Saunders 1865 | Moving to Philadelphia

Moving to Philadelphia

Are you moving to Philadelphia? Situated in the north-east of the US, it is both the social point and the financial hub of the Delaware Valley.

Philly has something for everyone. Young urbanites choose proximity to the city for the nightlife and a quick commute, while family-centric residents choose the more tranquil neighbourhoods with quiet, leafy streets and good schools.

Our free, in-depth Moving to Philadelphia report includes info on:

• The good transport networks throughout the city
• The best places to live
• Average monthly rental prices
• Details of the excellent schooling system

Putting Philadelphia on the Map

Situated in the north-east of the US, it is both the social point and the financial hub of the Delaware Valley.  The heart of the city is Center City, located south of the centre and following the city founder, William Penn’s original grid plan.  This is the main tourist centre with some top-notch but expensive real estate.  Urban families and young professionals choose Center City for the convenience and for the row houses, contemporary lofts and luxurious apartments.

For the most part, families choose the more affluent, quieter suburbs in North West Philadelphia, known as the Main Line.  This historic leafy neighbourhood has a fabulous selection of mansions, luxury apartments and large houses, ideally suited to expat families.

Philly is an easy city to navigate, with a convenient grid plan and is mainly flat, making walking a popular transport option.  Because of this, it has one of the lowest congestion problems in the metropolitan areas of the USA, although peak hours are quite hectic.  Streetcars are the norm here, this is one of the last cities in the country to make use of these elegant trams or trolleys.

With one of the best transport networks in the US and the 6th largest, it is run by the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transport Authority, or SEPTA.

Tickets are available for each mode of transport, with a variety of passes and tokens also available from SEPTA.  For newbies, the Independence Pass allows the user to use all forms of transport for one day, making it easy to get one’s bearings.

  • The subway is mainly above ground. The Broad Street Line, running from north to south is entirely underground, while the Market Frankford Line is partly-elevated and runs east to west.  It is also known as the El or the Blue Line.
  • Trains run from the 30th Street Station in Center City and the network is of a high standard. The station is the hub for all the major SEPTA subway, train and streetcar routes.  It is also Amtrak’s major nucleus, providing transport to other major cities, such as Washington DC, Boston and New York.  PATCO also runs a line from New Jersey to Center City.
  • Dating back to the 19th Century, trams, or trolleys, have been an integral part of the city’s modes of transport. There are five lines left, known as Green Lines, and operate at street level, using the subway system from Center City to the western suburbs.
  • SEPTA’s bus routes service many of the suburbs and other destinations across southeastern Many of the city buses run for 24 hours along the Night Owl bus routes.  Buses are also becoming a popular form of transport between Philly and other major cities.  Greyhound is still the most popular for longer distance, but other carriers offer inter-city services.
  • Taxis are easily available. Some are branded in their company colours, some look like normal cars but with a light on the roof and, of course, the classic yellow cabs are plentiful.  Taxis from the airport charge a flat rate.  Hailing a taxi is easy from the pavement, but the most reliable option is either by phone or online.
  • Car ownership is not essential and the closer to Center City you get, the less necessary cars are. The efficient public transport system negates the need for expensive, and scarce, city parking.  Philly is known for having the country’s worst drivers so one is advised to be patient, cautious and defensive!
  • The city is one of the most walkable in the US, especial Center City. There is an abundance of quirky ‘Walk! Philadelphia’ signboards, along with guides in uniform, to assist tourists and new residents.  And one can always stop off for a rest at one of the many parks along the way.
  • Indego is Philly’s bike share initiative with between 150 – 200 stations throughout the city and most popular suburbs.
  • The largest airport in Pennsylvania, PHL or Philadelphia International Airport, is located on the edge of the Delaware River, separating New Jersey from Pennsylvania. Buses and trains run regularly to the city and the western suburbs.
The Areas

Philly has something for everyone.  Young urbanites choose proximity to the city for the nightlife and a quick commute, while family-centric residents choose the more tranquil neighbourhoods with quiet, leafy streets and good schools.



