The first thing I remember as soon as I entered Reading Terminal Market was the feeling that I had been transported into another magical place, far away, from a bygone era, so far different than the city that surrounded it. Multiple thoughts were swirling in my head – what was this place? How can something like this exist right in the midst of this urban concrete jungle?
The place is throbbing with energy, vibrant and truly a treat for the senses. And this is not a quiet market – you hear the hum of activity, of tourists and local folks, families, children, old and young – all walking around and taking in the sights and sounds of this unique experience. And unique it is – an old world charm of a bygone era in a city that has been transformed by time. The gorgeous smells of the foods being sold, the sights of the freshest locally sourced produce, the sounds of activity and laughter.
I felt I was in a mini world which was a microcosm of everything that Philadelphia has to offer.
Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market (RTM) is one of the oldest and largest enclosed public markets in the US. It is located at 12th and Arch Streets in downtown Philadelphia. More than a hundred merchants offer a variety of local and international cuisines, baked goods, meats, fish, produce and ice cream. RTM is consistently rated as one of Philadelphia’s top rated travel destinations.
RTM first opened in 1893 and has seen its fortunes ebb and flow over the last 123 years of its existence. The Great Depression of the 1930 and the 1980s saw a decline in the market. However, since the last 20 years, the market has seen a resurgence under the ownership of the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Fun Fact – Did you know that the Reading Terminal Market was the movie site for such popular movies as 12 Monkeys and National Treasure (Moviesitestour.com)
The first thing I would suggest to anyone visiting is – arrive with an empty stomach! There is literally so much to eat and drink at RTM that only an empty stomach or a light breakfast can do justice.
A word about the vendors you will find in Reading Terminal Market – more than 80 independently owned small businesses representing a variety of nationalities. And some of these vendors have strong ties to the city and have been an integral part of the city’s culture and traditions. You will find a number of Pennsylvania Dutch vendors, restaurants ranging from Italian, Greek, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern to diners. From produce to meats and poultry vendors, bakeries to housewares.
My first stop (since it was closest to the entrance I came in from!) was Kamal’s Middle Eastern. The sights of the many types of baklava, the sweet smell emanating from the tray they were just putting into the display case – this was baklava heaven. I tried two types of baklava – absolutely delicious!
Sang Kee Peking Duck is another very famous Chinese establishment at the Reading Terminal Market. Rated the “Best in Philadelphia” – the Lo Mein at this place looked delicious! One can almost taste the food with the smells wafting through the air.
Next stop – Nanee’s Kitchen – which serves Indian and Pakistani food – Gluten Free, Vegan and Halal. The aromatic smell of the spices wafting through the air, the gorgeous richly colored dishes on display, the crowd of people milling to place their order – this place was throbbing with activity. Tried the Chicken curry – fantastic – rich aroma, spiced just right and was filling!
Reading Market is a true kaleidoscope of international cuisine – where else can you find Thai, Mexican, Greek, Dutch – all under one roof! And right by each other!
Termini Brothers is one of the most popular Italian bakeries in Reading Terminal Market. Fabulous canolis, pastries, biscotti and all kinds of authentic Italian treats. The selection of baked goods at this bakery is awesome. Highly rated on Zagat, Yelp, TripAdvisor. I could not resist – had to get the Tiramisu and Chocolate cake! Close contest – but Tiramisu won!
Mueller Chocolate Company offers some of the best chocolates – handmade chocolates, truffles, candies. Look at this luscious selection!
The produce available at Reading Market is on par with the best that I have ever seen. Look at this fresh produce – bell peppers, red peppers, apples, zucchini, carrots – the freshest, most luscious you will ever see. Before leaving, I got some produce for the week!
It was a great, enjoyable, fun day at the Reading Terminal Market. What I learnt and appreciated is that this is one of Philadelphia’s hidden gems.
No wonder that tours and guide books rate this on par with the best that Philadelphia has to offer. The variety of international cuisine, the fresh local produce, the sights and sounds and smell of this place, the vibe and the energy.
I learnt a lot and came away even more impressed about this wondrous place right here in Center City. Not to be missed!
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