Is Philadelphia Bigger Than Chicago?

Downtown Philadelphia at dusk

Philadelphia and Chicago are two major United States cities with unique history, culture, and attractions. But have you ever wondered which city is bigger? While both cities are among the largest in the country, it’s not immediately clear which one is larger in terms of population, area, and other factors.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at these two great cities and compare them in various ways to answer the question, “Is Philadelphia bigger than Chicago?” Join us on this journey of discovery as we explore the fascinating details of these two iconic American cities.

Philly vs. Chi-Town

When it comes to size, there are different ways to look at it. Here, we’ll take a comprehensive look at both cities’ populations, physical areas, and other factors to come up with an answer.


The population is always a hot topic when it comes to the size of a city. However, in terms of population, Chicago surpasses Philadelphia by a wide margin. According to data from the United States Census Bureau, Chicago has a population of over 2.7 million people, while Philadelphia has just over 1.5 million. That means Chicago boasts almost double the number of inhabitants as its counterpart – quite a staggering difference.

Chicago skyline on the sunny day

Chicago’s population also makes it the third-largest city in the United States, lagging only behind the bustling city of New York and sunny Los Angeles. Philadelphia, on the other hand, falls back into the sixth spot.

But as with everything else in life, numbers are only one way to measure the greatness of a city. There are several other factors that one could use when comparing these two spectacular cities. So stay tuned as we look closer at how these cities measure up beyond just population.

Physical Area

Philadelphia and Chicago are two cities that have a rich and complex history, each with its own unique characteristics. Philadelphia is known for its rich history and abundance of historical landmarks, while Chicago is known for its impressive skyline and modern architecture. Both cities have a lot to offer in terms of culture, entertainment, and recreation, but the physical area of each is vastly different.

Philadelphia is located on the east coast of the United States and can be challenging to drive in. It is known for its narrow streets and colonial-era architecture. However, the city’s streets are lined with stunning historical landmarks such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, and the Betsy Ross House. Despite being a densely populated city, Philadelphia’s physical area is relatively small, covering approximately 135 square miles.

One of the tallest building in downtown Chicago, Illinois

In contrast, Chicago is located in the Midwest and is known for its towering skyscrapers and expansive cityscape. The city covers a much larger area of around 228 square miles and is home to impressive attractions such as the Navy Pier, the Willis Tower, and the Museum of Science and Industry. In addition, Chicago’s physical area is much more spread out than Philadelphia’s, allowing for more open space and parks throughout the city.

Though these two cities are very different in terms of their physical area, they both possess unique features that make them special. Whether you prefer the charm and history of Philadelphia or the urban vibrancy of Chicago, there’s no denying that each city has its distinct personality and appeal.

Chicago is undeniably bigger than Philadelphia by area, covering around 228 square miles compared to Philadelphia’s approximately 135 square miles. Moreover, its sprawling cityscape boasts a diverse range of architecture and attractions that will impress any urban explorer. So Chicago’s physical area is nearly double Philadelphia’s.

Keystone Answers Fun Fact: The Philadelphia Stock Exchange, founded in 1790 and also known as NASDAQ OMX PHLX, is the first and oldest stock exchange in the United States.

Other Pertinent Factors

Green spaces and parks are an important part of a cityscape. Both Chicago and Philadelphia have a deep appreciation for nature and the importance of green spaces. Despite Chicago’s larger physical area, Philadelphia actually has more parkland per capita than any other major U.S. city, with over 10,000 acres of parks and recreation facilities. Among these is Fairmount Park, one of the world’s largest urban park systems and boasts numerous hiking trails, gardens, and recreational areas.

On the other hand, Chicago has its share of green spaces that are just as impressive. Known as the “City in a Garden,” Chicago offers over 8,800 acres of green spaces spread out across the city. The city’s most famous parks include Grant Park and Millennium Park, home to stunning art installations, outdoor concerts, and festivals. Additionally, Lincoln Park is home to a zooconservatory, and the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum.

Both cities are dedicated to preserving their green spaces and have implemented various programs to ensure they remain healthy and accessible to their residents and visitors. So whether it’s taking a stroll through the picturesque Fairmount Park or enjoying a concert in the beautiful Millennium Park, both cities offer abundant opportunities to enjoy nature in the city’s heart.

Another facet of comparison is the business district of the cities. Chicago and Philadelphia each boast a thriving business district rich in history, culture, and architecture. The Loop, Chicago’s downtown area, is home to some of the world’s most iconic skyscrapers, including Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower), the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Chicago Board of Trade Building. The contrast between classic and modern architecture makes this area a popular tourist destination and a bustling business hub.

Aerial view of downtown Philadelphia Pennsylvania at night

On the other hand, Philadelphia’s Center City business district is renowned for its historic charm and grand, colonial-era architecture. Visitors can see iconic landmarks like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall or stroll down the cobblestone streets of the historic Old City. Its Avenue of the Arts also offers numerous theaters, concert halls, and various high-end retailers, making Center City a popular destination for business, pleasure, and everything in between.

With a wide range of options for dining, entertainment, shopping, and countless other activities, Chicago’s Loop and Philadelphia’s Center City are truly world-class business hubs. In addition, both areas offer a unique blend of history, culture, commerce, and stunning architecture, making them vibrant and bustling urban centers. These business districts are the heart and soul of these two remarkable cities, from their towering skyscrapers to their quaint historic districts.

And finally, there is the tourism aspect. Chicago and Philadelphia are major tourist destinations attracting millions of visitors from around the world every year. In 2019, Chicago welcomed over 60 million visitors, while Philadelphia had over 46 million.

Chicago’s tourism industry is centered around its iconic landmarks, world-famous museums, and impeccable cuisine. Visitors can see breathtaking views of the city from the 103rd floor of the Willis Tower or explore the iconic Cloud Gate sculpture in Millennium Park. Chicago’s museums include the Field Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry, all of which house priceless works of art and scientific artifacts. And with its reputation as a food lover’s paradise, Chicago is home to countless top-rated restaurants, serving up everything from deep-dish pizza to innovative farm-to-table cuisine.

Sunny day at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania’s largest city, Philadelphia, visitors can explore the rich history that helped to shape the United States. The city’s top attractions include the Independence National Historical Park, the Liberty Bell, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Visitors can also stroll through Spruce Street Harbor Park, the Franklin Institute Science Museum, or the Reading Terminal Market, where they’ll find world-class cuisine and local delicacies. 

With its world-class hotels and restaurants, Philadelphia has become a sought after destination for business and pleasure. And while visiting the city, remember to try the famous Philly cheesesteak.

Overall, Chicago and Philadelphia have established themselves as vital tourist destinations with unique cultural and historical attractions. With plenty of activities and sights to explore in both cities, it’s no wonder that so many people flock to these urban centers, eager to experience all that they have to offer.

Big City Battle

In conclusion, the physical area of Chicago is more extensive than Philadelphia, but the size is only part of it. Both cities offer a unique mix of history, culture, and commerce, with abundant attractions and green spaces that make them popular tourist destinations.

Chicago’s towering skyscrapers, world-class museums, and exceptional cuisine are unmatched, while Philadelphia’s quaint cobblestone streets, historic landmarks, and abundance of parkland make it a city with its own unique charm. Thus, whether you’re looking to explore the metropolitan grandeur of Chicago or the rich colonial history of Philadelphia, each city offers a wealth of opportunities to discover and experience.

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I was born and raised in Pennsylvania; I love to travel, visit new destinations, explore unique locations, and meet great new people. However, sometimes, you don't need to travel far from home to find new adventures, so I decided now was the time to learn more about this great state I call home.