This is where the famous Philly row houses, lining narrow streets, still stand.  Fishtown definitely offers an authentic city experience, popular with young families, hipsters and young professionals looking for creative energy and the vibrant nightlife.  Schools here are of quite a low standard, there is a distinct lack of retail outlets and car break-ins are quite common.


Bordering Fishtown, Northern Liberties is clearly more expensive and is growing in importance as young professionals invest in the apartment complexes.  Once an arty neighbourhood, prices have increased substantially due to demand.  The friendly atmosphere is reminiscent of bygone years, parking is a problem and the schools aren’t great.


Another popular, arty community, Graduate Hospital has some of the most popular bars and restaurants in this state capital.  Single family homes, both old and new, and the historic brownstone row houses, line the tree-lined streets.  Prices are quite high in this gentrified area, but crime is lower than other suburbs.


The proximity to the city appeals to many expats with families.  Fairmount feels spacious, with plenty of trees.  Close to cultural landmarks, including the Museum of Art, older single-family houses and classic Philly townhouses are the norm and there are a number of good schools, as well as St Joseph’s Hospital.  Rentals are higher, but that’s a small price to pay for a 10-minute commute to work and the strong community spirit which emanates from this slice of suburbia.



Dating back to the end of the 17th century, this area has remained popular as one of the less expensive Main Line suburbs.  30 minutes on the train, or 45 in the car, commuting is quick and painless.  With top class schools, this neighbourhood is known as one of the best places to live in the USA.  Accommodation varies from apartments with gardens to massive colonial houses, so all in all, a good family area.  The major employer here is the Abington Memorial Hospital, with excellent facilities and a high standard of care.


A pretty, affluent area, located on the Main Line, this used to be an upper-class summer getaway.  Chestnut Hill is officially a historic site although it is now very modern.  With excellent shopping, great infrastructure, historic architecture, accessible public transport, fantastic schools and accommodation ranging from huge mansions to row houses, this is the ideal area for expat families to put down roots.


A tranquil college town, founded on tolerance and diversity, Swarthmore is just 12 miles south-west of the city.  This expensive enclave, with its steep property tax, has it all. From excellent private and public schools – the elementary school received an award from the Department of Education for its high standard of education – to older Arts and Crafts architecture houses and the outstanding Crum Woods, a 300-acre arboretum, the entire area feels like a welcome escape from the city.  A shopper’s paradise, with independent arty-crafty shops, it also has a community-owned co-op, vendors of locally grown, organic fare.


A close-knit community town, Drexel Hill equals good family value for money.  The public and private schools offer a high standard of education and housing ranges from smaller twin-homes to federal-style housing.  It’s the kind of town where everyone gets together to celebrate holidays, like the Fourth of July.   And a quick Blue Line trip, or a 30-minute drive, is all it takes to reach Center City.

Who Lives and Works in Philadelphia

With an estimated 1.6 million people living here, Philadelphia has the 6th largest metropolitan economy in the country and is the economic centre of the state.  The Philadelphia Stock Exchange – known officially as the NASDAQ OMX PHLX – is here, along with a number of Fortune 500 companies such as Aramark, Comcast, AmerisourceBergen, Dupont, Lincoln National and the newcomer, Navient.

Education and medicine are the best performing sectors and together amount to a third of the jobs in the city.  The largest employer in the region is the University of Pennsylvania, along with five other universities and six medical institutions.  The hospitality and leisure industries are showing growth, with tourism retaining its importance.  The retail sector, such as the King of Prussia Mall, employs thousands of people.

Philly is renowned for both its strong work ethic and its creativity, with an emphasis on art and history.

