Where to Find the Top Specialty Coffee in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Table of Contents

Philadelphia was granted a city charter in 1701 and become the City of Brotherly Love, a nickname that is still known to this day. This city is located in the eastern United States in the mid-Atlantic region. It is on the Delaware River and borders on New Jersey. The city is only two hours north of Baltimore, Maryland, and two hours south of New York City, New York. It also happens to be a spot that has some darn good coffee, so you won’t be lacking options when you visit.

The History of the City

When Philadelphia was first settled, it was mainly done by Swedes. The influence of the English began in 1681 when the Charter of Pennsylvania was granted by Charles II. The first Quaker to land in New Castle, Delaware in 1682 was William Penn, who went on to plan and found the city of Philadelphia. The city charter was granted in 1701 and in 1854, the city expanded to include the entirety of Philadelphia County.

There are tons of historical attractions available throughout the city for those who want to step back in history. The Betsy Ross House is where the first flag maker rented out rooms while the Liberty Bell Center offers exhibits related to the Liberty Bell. Independence Hall is associated with the winning of American Independence, Lights of Liberty offers insight into the events of the American Revolution, and the National Constitution Center offers the story of the United States Constitution through exhibits and artifacts. Valley Forge National Park and the Old City District are also both worth a visit.

Things to See and Do in Philadelphia

Beyond having a rich history, this city is also rich in culture and arts. There are performing arts centers, museums, and much more. Some of the top options in the area include the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the Independence Seaport Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Art, the James A. Michener Art Museum, and the Mummers Museum. As far as performing arts go, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Opera Company of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society are all in the city.

Those who are into sports will find plenty of that in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. The Philadelphia Phillies are the Major League Baseball team while the Reading Phillies are about an hour away from the city for Minor League Baseball. As far as basketball goes, the city has the Philadelphia 76ers and for football, there are the Philadelphia Eagles. There is also the Philadelphia Soul available for the Arena Football League. In the hockey avenue, the Philadelphia Flyers are in the National Hockey League while the Philadelphia Phantoms are in the American Hockey League. The Philadelphia Wings are the Pennsylvania National Lacrosse League team.

Those who are looking for outdoor activities to enjoy will find that the largest park is Fairmount Park. From the City Center, there are tons of options for boating, hiking, biking, rollerblading, and much more. There are also two National Historic Parks in the area including Washington Crossing Historic Park and Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Absolute Must-See Attractions 

We’ve mentioned a ton of attractions already, but not everyone is going to have time to see everything and do everything they want during a visit. If you are interested in seeing the most interesting things in the city, there are a few spots you want to visit:

  • Old City District where you can see everything from the Liberty Bell Center to Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, and Independence Visitor’s Center.
  • The Battleship New Jersey which is a museum floating on the Delaware River near the Camden Waterfront right near Center City.
  • The first zoo in all of America, the Philadelphia Zoo.
  • The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site for all the lovers of the tales of this prolific writer.
  • The largest indoor flower show in the entire world, the Philadelphia Flower Show.

As far as fun and entertainment goes, make sure you try the famous Philly hoagies and cheesesteaks while you are in town. However, there are also a huge number of culinary traditions and cultural establishments you may not know about. If you are looking for the best food in the city, the Philadelphia magazine that comes out each month is a great choice. Philadelphia Weekly and City Paper are free newspapers that can also be helpful.

When it comes to evening activities around the arts, you want to visit the Avenue of the Arts District on South and North Broad Street. You can find the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, the Academy of Music, the Prince Music Theater, the Merriam Theater, and the Wilma Theater.

Those who are looking for bars and clubs in the city can find them on the Delaware River waterfront, on South Street between 9th and Front, and in the Old City District.

Everything You Need to Know Before Visiting Philly 

So, you’re ready to head out on a trip to Philadelphia. The best thing about this city is how much history it has to offer. Sure, the city is known for Rocky and great steak sandwiches, but there is far more to it than that. If you want to make the most of your trip to the city, there are a few things you should know first. We’ll ensure you have the best vacation possible.

Cheesesteaks Are Great But Look Beyond Those 

We aren’t going to say you shouldn’t have a Philly cheesesteak, because you really should. But we are going to say that the city has a whole lot of other great food to give a shot when you are in the area. There are many national magazines talking about the food in Philly, noting some restaurants as the best at what they do and calling the city one of the top culinary destinations. However, even without listing out accolades, the city has a diverse selection of food to try.

Want to try some authentic Israeli food? Head over to the Zahav or visit Vedge for a vegan meal. You can grab great Italian meals at the Italian Market or at spots like Tria and Double Knot. If you’re in the mood for fantastic casual food, there are Dizengoff and HipCityVedge, while Reading Terminal Market has meals of all different cuisines so you can adapt a dish to your specific palate.

