDM.

The New Year's Day Mummers Parade is a local favorite. Crowds gather every New Year's Day for a lively display of performances and costumes. Local clubs compete across a variety of categories, including elaborate costumes, performance routines, and movable scenery.

The Philly Naked Bike Ride is exactly what it sounds like. Naked riders pedal 10-miles while taking in historic sights like the Liberty Bell. The level of nudity is really up to the cyclists, so dress as much or little as you want.

15. Philadelphia Sports

Philadelphia is a sports town with loyal locals lining up to root for the home team. The Eagles NFL team plays at Lincoln Financial Field, and the Phillies MLB team hits home runs at Citizens Bank Park.

There's something year-round for sports fans in the City of Brotherly Love. Hockey fans cheer for the Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center, which is also home to the NBA's 76ers and the Philadelphia Wings Lacrosse team.

16. Philadelphia Universities and Colleges

Philadelphia is renowned for its higher education opportunities and prestigious colleges and universities. Drexel University is celebrated as a private research university focused on health professions, business management, marketing, engineering, performing arts, and more.

The University of Pennsylvania (UPENN) is famous for its MBA programs, marketing, social sciences, engineering, health, and other options. And at Temple University, students pick up business management, communications, journalism, visual arts, law, and more.

The combination of higher education, history, and culture, makes Philadelphia a draw for millennials and young professionals building their careers.

Finding Your Philadelphia Apartment

Ready to move to Philadelphia? Learn about how to find an apartment in Philadelphia. Then, start apartment hunting with Apartment List.

If Philadelphia doesn't seem like the best Pennsylvania city for you, check out the best places to live in Pennsylvania!

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Susan Finch is a freelance writer and content manager focusing on local experiences, travel, and anything relating to really good food and craft brews. Her work has appeared in travel guidebooks and national magazines and newspapers. Read More
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