The Best Bits
  • Philly has a great history and has a total of 54 museums including the Liberty Bell, the Philadelphia Art Museum and, honouring the maker of the Stars and Stripes national flag, Betsy Ross House. Medical history is covered at the Mütter Museum and others include the University of Pennsylvania, the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Independence Seaport Museum, the National Museum of American Jewish History, the African American Museum and Carpenters Hall.  The original tavern of the Founding Fathers has been recreated into the City Tavern.
  • Please Touch is a children’s museum, encouraging learning by getting involved.
  • Crepes may be a Parisian delicacy but soft pretzels are Philly’s staple. And they are immensely proud of them.
  • The Wing Bowl is held at the Wells Fargo Centre and was founded by 2 hosts of Sportsradio WIP back in 1993, one of Philadelphia’s famous radio stations. It is an eating competition and takes place at 05:30 am.
  • The aforementioned Philadelphia Art Museum boasts in excess of 400,00 works of art, including Picasso’s Three Musicians and van Gogh’s Sunflowers. And it has the Rocky statue gracing the famous entrance steps.
  • Oversized colourful signs are dotted throughout the city ensuring that no-one gets lost.
  • Founded in the late 1800s, Reading Terminal Market is famous for its fresh produce, along with hoagies, seafood, BBQ chicken and the Dutch Eating Place.
  • Sports-mad Philly somehow managed to spell the city’s name incorrectly on the official NFL strip, Phildephia.
  • The Veterans stand in Lincoln Financial Field boasted a court and in-house jail to discipline the very loud and noisy Eagles fans. The Eagles are supported by around 67,000 fans singing ‘Fly Eagles Fly’ at the top of their voices.
  • Boathouse Row runs along the Schuylkill River. Lined with historic boathouses, cycling, walking and running are popular in the daylight hours but it transforms into a visual feast at night, with the boathouses lit up by twinkling lights.
  • The annual Naked Ride is massive, with over a thousand partly dressed cyclists
Bringing the Kids

The city boasts many public and private schools recognised throughout the US for the high quality of education offers, ranging from elementary schools to universities.  School admission runs on the catchment system, similar to the UK.

Public schools are funded by property tax; thus, the affluent areas are more able to employ top class teaching staff.  This has resulted in good public schools in the city, along with excellent international, charter and private schools.

Philly has 91 Public Charter Schools.  These are public schools but are governed by a non-profit board.  They have more flexibility in curricula and academic programmes, and work on the catchment system, as do all public schools in the city.

Offering a better pupil to teacher ratio, private schools have better facilities and more choice of extramural activities.  This, of course, comes at a price.  But some schools do offer financial assistance.

There is only one international school, a French bilingual school.  But some private schools do offer the International Baccalaureate Programme.


It is advisable to check out the quality of a school based on its classification.  Vanguard schools are rated the best performing, resulting in a special admission criterion.  Non-vanguard schools are considered adequate, with empowerment schools usually requiring district assistance.

The law states that expat children may attend a public school in the area in which they reside, but they need to be registered at the school in August.

There are 20 Four Year colleges and universities, 11 Two Year institutions and technical schools and 5 graduate institutions.

Relocating to Philadelphia

Philly has a surfeit of culture and residents are proud of their long history.  Along with having a great work ethic, they are fanatical sports fans and really know how to celebrate.  With many exceptional schools and family-oriented suburbs, Philly is a wonderful city for expats with kids, while young professionals and singles have trendy options in the central districts, close to the workplace.  The public transport system is efficient and runs timeously.  However, the catchment system may prove problematic when enrolling kids in school and using the expert services of a relocation specialist will help smooth the way.


City Centre
Good Schools
Great Transport
Museums & Galleries
Average Monthly Rent - Philadelphia
Apartment (1 bedroom) in city centre $1,587.53
Apartment (1 bedroom) outside of centre $1,064.60
Apartment (3 bedrooms) in city centre $2,729.17
Apartment (3 bedrooms) outside of centre $1,716.32
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Saunders 1865