One of the most popular places to eat in Philadelphia is the Reading Terminal Market, and it has been for decades. You can’t go to Philly without stopping there, and if you do, you’re gonna want to know where to go beforehand. Here are a few tips to have a successful trip while visiting Reading Terminal Market.
If you’re visiting Philadelphia, you’ve probably been told to check out some of the more popular historical sites in the city. But you should also be putting a lot of thought into where you’re going to eat. Philadelphia has a ton of amazing food options, but there is a place you can go to get dozens of great options in one place, and that’s Reading Terminal Market.
It’s right in center city and close to a lot of other shops and hotels. Chances are, you’re staying somewhere within walking distance of the market. Taking up nearly an entire city block, this market draws large crowds and for good reason. They have tons of different food options, from pizzas to cheesesteaks, to jambalaya and an all-vegan deli. The only problem you’ll have here is choosing between all the delicious options.
Reading Terminal Market wasn’t always the bustling food hub it is today. Its origins started from the late 1700s when there were so many farmers and fishermen selling their goods on the streets, but it started to become a nuisance to the people of the city. The sellers were told that they could sell their goods in a designated area along the Delaware River, but many started to migrate as a group back into the city to be closer to the crowds of people who wanted to buy their goods. The string of markets that migrated to what’s now known as Market Street was over 6 blocks long. Two prominent markets formed from these large groups, converged, went indoors, and turned into what is now Reading Terminal Market. Named after the railroad tracks it was located under, The Reading Terminal Market opened their doors in 1893 and has been a staple in Philadelphia ever since.
Know this: You have to come here hungry. Like really hungry. Like maybe skip-breakfast-to-create-more-room hungry. There are just so many options, and you’ll want to try them all, and you can’t if you’re not really hungry. My advice: Bring a friend, or two, or more, and share things. Make a day of being here and try as many things as you can, by splitting them amongst each other and sharing the costs. Me and my dude did that while we were here, and we were able to try more things than we would have normally. It was a good decision.
Beck’s Cajun Cafe was our first stop at the market. They sell cajun-style food like Po Boys, gumbos, and jambalayas. The gumbo was really good, but the blackened chicken Alfredo was our favorite! It was only $8 and they gave us a generous portion.
There are lots of options for Italian food, but the stand by the produce section has the largest and most drool worthy options. (see photo below)
Keven Parker’s Soul Food Kitchen was a must while we were here. Once named the best friend chicken by the Food Network, this spot had all the classic soul food options like greens, fried chicken and fish, and mac n cheese. It felt like the soul food your grandma would make. The chicken was crunchy, and the mac and cheese (called cheesy cheese mac and cheese on the menu) lived up to its name.
Stuffed pretzels might be one of my favorite foods, and at Reading Terminal Market, you’ll get them and any other pretzel from Miller’s Twist. You can watch them making the pretzels through the glass while you wait and scope out all the different varieties they have. Cheesesteak, chicken and feta, and ham and cheese are just a few of the stuffed pretzels they serve. I’d go for the cheesesteak one.
Speaking of Cheesesteaks, Carmen’s and Spartaros had the biggest lines for cheesesteaks when I was there. Might be worth checking out!
I’ll just go ahead an answer the question you’re dying to ask. Yes, they do have alcohol at the market. Molly Malloys, a large pub in the center of the market, sells alcohol to enjoy in their section of the market, but they also serve alcohol to go! That’s right, they’ll put your beer or wine in a to-go cup and you can walk around the market with it, or take it to another area of the market to enjoy. Just don’t leave the market with it, and you’re good to go!
Kamal’s is where you go for your juice fix. Their big sign and display of fresh fruits will stand out as a health oasis in a market of delicious, but mostly unhealthy, options.
They also have tons of coffee options at Old City Coffee. You can get your fix during your visit, and then take a pound of their coffee beans home as a souvenir.
You should always save room for dessert, especially when you’re visiting Reading Terminal Market. These people are making your desserts by hand (sometimes you can watch them do it), and the smell alone will draw you in. Fresh apple dumplings, donuts, cookies, pies, are all begging you to eat them. Don’t deny them.
The Famous 4th Street Cookie Company has delicious cookies, that are a great choice if you’re eating on a budget. They were only $2 and there were over a dozen to choose from. I went with the oatmeal raisin, and I will be back to have it again.
The line for the donuts will be long, so be patient and prepared. Beiler’s Donuts are the Voodoo Donuts of the market and the wait for them will be worth it.
Though there weren’t many shopping areas in the market, they do have a store called Herbiary, which I first went to in Asheville, North Carolina and loved! They have all the natural apothecary items, teas and cute knick knacks that don’t feel like junk. I loved being able to see them again, and I’d recommend for everyone to stop in.
You won’t miss Market Blooms in the market, because their flowers take up so much space at their stand and they are gorgeous. Their area is pretty large and they have a big variety of flowers and bouquets to choose from.
*Facts & Tips for Visiting Reading Terminal Market
- The market is open Monday-Sunday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m, but not every stand will be open everyday at all of those hours, so if you’re coming for something specific, come on a popular day like Friday or Saturday, or call ahead.
- If you want your best shot at trying everything, come earlier in the day. The market is so popular that stands often sell out of their goods, and you don’t want to miss out because of it.
- There are tons of seating options, but the most are right in the center of the market. It feels like one big cafeteria there, and though the crowd can be intimidating, you should be able to find a spot. You’ll just be sitting right beside strangers (which is a good thing!)
- They have samples, so ask. I sampled a few things, like that piece of cheese up there and the gumbo at the Cajun Cafe, but I saw a few other different samples being given out. Try as many as you can, and if you don’t see one, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Visiting Reading Terminal Market will be one of the highlights of your trip to Philadelphia. Looking for more things to do while you’re in Philadelphia? Try going to the Eastern State Penitentiary or Longwood Botanical Gardens!