Neighborhood Guide

Philadelphia may be one of the oldest cities in the United States, but its population is younger than the national average, with more than 40 percent of residents between the ages of 25 and 54. It's a great place to study — and to live!

The first step to picking a neighborhood is getting a sense of where Penn GSE is situated in Philadelphia. This map shows Penn GSE as a blue pushpin at 37th Street and Walnut Street, and some neighborhoods popular with Penn students.


View Penn GSE Area Guide in a larger map

 


West Philadelphia (University City)

Other names: "West Philly" refers to all of the city west of the Schuylkill River -- From about 30th Street to 69th. "University City" refers to the area surrounding Penn, Drexel, and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia (approximately up to 50th Street). "Powelton Village" is in West Philly just north of Penn, bordering to Drexel University's campus.

Overview: Many students and professors live in West Philadelphia, with undergraduates gravitating toward the region closest to campus (40th to 42nd Streets) and graduate students farther west. The concentration of Penn-affiliated residents tends to decrease west of 48th Street. Some students also opt for Powelton Village. For a thorough guide to living in West Philly, visit Penn's Off-Campus Services.

Getting to campus: This area (especially Unviersity City and Powelton Village) is the closest to Penn GSE. Most residents can walk to campus in 20 minutes, and it is usually less than a 10-minute drive or bike ride. The area is served by a variety of public transportation options, and many students take advantage of Penn Transit's buses and shuttles, as well as the University City District's LUCY buses.

Parking: Most areas off campus have on-street parking (no permit needed), with some apartment buildings providing small parking lots and some rental houses offering driveways. If you decide to drive to campus, there are several parking garages as well as metered on-street parking. Generally, students who live in West Philadelphia tend to walk, bike, or take public transit to get to campus.

Pros:

> Adjacent to campus
> Lively and diverse atmosphere
> Variety of affordable housing options, from Victorian houses to modern luxury apartments

Cons:

> Some find the high student population problematic
> Further away from other city attractions

Photo by Sean Dorn

top


Center City

Terminology: There are several subdivisions of Center City, but overall the area is cut into quadrants by Broad Street (north and south) and Market Street (east and west). Nearest to campus, the Rittenhouse Square features high-end stores and residences, while Logan Square offers several museums and high-rise apartment buildings. Washington Square and Franklin Square are home to Washington Square Park, Old City, and abundant shopping and nightlife, and a variety of places to live.

Overview: Center City, especially west of Broad Street, continues to be a favored place to live for Penn graduate students to live. Rittenhouse Square has big city ambiance to spare, which al fresco dining, Rittenhouse Park, and wonderful shopping on Walnut and Chestnut streets.

Accessibility: Rittenhouse and Logan Squares are easily accessible by walking or biking across the Walnut Street and Chestnut Street bridges. SEPTA bus routes 21 and 40 also run between Center City and Penn's Campus, as does the Market-Frankford subway line and the Green trolley lines.

Parking: Generally on-street parking with permit required, except for some apartment buildings or the rare house with a garage.

Pros:

> A wide variety of neighborhoods from peaceful tree-lined streets to active metropolitan areas
> Close to downtown attractions
> Plentiful public transportation options

Cons:

> Limited parking
> Higher coster than Unviersity City

Photo by K. Ciappa for GPTMC

top


Graduate Hospital

Terminology: "Graduate Hospital" is a reference to the Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse hospital on 18th and Lombard. This neighborhood has been developed in recent years and has been given several alternative names (like South of South, or SoSo), but none have had the staying power of Graduate Hospital. G-Ho for short.

Graduate Hospital

Overview: Over the past few years, this neighborhood has become very popular with Penn graduate students. Located just across the Schuylkill River from University City, it offers a less campus-like atmosphere while still retaining a youthful energy. Full row houses and apartments are available for rent, and new construction condos and townhouses are always popping up for sale.

Accessibility: The easiest route between Penn and Graduate Hospital is the South Street Bridge, which connects 27th and South Streets to 33rd and Spruce Streets, the southwest corner of Penn's campus. The bridge has wide sidewalks and new bike lanes, making the campus accessible in a 10 minute bike ride or 20 minute walk. SEPTA's Route 40 bus also runs from 22nd and Lombard Streets to Penn GSE in about 20 minutes. A Penn Bus also runs close to this neighborhood between 5:15 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. on weekdays. Driving times will generally be around 10 minutes.

Parking: On-street parking, with permit required on some streets.

Pros:

> Accessible to both campus and Center City, as well as South Philly
> Quiet, cozy neighborhood with an active corridor on South Street

Cons:

> Some blocks are undeveloped or in the process of being developed
> Many leave the neighborhood for shopping, dining, etc.

Photo by uwishunu.com

top


Northern Liberties

Terminology: This recently-developed neighborhood along Delaware River is referred to coloquially as "NoLibs."

Overview: A booming neighborhood tucked between Spring Garden and Girard Streets to the north and South and 5th Street and Delaware Avenue to the East and West, Northern Liberties is Philly's newest hot spot. Second Street is the heart of Northern Liberties, chock full of bars, restaurants, and independent shops, plus the Piazza at Schmidt's, an open-air court surrounded by bars and restaruants. Several condo buildings, apartments, and small hosues are available for rent in Norther Liberties.

