Where to Live in the Philadelphia Region if You Love the Arts

Whether you seek the visual arts or performances, there’s a community here that will satisfy you.

Philadelphia museums art history

The Philadelphia Museum of Art may occupy a commanding spot among the region’s arts organizations, but you will find scores more in the city and suburbs, along with nice places to live near them. Here are the Philadelphia neighborhoods to consider if you love art. / Photograph courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art

Welcome to “Where to Live if You Love …” — our series of Philly-area neighborhood guides to help you find your place. Whether you’re passionate about nature, dining, the arts, or your furry friends, we’ll highlight the best towns and neighborhoods where you might want to settle down.

Among the many firsts and oldests the Philadelphia region can claim? It’s home to the oldest theater in America. And while its degree-granting programs will shut down next year, it’s also home to the first art museum and school in the country. It has a world-class art museum that ranks among the best in the country and one of the world’s finest collections of Impressionist art. And if this isn’t enough, how about a Big Five orchestra and one of the most prestigious music schools in the country?

And that’s just within the city limits. Great art abounds throughout the region. Here are some of the neighborhoods and communities where you can get up close and personal with it.

Washington Square West/Avenue of the Arts/Rittenhouse Square

The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts / Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

For purposes of this guide, these three neighborhoods should be considered as one, for the one in the middle ties the other two together.

The Avenue of the Arts — South Broad Street — is the city’s premier performing arts corridor, home to the Kimmel Center, the Academy of Music and the Miller and Wilma theaters. To its east, you will find the Walnut Street Theater at Wash West’s northeast corner and a reproduction of one of painter Thomas Eakins’ most famous works in Jefferson Alumni Hall at Thomas Jefferson University. To its west, you will find the aforementioned Curtis Institute of Music.

From cute trinities to grand townhouses to deluxe apartments and condos in the sky, you will find a broad range of residences suited for big-city living in these neighborhoods.

Old City

philadelphia art neighborhood old city

Market Street in Old City / Photograph via iStock user Littleny

Old City is home to the largest concentration of commercial art galleries in the city. On the first Friday of each month, the neighborhood’s gallery owners host a collective open house where visitors can check out their new exhibitions. The neighborhood where Philadelphia began gives off a Soho vibe with its streets lined with 19th-century commercial and factory buildings, most of which now sport apartments and condos

Fairmount/Spring Garden

The “Art Museum area” straddles the border between Fairmount and Spring Garden and gets its name from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Barnes Foundation made this area home when it moved into the city from Merion Station in 2012. And if you make this area your home, you will find yourself living anywhere from a modest rowhouse to a grand 19th-century mansion to a high-rise condo.

University City

Institute of Contemporary Art / Photograph by Jeff Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

The two universities that give the neighborhood its name both offer places where the public can experience the arts. The two most important at Penn are the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts and the Institute of Contemporary Art. And even though Drexel University is better known for its technological and professional programs, “art” was part of its original name, and three galleries on its campus put items from its own art collection on public display.

University City’s tree-lined streets are also lined with twins ranging in origin from the Victorian era to the eve of the Depression. Apartment buildings and townhouses also dot the community, not all of them given over to students.

Chestnut Hill

philadelphia art neighborhood woodmere museum chestnut hill

Woodmere Art Museum/ Courtesy of Darryl Moran Photography

The suburb-in-the-city at its summit is home to the Woodmere Art Museum, which focuses on Philadelphia artists and their works. Its east side contains many modest townhouses while its west side contains the mansions and large twins that define the neighborhood.


michener art museum philadelphia art neighborhood

The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown / Public domain photo by smallbones via Wikimedia Commons

The Bucks County seat is home to one of the best art museums in the ’burbs. The James A. Michener Art Museum, housed in the former county jail, was endowed by the famed author of historical fiction and focuses on American art, with a special emphasis on Bucks County artists. The historic borough contains many 19th-century Victorian houses, sometimes cheek-by-jowl with 20th-century Foursquares, ranchers and more modern houses.


The Chester County suburb on the extended Main Line has been home to People’s Light, a home for professional theater and performing arts education, since 1979. Most of Malvern’s housing stock outside the borough’s center dates from the 1960s and later.


A street scene in Delaware County, Pennsylvania borough Media, which Money magazine just named one of the best places to live in the United States

A street scene in Delaware County, Pennsylvania borough Media / Photograph courtesy of Visit Media

“Everybody’s Hometown” is also the home of the Media Theatre, the largest professional Actors’ Equity theater in Delaware County, located in a converted 1927 movie house. You will be just as likely to rent as to own here: More than half the borough’s housing stock consists of rental properties.

Merion Station

After the Barnes decamped for Center City, St. Joseph’s University acquired the building Paul Philippe Cret designed for Dr. Albert Barnes’s collection. It now houses the university’s Frances M. Maguire Art Museum. The area around the museum was developed in the decades just before it, and large single-family houses dominate.

New Hope

New Hope

The historic Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope / Photograph by Claudia Gavin

The historic mill town on the Delaware in Bucks County built its reputation on the artists who made their homes there. Since 1939, the Bucks County Playhouse, housed in the former grist mill that gives New Hope its name, has presented Broadway-quality theater produced by some of those artists. Famed woodworker and furniture designer George Nakashima also offers tours of his studio and workshop complex outside the town. Freestanding houses in a variety of styles fill the center of town, while some condo complexes can be found on its edges.

Rose Valley

This Delaware County community, established as a utopian Arts and Crafts Movement redoubt, is also home to the Hedgerow Theater Company, which has been presenting professional repertory theater since 1923. Like the theater itself, most of the houses in Rose Valley feature Arts and Crafts design.

Suburban college towns

The suburbs that host area colleges and universities all offer busy schedules of performances, art exhibits, or both throughout the academic year. These include West Chester (West Chester University), Collegeville (Ursinus College), Bryn Mawr (Bryn Mawr College), Haverford (Haverford College) and Swarthmore (Swarthmore College).

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