Philadelphia, PA - From Center City to Bucks County, the Philadelphia region’s shopping neighborhoods are absolutely distinctive. Buzzing Old City in Historic Philadelphia has become renowned for its chic boutiques and mod galleries.
Industrial and hip Northern Liberties offers shelter shops and craft galleries galore. In upscale Rittenhouse, refined and sophisticated rules at brand-name stores and owner-operated hotspots. And in New Hope, art-driven stores drive major foot traffic. One thing that’s consistent in every neighborhood in Pennsylvania: tax-free shopping on clothes and shoes. Here’s a look at what visitors will want to buy in each enclave:
Center City Shopping Districts:
- Old City: Ben Franklin’s former ’hood—home to the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Christ Church, Elfreth’s Alley and more—is rich in history, but it’s also rich in retail. The shopping heart of the area is found on 2nd and 3rd Streets, from Market to Race Streets, where converted industrial buildings cater to a fashion- and design-forward clientele. Don’t-miss boutiques have major range, from modestly priced separates at co-ed Lost & Found to a racked who’s who at exclusive Adresse. These walkable blocks are also know for heritage and independent style staples at shops such as Vagabond, Sugarcube, Third Street Habit, The Geisha House, Charlie’s Jeans and Smak Parlour, which also sells on-trend togs from a roving bus. Hip, functional art stars at eco-friendly United by Blue and rugged Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (with its own mini Warby Parker store). Vintage and handmade goes a notch above at Scout Salvage. Among the art and furnishings galleries, the 20th-century modern furnishings at stalwart Mode Moderne still draw aficionados from far and wide, while Scarlett Alley remains the neighborhood’s chosen venue for classic-yet-modern gifts.
- Midtown Village: The stretch of 13th Street from Locust to Chestnut Streets is home to some of the city’s best restaurants, nightspots and gift shops—many of which are open late to accommodate last-minute purchases. Philly-themed baby onesies and irresistible home adornments coexist in double-wide Open House, whose owners also lay claim to nearby restaurants Lolita, Jamonera and Verde, a great stop for affordable jewelry and chocolates made on-site. Nest caters to modern kids with refined tastes, the pefect pre-shower destination; Bella Turka offers an elegant trove of global jewelry; and Host Interiors and Luxe Home tastefully outfit chic living spaces. Other must-visits include classic Army-Navy store I. Goldberg, throwback jersey haven Mitchell & Ness and Macy’s, occupant of the ever-grand John Wanamaker building, home to one of the nation’s first department stores.
- Jewelers’ Row: Just steps from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, the country’s oldest diamond district has long been Philly’s gold-standard go-to. Today, dozens of vendors populate the blocks around 7th and Sansom Streets—blocks often filled with happy couples out ring shopping. Locals have long loved bling-bringers Safian & Rudolf, Steven Singer, Golden Nugget and Barksy, although smaller outfits such as owner-operated Marchi, Lauria’s and LL Pavorsky certainly offer plenty of charm (and charm bracelets). Be sure to at least window-shop at I. Switt, a near century-old trove of antique and vintage treasures. Shoppers who’d like to complete an outfit can head around the corner to esteemed women’s clothier Pileggi Boutique and, for babies to tweens, Lolli Lolli.
- Rittenhouse Square: There’s an unmistakable cache to the shops among the swanky high-rises and brownstones close to one of Philly’s most popular parks. On Rittenhouse Row, shoppers find a reliable smattering of national and international retailers—Vince, Calypso, Intermix, J.Crew, Williams-Sonoma, Apple, along with Philadelphia-founded Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Free People—interspersed with haute-leaning indie venues. Runway renegades seek out the latest Ann Demeulemeester and Y-3 at the new, 9,000-square-foot location of Joan Shepp, while ladies who lunch can’t resist the trunk show appeal of also relocated Knit Wit and ellelauri, home of Garment District-made work dresses. Modern-day traditionalists scoop up elegant frocks at 80-plus-year-old Sophy Curson, once frequented by Grace Kelly’s family. Lagos’ flagship jewelry store shimmers here, as does artful gem gallery Egan Day. Locally made luxuries abound underground at Stadler-Kahn. Philly’s best-dressed children shop for hand-knit sweaters at The Children’s Boutique and on-point pieces at Born Yesterday. Inside a townhouse, Kellijane offers bed, bath and table linens. Closet-sized TownHome serves up sublime jewelry and irresistible gifts. Historic Boyd’s outfits executives in the finest of suiting, while cool-as-can-be UBIQ draws lines down the block for limited-release sneakers. Duke & Winston vends its own line of preppy Philly togs, and Commonwealth Proper creates custom suits by appointment.
