At the turn of the 20th century, Philadelphia’s moneyed elite moved west across the Schuylkill River to spread out in magnificent mansions epitomizing Victorian style. The Gables Bed & Breakfast is set in one of these homes, an immaculately restored 1889 red-brick mansion on a leafy plot near Clark Park. Among the Gables’ charms are local chestnut and cherry woodwork, oak floors with mahogany, ash, and cherry wood inlay, and a wraparound front porch shaded by Norway maple, Japanese cherry, crab apple, and magnolia trees. A hearty breakfast is included, and the city’s No. 36 trolley runs right down the street, providing easy access to Philadelphia 30th Street Station and Center City.
The home’s history includes a stint as a Jesuit residence hall, and the 10 guestrooms are larger than might be expected, with modern bathrooms. Each is done in Victorian style with period wallpapers, jewel tones, brass beds, and antique furnishings; three rooms have fireplaces.
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This 4500 block of Chester Avenue sits on the western edge of University City—so called because of the University of Pennsylvania, Drexel University, and University of the Sciences. While Drexel is a bit of a slog, University of the Sciences and U Penn are within walking distance. U Penn’s historic campus is open; stroll down Locust Walk past lecture halls, labs, and fraternity houses. Also near the B&B is Clark Park, a lovely green space always in use: A large playground fills with local families each day. The basketball courts often have a game on. The year-round Clark Park Farmers’ Market sells produce by community and Amish farmers on Saturday mornings. And once a month the park hosts the popular Uhuru Flea Market, run by a local African nonprofit, where one can find everything from antiques to original oil paintings to VHS movies. During the summer, Clark Park packs music and theater performances, which recently included Shakespeare in Clark Park’s interpretation of Henry IV complete with a choreographed 100-person battle scene. Nearby Baltimore Avenue is a hotbed of authentic Northern African cuisine; head over to Aksum (4630 Baltimore Ave.) for Mediterranean dishes such as Moroccan braised lamb shank, Gojjo (4540 Baltimore Ave.) for an Ethiopian take on the cheesesteak, or Dahlak (4708 Baltimore Ave.) for Eritrean and Ethiopian delicacies such as lamb stew with onions, tomatoes, and spices from Northeast Africa.
Need to Know
Rooms: 10 rooms. From $125. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: noon. Dining options: A full breakfast is served daily 8–9:30 a.m. in an atmospheric dining room and includes standard continental offerings and hot dishes such as artichoke-and-onion frittata and blueberry pancakes with lemon curd. Spa and gym details: There is neither a spa nor a gym on the premises.
Who’s it for: B&B aficionados who are savvy enough to enjoy Philly from one of its most vital neighborhoods. Our favorite rooms: The Victorian Suite is the converted master bedroom, featuring a sunny atrium and massive bathroom with original claw-foot soaking tub. Note that two rooms—the East and South rooms—share a hallway bathroom. Getting around: Parking is included, a notable savings from staying in Center City hotels. Though the Gables is considerably west of Center City, a car isn’t necessary to access the best of Philly, as the 36 trolley runs down Chester Avenue regularly.