Explore the must-see institutions on the majestic Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Philadelphia’s collection of art museums is located along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, dubbed “Museum Mile” and modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris. Some of the city’s most famous sights can be found here, with the Swann Memorial Fountain in Logan Circle as the centerpiece.
Here is a list of the cultural masterpieces along Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway:
The Philadelphia Museum of Art
The striking, neoclassical structure that sits at the top of the Parkway holds more than 2,000 years of paintings, sculpture, decorative arts and architectural settings from Europe, Asia and the Americas. Highlights include the world’s largest and most important collection of works by Marcel Duchamp and the greatest collection of sculpture by Constantin Brancusi outside Europe.
The museum holds over 9,000 objects from China, Japan, Korea, and across East Asia, and new early American art galleries tell the story of how Philadelphia became the cultural capital of the new nation and how Black, Indigenous, and Latin American artists contributed to the development of American art. Plus, Thomas Eakins’ masterpiece “Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic),” is on display, recognized as one of the greatest American paintings.
Fun Fact: The Rocky movies are known the world over and no trip to Philadelphia is complete without a visit to the Rocky steps and the Rocky statue at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This sculpture was actually created as a prop for a scene in the film Rocky III, however, Sylvester Stallone gave it to Philadelphia in 1982, as he felt that the fictional fighter Rocky Balboa was symbolic of the city, where anyone from anywhere can succeed with grit and hard work.
The Rodin Museum
Dedicated to the art of French sculptor Auguste Rodin, The Rodin Museum houses one of the largest collections of Rodin sculptures outside of Paris. “The Thinker” sits in front of the museum contemplating two of the many masterpieces within the intimate museum’s gates, “The Burghers of Calais” and “The Gates of Hell.”
The Barnes Foundation
Enter The Barnes Foundation to see the world’s largest private collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces. This extraordinary collection features pieces by Renoir, Cézanne and Matisse, providing a depth of works by these artists unavailable elsewhere. Works by Picasso, Seurat, Rousseau, Modigliani, Soutine, Monet, Manet and Degas complement Native American pottery, Pennsylvania German decorative furniture and various ceramics and metalwork, as well as sculpture and art from Mexico, China, Africa, early Greece and Rome. The Barnes Foundation invites visitors to explore connections between masterpieces by way of “wall installations” inspired by its founder, Dr. Albert C. Barnes.
The collection includes 181 works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (the largest single group of the artist’s paintings in the world), 69 works by Paul Cézanne, including The Card Players (1890–92) and The Large Bathers (1895–1906) (the largest single group of the artist’s paintings in the world), and 59 works by Henri Matisse, including The Dance (1932–33), which was commissioned by Dr. Barnes for the main gallery space.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
Explore the oldest natural history museum in the Americas when you dig for dinosaur fossils, stroll among live butterflies, touch live animals and take behind-the-scenes tours. The Academy of Natural Sciences’ working scientists spend their days focusing on critical global issues in biodiversity, evolution, and environmental science and their research efforts provide accurate, real-time scientific information to the public on environmental and sustainability matters.
The Franklin Institute
One of the oldest and premier centers of science education and development in the United States, The Franklin Institute was founded in 1824 and was designed to inspire a passion for science in the spirit and honor of American scientist, Benjamin Franklin. Featuring 12 permanent exhibits (including Your Brain), a giant heart, the Fels Planetarium, an IMAX Theater, and much more, the popular museum provides hands-on learning experiences that introduce and reinforce key science concepts in creative and engaging ways.
One of the country’s largest urban park systems, with 2,000-plus green acres, Fairmount Park is a vast outdoor playground with 63 individual parks and countless trails, more than 200 historic buildings, an impressive collection of public art, the country’s first zoo, and more. Take a “Museum Without Walls” audio tour on bike or by foot, courtesy of the Association for Public Art.
Visit Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, built in Japan in 1953 using traditional techniques and materials and moved to Philadelphia on the site of several previous Japanese structures, continuously maintained since the 1876 Centennial Exposition. The traditional-style house with its hinoki roof, the only one of its kind outside of Japan, can be toured, along with the gardens, koi pond and island.
The Please Touch Museum is an exciting children’s museum housed in Memorial Hall, the last major building left from the 1876 Centennial Exposition. Through interactive exhibits, children learn about art, history, and culture through the power of play.
Moore College of Art and Design
Founded in 1848 as the first and only women’s visual arts college in the nation, the Moore College of Art and Design was established to prepare women to work in the new industries created during the Industrial Revolution. The Galleries at Moore introduce the work of significant regional, national and international artists to the community through distinctive exhibitions and educational programs and is open to the public, free of charge.
Free Library of Philadelphia
In 1891, William Pepper Jr., a physician and longtime Provost of the University of Pennsylvania, chartered “a general library which shall be free to all.” Following several locations throughout Philadelphia, the grand Beaux-Arts building on Logan Square, designed by Julian Abele, opened in 1927 and resembles buildings on the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Special collections include a rare book department (with one of the world’s most renowned Charles Dickens collections), the largest lending library of orchestral performance sets in the world, and an extensive research collection of children’s literature published after 1836.
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul
Located at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, the largest Catholic church in Pennsylvania and head church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia was built from 1846-1864. Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, the cathedral is modeled after the Lombard Church of St. Charles (San Carlo al Corso) in Rome and was designed by Napoleon LeBrun, who also designed Philadelphia’s Academy of Music. The cathedral has been the site of two papal Masses, one celebrated by Pope John Paul II in 1979, and the other by Pope Francis in 2015.
Fun Fact: In 2015, to honor Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, Robert Indiana’s AMOR sculpture was brought to Philadelphia. An alternate take on the artist’s iconic LOVE sculpture – featuring the word “Amor,” which means “Love” in Pope Francis’ native Spanish – the piece is located just a few blocks west from the LOVE sculpture on the Ben Franklin Parkway.
The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)
Found just steps from the eastern end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is the first and oldest art museum and art school in the U.S., the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). PAFA was founded in 1805 by Charles Wilson Peale and houses a renowned collection of American paintings from the 1760s to the present. The Victorian Gothic building was designed by architect Frank Furness and is a National Historic Landmark.
In 2022, Philadelphia’s Museum Mile will welcome a new addition to its already impressive collection of institutions, as plans for a sanctuary highlighting the works of sculptor Alexander Calder were recently announced.