Planning a trip to South Philadelphia and wondering if it’s safe? Here’s what you need to know!
I’ve been visiting Philadelphia for many years because it’s my partner’s hometown and I have some family in the area. Philly is a fun place to visit, partly because it is full of people who are very passionate about their city. It’s a bigger city than Denver, where I grew up, so I was initially intimidated by how urban it felt.
South Philly is known for its large Italian-American population, which has contributed to its collection of incredible local bakeries and restaurants. Among my favorites are Isgro Pastries for cannolis, Fitzwater Cafe for breakfast, and La Cocina del Café for Mexican. Naturally, Mexican food is one of the things I’ve missed most since moving abroad!
When writing this post, I drew from my own experience and the opinions of local friends and family. Like anywhere else, you might hear from one source that an area “isn’t safe” and another person will tell you it’s perfectly fine. No matter where you visit or stay, be sure to take precautions and look out for yourself!
Is South Philadelphia Safe for Travel?
In order to answer this question, I first need to define “South Philadelphia.” The marker for where, exactly, South Philly starts is widely debated. Some say it starts after South Street, others say Bainbridge, and still others insist it starts after Washington Avenue.
For the purposes of this post, I’m going to consider anything south of South Street to be “South Philly” at the risk of ruffling a few feathers.
Now, back to the question at hand: Is South Philadelphia safe for travel? Well, no city is completely safe or free from crime, but I would consider South Philly to be a safe destination to visit. Most people who venture into South Philly won’t experience any issues, and this part of the city is much safer than the northern or western areas.
It’s certainly not as safe as Cork, Ireland, but few places are. For a general sense of Philly’s safety, WalletHub ranked 182 US cities using 41 key indicators of safety. Of these cities, Philadelphia ranked 171 for safety, just behind Denver and New Orleans (so, towards the bottom or “less safe” end of the rankings).
There is no similar data for South Philly in particular, so this ranking takes into account North and West Philly, too.
Still, the situation appears to be on an upswing for Philadelphia. Violent crime is down 7% in 2023 versus the previous year, and homicides were down 20% overall.
Is South Philadelphia a Safe City at Night?
As far as US cities go, I would consider South Philly to be a reasonably safe city to travel in at night. Still, I recommend that you take precautions. No area of Philadelphia is so safe that I’d say you can walk around without being aware of your surroundings or staying vigilant.
Is it safe to walk at night?
So long as you’re in a busy area, you can safely walk in South Philadelphia at night until about 10pm. After 10pm, I would avoid walking alone if possible, especially for long distances in quiet areas. You should be fine walking at night at almost any hour if traveling with a group.
Don’t hesitate to take a rideshare if you’re nervous walking at night, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Is it safe to walk in West or North Philly?
I wouldn’t recommend that travelers walk in West Philadelphia or North Philadelphia at all. While some neighborhoods are safe, most of the city’s violent crime is concentrated in these parts of the city and it can be quite dangerous.
Instead, stick to Center City, South Philly, and the Main Line until you have a chance to get better acquainted with Philly and/or have a trusted source to show you around. It’s also safe to visit Fishtown, which is located in North Philly.
What is the Safest Way to Get Around South Philly?
The absolute safest way to get around South Philadelphia is by car, either driving yourself or taking an Uber. The easiest way to get around South Philly is to walk or cycle, as the streets are set up to be friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. You can safely walk anywhere in South Philly during the day.
Is South Philadelphia Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Yes, South Philadelphia is safe for solo female travelers. I would recommend sticking to the northern border of South Philadelphia, however, because this area is wealthier and generally safer. Below, I included a list of safe neighborhoods and some hotels that I would consider if I were visiting South Philly solo.
Safest Areas In South Philadelphia
Generally speaking, the areas just south of Center City are among the safest parts of South Philadelphia. Within South Philly, there are some really charming neighborhoods that have a lot of local flair. Here are the neighborhoods I have or would stay in if visiting South Philly.
✅ Bella Vista
The neighborhood surrounding the 9th Street Italian Market is, to my mind at least, quintessentially South Philly. It was the first Philly neighborhood that was settled by Italian immigrants and today boasts some of the best food joints in the city. Bella Vista is home to a two-day Italian Market Festival every May – try to catch it if you can.
I’ve walked around this area during the daytime and at night and never had an issue.
