Market St. btwn. 5th and 6th Sts., 215/965-2305
HOURS: Daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m., last admission 4:45 p.m.
The iconic symbol of the Liberty Bell is associated not only with Philadelphia , but with democracy and the United States’ independence from England, and with freedom in worldwide struggles, such as freedom from slavery and the women’s rights movement. In fact, it didn’t become widely known as the “Liberty Bell” until the abolitionists coined the phrase.
So yes, you—along with more than a million other visitors each year—have to see it once in your life. Just don’t set your hopes too high—it is just a bell after all—and not a very well-made one at that. But the real attraction is not the 2,090-pound piece of metal; it is what the bell has come to symbolize.
There is some debate over the details of the Liberty Bell’s history, but it goes something like this: Originally built for the tower of the State House (now Independence Hall ), it was cast in London and arrived in Philadelphia  in 1752 to commemorate the 50-year anniversary of William Penn’s Charter of Privileges. It suffered the first of several cracks during its first ring in a test run. It was recast two years later by two Philadelphians, John Stow and John Pass, who took the opportunity to carve their own names on it.
The bell is said to have rung for several important events, including the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. No one knows exactly when it rang for the last time, but it may have been for George Washington’s birthday in 1846, at which point the cracks were so bad that the bell was rendered useless.
Housed in Independence Hall for more than 200 years, it was moved to Liberty Bell Pavilion in 1976 for the bicentennial. In 2003 it was moved again to its current home in the Liberty Bell Center, a modern glass-enclosed mini-museum and multimedia gallery containing documents, images, and a short History Channel film exploring the facts and myths surrounding the bell, available in nine languages.
The bell’s strategic position offers an uninterrupted view of Independence Hall , making it one of the most photographed spots in the city. On the bell, Pennsylvania is spelled “Pensylvania,” which was one of several acceptable spellings at the time. It is engraved with the message “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the Land unto all the Inhabitants thereof.” The message may present a conundrum considering slavery was still prevalent at the time, but it makes sense that so many groups later adopted it as a symbol for freedom.