Living in Philadelphia
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Philadelphia, the sixth largest city in the United States, is FILLED with exciting events, restaurants, museums, and all of the other benefits of living in a major city. Often called a "city of neighborhoods," Philadelphia can feel like a small town up in East Falls and Mt. Airy, like a bustling downtown in Rittenhouse and Queen Village, and like a city just being discovered in Fishtown and University City. We encourage grad students to get out and see as much of our beautiful and eclectic city as they can while they're at Penn!
For information about public assistance and free or low cost legal services available to Philadelphia area residents, please visit our Graduate Funding & Finances page.
Some graduate students apply to work as a Graduate Associate in the undergraduate college houses, in return for free housing. Each of the undergraduate College Houses has a team of Graduate Residence Associates (G-RAs) who advise, assist, and mentor the undergraduate residents, as well as organize activities. G-RAs are provided with a free single occupancy room and a generous meal plan in the College Houses. Learn more about applying for a position.
The vast majority of graduate and professional students at Penn live off campus, whether within a few blocks of campus or in the broader Philadelphia region. When looking for off-campus housing, students have a variety of options and costs to consider in terms of location, convenience, type, condition of the space, and size.
Students planning to live off-campus are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the resources and services offered by the Office of Off-Campus Services, which provides access to a screened database of rental listings, roommate search, lease review services, as well as useful information on the housing search process.
Students living off-campus will also need to sign up for local utilities. Local utility companies include:
- Verizon provides local telephone service, access to a long-distance company of your choice, and optional Internet service for students living off-campus.
- PECO Energy Company provides electrical service.
- Philadelphia Gas Works
- Xfinity Cable TV & Internet Service
- Philadelphia Water Revenue Bureau
In addition, the University has partnered with AT&T Wireless and Sprint to offer Penn students discounted cellular phone service.
Tenant Rights, Responsibilities, and Legal Assistance
Off-Campus Services can also assist you and provide resources related to the rights and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, addressing issues related to off-campus living, legal resources, and subletting your apartment.
Penn Dining ensures the delivery of high-quality food at a variety of venues, each of which helps create a sense of community and comfort among faculty, staff, and students. They offer a variety of dining plans, including options for off-campus students. These dining plans allow students to enjoy both a la carte options and all-you-care-to-eat meals. Vegetarian, vegan, kosher, Halal, and gluten-free options are always available.
Retail Dining on Campus
In Partnership with Bon Appétit, Penn Dining oversees 10 retail establishments across campus, which include an array of cafés, markets, and grocers.
Food Trucks and Carts
Food vending is a Penn tradition that dates back to when the University was predominantly a commuter school. Today, vending activity around campus includes more than 90 trucks, carts, and tables selling a wide selection of foods.
Covering ten city blocks across Penn’s campus are hundreds of retail shops, restaurants, and distinctly West Philly attractions for students and tourists alike. From quick grab-and-go meals to fine dining experiences, retail splurges or just the essentials, SHOP PENN is a great day trip or resource for the Penn community.
Penn Transit Services provides transportation around the core of the campus, West Philadelphia, and Center City in the evening and late night hours. All services are free of charge with a valid PennCard. Services include bus service, door-to-door shuttle services, and accessible transit for students with permanent or temporary disabilities.
Penn Walking Escort offers uniformed security officers from the Division of Public Safety that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to walk with students in defined areas.
Walking escort services also extend west to 50th Street, and north/south from Spring Garden to Woodland Avenue, between 10 a.m. and 3 a.m. via the University’s partnership with the University District Ambassador Program.
Mass Transit in Philadelphia is operated by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). NJ Transit and PATCO provide bus, light rail, and commuter rail services throughout New Jersey and connecting to Philadelphia.
- Full time students may purchase a SEPTA Student PennPass for specific service zones for semester-long discounted travel on SEPTA, Philadelphia's regional public transportation system.
A PennPass is designed to save you money only if you commute to campus or have other reasons to use SEPTA frequently. The PennPass is only offered for the fall and spring semesters.
- Students may also receive discounts on NJ Transit, which operates Visit Campus Express to sign up.
