New Guide to Center City Gardens

Since the early 1800s, the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society (PHS) has played a leading role in the creation, growth and management of Philadelphia’s green spaces, and they are now excited to present the first walking guide to Center City gardens and parks. As of next month, the colorful map will be available in hotels, SEPTA stations, museums, and other attractions throughout the city. An expanded version of the map is also available on PHS’s website and includes the backgrounds and histories of the sites, what to look for at the locations, and other points of interest along the way. The guide also explains the role of PHS at many of the sites.

“The idea for the guide came from PHS President Drew Becher, who realized both visitors to the city and longtime residents would benefit from a map that lifted up Philadelphia’s most treasured public spaces and some of the hidden gems of the urban landscape,” said Alan Jaffe, PHS’s Director of Communcations. “While brochures about the historical and commercial attractions of the city are readily available, a guide dedicated to our outdoor assets had not been compiled – until now.”

Using Philadelphia’s four original public squares—Logan Square, Rittenhouse Square, Franklin Square, and Washington Square—as focal points, the Guide to Center City Gardens highlights 45 of the city’s public green spaces and lays out easy-to-follow, self-guided garden tours of the city.

The Logan Square walk leads you up Benjamin Franklin Parkway, stopping by the Barnes Foundation’s impressive grounds on your way to the Philadelphia Art Museum, and also including the famed Azalea Garden, the Eastern State Penitentiary’s perennial display, and The Spring Gardens, one of Philly’s largest and most enduring community gardens.

From Rittenhouse Square, you can peek into some of the city’s most beautiful private gardens at Delancey Place, then wind through Schuylkill River Park and head north, stopping by Alfred M. Greenfield School Rainwater Garden, the Mütter Museum’s Benjamin Rush Medicinal Plant Garden, and the amazing PECO green roof. 

On the Washington Square tour, the lush green commons and Revolutionary War-Era homes are quickly contrasted by the Curtis Center’s Dream Garden — an enormous mosaic designed by artist Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) — and zen-like Louis I. Kahn Park, lively Seger Park, and PHS’s own lively pop-up gardens showcase the district’s personality.

The historic/waterfront tour begins in fun and whimsical Franklin Square, followed by a stroll through Independence National Historical Park, Christ Church Burial Ground, and other Old City spaces. After that, you’ll venture east for a walk along the Delaware River Trail to take in the cutting-edge landscape design of the Race Street Pier.

For the complete interactive map and comprehensive list of Philly’s beloved public green spaces, please go to


Peggy Paul is a freelance editor, writer, and recipe developer (and part-time produce peddler) living in Philadelphia. On her blog, she shares seasonal recipes, cooking tips and inspirations.