By: Mary Fran Bontempo

Rittenhouse Square from the window of Anthropologie

Rittenhouse Square from the window of Anthropologie

Even though he was building a city, Philadelphia founder, William Penn wasn’t about to give up his green spaces.

Back when Philly was but an idea, our founding father dictated that there be “squares” positioned throughout the city to align with his vision of open, green spaces for the citizens. The resulting five squares offered a place for livestock to roam as well as for people to enjoy a bit of the country in the middle of a bustling city.

Today, one of the city’s most popular squares is still a center of activity and, perhaps more important, leisure.

Rittenhouse Square is a lovely slice of green heaven in one of Philadelphia’s “swankiest” neighborhoods. Especially in spring, when winter-weary residents emerge from their homes, the park invites strolling, dog walking, picnicking and even sun bathing, on bench or blanket.

Surrounded by beautiful old buildings ( the Church of the Holy Trinity, founded in 1858, is especially noteworthy) as well as modern hotels, the square also offers visitors a rich architectural history to explore.

Business folk looking for a break from the sealed-windows of a corporate high rise can be found brown-bagging it for lunch on a park bench or perhaps taking in a lunch time concert at the Church of the Holy Trinity.

But if you’d like to forgo the brown bag, there are fabulous restaurants, from the French-themed Parc to the casual, gastropub, Village Whiskey, offerings abound for every taste and budget. And then, of course, there’s shopping.

Trendy Anthropologie, in a glorious old building, offers a delightful array of clothing and decorative home items. For the more literary minded, there’s a Barnes and Noble bordering the square. And, well, you’re in Philly, so the surrounding blocks boasts an endless variety of shops and boutiques.

Now that it’s above freezing, venture into the city and enjoy the combination of rural and urban all in one place. And if you’re not local, check out locations in your own town that offer the best of both worlds and enjoy a little country in the city!