While in most cities the central area of commercialization is referred to as downtown, Philadelphia has Center City instead (for reasons unknown). The bustling center of business and entertainment in the heart of Philadelphia is popular with tourists for its’ expanding foodie scene, which includes a variety of indie coffee shops. Philly’s independent coffee scene continues to explode with new options always on the horizon. From cold brew, to pour over, to specialty espresso drinks, to traditional drip, you will find a bit of everything in Philly’s bustling coffee scene.
Below are 5 great places to enjoy local coffee during your time in Center City. In addition, be sure to check out my list of top coffeehouses in Old City, Philadelphia’s beloved historic district.
Gran Caffee L’Aquilla
- Location: 1716 Chestnut Street
- Highlight: Over a dozen espresso drinks
- Must try: Gran Caffe Espresso (Espresso Lungo with a scoop of gelato)
A little known Italian gem for morning coffee service is Gran Caffe L’Aquila. This wonderful Center City cafe is more well known for their decadent gelato offerings and authentic Italian cuisine. Nonetheless, they serve an amazing lineup of espresso and coffee drinks each morning. This is the best choice in Center City for espresso connaisseurs as they offer about 2 dozen varieties of espresso drinks. There are so many interesting selections here which you will not find anywhere else in the city.
In addition to the full lineup of espresso, 4 different Italian coffee blends are offered daily. The setting here is upscale and modern, providing the perfect ambiance for anyone looking for a nice place to take a date. My favorite time to visit is during the cold winter season when you can take a seat by the window, warm up with a great cup of joe, and enjoy the twinkling holiday lights.
- Location: 130 S. 19th Street
- Highlight: The most beautiful drink presentation in town
- Must try: Chocolate Croissant
The most widely known coffee roaster in Philly is La Colombe which opened its’ flagship location in Rittenhouse Square in 2004. Today, La Colombe coffeeshops can also be found in New York, L.A., D.C., Boston, and Chicago. You can also pick up their fantastic beans in most grocery stores around these cities. Drip, pour over, espresso – any drink you order is always expertly prepared by trained baristas.
You can always count on a high quality drink when you visit La Colombe. Even better is the fantastic presentation of each drink in a custom mug. Really, this is one place where you will want to enjoy your drink inside rather than getting a paper cup to go. The pastry selection is just as fabulous and include all sorts of fresh goodies like muffins, croissants, and various gluten-free and vegan selections.
- Location: 2100 Spring Street
- Highlight: Beautiful exposed brick walls
- Must try: Fruit tart
If you find yourself visiting any of Philly’s renowned museums (and you definitely should!), consider stopping by Peddler Coffee prior to your visit. This local coffeehouse is conveniently located just minutes away from the city’s top museums including the top rated Philadelphia Museum of Art (the famous Rocky statue is located here) and The Rodin Museum (home to the iconic Thinker statue).
Peddler serves delicious single origin coffees. This is also one of the best places to try a quality pour over. If espresso is more your style, the Americano here is perfectly smooth and flavorful. Additionally they offer a range of seasonal specialties throughout the year including a fabulous Coconut Jasmine tea latte. The pastry selection is small, however, the fruit tarts are worthy of a try. This coffeeshop is super quaint and never gets as busy as those closer to Center City. The beautiful brick walls and large windows really give it that amazing city esque vibe.
A La Mousse
- Location: 145 N. 11th Street
- Highlight: Amazing European/Japanese bakery
- Must try: Matcha double cheesecake
In Philly’s Chinatown neighborhood, you will find the most delicious French/Asian fusion dessert cafe. This hidden gem is well worth a visit if you love decadent treats and anything green tea related. The matcha green tea latte is absolutely delicious. They also offer all sorts of specialty green tea infused drinks including delicious matcha green tea milkshakes and iced matcha latte floats.
However, drinks aside, you really want to come here for the tantalizing dessert selection. As soon as you walk in the doors, you are treated to the most attractive looking display of treats. I recommend trying one of the trademark matcha treats, whether it be a cheesecake, tiramisu, or the popular mille crepe cake featuring 20 layers of paper thin green tea crepes. Other tempting selections include Coffee Cream Cake, Hazelnut Chocolate Cake, and Japanese fruit crepes. Everything is totally instagram worthy – it’s hard to decide on just one treat! In fact, they (almost) look too good to eat!
Bakeshop on 20th
- Location: 269 S. 20th Street
- Highlight: Traditional family recipes of childhood favorites
- Must try: Homemade pop tart
In the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood, you will find loads of fancy cafes, coffeeshops, and bakeries. Bakeshop on 20th is the best of them all. For top notch homemade goodies, there is no better choice. Poptarts, muffins, cookies, brownies, babka, scones – they have every delicious morning pastry on the lineup. Although probably loaded with calories, their homemade poptart is truly amazing! Fortunately, the bakeshop uses local ingredients and bakes everything fresh on site, so you can rest assured that your treat is a bit healthier than usual.
Be sure to enjoy a cup of coffee along with your treat. They serve the wonderful Philly born La Colombe brand. In addition to drip, cold brew and various lattes are available, as well as hot cocoa and assorted Mighty Leaf tea flavors for anyone who is not a fan of coffee. Awesome drinks + awesome treats + located within walking distance to Rittenhouse Square = a winning weekend breakfast destination.