Car Sharing and RideShare through companies like Zipcar, Uber, and Lyft are available for those who need to travel by car only occasionally.
Riding a bike instead of driving to Penn’s campus is a great way to not only save money but also stay in shape. Penn has many bicycle racks throughout campus.
See Penn DPS’s bicycle information for safety tips, how to register your bike, a list of campus bike racks, a regional bicycle map, and more.
If you want to rent a bike for regular or occasional use, you can sign up for Philadelphia’s Indego bike-sharing program, which offers bike rental plans, education and classes, and stations all over the city including two on campus.
Parking at Penn is available if you are planning to bring a car with you and park it daily in one of our University lots. Contact the Parking office to learn about fees and available spaces. Parking is extremely limited on campus, so make arrangements as soon as possible.
Free lockout and jumpstart services are also available for drivers in and around campus.
Visit Philly provides an online guide to getting around Philadelphia by foot, bus, car, bike, and more.
Penn's Division of Public Safety (DPS) delivers an integrated safety and security program in partnership with the Penn and University City community they serve, including unarmed, uniformed Penn Walking Escorts who walk with students in defined areas.
24/7 Public Safety Assistance Line: dial 511 from any campus phone or 215-573-333 to request Escort Service or for emergencies requiring immediate assistance. Visit our Safety and Conduct page for non-emergency contacts and information.
Penn Violence Prevention aims to prevent sexual violence, relationship violence, and stalking on campus, by ensuring students have access to resources, and by providing preventative education focused on building healthy relationships, understanding consent, and being an active bystander.
Looking to find out more about what to do beyond campus? Philadelphia is a great place to be a student! Regardless of your budget, there are many opportunities to experience the various activities that the city and surrounding area have to offer. See the links below to explore some of the many things to do in the city!
The Official Visitor Site for Greater Philadelphia offers all things Philadelphia, including places to stay, places to eat, places to see, and more!
The Philadelphia City Pass is a great way to see a bunch of area attractions on one discounted ticket. Attractions include the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Zoo, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, the National Constitution Center, and much more!
Looking for something fun to do?
Be sure to check out Uwishunu (pronounced "you wish you knew"), a Philly-based blog bringing you all the latest things to do around town
The Phillyfunguide provides a comprehensive list of all things happening in the Philadelphia region. It also includes free and cheap things to do. Sign-up for the weekly FunSavers email for exclusive discounts and specials on everything from museum exhibits, theater tickets, and concert tickets.
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation connects the city’s residents to the natural world, to each other, and to fun physical and social opportunities. There are many different events and places to visit!
Philadelphia Arts & Culture includes world-class art, museums, and performances.
Are you a fan of classical music? Philly students can experience world-renowned orchestras through affordable student passes from the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. Plus, don't miss the gifted students at the Curtis Institute of Music, which hosts free student recitals multiple times a week at its Rittenhouse mansion.
Head to World Cafe Live, a concert venue close to the Penn campus, for a free concert at noon on Fridays. You can also take advantage of student discounts at the Wilma Theater, Arden Theater, and the Kimmel Center, just to name a few.
Philadelphia is also a great city for sports fans! Philadelphia Sports Teams include the Phillies, the Flyers, the 76ers, the Eagles, the Union, and more!
Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods - most with at least one neighborhood civic association, community center, or business district providing information and opportunities for you to get more involved. Check out the links below for a sample of neighborhood-specific resources.
- The Philadelphia OpenMaps interactive map allows you to search your neighborhood for registered community organizations (RCOs), recreation centers, parks, playgrounds, farmers' markets, pools, and more!
- University City District (UCD) is a partnership of universities, businesses, and partners working to promote community revitalization, safety, and well-being in the University City area. UCD offers free events, pop-up parks, walking escorts, and more.
- Center City District (CCD) is a commercial improvement district in Center City Philadelphia that manages a number of outdoor spaces and hosts the popular Center City Sips, Restaurant Week, and other events throughout the city.
- West Philly Local is a community news site providing local news for residents, as well as a list of civic groups and other resources, an events calendar, and more.
