When visiting Philadelphia travelers flock to see the famous “Liberty Bell.” A symbol of revolution, birth of a nation and freedom for all mankind. Even the Dalai Lama thinks it is cool! To see the Bell in person it is easy with a few helpful tips and some patience.
To set the record straight…you DO NOT need tickets for the Liberty Bell Center. Many travelers get confused with the Liberty Bell Center and Independence Hall (for which you need tickets). You do need timed tickets for Independence Hall and you can read our blog on Visiting Independence Hall.
The Liberty Bell Center runs the length of 6th Street between Market Street and Chestnut Street. The entrance with security check point is located at the Market Street entrance behind the Presidents’ House. The waiting line forms on the East side of the building. We advise bringing an umbrella for shade since in the morning the sun does shine down rather hot in the summer.
The security checkpoint is just like Independence Hall. Before waiting in line you should make sure to use the restrooms since sadly there are none inside.
There are 3 restrooms located within a short walk of the Liberty Bell. One is at the corner of 5th and Chestnut Streets, another is inside the Independence Visitor Center on the North east corner of 6th and Market Streets. The bathrooms are located next to the gift shop just inside the entrance. The best and cleanest bathroom of the three is located inside to the Historic Philadelphia Center at the South west corner of 6th and Chestnut Street. The bathrooms are in the back. By the way this is also the same corner we meet for our Independence Mall tour, *hint*.
How to avoid the lines
If you do not enjoy spending your vacation waiting in line then we have some tips for you. The Liberty Bell Center is open 9-5pm through the fall, winter, and spring and then 9-7 during the busy summer season around July Fourth. You can check with the National Park Rangers at the Independence Visitor Center or the website, if you want to be double sure about the times.
Lines can be very long during the spring and summer with travelers and school groups. To avoid the crowds we advise getting an early start to your day. The Center opens at 9am but the line often starts to form at 8:50am so if you get in line early the wait is very short. The longest lines are from 11am until about 4pm. At 4pm the lines starts to shrink. They allow the last guests to enter 5 minutes before the close of the building. So for example if the Center closes at 5pm the last person is permitted in the building at 4:55pm.
What is inside? What is the History of the Bell?
Once you enter the building you enter a series of exhibit rooms discussing the construction of the bell, its place as witness to the birth of the United States, and how it grew into a symbol against slavery and eventually all civil rights causes. At the end of the exhibit spaces is a video screen where a 10 minute movie plays on a loop summarizing the Liberty Bell’s place in American history. Saving the best for last the Liberty Bell is showcased at the end of the building in front of a large window that you can see Independence Hall and the bell tower where the bell was originally housed. Note: you can take a wonderful photograph from outside the building after sunset if you stand outside that window. The Bell is lit from above and creates a beautiful halo effect.
The Liberty Bell was cast in the Whitechapel Foundry in the East End of London, when ordered in 1751 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Charter of Pennsylvania of 1701. It was brought across the Atlantic with 8 other bells ordered at the same time from the same foundry. They arrived in a ship called the Myrtilla that belonged to a Jewish merchant, Nathan Levy. The bell weighs 2080 pounds (943kg) and measures an impressive 12 feet (3.6m) in circumference around the lip with a 44 pound clapper, and the top was inscribed with part of a bible verse from a chapter of Leviticus, "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof."
According to VisitPhilly.com the Liberty Bell is made of mostly copper and tin as well as a mix of lead, zinc, arsenic, gold and silver. The Bell is suspended from what is thought to be its original yoke, made of American elm. The yoke measures about 100 pounds.
But sadly, the first time the clapper was used, the clapper cracked the bell. Two local artisans, John Stow and John Pass, recast the bell two times, once adding more copper to make it less brittle and then adding silver to enhance its tone. The crack helped create the legacy that seals the Bell in the hearts of Americans and becomes a symbol for all. The crack is seen as a metaphor for the freedoms of humanity. In addition, there was no universally accepted way of spelling Pennsylvania agreed on, so on the Liberty Bell the state is spelled “Pensylvania”.
+++Learn more about Liberty Bell from your experienced tour guide on our famous pay-what-you-like Independence Mall walking tour.+++
Written/Edited by Jennifer Hensell