Philly Bar Index: Do we have more nightlife than other major cities?

An answer to the age-old question: Yes, Fishtown beats Williamsburg in bars.

Danya Henninger

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

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.

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.

CityBar numberPopulationBars per 1,000
Los Angeles389039718960.98
New York City832485504050.97
San Antonio56914698240.39
San Diego151213949071.08
San Jose173310269191.69
Washington DC12796722281.90

Philadelphia’s best bar neighborhoods

When a neighborhood is home to a bar called Bar, it's a good bet for late-night drinking

When a neighborhood is home to a bar called Bar, it's a good bet for late-night drinking

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.

Philly NeighborhoodsBarsApprox. PopulationBars per 1,000
East Passyunk33260001.27
Northern Liberties2560004.17
Old City38340011.18
Rittenhouse Square89150005.93
Washington Square West33120002.75

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

The bar at U-Bahn is made for partying

The bar at U-Bahn is made for partying

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!

Want some more? Explore other Neighborhoods stories.

Thanks for reading another Billy Penn story

Seems you’re the kind of person who really digs in. Want more? Sign up for our morning update, the quick, easy, free way to stay on top of Philly news.

Thanks for reading Billy Penn

Like the story above, everything we publish is powered by our members. If you enjoy reading, throw us a bone! Just $5/month makes more difference than you’d think.

Thanks for reading! We need you.

Member donations power our newsroom. If Billy Penn helps you feel more connected to Philly, we’d love to count you in. Will you join us?

Lock in your support

Reader support powers our newsroom. A monthly membership helps lock it in.

Can we count on you as a Billy Penn sustainer?

Winning the local journalism game

Thank you: Your support as a member is powering our news gathering.

Know someone else who might like our work? Invite them to join.