✅ Queen Village
The residential area just south of Society Hill is called Queen Village, and it would also be a great place to stay in South Philly. Queen Village is a meeting place of modern amenities and historic charm, with some of the oldest residences in Philly. This neighborhood was first settled by Irish immigrants and contains a whopping 800 buildings that are listed in the Philadelphia Historical Register.
✅ Graduate Hospital (also called Southwest Center City)
I asked a friend’s wife for her recommendations for safe parts of Philly, and she suggested that I include the Graduate Hospital neighborhood – sometimes referred to as Southwest City Center. Named after a hospital that closed in 2007, Graduate Hospital is the most kid-friendly of the neighborhoods on this list.
The most bustling street in Graduate Hospital is South Street West. It’s also home to two of my favorite brunch spots in Philly, the locally-famous Sabrina’s Cafe and my find from an early trip to the city, Miles Table.
Places I Recommend Avoiding In Center City and South Philadelphia
Most of South Philly is decently safe, so I wanted to highlight some of the nearby areas that really are not safe for visitors.
❌ University City (west of 38th Ave and north of Powelton Ave)
University City is home to the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. This neighborhood definitely has a youthful energy and collegiate feel, but it’s best to stick very near to the universities if you stay here.
I was once in an elevator with a local near 38th Avenue and asked her if it was safe to walk at night – her answer was clear: to the west? Absolutely not. To the east of 38th Ave? You’re probably fine. Do not stay west of 38th Avenue or north of Powelton Avenue.
❌ The area around the Convention Center
The Philadelphia Convention Center is located at 11th and Vine, and it’s perfectly fine to visit during the day. I recommend that you don’t stay here, though, because the surrounding area is a ghost town after dark.
The last time I visited, it was, frankly, spooky after about 9pm. Nothing happened, but this area would not be great for walking back after a night on the town.
❌ Anywhere North of W Girard Avenue (Except Fishtown)
I recommend that travelers avoid North Philadelphia starting at W Girard Ave. The exception to this rule is the North Philly neighborhood of Fishtown, named after its historic connection to the early Philadelphian fishermen who settled there. Today, Fishtown is hip, with great eateries like Pizzeria Beddia and the Middle Child Clubhouse.
Note that Fishtown is a gentrifying area, so there are parts of town that can be sketchy, especially at night. Take care when walking later in the evening and try to travel in groups, if possible.
Hotels in Safe Areas of South Philadelphia
Truthfully, South Philadelphia is the sort of destination where you really ought to check Airbnb. It’s very residential, so most of the rentals are row houses or apartments – not large hotel buildings.
Still, sometimes you just want to stay in a hotel where you don’t need to clean up after yourself. Here are some highly rated hotels in South Philadelphia:
📍 Budget Pick: Sonder The Queen Set in a central spot in Queen Village just a short walk from South Street is Sonder The Queen. The rooms are modern, but with reminders of the building’s historical ties like brick walls and vintage street signs. Beware light sleepers: this spot can be noisy, especially on the weekends.
📍 Mid Range Pick: Sonder Ovation Located just across Broad Street from the boundary to Graduate Hospital is another Sonder hotel. The Sonder Ovation is very sleek and modern, without the historic touches you’d find at Sonder the Queen. Again, beware that this is not a quiet neighborhood and this particular hotel is near a fire station so you may hear noise from the trucks.
📍 Luxury Pick: The Philadelphia Hotel Bella Vista As the name suggests, this artsy and Victorian-style hotel is located in the Bella Vista neighborhood in Philly. There are antique touches and decor throughout the hotel, which add to the unique charm of the hotel. Some rooms even have a private kitchen so that you can cook your own meals while you’re there if you want.
Safety Tips for South Philadelphia
Should you decide to visit South Philadelphia, here are my top safety tips for travelers. Remember to always use your best judgment, and don’t be afraid to call an Uber if you get nervous about walking, especially at night. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
Be Vigilant and Aware of Your Surroundings
No matter where you travel in Philadelphia, it’s a good idea to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times. Keep your eyes up and always be looking around (and not on your phone). People who are looking around and appear alert are less appealing targets for thefts than those who seem distracted.
When traveling, avoid conflicts. You really never know what the people around you are going through, and by starting a conflict with the wrong person, you could end up in a situation that escalates out of control. Keep to yourself, take the high road, be nice, and just generally don’t get into it with strangers.
Travel in Groups (If Possible)
There’s safety in numbers, as the saying goes. If you travel with a friend or two, stay together whenever you can. You’re far less likely to get hassled on the street as a small group of people as you are if you’re just a solo traveler.