Be Aware of the Convenience of the PHLASH 

If you are going to do a lot of exploring while in Philly, you should be aware of and take advantage of the PHLASH. During the months of May through September, this bus operates every 15 minutes from 10 in the morning to 6 in the evening, while it offers weekend service in November through the end of the year. You can get on a bus for $2 or get a daily pass for only $5 and have access to some of the top attractions in town. The bus visits the National Constitution Center, Penn’s Landing, and One Liberty Observation Deck. On top of that, the bus is purple, so it’s easy to see.

Make Sure You Bring Some Comfortable Shoes 

While you may end up taking public transportation in many places, the city of Philadelphia is known as a walking city, so pack up your most comfortable walking shoes. Even if you are staying a while and plan to stick to a single neighborhood each day, you’ll be on your feet throughout the day while you move from attraction to attraction. Bring the heels or work shoes for special occasions if you need to, but make sure you have some sneakers as well. Your feet are going to thank you by the time you leave the city.

There is a Serious Craft Beer and Liquor Scene 

If you enjoy a good drink to end your day, Philadelphia is going to be a city you adore. Locally made spirits and craft beers are consistently growing in popularity with tons of options coming out recently. Some of the local breweries that offer tours include Sly Fox, Yards, and Victory while there are many distilleries to visit like New Liberty Distillery, Federal Distilling, and Red Brick Craft Distillery. You can also just head to a local bar and order a specialty cocktail, make sure to ask for something local. For those who really want to make a whole day of it, try one of the Philly Brew Tours or Philly on Tap for the whole experience.

The Outdoors is Waiting for You 

While Philly might seem like nothing more than concrete and huge skyscrapers, there is far more to enjoy while visiting. Fairmount Park offers more than 9,200 acres for biking, hiking, walking, or even picnicking next to the water. If you happen to be in the city during the winter hours, you can still take a drive through to see the beauty of the area. There are also plenty of nearby cities without the city feel where you can relax and retreat from the major crowds. Many of them even have extra attractions and activities for kids and adults alike.

The Signs Are There for a Reason 

If you aren’t paying close attention, you might find yourself missing some of the signs in Philadelphia. The blue signs that you see scattered over the city offer insight into the significance of things that might otherwise seem pointless. When you’re walking around the neighborhoods, take a few minutes to read a few signs. You might find you’re standing right on a national landmark and wouldn’t have known it without stopping to do a little reading.

You Should Be Aware of the Neighborhoods 

Whether you’re bunking up with some friends in Fishtown or have a hotel in Center City, you should make sure you have some time set aside to visit other neighborhoods. Each one is unique and offers a piece of the story of the city as a whole. Old City is the place to go for tourist attractions and historical landmarks, while Rittenhouse Square is known for upscale dining and shopping options. Fairmount is the best spot for cultural institutions like the art museum, while East Passyunk has some of the most amazing food in the city. The point is that you should explore if you want to truly enjoy the city and all that it has to offer.

There’s a Huge Local Art Scene 

If nothing else, you should make sure to visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art. However, there are tons of other art institutions in the area. You can visit the Barnes Foundation for post-impressionist paintings or see the Rodin Museum for sculptures and a wide variety of Rodin’s work. The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts offers a selection of 19th and 20th-century American art. Other interesting spots to visit include Mural Arts and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens.

See More Than the Liberty Bell 

You should certainly take time to see the Liberty Bell as it’s one of the things that makes Philly such a special place. However, this can take only a few minutes so you might want to do a few other things. The Franklin Institute is an interactive science museum that constantly offers rotating exhibits while the Eastern State Penitentiary lets you tour the cell of Al Capone. You can see the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from Penn’s Landing where there are also activities every day of the year. For the younger kids, Please Touch Museum is an excellent place to visit.

Related Content:

Country Spotlight: Brazil and the Most Popular Coffee Around the Globe
Coffee Making Methods for the Modern Age
Everything You Need to Know to Brew a Great Espresso Shot
Get Up Close and Personal With Your Coffee: Where Coffee is Produced

Not Everything is Expensive to Enjoy 

While you can easily spend a bundle if you go to all the most expensive attractions, dining establishments, bars, and shopping centers, that is not a requirement for spending time in Philadelphia. You can tour both Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell for absolutely nothing and depending on the day of the week, many museums also offer a free entrance. Take time to do a little research and you can stick to any budget while in the City of Brotherly Love.

