A William Penn’s eye view

On each successive trip to Philadelphia it gets a little bit harder to find a “new to me” attraction to visit.  That’s probably a good thing.  Trips back to Philly are now more about neighbourhoods, restaurants, and events.  But on my last trip, I did a tourist thing that was right under my nose for all my previous Philadelphia visits.  Unknown to me until last year, you can buy a ticket to take an elevator to the top of Philadelphia City Hall to get an incredible panoramic view from the base of the William Penn statue that overlooks the center city area.

For a city the size of Philly, it’s a bit odd that none of the skyscrapers have a publicly accessible observation deck.  But from the top of City Hall, about 500 feet above street level, you get some pretty nice views.  First, here’s the view straight down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway:

Looking down the Benjamin Franklin Parkway

Looking a little closer in that same direction, you can see the Philadelphia Art Museum in the distance with the statue of George Washington immediately in front.  In the middle of the frame below is Logan Square and the Swann Memorial Fountain:

Toward the Art Museum

The view north is pretty plain as there are few distinguishing features from this vantage point.  To be fair, there is some spectacularly beautiful landscape as you travel out of the city in that direction a few more miles than my camera can pick up from center city.

Spinning east, you can see the Delaware River and the state of New Jersey just on the other side.  Off to the left is the iconic Benjamin Franklin Bridge:

Looking east from the top of City Hall

Taking a moment to look up as opposed to down, I realize I’m standing in the immediate shadow of William Penn.  His bronze statue is 37 feet tall and weighs more than 50,000 pounds:

William Penn

This is the view looking south down South Broad Street.  Off in the distance, through the haze, just to the right of the “PNB” sign is a dark mass that is Lincoln Financial Field, the home of my Philadelphia Eagles:

View of South Broad Street

Looking back west you can see the most notable of Philadelphia’s skyscrapers and the city’s four tallest buildings.  From left to right are the 58 floor Two Liberty Place, the 61 floor One Liberty Place, the 54 floor BNY Mellon Center and the city’s tallest building, the Comcast Center:

Philadelphia's sky scrapers

The space at the top of City Hall is very limited so tours are limited to six people for each 15 minute time slot.   It was a great way to see the city and I’m glad to have finally stumbled onto its existence on my last visit.


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