Lock Your Car and Hide Valuables
Again, this falls in the general category of “good advice anywhere,” but be sure to lock your car and hide your valuables. The safest view inside your car is an empty car, so do your best to move anything that might look appealing to the trunk.
You might even want to invest in a steering wheel lock if you’re moving to South Philly. I parked my car in South Philly without incident, but a steering wheel lock could deter potential trouble. Sometimes it’s helpful to be a harder target than the next car.
Look Both Ways Before you Cross the Street
This might seem basic, but one of the biggest threats to your safety in Philadelphia is getting hit by a car as a pedestrian. As you may know, pedestrian injuries and deaths are at the highest level in 41 years all throughout the US. Always listen for cars, look both ways, and make eye contact with drivers before you cross the street.
Avoid Empty Streets and Secluded Areas, Especially at Night
Similar to my advice for visiting Naples, Italy, you’ll want to avoid places where you don’t see other people. Try not to walk down empty streets, and definitely avoid empty parks and secluded alleyways. South Philly is pretty densely populated, so this shouldn’t be hard to do.
Choose a Hotel or Airbnb in a Safe Area
One of the easiest ways to avoid walking around in a more dangerous part of Philly at night is to choose a centrally located hotel that’s in a safe area. Luckily, there are large parts of Philly that are perfectly safe to visit and walk around after dark. Stick to South Philly and Center City for urban stays, or look for stays in the Main Line if you need more options.
Do not stay in North Philly, West Philly, Northwest Philly, or the area west of 38th Avenue.
Don’t Talk Openly about the Mafia
There is an active mafia presence in Philadelphia, but they’re very unlikely to bother tourists. Still, don’t invite unwanted attention by talking openly about them, especially out on the streets or in restaurants. If you don’t go looking for trouble, you probably won’t find it.
Never Leave Your Drink Unattended
This is another tip that is good advice anywhere, but don’t leave your drink unattended. Watch the bartender make your drink or open the bottle, and keep an eye on it until you’ve finished it. If you lose track of your drink, just get a new one.
What is the Emergency Number in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, as with all other US states, the local emergency number is 911. You can call this number from any cell phone.
For non-emergencies, you can contact Philly311. To reach the service, simply call 311 from within Philly or +1 (215) 686-8686 from outside the city. The line is monitored from 8am to 8pm, Monday through Friday.
FAQs: Is South Philadelphia Safe?
Planning to visit South Philadelphia or even debating living in Pennsylvania? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions from other travelers.
Is it safe to walk in South Philly?
Yes, South Philly is a safe place to walk, especially during the day. The streets are mostly residential with shops and smaller commercial streets. Nearly all streets have at least one sidewalk. When walking in South Philly, always be aware of your surroundings, take care when crossing the street, and avoid any isolated stretches, especially late at night.
What is the safest part of Philadelphia?
The safest parts of Philadelphia are South Philly, Center City, and the Main Line. The first three areas are in the city proper, and the Main Line is a collection of suburban towns along a train line. Remember, no part of Philadelphia is going to be 100% safe, even if it’s a “good” area.
What is considered South Philadelphia?
The exact line delineating South Philly from Center City is a matter of strong debate in Philadelphia. South Street is one of the most widely accepted lines, but others consider Bainbridge or Washington Avenue to be the true start of South Philly.
Is North or South Philly safer?
South Philly is much safer than North Philly; there’s really no comparison. South Philly has lower levels of violent crime and property crime, so it’s a far better place to visit. Tourists and travelers should avoid traveling north of West Girard Avenue, with the exception of Fishtown to the east.
Conclusion: Is South Philadelphia Safe to Visit?
Philadelphia is a wonderful place to visit, and South Philly is one of the most interesting and fun places to go while you’re there. It’s full of great restaurants, incredible coffee shops, and unique local institutions like Sarcone’s Bakery.
From South Philly, you can even take a longer walk to many of the top landmarks like Rittenhouse Square or Independence Hall (home of the Liberty Bell). Of course, bring your comfy walking shoes if you decide to explore on foot!
Generally speaking, South Philly is a safe place to visit. Still, that doesn’t mean you can relax too much – stay vigilant of your surroundings and don’t walk around too late at night unless you’re in a group. Stick to safe neighborhoods, avoid North and West Philly, and you should be OK.