A Grad Student’s Guide to Philly

Center City

  • Restaurants/Bars:

  • Center City is a go-to for any type of food: quick bites at the crowded stalls in Reading Terminal Market, Philly classics like Federal Donuts, and special occasion establishments like Vernick Food and Drink.

  • Barbuzzo: Modern Mediterranean food. Save room for the salted-caramel budino dessert that can be spotted at almost every table.

  • Bob and Barbara’s: Local favorite with live jazz music on the weekends and the original home of the CityWide Special.

  • Parc: French Bistro and a Rittenhouse classic (also try the Caribou Cafe!).

  • Sampan/Graffiti Bar: Asian fusion cuisine. Follow the alleyway to the side of Sampan and you’ll find yourself at the outdoor Graffiti Bar.

  • Tio Flores: Trendy Mexican restaurant with $1 tacos every Monday night.

  • Adulting:

  • Reading Terminal Market: Bustling market that is great for fresh, local produce and meats. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either, the people behind the counters take pride in their products and love seeing others enjoy them too.

  • Rittenhouse Farmers Market, Saturdays 10am-2pm: Another great place for fresh local produce and other goods

  • The Italian Market: Make your way to 9th and Christian any day of the week to find affordable produce (and plants!).

  • Events:

  • Center City Restaurant Week: A number of restaurants offer a fixed menu for $35. This is a great opportunity to try out different places!

  • Center City Sips (Summers only): A host of bars put together a big outdoor happy hour with reduced prices on popular drinks and food every Wednesday from 3-7pm.

  • Other:

  • Schuylkill Banks and River Trail: A nice place to sit along the river and a convenient trail for walking, running, or biking.

  • There are tons of intramural sports you can play through Philadelphia Sports Leagues. It’s a super affordable and fun way to make some new friends around town.

Rittenhouse Square Park on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Visitors can purchase items from dozens of tents every week during this seasonal farmer's market.

West Philly/University City

  • Restaurants/Bars:

  • Franklin’s Table: This food hall has stalls from some of Philadelphia’s most beloved (and famous) restaurants. Can’t snag a reservation at Zahav? Try their falafel sandwich or salad at Goldie, affectionately known as “Baby Zahav.”

  • Loco Pez: $1 tacos on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday every week (they announce it the day of @locopeztacos).

  • Renata’s kitchen: Cozy, Mediterranean restaurant with a killer brunch.

  • Tacos Don Memo: Try a 0.6 kg burrito that will make you salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. Look for the food truck weekdays on 38th and Spruce St. and Saturdays in Clark Park.

  • Adulting:

  • Everyone is moving and selling or dumping their spectacular housewares from May to August. Now is the time to get the breadmaker you’ve always wanted to try.

  • Grocery options: The Fresh Grocer, Supreme Shop n Bag, and International Food and Spices are West Philly staples for produce, meat and hard-to-find items.

  • Clark Park Farmers Market, Saturdays 10am-2pm: You can find fresh local produce and other goods, which you can then enjoy in the park! This is a great way to spend Saturdays mornings!

  • Events:

  • The Baltimore Dollar Stroll: Find great cheap mango lassi.

  • Clark Park hosts lots of fun events! Catch a movie screening (more details at https://www.universitycity.org/events/movies) or watch some Shakespeare in the park. Or simply enjoy some time outside (and do some dog watching)!

  • Other: There’s a group of cowboys who occasionally ride horses up and down 42nd St. Go figure.

Grad Hospital

  • Restaurants/Bars:

  • Brunch Spots: Swing by Honey’s Sit n’ Eat or Ants Pants for a cozy atmosphere.

  • Bars: Sidecar and Grace Tavern are great neighborhood bars that have many different food and drink options

  • Adulting:

  • Grocery options: South Square Market and Rittenhouse Market are great options. There is a also a Fresh Grocer and a new Giant Heirloom Market that are a bit more affordable. You can also make your way to Trader Joe’s on Market (technically Center City).

  • During the summer months, the PHS pop-up beer garden on South and 15th street offers a reprieve from city life, with natural gardens, meadow-like plantings, and cold beer! See https://www.phillyvoice.com/phs-garden-south-street-food-drink-events/ for more information on events, drinks, and food

  • Events:

  • Bloktoberfest

  • Odunde Festival (largest African American street festival in the United States)

  • Plazapalooza


  • Take the Market Frankford Line (MFL) towards the Frankford Transportation Center and hop off at Girard Station.

  • Barcade: Whether your a fan of craft beers, vintage video games or both, this place offers it all.

  • Frankford Hall: This biergarten sports over a dozen beer options at any given time. Don’t forget to bring a healthy dose of competition for a round of Jenga or Cornhole.

Public Transport

  • Trolley: An underground/above ground hybrid transportation mode that rides mostly below Market Street in Center City and then weaves into University City. If you live in Center City, this option is great for your daily commute. There’s also a stop right outside Trader Joe’s!

  • TransPass: Penn offers several different types of transportation passes at a discount for students and employees. You can buy semester-long passes that save you money if you’re using public transport 2 times a day every day.

  • SeptaCard: If you don’t want to commit to a semester-long pass, pick up a SeptaCard and fill it with a weekly, monthly, or rolling balance.

  • Busses: There are a bunch of bus lines that run pretty much all throughout town. From Grad Hospital or Center City, the 40 is probably your best bet: it has stops all along Lombard Street and runs straight over the South Street Bridge onto Penn’s campus. It’s usually about a 15 or 20 minute trip depending on where you start. For folks living a bit further north in Center City, the 21 and 42 run along a similar route, and you can catch them on Walnut Street.

  • Biking: Philly is a pretty good town for cycling! Most of the streets - especially those in the university city area - have bike lanes that motorists tend to respect. It’s a great way to save some time and money on your commute, and to sneak a bit of exercise into your day. Keswick cycles at 41st and Locust is a great place to shop for a bike or get yours tuned up just off campus. There’s also other shops like Firehouse Bikes in West Philly, and Via Bicycle or Breakaway Bikes in Center City that are affordable spots to patch up a tire or grab some new equipment.


  • For a quick cup, try Good Karma Cafe, Joe Coffee Company and Old City Coffee.

  • For a special afternoon pick-me-up, check out Miel Patisserie, Parc or Gran Caffe L’Aquila.

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