Northern Liberties Has Great Philadelphia Nightlife and Bars
Finnigan's Wake and its blue Quiet Man Pub, 3rd and Spring Garden Streets. If you click directly on the photo to enlarge it, you'll see the "Welcome to Northern Liberties" sign painted on the left side of the wall, next to the blue wall.
/ CC BY SA-ND 3.0
Northern Liberties - known online by the affectionate nickname - No Libs - is a one-time industrial neighborhood, north of Center City Philadelphia, which is enjoying a renaissance. Gentrification has brought hipness to the once-gritty streets, and a burgeoning, dynamic nightlife scene, a substantial addition to Philadelphia's already-impressive list of things to do after dark.
That having been said, we would like to issue words of caution, if you are visiting Philadelphia from out of town, or even if you are a suburban resident, who isn't very familiar with central Philadelphia.
Use Good Judgment, While Going To And From Northern Liberties. Take Cabs, Both Ways, Seriously. It's Worth It.
We put that statement in headline format with capitalized text, for a reason. Please heed the advice from us Philadelphia natives.
This is particularly true, if you are a short-term visitor from out-of-town. In fact, if that's what you are, we would strongly recommend, that if you're only going to be in Philadelphia for a short time, that you not waste time, up in Northern Liberties. There's nothing there, that you can't easily find and enjoy in Center City.
Compared to Northern Liberties, downtown is-
far more tourist-friendly;
far easier to explore;
more pleasant to walk around in;
far closer to the historic sites, museums, and cultural institutions you'll be visiting;
will be closer to your hotel - and to tons of other hotels to walk into and ask a question, if you get lost;
and, most importantly, to find cabs.
It's only going to be a waste of your precious time and money going up to Northern Liberties. And you don't want to get lost up there. It wouldn't be good.
So where is the border between Center City and Northern Liberties, that newcomers to the city should observe?
You'll be fine, heading north up the numbered streets, all the way up to - and including - Spring Garden Street, which runs east/west, parallel to Market and the tree streets. Spring Garden Street has some cool places. But everything above Spring Garden is Northern Liberties - so don't bother going north of Spring Garden - go up there, but no further.
So accordingly, this Northern Liberties page is designed, not for the short-term visitor to Philadelphia, but for the local resident of Greater Philadelphia, who'd like to experience the dynamic Northern Liberties scene for themselves (and is sufficiently familiar with the geography and street names, that they won't get lost). It does have its own rewards, and can make for a highly entertaining evening out on the town.
Traveling to Northern Liberties - Read Our Guide On How to Do It
For all the different ways you can get there - the Phlash, SEPTA, SEPTA Regional Rail, taxicabs, and on foot - we've assembled our Traveling to Northern Liberties Guide on the subject. Check it out.
Where is Northern Liberties? How Is It Defined?
It has no official boundaries, but we would use the definition above - everything above Spring Garden, north to Girard Avenue (which runs parallel to Spring Garden). Its eastern border is the Delaware River; its western border is more nebulous. We'd put it at 5th Street.
However, Party Central is closely concentrated within a few square blocks, in the heart of Northern Liberties. The corridor of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Streets running north/south, ranging from Poplar Street in the north and Spring Garden Street, the southern border - has the overwhelming majority of bars and restaurants and nightclubs.
So let's take a look at where you can have a good time:
The Best Places for Craft Beer in Northern Liberties
Yards Brewing Company
- 901 Delaware Avenue - 215.634.2600 - Since 1994, Yards Brewing Company has been at the forefront of the Philadelphia craft beer scene in Northern Liberties.
- 2nd and Poplar Streets - 215.238.0630. Standard Tap opened on the verge of the 21st century and the third millennium, welcoming visitors for the first time in December, 1999. They have been there ever since.
- The operators of this establishment picked a great name, as it is, in fact, located at 801 North 3rd Street, the intersection of 3rd and Brown Streets - 215.433.3666.