Take Time to Go on a Tour 

It might seem like jumping into a tour is nothing more than taking advantage of a tourist trap, and in some cities that might be true, but it’s worth doing in Philadelphia. Tours can be some of the best options for learning about the city. There are double-decker buses that will give you a local’s feel of the city or you can get on a trolley to check out the Mural Arts Tour to see all the different murals in the city. The Philly Tour Hub is also a great option where you can pick a tour that fits your interests in the best ways. After a few hours with an educated guide, you’ll know more about Philly than even some of the locals.

Take Time to Plan for the Trip 

No matter what you plan to do in the city, planning ahead is the best way to keep yourself from feeling overwhelmed and out of your element in Philadelphia. When you make a plan, you can see everything you want and not feel as if you’re missing anything. Be sure you enjoy your stay and have a great time while you enjoy the largest city in Pennsylvania.


Destinations to Get Top Specialty Coffee in Philadelphia 

Even a decade ago, there were so many great coffee shops in Philadelphia that narrowing them down was nearly impossible. Ten years later and the city is even more clogged with great coffee. That’s a great thing for the visitor since you can find some pretty darn good espresso drinks on any corner, but it does make it hard to decide what the very best cafes actually area. From South Philly to Fishtown, Northern Liberties, and Girard, you can step away with a great coffee. The best part is that you can also grab an authentic cheesesteak a few steps away from most of these cafes.

La Colombe – 1335 Frankford Avenue 

If you listen to coffee lovers who go across the country to try brews, many consider La Colombe one of the best spots to visit, bar-none. This location is the latest café and it is one that is well worth visiting. While the Rittenhouse Square location is fancy and upscale, this café is completely different in a way that you might not expect.

When you walk up to the café, you’ll see that it is situated in a huge warehouse location. Even knowing that, when you step inside, it’s going to be larger than you could expect. The retail area is found at the front where you can purchase t-shirts, bags of coffee, Dragon brewer kits, and much more. When you step further inside, you’ll see a beautiful marble countertop and behind that are the coffee machines and fresh baked goods.

You might think that would be all, but you would be wrong. When you head beyond the bend of the counter, there is a cocktail menu available. You can enjoy the best coffee-based White Russian you could imagine along with a pizza oven, graffitied seating, and a shelf of barrels that might look more at home in a vineyard. At the very back though, you will find space for talking shop, cupping, test roasting, and more. If you only visit one coffee destination in the city, it should absolutely be La Colombe.

ReAnimator Coffee – 310 West Master Street 

The newest ReAnimator Coffee is located in a massive café in north Philadelphia. It only happens to be about 10 minutes by walking from La Colombe if you want to visit two coffee giants in the morning or afternoon. The area nearby, Kensington, is an industrial space with boarded-up buildings around the café. You’ll even find a grass field behind a chain-link fence not far from the shop. This is a space that can make you feel like you’re on the outskirts of the city, which just makes it more surprising when you step inside and check out this café, roastery, and training center.

From outside, you can see massive windows that let in plenty of light to the café with an open floor plan. The space used to be a factory and still has the feel of a warehouse through cinder block walls, concrete floors, and steel girding. However, a touch of Scandinavian hipness is present through the marble tabletops and counters as well as the warm wooden benches. After you get past the counter, you will see the roasting operations where coffee is made for two cafes as well as other locations around Philadelphia.

This large café has two different espressos along with a number of filter options at the bar with a shiny Synesso espresso machine to pull shots expertly. It might feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere when visiting this café, but the world inside is something totally different and well worth spending some time in.

United By Blue – 144 North 2nd Street

 Okay, the first thing you should know about United By Blue is that it focuses on being a lifestyle and clothing store rather than a café. However, it should still be somewhere you consider visiting while spending time in Philly. It has the charm and heart and great coffee for it to be well worth a recommendation. This store was founded back in 2010 as an outdoors company with a mission to help clean up the oceans and waterways to offer an environment that is better in the future than it is now. For every item sold by the store, they promise to remove a pound of trash from the water using various clean-up efforts.

This is a really interesting space that offers clothing, shoes, and other things that might make you think about camping and hiking and living life in the wilderness. If you want a space that makes you feel like you’re enjoying coffee over a campfire while reading the Hearth, United By Blue is going to be your jam. In addition to the campfire coffee offered here, the café offers beans roasted by ReAnimator in cozy enamel mugs or bottled up as tasty cold brew. It doesn’t matter what the weather is outside, you can enjoy the feel of outdoors life while hanging out right in Philadelphia.

