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Fishtown, Philly’s Fish-Loving, Colorful Street Art!

Even the trashcans in Fishtown are fish-themed!

Even the trash cans in Fishtown are fish-themed!

Art-soaked Fishtown, Philadelphia was my destination last month, touring with my best friend, Marleny. Is there any other spot that has gone so full-out on themed decorations? Even the public trash cans have fish on them! Come walk the streets of Philly’s Fishtown with me to see…

This mural welcomes you to Fishtown, Philadelphia.

This mural welcomes you to Fishtown, Philadelphia.

Fishtown used to be the heart of — you guessed it — Pennsylvania’s fishing industry. As the fish business has transitioned, however,  a world of art, music, and delicious, diverse food has blossomed in the neighborhood.

Fish bannisters!

Fish decorations of all kinds leap throughout Fishtown.

Marleny tried to warn me that I would need to pack expandable pants and tummy-hiding dresses, but I didn’t really get it until I was standing on Frankford Avenue, gazing out at a boulevard of luscious restaurants and cafes, as far as the eye could see.

Dramatic raised train tracks.

Dramatic raised train tracks.

Because I apparently can’t sleep past 6:30am anymore now that I have kids (even when I’m traveling solo), I would arise at sunrise each morning in Fishtown and set off down Frankford, blissfully drinking in the sights and tastes while my hosts slumbered on. T’was during these strolls that I snapped all these photos of fishies large and small.

Even the fish ride bikes in Fishtown!

Even the fish ride bikes in Fishtown!

“How,” I wondered, “did the art here come to be so fish-ily coordinated? Was there a driving person or group of artists who declared, ‘Let’s make the street art in Fishtown as aquatic as possible!’ or did one building do it, and the rest naturally followed suit?”

If someone has the answer to the evolution of Fishtown’s murals and decorations, I’d love to hear it in the comments section, below.

This building's wave wall echoes the watery theme.

This building’s wave wall echoes the watery theme.

Origins aside, however, the intentional and unintentional art around Fishtown is stunning. What do I mean by “unintentional art“? Well, there are the studded, turquoise blue arches of the elevated trains that stretch through the neighborhood. Then there are the purple Morning Glory flowers trumpeting their beauty from chain link fences.

Morning Glory flowers popped up all over town.

Morning Glory flowers popped up all over town.

Note how the human-created art embraces and complements its surrounds, as that Morning Glory embraced the metal fence. The ridges of the garage door shutters on this store pictured below give texture and excitement to the two paintings, as the undulations of the stone walls enhance the wave mural pictured two photos above.

What a riot of color on that wall!

What a riot of color on that wall!

Then there is the art of the buildings themselves. Coming from Boston, I remain eternally charmed by the classic brick row houses of Philadelphia. My preschool son has started helping me select my photos from the thousands I take each destination, and he (rightly) demanded I include the photo below because, “It got bricks and I like bricks a lot.” Personally, I also enjoy the jaunty bows decorating the old-fashioned lamps for Halloween!

Classic Philadelphia residential buildings.

Classic brick Philadelphia residential buildings.

The cool thing about Fishtown’s art is that it’s not limited to fish — rather, it riffs off the aquatic theme. Take, for example, the trash-munching shark pictured below. I have never in my life found a rubbish receptacle so cute! With that endearing smile, I would give you a hug, Sharkie.

Shark trash bin!

Shark trash bin! Chomp, chomp.

Enough chitter-chatter — you get the idea! Let’s continue now in entranced silence as we stroll through the rest of Fishtown. I’m curious which pieces of art and architecture will most resonate with YOU!

Bicycle culture is strong in Philly.

Bicycle culture is strong in Philly.

A black and white fish trash can.

A black and white fish trash can.

See the fish sign and Shepard Fairey mural in the upper right?

See the fish sign and Shepard Fairey mural in the upper right?

Shrimpy glass walls in this take-out food store.

Shrimpy glass walls in this take-out food store.

A tranquil street in Fishtown.

More delightful row houses in Fishtown.

This frame store knows Fishtown.

This frame store knows Fishtown.

This beautiful red stained-glass door is a perfect example of why Fishtown, Philadelphia has some of the best public art in Philly!

A beautiful red stained-glass door with birds and… jellyfish?

Best name ever: "Tacos that Don't S***."

Best name ever: “Tacos that Don’t S**k.”

Love that people decorate their outer walls this way.

Love that people decorate their outer walls this way.

The sign says, "Fishtown: Stop and Smell the Roses."

The sign says, “Fishtown: Stop and Smell the Roses.”

A pensive silhouette stares at a fish stained glass door.

A pensive silhouette stares at a fish stained glass door.

Now for some logistics. What are tips on saving money while sightseeing around Philadelphia? (If you’re planning travel, using these affiliate links to search provides a small commission upon purchase, at no cost to you!)

This Fishtown building isn't fishy, but it sure is flowery!

This Fishtown building isn’t fishy, but it sure is flowery!

Where is there to stay near Fishtown, Philly? 

Alligator trash receptacle.

Alligator trash receptacle.

So what do you think? Does does the art and feel of Fishtown appeal? Have you visited before? If so, what was it like for you? Do share!

Did this neighborhood get your creative juices flowing? See my giant compilation of drawing prompts from around the world — including Fishtown. 

A flag mural, emblazoned with the names of local stores.

Thanks for a fabulous visit, Fishtown!

 

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Keryn Means

Friday 13th of March 2020

My best friend from childhood lives in Fishtown and my sis lives just north of there. Love wandering around and eating my way through the River Ward.

Lillie Marshall

Saturday 14th of March 2020

The food is so good there!

Amelie

Friday 22nd of December 2017

My friend lived here for a few years right out of college before moving to DC for law school so I visited her. I think I was there the weekend of the sculpture derby and arts festival because I remember watching all these man-made float type things go down the street. I remember there being a lot of murals in Fishtown but also all over Philly. Also dragged my friend to visit Eastern State Penitentiary (the old prison) because I had seen it on the show Ghost Hunters and wanted to visit--it was amazing.

Lillie

Friday 22nd of December 2017

Fascinating!

Kimberly

Monday 20th of November 2017

How cool that they've truly embraced their moniker! I love that ocean waves mural art!

Tamara

Monday 20th of November 2017

With all the time I've spent in Philadelphia I've honestly never even heard of Fishtown but wow does it look pretty! I'm a sucker for good street art.

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