A guide on a Beyond the Bell walking tour in 2018 gives context to a stop. (Mónica Maria Zorrilla/Billy Penn)

Beyond the famous colonial-era sites that fill Old City, Philadelphia’s streets hold a wealth of stories and heritages to explore.

Various tour companies offer itineraries that give a chance to stroll through different neighborhoods — Chinatown, South Street, North Broad, sections of West Philly or North Philly — while learning about the many different cultures that have shaped the city.

Some tours that focus on women leaders and artists. Others highlight the work of Black and African American residents of centuries past and present. There are tours specializing in the local contributions and cultures of Jewish, Chinese, and South Asian immigrants and their descendants. The options abound. 

Here’s a sampling of walking tours that explore Philadelphia’s diverse communities and their contributions to the city. 

Badass Women’s History Walking Tour

The tour: Hear the stories of brave, talented, and esteemed Philadelphia women across three centuries, starting with one of the city’s founders, Hannah Callowhill Penn. Other stars of the narrative are Ona Judge, an enslaved woman who escaped from George Washington’s household; lesbian pioneer Barbara Gittings and other LGBTQ leaders; the Red Rose Girls, an early 20th century group of artists; and local women who have worked in medicine.

Length: 1.5 miles, 2 hours
Schedule: 11 a.m. Friday through Monday
Cost: $59
More info here

The Black Journey: African-American History Walking Tour of Philadelphia

The tour: A walk around central Philadelphia takes you to places of major significance in African-American history as you hear the stories of prominent early Black Americans. Destinations include Congo Square, a historic gathering place for enslaved and free Africans (now called Washington Square), the unmarked graves of yellow fever victims, the site where the Fugitive Slave Act was passed, Independence Hall, the first U.S. Supreme Court building, and the property longest continuously owned by people of African descent. A separate companion tour focuses on the Seventh Ward, once home to the largest Black population in the city. 

Length: 2 hours
Schedule: 2 p.m. Saturdays and holidays
Cost: $35
More info here

The President’s House exhibit in Independence National Historical Park, where you can hear the stories of the enslaved people who lived with Presidents Washington and Adams. (M. Kennedy/Visit Philly)

Morals + Murals Hood Tour

The tour: Participants journey through West and “Norf” Philly visiting Black cultural sites and murals of figures like Kenny Gamble, Patti LaBelle, Malcolm X, and Will Smith. Told through immersive storytelling and a focus on “art, intersectionality, and culture,” the tour includes discussions of growing up Black, the consequences of displacement, and the narrative of what is considered the “hood.”

Length: 3 hours
Schedule: 1 p.m. Saturdays
Cost: $20-$59, 5 and under free
More info here

Philadelphia Jewish History Tours

The tour: Educator Michael Schatz, who is also assistant director at Har Zion Temple, offers several tours, including a walk through the city’s old Jewish Quarter, with visits to synagogues, banks, bakeries, and schools. “The City Grows North” walking or vehicle tour focuses on the Broad Street of the Gilded Age, Rodeph Shalom, the former Mikveh Israel, and the Frank Synagogue. Other tours go to Strawberry Mansion, Wynnefield, Logan, West Oak Lane, and other areas.

Length: 2-2.5 hours
Schedule: By appointment
Cost: Starts at $320 for up to 9 participants
More info here

Stained glass windows at Congregation Rodeph Shalom of Philadelphia, one of the oldest Ashkenazic synagogues in the Western Hemisphere. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Philly Gayborhood Tour: Telling LGBTQ Stories with Pride

The tour: Promising to “get under the skin of queer Philly” and spill “historical tea,” this walk focuses on the Gayborhood’s controversies and hidden stories. The guide covers topics like the evolution of Pride and racism in the neighborhood, and offers profiles of notables like LGBTQ pioneer Barbara Gittings, HIV/AIDS activist Kiyoshi Kuromiya, and civil rights leader Gloria Casarez.

Length: 1 mile, 1.5 hours
Schedule: 3 p.m. Friday through Monday
Cost: $49
More info here

Revolution Remix

The tour: The stories of South Asians in Philadelphia from the 1780s to the present day are the focus of walks organized by SAADA, the South Asian American Digital Archive. They begin at the Liberty Bell and end at Race Street Pier, and are accompanied by a specially commissioned soundtrack featuring original compositions by Seti X, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Anju, Zain Alam, and Grammy-award winner Arooj Aftab.

Length: 1.5 miles, 2.5 hours
Schedule: 10 a.m. Sept. 16 and Oct. 28
Cost: $25-$50
More info here

Preservation Alliance – Chinatown

The tour: A stroll through Chinatown uncovers the neighborhood’s history, reviews the impacts of Philadelphia’s development, and discusses the community’s struggles as its members “carved their place into Philadelphia.”

Length: 2 hours
Schedule: 6 p.m. July 5; check website or call for more dates
Cost: $10-$15
More info here

The Chinatown Friendship Gate, created in 1984 by artist Sabrina Soong. (Danya Henninger/Billy Penn)

Preservation Alliance – Jewish Immigrant Philadelphia

The tour: At the turn of the 20th century, many Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe settled in the area between 2nd, 6th, Spruce and Christian streets. Relive their experience by exploring the neighborhood’s synagogues and homes, and learning about marketplaces that became prominent businesses.

Length: 2 hours
Schedule: Check website or call for dates
Cost: $10-$15
More info here

Meir Rinde is an investigative reporter at Billy Penn covering topics ranging from politics and government to history and pop culture. He’s previously written for PlanPhilly, Shelterforce, NJ Spotlight,...