Life in Philadelphia

In the last few decades, Philadelphia has emerged as a fiscally healthy and socially vibrant city. One could argue that Philadelphia offers all of the attractions one expects to find in a major city at a fraction of the cost one would pay in New York, DC, or Boston. It also has great proximity to these major cities as well as the Pocono Mountains.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is world-class and in the summer performs outdoor concerts at the Mann Music Center located in the world's largest urban park.  There are several smaller musical organizations of international standing and many local groups and conservatories also offer free concerts throughout the year. From hip hop to indie, there is a thriving local music scene in Philadelphia. You can catch these up-and-coming local artists, as well as touring bands, at the many bars and concert halls throughout the city. Art in Philadelphia is represented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the third largest in the country; the Barnes Foundation which has an excellent collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works; the Rodin Museum which has the largest collection of Rodin's works outside France; and the Museum of the Academy of Fine Arts as well as numerous galleries.  The Institute for Contemporary Art is also on campus, as is the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.  Drama is well represented in the city and the Annenberg Center on campus produces both traditional and experimental theater.  Philadelphia has always been the place to catch previews of next year's Broadway shows.

Philadelphia is also known for its vibrant sports scene and for the pride and spirit of its fans. The 76ers, Phillies, Union, Flyers, and the 2018 Super Bowl Champion Eagles call Philadelphia home. Most of these teams play within a few miles from Center City and are easily accessible by public transportation from the campus. Penn students are also eligible for student discounts on some games. 

Philadelphia’s restaurant scene is highly regarded, with a wide range of culinary offerings. In the summer, there are plenty of outdoor beer gardens and “pop-up” bars in the neighborhood parks. Philadelphia also has a plethora of bookstores of all kinds, new and used, general and specialized, with several offering weekly readings by authors.  Café society flourishes in numerous coffee houses and wine bars and the many galleries in the art district draw a lively mix of art-lovers to their opening receptions.  The campus is well situated to afford access to these sources; the University is a 20-30 minute walk or a brief bus ride from Center City where many cultural institutions are found.

The location of Philadelphia along the east coast makes for exciting day and weekend trips beyond the city limits. Philadelphia is close to other major cities, including New York, DC, and Boston. Public transportation connecting these hubs via train or bus is readily available. From 30th Street Station, the Amtrak can get you to New York’s Penn Station in only an hour and a half. If you are looking for a more tranquil getaway, Philadelphia is within driving range of the Pocono Mountains, small towns and wineries, and several national and state parks. Even within the city, there are many sprawling parks, such as Fairmount and the Wissahickon, that offer beautiful scenery and hiking.

Though some students live in Center City or the suburbs, many of our graduate students live in the area just to the west of campus known as West Philly/University City or the area just east of campus, across the Schuylkill, known as Graduate Hospital. West Philly/University City is a more residential neighborhood and Graduate Hospital has a more urban feel, but both are home to restaurants, coffee shops, parks, cinemas, bars, supermarkets, and several convenience stores. 

Housing is fairly easy to find; the University has an office that maintains listings of vacant apartments and offers advice on choosing an apartment.  Apartment hunting can usually be done in a few days and the Psychology Department graduate students can sometimes assist incoming students by providing a place to stay while hunting.  Some of our students share apartments or houses with other students, and in that way are able to afford reasonably spacious, though not necessarily elegant, housing.  Rent and utilities in such an arrangement in West Philly come to about $600 per month per person, with studio apartments typically rented for $900 per month. The Graduate Hospital area would typically be slightly more expensive.