- Center City West residents can check out the Center City Resident's Association, as well as Fitler Square Neighbors for those living close to Fitler Square Park, or the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.
You can explore on your own with a virtual or self-guided campus tour (PDF, opens in new window) - or - join us for a guided tour and meet other students. We offer a series of guided tours of campus throughout the summer - check our events calendar to sign up for an upcoming tour!
Baltimore Bites Walking Tour
Self-guided tour of the many restaurants, cafes, and grocery stores along bustling Baltimore Avenue! This street was once part of a turnpike that linked Philadelphia to Baltimore and it remains a major artery through West Philadelphia. The trolleys that still run along the streets helped make West Philadelphia one of the first and most desirable suburbs of Philadelphia in the mid-19th Century. Great eateries pepper this historic avenue including several popular Ethiopian and Eritrean bars & restaurants, as well terrific Indian, Carriean, and Thai restaurants - and more!
Public Art Tours from the Association for Public Art
Home to one of the largest collections of public art in the country, there's plenty to see in Philadelphia. Follow one of our self-guided public art tours below to uncover an array of sculptures around the city. Tours are grouped by location and highlight whether they are bicycle friendly, walking friendly, or both.
Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia (PDF, opens in new tab)
Free self-guided walking journey through America’s most historic square mile – the birthplace of our nation. Step back in time to see where The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of The United States were created. The 3-mile outdoor journey features more than 30 historical sites in the Independence Mall area, including the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the National Constitution Center.
Independence National Park Tours
Independence National Historical Park is a U.S. National Park in Philadelphia that preserves several sites associated with the American Revolution and the nation's founding history – including Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Benjamin Franklin Museum. Walk through the park to explore the sites, read the informational plaques, and take a selfie with one of many statues in the 55-acre park.
Visitors can use the Park Service’s trip itineraries to explore the park sites - from the "must sees" to the hidden gems. Visitors can also choose an audio tour in the park's FREE mobile app, “NPS Independence”, to discover the sites and people of the American Revolution, and the founding of the nation.
Mural Arts Tours
Mural Arts Philadelphia is the nation’s largest public art program, dedicated to the belief that art ignites change. Each year, 15,000 residents and visitors tour Mural Arts’ outdoor art gallery, which has become part of the city’s civic landscape and a source of pride and inspiration, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the “City of Murals.” Visitors can sign-up for a guided tour or to help paint a mural on the Mural Arts website at muralarts.org. You can also create your own self-guided mural tours using the Mural Finder Mobile Map.
Quintessential Rocky & Creed Tour of Philadelphia from Visit Philadelphia
Get into fighting shape and explore city locations frequented by the beloved fictional Philadelphians in the Rocky and Creed films.
In 1976, Philadelphia was forever immortalized on celluloid with the tale of an aspiring boxer with the Academy Award-winning film Rocky. Since Rocky Balboa’s first famous run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the original franchise has spawned five sequels. It’s also led to a successful spinoff franchise with 2015’s Creed and 2018’s Creed II, which follow Rocky Balboa’s training of Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky’s former rival and friend Apollo Creed.
Optimized Walking Tour of Philadelphia From data scientist, Randal Olson
The Liberty Bell, cheese steaks, and obnoxious sports fans: These are some of the things that Philadelphia is widely known for. But did you know that Philadelphia is home to one of the largest urban park systems in the U.S.? Or that it’s home to America’s first zoo?
This 12-mile, 4-hour walking tour will take you through some of the best that Philadelphia has to offer, from beautiful parks to historic landmarks to breathtaking outdoor art collections. If 12 miles of walking sounds like too much, you can easily cut down on walking by taking public transit for some of the longer legs of the trek. Or better yet, the same tour can be followed on a bike instead.
Virtual Tours of Philadelphia
Use these virtual tours to explore different areas of the City of Brotherly Love from your home.
Philadelphia Virtual Tours - Check out the city's famous landmarks with these interactive, 360-degree videos.
How to Virtually Explore Top Philadelphia Attractions - Explore museums, cultural sites, zoos, and more from your computer!