Philadelphia’s French Connection
Explore French-inspired architecture, culture, cuisine and more
The city is hosting a number of major, Paris-inspired festivities this year, including the Philadelphia International Flower Show (March 6 – 15) and the first-ever Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (April 7 – May 1).
For those attending the city’s not-to-be-missed events, be sure to check out Philadelphia’s cultural, gastronomic, architectural and fashionable French connections.
Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Paul Philippe Cret (1876-1945), an emigre from Lyon, planned this wide avenue lined with statuary, trees and museums, while French landscape architect Jacques Greber (1882-1962) designed it. Constructed from 1917 until the 1930s, much of the Ben Franklin Parkway was modeled after Paris’s Champs-Elysees, creating a grand boulevard that once overlapped with several gritty neighborhoods.
A hallmark of French Second Empire style, City Hall includes design features of the Louvre and the Parisian Palais des Tuileries. Visitors can tour the interior City Hall and check out the view from the observation deck by meeting at room 121, Monday through Friday, at 12:30 p.m.
Details: Broad Street & John F. Kennedy Boulevard
Although originally a wild tangle of trees and brush, Rittenhouse Square was gradually fine tuned by French-born architect Paul Philippe Cret in 1913. The central plaza of the park holds the dramatic Lion Crushing a Serpent—created in 1832 as an allegory of the French Revolution—by French sculptor Antoine-Louis Barye. Today, the square is the centerpiece of an inviting neighborhood filled with brownstones, offices, shops, hotels, restaurants and cultural institutions.
Details: Between Walnut & Locust Streets and 18th & 20th Streets
Oh La La Art:
The Barnes Foundation
The creation of art collector Albert Barnes, The Barnes Foundation holds the finest collection of 19th- and 20th-century French paintings in the world. Including hundreds of works by Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masters such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin and Renoir, the collection is housed in Barnes’ estate in Merion on the Main Line, until it opens in its new permanent location on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in 2012. Reserve tickets in advance.
Details: 300 N. Latch’s Lane, Merion |(610) 667-0290
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia’s premier art museum counts significant works by French masters among its 225,000 works of art, from lush paintings by Renoir and Matisse to Monet’s many scenes set in the French countryside. The museum anchors the west end of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, Jacques Greber’s Champs Elysees-inspired cultural and arts corridor.
Details: 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway | (215) 235-7469
The greatest collection of Rodin’s work outside of Paris—124 sculptures, studies, books, drawings and prints—is housed in the striking museum on the Parkway designed by the Parkway’s creators Paul Cret and Jacques Greber. A rejuvenation project is in the works to restore the museum’s neoclassical Beaux Arts exterior and create a formal garden.
Details: 2154 Benjamin Franklin Parkway | (215) 763-8100
Rosenbach Museum & Library
Housed in an 1860s townhouse on Rittenhouse Square, the Rosenbach’s collection of rare books and letters includes copper miniatures painted by French artists and significant holdings in French literature—from an illuminated manuscript of Guillaume de Deguilleville’s Trois pelerinages (1437) to manuscripts by Emile Zola and Anatole France.
Details: 2008-2010 Delancey Place | (215) 732-1600
A la Maison
This Old World Country-style bistro focuses on French comfort food, including coq au vin, steak frites and onion soup gratinee. The restaurant also allows patrons to bring in their favorite wine.
Details: 53 W. Lancaster Avenue, Ardmore | (484) 412-8009
Sweet and savory Breton crepes are served in this charming Queen Village Beaux Arts-style bistro. Head upstairs to L’Etage for cabaret and dance music.
Details: 624 S. 6th Street | (215) 592-0656
A labor of love for husband-and-wife team Charlotte and Pierre Calmels (former executive chef at Le Bec-Fin), this cash-only BYOB spot serves up seasonal, rustic French bistro fare in South Philadelphia.
Details: 1009 S. 8th Street | (215) 965-8290
Bistrot La Minette
Chef Peter Woolsey, who studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, and his wife Peggy, who hails from Dijon, preside over this charming and authentic bistro.
Details: 623 S. 6th Street | (215) 925-8000
From its name, which means pig in French, to its menu of rustic bistro specialties, including escargot and pork belly, this family-owned BYOB in Queen Village is a French favorite.
Details: 801 E. Passyunk Avenue | (215) 923-7675
Georges Perrier’s country French-style outpost in Wayne on the Main Line draws a well-heeled crowd for New French flavors and a friendly bar scene.
Details: 503 W. Lancaster Avenue, Wayne | (610) 964-2588
Chef/owner Peter Gilmore channels the finest Parisian fare at this West Chester restaurant that’s so authentic a diner may be tempted to pay in Euros.
Details: 133 Gay Street, West Chester | (610) 431-2800
Restaurateur Stephen Starr created this ode to the bustling French brasserie. Enjoy the likes of duck confit, bouillabaisse and trout amandine on the cafe overlooking Rittenhouse Square.
Details: 227 S. 18th Street |(215) 545-2262
Housed in a historic inn, Savona features chef Andrew Masciangelo’s inspired cuisine, capturing the culinary spirit of the French Riviera and focusing on the use of local and seasonal ingredients.
Details: 100 Old Gulph Road, Gulph Mills | (610) 520-1200
Experience this romantic New French restaurant specializing in seafood from chef/owner Olivier Desaintmartin, whose Canard a la presse delivers one of the most unique food experiences in town. Locals love the restaurant for its intimate vibe, creative cuisine and sexy bar.
Details: 246. S. 11th Street | (215) 351-9901