Philadelphia may be coined the City of Brotherly Love, but it could just as easily be called the City of Higher Education. Philly is home to over twenty colleges, universities, and graduate schools. This is to say nothing of the pile of other campuses in the greater Delaware Valley area. Consequently, Philly is full of academic types. While many undergrads live on campus, there are lots of upperclassmen and grad students who seek housing elsewhere in the city’s many condos and townhomes. Where in Philadelphia are the best areas for students to live? Read on to find out.
For access to Penn, Drexel, and the University of the Sciences, you can’t beat the pocket of West Philadelphia aptly named University City. The area is saturated with students – which may be a good or a bad thing, depending on what kind of neighbors one prefers. There are a wide range of housing options available, from stately Victorian houses to ultra-modern apartments and condos. The atmosphere is lively and diverse. There is ample on-street and private parking, although many of Philly’s students use public transportation, biking, or walking to get to school. One downside is that University City is a bit removed from the city’s other attractions.
G-Ho has done nothing but grow in recent years. The neighborhood that surrounds the former eponymous medical institution (now Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse) is big with Penn grad students looking for a homelike atmosphere. It is across the river from University City, so the student population is a bit more diffused, while still trending towards the young and vigorous. Homes in Graduate Hospital tend towards rowhomes and apartments, but there has been a spate of new construction producing condos and townhomes for sale for those looking to make an investment in the area. While the area enjoys proximity to Center City, it isn’t necessarily packed with shopping and dining .
For those who want to live in the center of Philadelphia’s famed attractions, Old City is the neighborhood for you. This subsection of Center City has loads of old-fashioned appeal, with cobblestone streets and proximity to the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The nightlife here is spectacular, with an electric blend of bars and clubs that bring in the after-dark crowds. Most homes here are single-family and spendy, which can be hard to pull off on a student’s salary. The few rental properties that are in the area get snapped up quickly. You can’t beat the quality of life and speed with which you can get to campus – the Market Street train can get you to school in ten minutes.
It’s new, it’s hip, it’s NoLibs. Undoubtedly one of Philadelphia’s “coolest” neighborhoods, Northern Liberties is booming with bars, eateries, and shops that cater to the young and trendy. Housing is plentiful, with lots of condo buildings, apartments, and small houses are available for rent at raters cheaper than Center City (though still more pricey than West Philly or the Art Museum area). It is easily accessible from several Philly campuses. NoLibs does tend to get a little “party hardy” in the evenings, which might not be your cup of tea if this is the time of day when you’re hitting the books. But it is very bikable, walkable, and public transportation is close and easily accessed.
A gateway between Center City and South Philly, Queen Village (along with Bella Vista) is a quiet, homey neighborhood for students to settle down. The streets are shaded by the hanging boughs of mature trees, and there are tons of gorgeous townhomes for rent throughout the area. From Penn’s own website for student housing: “South Street and 4th Street are lined with vintage shops, restaurants, and retail stores, and the classic Italian Market on 9th Street is stuffed with outdoor vendors and cafes.” You’ll need a permit for on-street parking, but spaces are in decent supply. On the other hand, this is not a neighborhood to which lots of students gravitate, which can be either a pro or a con. There is also a lack of direct transportation to campuses, which can be a deal-breaker for students without cars.
A catch-all term for the neighborhoods surrounding (what else?) the Philadelphia Museum of Art, this area is also referred to as Fairmount. On the northern edge of Center City, there are plenty of townhouses, condos, and high-rises suiting several levels of budget, along with an attractive assortment of bars, restaurants, and small shops. The nightlife is not as vibrant – or, alternately, crazy – as in NoLibs. Biking or walking to campus is doable, although the public transportation leaves something to be desired. On the whole, however, the Art Museum Area is quiet and affordable, which is an awesome combo for those in school.