Menagerie Coffee – 18 South 3rd Street

 Only a few minutes from the crowds and bustle of Market Street, Menagerie Coffee is located on 3rd Street and has a pair of sea-green chairs on the sidewalk along with an A-frame board of art. As with many of the Philadelphia coffee houses, this one looks a lot smaller from the outside than it is when you take the time to step inside.

As soon as you step intside, what looks like a one-room café opens up into two other spots for drinking coffee, reading your favorite novel, or typing on your laptop for work or school. The main front room has a selection of seating from communal wooden benches and tables to a bench that seems to be from the 50s, tree stumps that can be used for tables or seat, and more. The wall on the right side has a shelf for those who want to grab a drink and go, which is something that is more common in Europe than the United States.

However, what really makes this space so special are all the small touches you can see. The tin cup that is filled with animal figures, the espresso rail, and more add touches of warmth to the space. The name Menagerie could just as easily refer to how many espresso offerings they have as they are one of the few multi-roaster cafes you’ll find in the city. You can expect to see everything from Dogwood Coffee out of Minnesota to Ruby Coffee Roasters coffee from Wisconsin.

Rival Bros Coffee – 2400 Lombard Street

 When you take a look at the typical coffee house in Philly and then look at the brick and mortar building of this former truck, Rival Brothers Coffee is someplace undeniably special. There is no concrete, marble, white walls, or blond wood, which seem to be a trend in this city. Instead, the whole thing offers an aesthetic of something different with a focus on matte black surroundings.

Once you step inside, you’ll immediately see a sign that says: “Are you gonna pull those pistols or whistle Dixie?”, which is located on gold and black hexagonal wallpaper. This homage to Clint Eastwood can also be seen elsewhere with a portrait of the man on a shelf behind the counter, as well as on the bags of espresso and cups. Because of that and the black color, this shop feels a bit more punk rock and edgy than the average coffee house.

This is a spot that does its own coffee roasting and while the menu is pretty standard for café lovers, you will also find unique beverages like the Derringer if you want something new. This is a version of a flat white which is served in a thin, tall glass and named for the pocket pistol from the 19th century called the Philadelphia Derringer.

Ox Coffee – 616 South 3rd Street 

If you go south away from the city center, you can find Ox Coffee next to the Delaware River and the Italian Market. If you want a café that is aesthetically pleasing to enjoy your latte, this is the best option you are going to find. As soon as you step inside, your eyes will be drawn to the counter with a herringbone pattern made of many types of wood and topped with a cream-covered granite. The art on the walls adds to the great vibe of the place and sets off the shininess of the La Marzocco GB5 espresso machine used at the café.

This coffee house is huge in the community, which is something that you will see all over the place. For one thing, the shop does not offer wireless Internet in order to create more interaction between customers. There is also a vinyl collection and a stereo system, and you can even get a free cup for adding a record. The shop also offers a local art exhibition that rotates on a regular basis as well as music gigs on occasion in the garden found out back. The coffee is from Stumptown and the outdoors is a fantastic spot to enjoy the warm air, sip coffee, and interact with other coffee lovers.

Elixr Coffee Roasters – 207 South Sydenham Street 

When it comes to Elixr Coffee Roasters, there is one thing that they are the most known for. That happens to be their single-origin, high-quality beans in roasts you can find nowhere else. Many of the top restaurants in town get their coffee from this shop just based on that fact. All of the coffee is brewed by hand when you step into this quaint little coffee shop. It’s a nice spot to hang out and get some work done while hanging out near a bunch of stunning art. On top of that, Elixr is known for having rotating installations and murals that are among the best in the city.

Ultimo Coffee at Brew – 1900 South 15th Street 

There are two different locations for Ultimo Coffee in the city, but this one is a favorite for all the right reasons. They serve up great Counter Culture coffee for their patrons, many of whom stop in to get some work done. In addition to doing coffee just right, you can also enjoy some grub from the American Sardine Bar, so there’s no reason to leave during the day. This location is popular due to pairing both coffee and beer while the second location is known for its second-floor training center.

Win Win Coffee Bar – 931 Spring Garden Street 

Win Win Coffee Bar, also known as W/N W/N, is a cooperative that got itself out on the market using several crowdfunding measures such as a Kiva Zip loan and letting potential customers invest in the shop for discounts when the coffee house opened. Even though the shop is now up and booming, you can still buy shares through the company website. Even if you don’t want to deal with that, this is a cool spot in the Loft District, which has a community vibe with coffee, food, and alcohol. This is just one of the perks of the place, since it offers coffee and booze, even staying open as late as 2 AM on weekend nights.

