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My Philly Neighborhood: Queen Village (And Bella Vista, Too!)

Queen Village

Editors Note: Since Philadelphia is known as a city of neighborhoods, we asked Temple Law students, faculty, and staff to talk about what they love, hate, and can’t live without in their neighborhood. Each month, we’ll release another write-up of a new Philly neighborhood. You can see each neighborhood covered so far here

Queen Village is the perfect neighborhood. Nestled just southeast of Center City, Queen Village is bordered by South Street to the north and Washington Ave to the south, and spans from 6th Street to the Delaware River. With tree-lined streets, historic brick homes, and plenty of shops and restaurants, Queen Village is the quintessential urban residential neighborhood. And if you’re interested in expanding your search closer to the Broad Street subway line, look no further than neighboring Bella Vista, which occupies the same latitude as Queen Village, but stretches to the west from 6th Street to 11th Street. It’s just as lovely, and perhaps more accessible to Temple for the car-free crowd.

I first moved to Queen Village in 2011, when a new job brought me into the city from Philly’s northern suburbs. A couple of my friends had moved to the area a few years before me, so I was already well acquainted with Queen Village’s proximity to Old City, South Street, and the Delaware Waterfront. I’ve lived here for five years now, although I did spend six-months in Fairmount during which time I was best described as “homesick.”

“I’ve lived [in Queen Village] for five years now, although I did spend six-months in Fairmount during which time I was best described as ‘homesick.'”

If you are looking to become part of a community, then I think you will love Queen Village. Home to many families (thanks to our excellent public school), young professionals, dog lovers, and retirees, it has a less transient population than the city’s more popular neighborhoods. There are certainly fewer undergraduate students in Queen Village/Bella Vista than in areas closer to the subway lines.

While home values are quite high, rental units are abundant and affordable. In my time here, I have lived in two apartments that cost between $1,050 and $1,250 in total rent each month, which I split with a roommate. I have always had central air, an in-unit washer/dryer, a dishwasher, and plenty of square footage for hosting dinner parties. In the more expensive apartment I rented, I also had an outdoor patio big enough for a gas grill and four-person table and chairs.

What I love about Queen Village

My favorite thing about Queen Village and neighboring Bella Vista is that they are self-sufficient communities. The location means you can easily walk to some of Philadelphia’s more “hip” neighborhoods, like Old City, Center City, or East Passyunk, but why would you want to? Why trek into the tourist-filled horde for a fancy cocktail when you can get that same drink at your favorite corner bar, where everybody knows your name? Looking for live music? The TLA on South Street should satisfy your urge for a bigger concert, or you can find plenty of intimate venues along that same corridor—I suggest a mid-week blues show at the Twisted Tail. In the summer, grab a folding chair and head down to the Mummers Museum for weekly outdoor concerts courtesy of the various string bands. And why would you haul your books all the way to Rittenhouse Square when you have plenty of beautifully maintained parks right in your own backyard? Mario Lanza Park, for example, is home to my Boston Terrier’s favorite dog run, hosts live concerts in the fall, and transforms into a free outdoor movie theater on summer weeknights.

Queen Village Rapid Fire

Best thing about Queen Village: The self-contained community feel, yet still walkable to Center City
Worst thing about Queen Village: Distance from the subway, for Temple students
How I get to Temple: Car or the subway
Closest grocery store: Essene Market for natural foods, or ACME and Whole Foods on South Street

Best Place For:

Coffee: Red Hook or Philly Java Co
Shopping: Boutiques along Fabric Row
Drinks: The New Wave Café, or Southwark for fancier cocktails
Quizzo: Johnny Goodtimes at O’Neals
Pizza: Nomad for gourmet, Lorenzo’s for late nights
Dessert: John’s Water Ice
Studying: Charles Santore Branch of the Philadelphia Free Library

As the proximity to South Street may suggest, Queen Village and Bella Vista are bastions of community art. Fleisher Art Memorial has rotating exhibitions by local artists, and I highly recommend becoming a member and enrolling in an art class or workshop. (Think of it like cross training for your brain, law students!) The neighborhood is also home to the wildly popular Magic Gardens, a once-vacant lot turned into an outdoor mosaic masterpiece by artist Isaiah Zagar. You’ll see many more examples of Zagar’s signature glass-and-tile work on private homes throughout Bella Vista. If you are more interested in practicing the art of oration, I recommend First Person Arts’ Story Slams at L’Etage (which is also a nightclub, for those of you looking to get footloose south of South Street).

If you’ve followed the renaissance of Philadelphia’s restaurant scene, you’ll be glad to know that you can find great dining right in Queen Village. In Bella Vista’s southwest corner you’ll find the Italian Market, where you can shop for healthy produce, not-so-healthy tomato pies, and cannolis. We also have the best brunch options around. If the line is too long at Sabrina’s, I suggest you try nearby Sam’s Morning Glory or Hawthorne’s Café. For the hungriest among us, Famous 4th Street Deli offers super-sized breakfast and lunch options and the chance to spot real live politicians on Election Day! Beyond brunch, Queen Village/Bella Vista has critically acclaimed spots like Ela, Kanella, and Saloon. There are hip restaurants like the Royal Tavern and the new Hungry Pigeon, which serves…um…pigeon. We even have some of the best cheesesteaks in the city—Ishkabibble’s! (Sorry Pats and Genos, I don’t get you.) And if you need to work off all those extra calories, Queen Village has several gyms, yoga studios, and a nice running path along the Delaware River. It’s no Schuylkill River Boardwalk, but it’ll do.

What I don’t like so much about Queen Village

While I think that Queen Village’s geography is essential to its charm, the location means that you’re going to have about a mile walk to the subway each day. The #40 bus is your best bet to get to Broad Street quickly, but good luck catching it in the evening (often when you want it most). I drive to school, and I definitely recommend that you do the same if you are going to keep a car in the city. A semester pass at the Liacouras Parking Garage costs at least $100 less than a semester SEPTA pass.

Mario Lanza Park

Mario Lanza Park

Street parking in Queen Village could be better, but it could also be much worse. Most blocks require a residential parking permit during peak hours, which you can purchase for $35 a year. It can be difficult to find parking after 7:00 pm, although not impossible. If you are taking night classes, you might want to look into the Queen Village community parking lot. The Neighborhood Association subsidizes the cost of the lot to about $100 a month. Plus, it is conveniently situated under I-95, so you don’t have to shovel your car out when it snows!

Bottom Line

If you are looking for affordable housing in a community-minded location, Queen Village is the place for you. I think this is especially true for slightly older students who want to maintain their connections with young professionals and still enjoy city living. If you don’t have a car and the distance from the subway bothers you, fear not! You will find a similarly inviting neighborhood in Bella Vista, with a shorter walk to Broad Street!

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