Cocktails at 1 Tippling Place in Rittenhouse

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Philly has a lot of places to drink. Center City is overflowing with cocktail bars and lounges these days, and neighborhood pubs are just as ubiquitous as they’ve ever been. But how does our scene compare to those in other big US cities?

To crunch some numbers on this, we turned to Yelp. Note, this isn’t fully scientific, but since we’re not worried about the subjective part of the online reviews here, just the quantity of establishments listed, we felt it was a valid data source.

The following “study” presents the total number of bars and bars adjusted for population for Philadelphia and several other metropolitan areas. We also broke it down further and compared hip neighborhoods here to similar hip neighborhoods elsewhere.

The verdict? Philly comes out looking pretty good. Generally, we’re in the top strata of US cities when it comes to watering holes per capita. Check out the data below:

Philadelphia vs. the US

Credit: Paige Gross / Billy Penn

To arrive at these totals, we found an address close to the center of each city and then selected all bars within five miles. These numbers are no likely somewhat inflated because of closures, possible repeat bars and restaurants that get categorized as bars even though nobody would just go there for drinks. But those same caveats exist equally for every city, so the relative comparison holds.

Of the top 10 largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia ranks second in bars per 1,000 people, behind only the surprise winner: San Jose. In this graphic, the top 10 most populous cities are in green and as you can see Philly holds its own.

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But when you include some of the smaller East Coast cities (highlighted in red), we get pushed down a bit. Boston checked in with a staggering 2.8 bars per 1,000 people, and Baltimore was ahead, too. They actually like boozing more than we do? Go figure.

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Philadelphia’s best bar neighborhoods

When a neighborhood is home to a bar called Bar, it’s a good bet for late-night drinking Credit: Danya Henninger

We chose 11 of the more prominent areas for nightlife, scrolling through each ‘hood on Yelp to count only legitimate bars. When you average the neighborhoods together, you get about three bars per 1,000 people.

In terms of total bars, Rittenhouse Square comes out on top by a wide margin — no surprise there. When you account for population, Old City reigns, with about 11 bars per 1,000 people (though much of its clientele surely comes from over the bridge).

In somewhat of a shocker, Fishtown and East Fairmount, both full of mostly neighborhood bars, each come out nearly level with buzzy Washington Square West.

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Philly’s trendy neighborhoods vs. other cities’ trendy neighborhoods

The bar at U-Bahn is made for partying Credit: Danya Henninger

Yes, the age-old question: Does Fishtown, which has been compared time and again to Williamsburg, have more nightlife than its NYC doppelganger?  Boom, the answer is yes. With approximately 2.5 bars per 1,000 people, Fishtown beats out Williamsburg’s 2.03. Take that, Brooklyn.

We put up Old City against DC’s Adams Morgan — they’re similar in that they’re known for being wild night out hotspots. Old City wins that battle easily, with about three times as many bars per 1,000 souls.

On average, the neighborhoods people tend to think of when they think of Philly nightlife come out ahead of the hot neighborhoods in places like New York and Chicago. But Boston and Baltimore still have us beat!

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Mark Dent is a reporter/curator at BillyPenn. He previously worked for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he covered the Jerry Sandusky scandal, Penn State football and the Penn State administration. His...