The Liberty Bell Is the Best Known Symbol of Philadelphia, and Our Freedom
The Liberty Bell, the icon of freedom, with Independence Hall in the background.
Center City District Location - RED - Historic District - Old City
This icon of freedom has a long and storied history, much like that of America, itself. It also predates the United States of America, ironically. Take a journey back in time, over three centuries...
The original event, which eventually gave rise to the Liberty Bell being created, took place in 1701 - 75 years prior to the adoption of the
Declaration of Independence.
In that year,
- the founder of the colony of Pennsylvania, proclaimed a Charter of Privileges, which rendered his colony, far and away, the most tolerant and desirable of the 13 original English colonies, on the seaboard of the Atlantic Ocean.
Half a century later, in 1751, a bell was ordered from Pass & Stow in England, in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Charter of Privileges. A biblical quote from the Book of Leviticus was engraved upon it, in memory of Penn's Charter of Privileges.
A quarter of a century later, in 1776, it tolled the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. It had a turbulent history during the American Revolution itself, ironically, and it almost did not survive the war (again, another parallel with the United States itself).
British General Sir William Howe defeated General George Washington's Continental Army at Brandywine in Chester County, on September 11, 1777. Howe's victory meant that he could now occupy the American capital of Philadelphia, and he did so during the fall and winter of 1777-78.
To ensure its safety, and that the British would not melt the bell down for bullets or cannon, the bell was smuggled upstate to Allentown, where it was hidden in the basement of a church. Eventually, it returned to Philadelphia, when conditions were once more safe for its preservation.
For the nation's Bicentennial in 1976, a small, modernist pavilion was constructed, but it did not provide the sort of dignity that such an august artifact requires.
Mercifully, the modernist pavilion was demolished, shortly after we entered the 21st century, and was replaced by its current home: a new, state-of-the-art visitor center. You can see it today in that building, and for those of us who remember the old one, it is an enormous improvement.
Getting to the Liberty Bell
Especially if you are coming during the busy season, we would recommend either the
purple Phlash Trolley
- which runs from May 1 through October 31 - or
- which offers multiple transit options - for traveling to the Liberty Bell.
If you are coming from elsewhere in Center City, or from one of the nearby Philadelphia neighborhoods, you can take the
Blue Line / Market-Frankford Line/ "el"
- which are all synonyms for the same transit line - directly to the Liberty Bell. You disembark at the 5th Street station, located at 5th and Market Streets, and you'll see the Liberty Bell Pavilion.
If you are traveling into Philadelphia from the suburbs, or from the outer perimeter of the city neighborhoods, you would probably be best served by taking
SEPTA Regional Rail
service. Nearly every train stops at
Market East Station
- which is located at 11th and Market Streets, just six blocks away from the Liberty Bell.
From Market East, you can connect with the Blue Line without even going outside. Since the interchange isn't free, you'll need to buy tokens from the SEPTA ticket window at Market East, and just ask the cashier to direct you toward the Blue Line.
Follow the signs - blue background with white letters - that say:
When you arrive at the Blue Line's 11th Street Station, make sure that you go to the platform reading "Eastbound to Frankford".
Don't bother to sit down, as you'll only be on for two stops. (Unlike the train, you can't disembark slowly; make sure you're right in front of the door when it stops at 5th Street.)
On the way back, likewise, make sure that when you board at 5th Street Station, that your platform reads "Westbound to 69th Street", in order to make your way back to Market East. And be ready to exit the train when it reaches 11th Street Station.
However, you can also take SEPTA bus routes from Market East down to the Liberty Bell. Once you've ascended to street level, cross Market Street, so that way you'll be on the south side (i.e., the direction of eastbound traffic). Just ask any SEPTA bus driver that pulls up at a bus stop - "are you going to 5th or 6th Street, for the Liberty Bell?"
If so, hop on, and get off at either 5th or 6th and Market Streets.
Finally, you can just walk from Market East to the Liberty Bell, as it's only about seven blocks.
Traveling to the Liberty Bell from 30th Street Station
If you are taking Amtrak to visit Philadelphia, you will disembark at the magnificent
30th Street Station
- located at 30th and Market Streets, a 25-block walk to the Liberty Bell. But here's the good news:
Your Amtrak ticket - at least during the day you arrive - is a valid SEPTA ticket to either
- located at 16th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard - and Market East.
When you get off the Amtrak train, just ask someone at the information desk, how to reach the SEPTA Regional Rail platforms.
Once you've arrived, ask the cashier at the ticket window, if they can direct you to a platform, which will soon have a train heading toward Market East Station. (Half of them will, as they are heading eastbound. You want an eastbound platform.)
It's just two stops over to Market East - you'll pass Suburban Station, and then when you see a mosaic through the window, you'll know you're at Market East.
From there, just follow the directions above, to get to the Liberty Bell.
In contrast to visiting
you are not required to go to the
Independence Visitor Center
in advance, and obtain a free ticket, in order to see the Bell. That being said, you should certainly go to Independence Visitor Center, anyhow, as it is the best place to start any visit to Philadelphia.
In addition, it's best to see the Liberty Bell early in the day, particularly during the summer, the busiest season. That way, you'll have a more enjoyable experience, with less crowding.
When you're in the center, waiting in line, you have the tremendous opportunity, to read about the Liberty Bell's long and fascinating history, before finally coming face-to-face with the Liberty Bell itself.
It's a thrilling experience, particularly if you are not from Philadelphia, or the East Coast, and/or have not previously seen it.
On this site, you can also read more
Liberty Bell Facts.
A Map of the Liberty Bell and the Surrounding Area
View The Liberty Bell in a larger map
Finally, a tremendous resource is the
official web site, from Independence National Historic Park.
If you'd like to return to the Home Page of Enjoying Philadelphia, please click here.