Accessibility: Northern Liberties is most accessible from Penn's Campus by SEPTA's Market-Frankford Line, which runs up Market Street. Biking takes 15-20 minutes, walking takes 30-40, and driving takes 20.

Parking: On-street parking, with permit required on some streets, though spots are hard to come by.

The Piazza at Schmidt's in Northern Liberties

Pros:

> Very active and hip neighborhood
> Easily accessible from campus

Cons:

> Rent prices are higher than in West Philly and the Art Museum area, but are somewhat cheaper than Center City
> High volume of tourists and partygoers

Photo by R. Kennedy for GPTMC
top


Old City

Terminology: Sometimes referred to as Olde City, this area includes many historical attractions, like Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, as well as a cluster of bars and clubs that draw significant nighttime crowds.

Overview: A section of Center City close to the Delaware River, Old City is most recognizable for its blend of colonial charm (think red brick and cobblestones) and dynamic nightlife. Properties in this area skew toward high-priced single-family homes and condos, but rental units can be found.

Accessibility: The Market Street subway line can get you from Old City to campus in about 10 minutes. The Route 21 bus runs along Walnut and Chestnut Streets and takes about 20-25 minutes. Driving time is about 10-15 minutes.

Parking: Generally on-street parking with permit required, except for some apartment buildings or the rare house with a garage.

Pros:

> Vibrant atmosphere and beautiful neighborhood
> Desirable properties on picturesque streets

Cons:

> Distance from campus
> High volume of tourists and partygoers
> Lack of rental properties

Photo by B. Krist for GPTMC

top


Bella Vista and Queen Village

Terminology: These two neighborhoods serve as the gateway from Center City to South Philly. Bella Vista is often referred to as the Italian Market area.

Overview: Bella Vista and Queen Village are largely residential neighborhoods, with beautiful townhouses and tree-lined streets. South Street and 4th Street are lined with vintage shops, restaurants, and retail stores, and the classic Italian Market on 9th Street is stuffed with outdoor vendors and cafes.

Accessibility: Biking across the South Street Bridge might be the most accessible route to campus from Bella Vista and Queen Village. There is no direct public transportation route to Penn's campus, but potential routes include walking north to the Route 40 bus on Lombard Street (5-10 minutes) or the Route 21 bus on Walnut (10-15 minutes), or walking north to the Market Street subway line. Walking to campus from Bella Vista to Queen Village takes upwards of 40 minutes, and driving takes 15-20 minutes.

Parking: Generally on-street parking, usually with permit required, except for some apartment buildings or the rare house with a garage.

Pros:

> Beautiful, quiet residential neighborhood
> South Street, 4th Street, and the Italian Market are major attractions

Cons:

> Not many students
> Lack of direct transit

Photo by B. Krist for GPTMC 

top


Art Museum/Fairmount

Terminology: "Art Museum" is a general term for the neighborhoods east and north of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. More specifically, these neighborhoods are called Fairmount and Spring Garden.

Overview: Formerly considered part of North Philadelphia, Fairmount and Spring Garden are now largely considered the northern fringe of Center City. These neighborhoods are mostly residential, but feature a scattering of bars, cafes, and shops throughout. There are classic Philadelphia townhouses, sunny apartments, and high-rise condo buildings.

Accessibility: Although there is no direct public transportation to campus from the Art Museum area, commuters can take the Route 33 bus to the Green line at 19th & Market, which runs directly to campus. Biking to campus is also easily done through Center City or over the Spring Garden Street Bridge, which takes 10-15 minutes. Walking takes approximately 30-40 minutes.

Parking: Generally on-street parking, often with permit required, except for some apartment buildings or the rare house with a garage.

Art Museum / Fairmount

Pros:

> Quiet neighborhood with accessibility to Center City and West Philly
> Affordable
> Proximity to green spaces of Fairmount Park

Cons:

> No direct public transit to campus
> No vibrant shopping/dining/nightlife corridor

Photo by uwishunu.com

top


Manayunk

Terminology: Some use the name Manayunk to cover the adjoining neighborhoods of Wissahickon and Roxborough as well.

Overview: This former working-class neighborhood in northwestern Philadelphia is now home to a dense concentration of restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries, and upscale retailers along Main Street, surrounded by row houses lining its steep hills. Popular with nightlife-seekers and commuters to Center City, Manayunk draws many young residents to its extensive rental market.

Accessibility: It is about a 30-minute trip on SEPTA's R6 Regional Rail line to 30th Street Station, which is a short walk or trolley ride from Penn GSE. Driving time is about 20 minutes, though traffic on I-76 can make this take much longer.

Parking: The steep, narrow streets combine with the popularity of the area (especially at night) to make parking extremely difficult.

Pros:

> Bustling shops, dining, and nightlife on Main Street
> Large rental market

Cons:

> Distance from campus and the rest of Philadelphia
> Parking and traffic are difficult

Photo by G. Widman for GPTMC

top