Philadelphia’s Funky Fishtown
A Stroll through Fishtown and Kensington – the Heart of Philadelphia’s industrial cool
By Tetyana Saucedo
The city of Philadelphia has no shortage of places of interest. As a birthplace of the U.S. Constitution, it attracts millions of Americans and foreign visitors to its historic sites: Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Elfreth’s Alley among others.
The city also draws crowds of foodies – is there anyone who has not heard of the world-famous Philly Cheesesteak?
New History, New Foods
I have been to Philadelphia half a dozen times and each time found something new. Whether it is learning about American history, discovering a new favorite restaurant near Rittenhouse Square, or simply strolling through narrow tree-lined streets, Philadelphia offers a lovely weekend getaway.
On my last visit to Philadelphia, I ventured outside of the historic downtown to a cool and artistic neighborhood of Fishtown, just north of Center City.
What is Fishtown?
Fishtown has everyone talking these days. Some say it is the next big thing in Philadelphia, some compare it to Williamsburg (a cool and hip neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York).
I found that it combines a unique charm of the colonial town with a truly urban cityscape –above-the-ground train tracks run alongside dilapidated warehouses.
Fishtown’s residential streets are neatly adorned with quaint two- or three-story houses. Many of them spot the neighborhood’s most prominent feature – fish – as in a house address plaque, a sticker on a mailbox, or a simple fish decoration hanging by the entrance.
Smaller streets are still paved by cobblestones, inviting visitors for a lazy stroll.
It is difficult to miss that some of the most thriving businesses in Fishtown are vintage boutiques and coffee shops. The neighborhood’s main street, Frankford Avenue, is lined with inviting storefronts that (lucky for us!) do not get overwhelmingly busy.
What to do in Fishtown
It is worth mentioning two coffee shops located directly on Frankford Avenue – La Colombe Coffee Roasters and Steep and Grind. La Colombe is part of an established chain of coffee roasters with locations throughout the U.S.
Its Fishtown outpost overtook a spacious warehouse with ample seating area for working and relaxing. Exposed brick walls, high ceilings, and warm lighting, combined with delicious coffee, make for a perfect place to take a break from walking around the neighborhood.
Steep and Grind is a cozy café located in the corner building near small but picturesque Palmer Park. The coffee shop’s bright and minimalistic interior, complete with artworks covering the walls, is great for a quick stop to enjoy their delicious coffee and tea.
Just near it – also facing Palmer Park – located another Fishtown staple, Philly Style Bagels. Although inconspicuous from the outside, this place serves some of the best bagels in town!
Take note of their business hours (they close at 2:00 pm every day) and arrive in time to taste their delicious goodies. Fun tip: we arrived at Philly Style Bagels half an hour before closing, and they politely offered us a dozen of bagels for free along with our order.
How nice to know that they are giving away their unsold inventory in order to avoid waste! I cannot promise you that they offer unsold bagels every day of the week – perhaps we were just lucky – but it is worth a stop.
Antiques in Fishtown
Antiques is another big thing that Fishtown is known for. There are many shops with surprisingly cheap pre-owned housewares, clothing, and furniture. If you are interested in vintage furniture, jewelry or items for the home, you must not miss Jinxed Fishtown.
The shop is part of a local chain; they have another location just 10 minutes away, called Jinxed Piazza. It is spacious and full of exciting finds! Jinxed Fishtown offers an extensive collection of vintage light fixtures and chandeliers hung from the ceiling.
Walking further north on Frankford Avenue towards Kensington neighborhood, you will encounter an explosion of clothing shops, vintage boutiques, and restaurants.
A true gem among them is Thunderbird Salvage – a massive thrift store where you can find practically anything. It is dusty and cramped with all sorts of things, but it is truly impressive.
You can easily spend hours there walking from one room to another and browsing through the shelves.
Another exciting vintage clothing store, also located on Frankford Avenue, is Urban Exchange Project.
This family-owned and operated business offers a wide range of clothes for women and men, as well as jewelry and bags.
Middle Path Minerals is a metaphysical supply store with a huge variety of products: crystals, oils, herbs, healing stones, and a lot more.
The store itself is small but well-organized, with knowledgeable staff and great prices.
Have a Brew!
A trip to Philadelphia’s Fishtown and Kensington neighborhoods cannot be complete without visiting the famous Philadelphia Brewing Company.
Originally built in 1885, this local brewery proudly represents Philadelphia. It offers brewery tours, tastings and various events throughout the week
Its outdoor garden hosts music events in the summer and the Peacock Room is the place to be for their daily happy hour (Monday through Friday, 5:00-8:00 pm).
Architecture lovers will appreciate the restored warehouse building and its industrial surroundings.
A Glimpse of Philadelphia’s Future
Fishtown and Kensington offer an insightful look into Philadelphia’s industrial past. They also offer a glimpse into the city’s future.
With so many local businesses thriving, they bring art and fresh ideas to the streets that may have been empty just a few years ago. It’s about time you pay these lovely neighborhoods a visit!
Tetyana Saucedo is a digital marketing professional living in New York. She is a Ukraine native, and along with her husband, she often chooses to travel to lesser-known destinations for inspiration. Namibia and Mexico are Tetyana’s two favorite countries, and she is currently planning a trip to South Africa. She is passionate about sustainability, travel photography, and dogs.