Old City Hall was used by the first US Supreme Court from 1791 to 1800, when Philadelphia was briefly the nation’s capital. After the federal government moved to Washington DC, the building was occupied by Philadelphia’s city hall and mayor’s office. Today it’s maintained as a historic site, and visitors can see the restored courtroom.
Old City Hall sits in the heart of Philadelphia’s Historic District, surrounded by the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, and Congress Hall. It was built in the Federal style, with distinctive red brick and a clock tower, which visitors can still see today. Most of the furnishings inside the old courtroom are from the time period, but not original to the room. Portraits of the first five Supreme Court justices can be seen in the Second Bank portrait gallery.
Visit Old City Hall independently or as part of a sightseeing tour of Philadelphia—on foot or by trolley. No admission fee is required, and park rangers are available to answer questions, though it’s worth taking a guided walking tour of the district to learn all of the history.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Philadelphia’s Old City Hall is a must-see for history buffs.
- It’s located in Independence National Historic Park, and admission is free.
- Get there early to beat the crowds and avoid waiting in line.
- The building is accessible to wheelchairs through the west door.
How to Get There
There are several ways to reach Old City Hall, located at 5th and Chestnut streets in Philadelphia’s Historic District. Most visitors arrive as part of a sightseeing tour or by public transport—the Market–Frankford line and the Philly Phlash downtown loop stop nearby.
When to Get There
Old City Hall is open daily from 9am to 5pm, and there isn’t really a bad time to visit. Arrive early if you want to beat the crowds and avoid waiting in line, as entry is on a first-come, first-served basis. Old City Hall is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
Philadelphia’s Historic District
While at Old City Hall, set aside some time to explore Philadelphia’s Old City Historic District, spanning from Front to 7th streets and from Vine to Lombard streets. Visit highlights such as the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Franklin Square, and Carpenters’ Hall. See beautifully restored 18th-century homes and take a stroll down Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street and a National Historic Landmark.