The 700 Club
- 700 North 2nd Street - 215.413.3181 - 2nd and Fairmount Avenues - It has nothing to do with Pat Robertson - the pun in the name stems from the fact that its address is 700 North 2nd Street (get it?) We would have been more impressed with it, if it had a genuine web site, instead of a MySpace page linked above, although it is entertaining, as the 700 Club speaks in the first person about its background on the page.
Other Northern Liberties Bars and Restaurants
2nd Street Annie's
- 628 North Front Street - Intersection of Front Street and Fairmount Avenue - 215.922.7100 - 2nd Street Annie's is unique, in that it originated not in Philadelphia, but in the popular Cape May County, New Jersey, Shore Point of North Wildwood - where many Philadelphians spend their summer weekends.
After the original opened in North Wildwood in 2004, its owners decided to expand to Philadelphia. Dueling pianos on Saturday nights is one of its trademark entertainments for patrons. Its motto - an apt one - is "Eat Well, Sing Much, Drink Often"...
- 3rd and Spring Garden Streets - 215.574.9317 - This place, which derives its name not only from the 20th century novel, but also from the fact that the building was once a coffin factory (seriously), is a great place to have a good time. It's very spacious and attracts a boisterous crowd. Recommended.
McFadden's - 3rd Street
- 461 North 3rd Street, 3rd between Callowhill and Spring Garden Streets - 215.928.0630
McFadden's has multiple locations, but this was the first in Philadelphia. It is better for its locale inside Citizens Bank Park, the Phillies' glorious home in South Philadelphia.
Dos Segundos Cantina
- 931 North 2nd Street - 2nd Street, just above Poplar Street - 215.629.0500
Brunch In Northern Liberties
Silk City Diner and Lounge
- 435 Spring Garden Street - Spring Garden Street between 4th and 5th Streets - 215.592.8838 - The Silk City Diner is an institution in Northern Liberties. The silvery establishment was originally called the American Diner, but then got hip and decided to change its name. It is a hybrid of a fine brunch place, but you can also go there to party at night, with a bar and music. It's an interesting place and well worth a visit (try the cinnamon honey French toast).
- 800 North 4th Street - 4th and Brown Streets - 215.925.1150 - If you want brunch...
Northern Liberties Cafes
A Full Plate Cafe
- 1009 North Bodine Street - 215.627.4068 - This BYO place can be tricky to find... here's how...
American Street - despite the fact that it is a named street - runs north/south, parallel to the numbered streets. American runs between 2nd and 3rd Streets. A Full Plate is at the intersection of American and George Streets - in terms of major arteries, above Poplar Street, below Girard Avenue.
- 209 Poplar Street - Poplar between 2nd and 3rd Streets - 215.923.3150 - Arbol Cafe's slogan is "A Taste of Paraguay - Come by and have a cup". Note: it shuts down at 6 PM, so be cognizant of that fact...
Higher Grounds Cafe
- 631 North 3rd Street - 3rd Street and Fairmount Avenue - 215.922.3745 - Higher Grounds has been open, since January 2006. It's open later than the other cafes, so if you're looking for an early evening place to hang out - it's open till 9 PM, Monday through Thursday, plus Saturday; till 7 PM on Friday; till 8 PM on Sunday. It also is just above Spring Garden Street, making it more easily accessible from Center City.
One Shot Coffee
- 1040 North 2nd Street - 2nd Street and George Avenue - in terms of major arteries, above Poplar Street, below Girard Avenue - 215.627.1620 - We love the fact that One Shot Coffeehouse bills itself as "Caffeine Dealers" - and perhaps due to their stoking customers with the stimulant, it is open very late - till 9 PM - every day. And it has free wi-fi, which you can use to write, while you have so much caffeine.
The Random Tea Room and Curiosity Shop
- 713 North 4th Street - 4th Street, just above Fairmount Avenue - 267.639.2442 - This place has carved out tea as its niche, as it doesn't serve coffee. It launched at Christmas 2008.
Places in Northern Liberties That Are Now Closed, Temporarily Or Otherwise
Ortlieb's Jazz House, an institution in Philadelphia for 23 years, is now closed (it was sold a couple of years ago to a new owner). Swallow Bistro is also closed, as is Copper Bistro.
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