- Antique Row: Tree-lined Pine Street between 9th and Broad Streets has long been known for its exclusive, by-appointment-only antique peddlers. Today, those shops share the stretch with independent vendors of clothing, home décor, toys, jewelry and more. Vintage and vintage-inspired furnishings and clothing cram into fun little Blendo; Happily Ever After is the ultimate toy and doll store; mint-condition midcentury modern pieces are sold alongside must-have silk velvet pillows, home accessories and gifts at A Show of Hands; artisan statement jewelry displays like works of art at adornamenti; 20th Century Vintage sleekly offers an elegant update to standard antique decades; and Halloween could be the city’s best-kept secret, a chock-full jewelry studio announced only by an orange business card in the window. Just beyond Broad Street, true find Omoi Zakka Shop specializes in Japanese watches, modern desktop knickknacks, bento boxes and tea sets.
- South Street/Fabric Row: In the mid-1960s, Philadelphia city planners wanted to run an expressway over this then-faltering garment district. Residents mounted a successful resistance to the idea, and in the process established a still-vibrant neighborhood known for its youthful vibe and free spirit, spanning Front to Broad Streets. Along South Street, standout shops include mosaic-adorned international art and craft bazaar Eyes Gallery; well-dressed dude haven P’s & Q’s; extra-trendy women’s accessories purveyor PNK Elephant; Cheesesteaktees for T-shirts and hoodies emblazoned with hilarious and confident Philly-sports messages and graphics. In the meantime, South 4th Street from South to Queen Streets still comprises a thriving garment district (fabric stores include A. Zoll and Marmelstein’s), along with fun-to-browse Brickbat Books, fabulous European shoe closet Bus Stop Boutique, sartorial central at men’s shop Armour, vintage-finds-meet-modern-aesthetics furnishings, jewelry and clothing at Moon & Arrow (and a block away on 5th Street, Nostalgia).
Just Beyond Center City:
- Northern Liberties: Just North of Old City, this burgeoning neighborhood mixes artist-pioneers with modern apartment-dwelling professionals. “No Libs,” as it’s affectionately known, is rich in taprooms, bring-your-own-bottle (BYOB) restaurants and retail, centering on North 2nd Street. Ritual Ritual hosts a half-dozen in-house jewelry designers, whose work sells alongside American-made clothing; neighboring Adorn by Sarah Lewis shows off its owner’s and select others’ amazing, wearable metal and stonework. Charming Casa Papel offers handmade papers and house-made stationery; destination-worthy Art Star serves as the city’s clearinghouse for for a national roster of emerging, often edgy craftspeople. Two outdoor shopping strips, Liberties Walk and The Piazza at Schimdt’s, offer a rotating array of finds, including florist extraordinaire Beautiful Blooms, Sole Control sneakery and Swag, for fly housewares and jewelry.
- East Passyunk Avenue: Stretching diagonally between South Street and South Broad Street, South Philly’s “Avenue” is where well-established Italian-American heritage meets newbie hipsters. Shopping, which also pairs old-school and brand-new, begins south of the Italian Market. Made-in-Philly baby apparel, cards, tea towels, jewelry and prints are among the offerings at a trio of cute craft boutiques: Nice Things Handmade, Occasionette and Knack Philadelphia. More makers include Fabric Horse, creator of carryalls for the cycling class, and Analog Watch, designer of modern wooden timepieces. Metro Men’s stocks the latest in Penguin, Fred Perry and Ben Sherman, while Philadelphia Scooter has some of the cutest Vespas around. Local designer Nicole Rae Styer shows off her girlishly pieced-together fashions at NRS, and South Philly ladies find their sparkly going-out wear at Mia’s, while a new generation of moms gets bibs, breastfeeding goodies and onesies at eco-friendly Cloth.
- Manayunk: This quaint canal-side strip of historic buildings transformed into a stretch filled with trendy boutiques, chic restaurants and happening bars several years back. The ultimate in home office supplies, candles and baby and hostess gifts are part and parcel of adorable The Little Apple. When designer Paula Hian is not at Fashion Week, she’s showing her line just off Main Street. Latitudes and Longitudes’ reliable stock of costume jewelry, toys and bar gear makes it the perfect pre-party stop, and Beans Beauty has long been the city’s go-to spot for pro hair, nail and face supplies.
- Chestnut Hill: At the heart of this tree-lined northwestern neighborhood is cobblestoned Germantown Avenue, where vendors of sporting goods, hardwares, cameras and art reside next to unerring boutiques. Handcrafted jewelry meets handcrafted everything else (glass, pottery, wood) at the pristine Caleb Meyer Studio; Hipster Home offers gently contemporary trappings for urban nesters; and GreenDesign provides eco-friendly contemporary home necessities. Host Interiors marries traditional décor with modern flourishes; Vineyard Vines and Lilly Pulitzer are top sellers at extra-preppy Quelque Chose; rustic Roots, Inc. sells indie shelter and men’s and women’s clothing designs; and sleek Indigo Schuy offers the best togs for tennis and yoga class.
