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 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.
Dedicated to the art of French sculptor Auguste Rodin, the 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.”
Enter 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.
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’s 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.
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.
Founded in 1848 as the first and only women’s visual arts college in the nation, the school 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.
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.
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.
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 2021, 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.
Cover photo by C. Kao for Visit Philadelphia.