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Eastern State Penitentiary
Vacation Travel Guide

Walk the blocks of the old jail that set the benchmark for a modern prison system worldwide and take a peek inside the cells of notorious gangsters.

The thick stone walls of the old Eastern State Penitentiary’s large square building with its central watch house look stark and daunting. But when you tour the now-closed prison, built in 1829, you’ll find that the place was actually not so harsh for its time. Sky-lit cells let in natural light. Gardens and even pets were allowed in the exercise yards. The jail’s approach was innovative for time: not just to punish, but to make the convicted men and women regret and reform.

The prison’s behavioral correction tactic was that criminals would never see the other inmates and they each had their own cell. Frequent visits by guards and regular labor forced them to work on their personal rehabilitation instead. This “Pennsylvania System” also became popular in Europe. Overcrowding caused the tactic to be abandoned in this penitentiary in 1913. In the late 1920s notorious bank robbers and gangsters, such as “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al “Scarface” Capone, served time in the Eastern State Penitentiary. Peek inside their surprisingly luxurious cells to learn their history.

When the prison closed in 1971, the blocks were maintained without drastic renovation. This allows you to experience the real conditions for prisoners in those days. Take the hour-long guided walk in winter, or rent the audio tour during the rest of the year. You’ll hear fascinating tales of great escapes and riots while roaming the cells. Keep your eyes peeled for special exhibits because the penitentiary museum frequently features prison-themed art.

If you love ghost stories or are intrigued by paranormal activity, plan your visit during September to November for the spooky Terror Behind the Walls tour, which is held after dark and has a Halloween theme.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is located on Fairmount Avenue, five blocks away from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It is open daily, nearly all year round. Free on-street parking is available, or pay to park in the lot next door. The inexpensive Phlash sightseeing bus stops here and other public transport connections are available too.

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Top Hotels Close to Eastern State Penitentiary

The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton
The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton
4.5 out of 5
One Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $149 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21

Located in Center City, this luxury hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Academy of Natural Sciences, City Hall, and Walnut Street. Pennsylvania Convention Center ...

4.4/5Excellent! (978 reviews)

"The Logan is a beautiful establishment! The staff are professional. The restaurant is superb! Come see for yourself!"…"

Reviewed on Dec. 3, 2020

The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton
Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square
Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square
4.5 out of 5
120 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $152 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21

Located in Center City, this luxury hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Walnut Street, Rittenhouse Square, and Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Reading ...

4.5/5Wonderful! (1,427 reviews)

"i loved everything. The staff was nice , the rooms were clean and it was in the center of everything."…"

Reviewed on Dec. 28, 2020

Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square
Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square
Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square
4 out of 5
220 S 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $160 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21

Located in Center City, this eco-friendly hotel is within a 5-minute walk of Walnut Street and Rittenhouse Square. Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts and ...

4.2/5Excellent! (2,434 reviews)

"Nice place to stay and everything is near. I recommend"…"

Reviewed on Jan. 12, 2021

Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.

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Eastern State Penitentiary

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Best Lodging Options Near Eastern State Penitentiary

The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton
The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton
4.5 out of 5
One Logan Square, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $149 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
The Logan Philadelphia, Curio Collection by Hilton
Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square
Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square
4.5 out of 5
120 S 17th St, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $152 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
Sofitel Philadelphia at Rittenhouse Square
Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square
Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square
4 out of 5
220 S 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $160 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
Warwick Hotel Rittenhouse Square
Club Quarters Hotel in Philadelphia
Club Quarters Hotel in Philadelphia
4 out of 5
1628 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $134 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
Club Quarters Hotel in Philadelphia
The Windsor Suites
The Windsor Suites
4 out of 5
1700 Ben Franklin Pkwy, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $164 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
The Windsor Suites
Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square
Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square
4 out of 5
1800 Market St, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $152 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
Sonesta Philadelphia Rittenhouse Square
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
4 out of 5
1200 Market St, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $152 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
Loews Philadelphia Hotel
Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown
Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown
4 out of 5
201 North 17th Street, Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $121 per night from Jan 26 to Jan 27
Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown
The SPA Lounge - Stylish 3BD /w Jacuzzi and Sauna
The SPA Lounge - Stylish 3BD /w Jacuzzi and Sauna
Philadelphia, PA
The price is CA $157 per night from Jan 20 to Jan 21
The SPA Lounge - Stylish 3BD /w Jacuzzi and Sauna
Lowest nightly price found within the past 24 hours based on a 1 night stay for 2 adults. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.