Philadelphia is the mural capital of the world. With more than 3,000 murals brightening walls throughout the city, Philly has more murals than any other city. This can be credited to the Mural Arts Program, the impressive non-profit that is responsible for the city’s ever-expanding murals.
About the Murals
A variety of materials including paint, tile, and glass are used to create the murals. Professional artists work with residents, including at-risk youth and adults in prison and rehabilitation centers in some cases, to create them. Each unique design tells a story about the neighborhood it inhabits and/or the artists who created them. The colorful, larger-than-life murals brighten schools, community centers, businesses, and homes from Center City and the Avenue of the Arts to outlying neighborhoods in that most people rarely see. Especially in parts of the city where urban blight is at its worst, the murals bring beauty and community pride.
The Mural Arts Program was founded in 1984. Muralist and community activist Jane Golden was hired to redirect the energies of graffitists into mural painting. Golden still runs the program, which has been credited with drastically reducing graffiti, beautifying neighborhoods, and empowering local artists. It has been used as a model in cities around the world. New murals and new tours are often added and the program that began as a small nonprofit in 1984 has grown into one of the city’s most popular attractions for residents and tourists alike.
Taking a guided tour with a knowledgeable guide is the best way to experience the murals. Most tours are offered from April or May through October but some are offered year-round. Guided trolley tours feature a different section of the city each week and last about two hours. They are usually offered on weekends and on Wednesdays. The Mural Mile Walk covers about 2.5 miles through Center City and is offered as a guided tour or you can rent an MP3 player and headphones and take the self-guided version. Trolley tours and walking tours depart from the Independence Visitor Center at 6th and Market Streets and take place rain or shine. Reservations are strongly recommended. Bike tours are offered on occasion as well. On select dates, Mural and Meal Tours combine a tour with lunch at a local favorite restaurant. Perhaps the most unique tour option is known as Love Letter and offers the chance to see 50 rooftop murals from SEPTA’s elevated train. It departs from the Love Park Welcome Center at 1600 JFK Boulevard. Be sure to check the Mural Arts’ website for a full schedule of tours and special events as the program is always expanding to offer more murals and more unique ways to experience them.
And if you're visiting from out of town, there are plenty of great places to stay while you're here.