Grindcore House – 1515 South 4th Street 

We mentioned earlier that Vedge is a great option for vegan fare, but it isn’t the only place in Philly that offers a cruelty-free option or dining. There are pizza places and there are even coffee shops. This coffee house is a pioneer in the Pennsport area and offers up a huge selection of dairy-free options to lighten up your coffee rather than forcing you to go with soy. However, the fact that the place is vegan isn’t the only reason to stop inside. The coffee is amazing, while the space and staff are super welcoming. The baked goods, salads, and sandwiches are some of the best vegan items in town.

Lucky Goat Coffee House – 888 North 26th Street 

The Lucky Goat Coffee House is located off the beaten path between Café L’Aube and Mugshots, but it’s worth visiting regardless. The biggest reason to step inside is the well-executed and inventive drinks that are offered on a seasonal basis. While not everyone is down for whipped cream and flavored sugars, those who want a variety are going to love this spot. While some coffee snobs might turn their head at a coffee topped with bacon, you are going to have the advantage of knowing your drink tastes amazing. Keep in mind that specials change on a regular basis, so rather than a bacon breve, you might find something else just as tasty.

Avril 50 – 3406 Sansom Street

 Those who are looking for a spot to sit and work for hours may not find Avril 50 to be the best option. However, this shop sells a selection of beans, espresso drinks, and grab and go coffee. But what this spot does differently is offering up a huge selection of tea, tobacco products, magazines, international newspapers, literary journals, greeting cards, and much more. Even if you just stop in for a coffee, you might find yourself sticking around for a while as you browse. This is somewhere to stop in at least once while you’re in Philadelphia.

Wrapping Up 

When it comes time to pack up and get ready for a vacation or business trip to Philadelphia, don’t worry about the selection of coffee. This might be one of the best cities in the United States to ensure you get a great macchiato or espresso shot. We recommend all of the above cafes and you can use our tips to ensure you’re ready for your trip. Make sure to take some time to see all the historic destinations and have a great time!

Bonus Questions:

1. What is Philadelphia famous for?

The number one thing that the city of Philadelphia is known for is their world-famous cheesesteaks. It is also known for Tastykakes, hoagies, water ice, Goldenberg Peanut Chews, and soft pretzels.

2. Is Philadelphia a big city?

Philadelphia, which many call by the nickname Philly, is the largest city in Pennsylvania. It also happens to be the sixth-largest city in the entire United States of America. As of the 2018 census, the estimated population is 1,584,138.

3. When should I go to Philadelphia?

The best time of year to spend time in Philadelphia is during the months of March, April, and May. The winter cold has thawed out and you can often find decent rates on hotel rooms in the city. In addition, visiting in the spring lets you enjoy all the cherry blossoms that are on display around the city.

4. What is the safest part of Philadelphia?

Some of the safest neighborhoods in Philadelphia to visit or move to include Chestnut Hill, Fairmount-Spring Hill, and East Falls. Roxborough, Manayunk, Mount Airy, Bustleton, and Somerton are also great spots to rest your head in the city.

5. Why is Fishtown called Fishtown?

Fishtown is a working-class Irish Catholic neighborhood and its name comes from the occupation of many of the early residents to the area. The settlers were fisherpeople and controlled fishing rights to both sides of the Delaware River from Cape May all the way to Trenton, New Jersey.

6. Is Philadelphia Democratic or Republican?

As far as Pennsylvania goes, Philadelphia is the Democratic stronghold of the entire state. In many cases, the city offers huge margins for Democrats in elections. Areas like Pittsburgh also tend to lean Democratic. The more rural areas tend to support Republicans and be conservative.

7. How old is Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania was one of the first 13 colonies and was founded as a place for Quakers by William Penn. Philadelphia was the site of both the first and second Continental Congresses in 1774 and 1775, the second of which led to the Declaration of Independence. The city also has strong ties to the American Revolution.

8. What does the Pennsylvania flag look like?

The flag of Pennsylvania is closer to a square than a rectangle. It has a blue background with the State Coat of Arms embroidered on. On each side of the flag are draft horses with an American eagle at the top. The scroll on the bottom says Virtue, Liberty, and Independence.

9. Why did people go to Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania was created as a place for religious freedom. Many of the original settlers were Welsh Quakers who wanted a place to practice their religion without persecution. During the 1700s, many people immigrated to the state from Ireland and Germany.

10. What is the state fruit of Pennsylvania?

The state fruit of the state is the apple. The state food, on the other hand, is the cookie which goes well with the state beverage, which happens to be milk.

Related Content:

Country Spotlight: Brazil and the Most Popular Coffee Around the Globe
Coffee Making Methods for the Modern Age
Everything You Need to Know to Brew a Great Espresso Shot
Get Up Close and Personal With Your Coffee: Where Coffee is Produced