Suburban Shopping Towns:
- New Hope: This Delaware River-side village, about an hour north of Philly, boasts an artsy community and quaint shopping. Topeo and A Mano galleries specialize in fine American crafts, while Gallery Piquel focuses on Bucks County and the world; hippie-fun Love Saves the Day jam-packs years of vintage clothing, collectibles and novelties. There’s endlessly cozy shelf-browsing to do at staple Farley’s Bookshop. Delicious scents emanate from bath shops The Soap Opera Company and Bridge Street Soap, which features a do-it-yourself component. The studio of iconic American woodworker George Nakashima is here, as is the expansive, circa-1860 Rice’s Market for antiques, collectibles, crafts and more.
- Doylestown: The Bucks County town that author Pearl S. Buck, archeologist Henry Mercer, author James. A. Michener and anthropologist Margaret Mead once called home retains its Victorian character throughout its downtown, a series of pedestrian friendly main and side streets, where mom-and-pop operations mix with stylish boutiques and elegant shops. A well-stocked denim bar, plus racks of on-point dresses and separates make Shop Sixty-Five Doylestown’s style central. (so popular, that the boutique now has a second location on the Main Line). Shabby-chic vintage and new furnishings and accessories mix in charming Chris’ Cottage. Vintage gleans the best housewares and baubles from decades past, while FX Doughtery Home & Gift offers today’s top tableware and gift brands. Stylish comfort is the key to the fashions at Lillies of the Fields, while local sports fans head to Monkey’s Uncle for retro-cool gear. Vinyl and indie-rock aficionados like Siren Records for hard-to-find tunes. And locally made crafts, jewelry, toys and Moravian pottery and tile are available in abundance at the Mercer Museum’s gift shop.
- Ardmore: Before the birth of the massive King of Prussia Mall, Ardmore’s Suburban Square, a pedestrian-friendly upscale outdoor shopping center served as the Main Line’s highest-end shopping destination. The tradition continues today, with a thoroughly modern farmers’ market. Tucked between familiar spots Kate Spade, Barbour, Williams-Sonoma, Apple and Macy’s are thriving independent shops: Kitchen Kapers for unerringly utilitarian home chefs; Dandelion, known for affordable silver and gemstones; Elizabeth Johns for beautiful bride and bridal party dresses; El Quetzal for American crafts and gifts; Govberg Jewelers for noteworthy timepieces by Rolex, Breitling, Patek Philippe, along with jewelry and gifts; and Denim Habit for essential women’s pieces by Joie, DL1961, J Brand and Free People.
- Wayne: At the heart of Philadelphia’s esteemed Main Line, this thriving town offers one-of-everything shopping. No wonder it’s where Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters chose to open up its very first Anthropologie (in an old car dealership), a flagship that thrives to this day. Community newcomers include a pair of women’s boutiques: Eaves has set up a sunny, Pinterest-worthy repository of Rag & Bone, Isabel Marant, Clover Canyon and other worthy style investments, while Gramercy offers up vaunted pieces by Catharine Malandrino, Loeffler Randall and other well-established designers. Vivi G. Shoes stocks the latest kicks from Tory Burch, Stuart Weitzman, along with the shop’s own line of well-heeled kicks. Nearby, 7 for All Mankind, Splendid Ella Moss and Trina Turk furnish youthful looks at Ellie. Then, there’s Out There Outfitters, a major supplier of Patagonia, Merrell, Smith, PrAna and a few dozen more athletic living labels.
- Newtown: The village surrounding William Penn’s Bucks County summer retreat blends pre-Colonial provenance with vintage American charm (think: old-fashioned hardware store, bookshop, kids’ store, bike shop and farmers’ market). Just beneath Newtown’s leafy and brick exterior are retail treasures worth exploring. Shoppers who arrive at just the right time might be able to score an antique settee or vintage table reworked with modern fabrics at Trove Décor’s acclaimed barn sales; David Witchell salon and spa dedicates its mezzanine level to going-out frocks and accessories, while Marisa dedicates its entire shop to the same, stylish, albeit slightly more casual, pursuit.
- West Chester: The tree-lined streets around West Chester University are more than collegiate: They’re absolutely day-trip worthy. Among brewpubs and cafes, bistros and specialty fooderies are not-to-be-missed boutiques and antique vendors. Antique French lace, delicate vintage artwork and carefully collected furnishings fill quaint Acorn Cottage Style; youthful pieces by Susana Monaco, Chaser and Splendid pack the racks of Blink; vintage pieces fly out of funky little Malena’s. Éclat Chocolate deserves its world renown for the feats chocolatier Christopher Curtin performs with cocoa beans.