It can get hot, and I mean hot, in Philadelphia during the summer, so it’s not a surprise that you find loads of choice when it come to frozen desserts in the City of Brotherly Love. From Italian gelato to soft serve to water ice to banana splits to ice cream sandwiches to the oldest Philadelphia-style ice cream shop in the country, here is my list to the best ice cream in Philadelphia. Vegans – although I may not mention it, every one of these ice cream shops has a large selection of vegan options!
Philadelphia’s Best Ice Cream Shops
Bassett’s Ice Cream at the Reading Terminal
Head down to the Reading Terminal Market, on N. 12 St and Arch right off the busy Market St. in Center City, and join the long lines in front of the nation’s oldest ice cream company. Bassett’s Ice Cream has been wowing the crowds since 1861. You can find it all over the country, but there is nothing as fun as getting it in the city were it began.
You can either sit at the marble-topped counter or order to go. Their Rum Raisin and French Vanilla ice cream have always been a hits, as well as their other classic flavors. Still they are not afraid to try their hand at making new flavors, such as Birthday Cake and Matcha. Try not to miss their holiday specials like Pumpkin, Eggnog and my favorite, Peppermint Stick!
- Bassett’s, Reading Terminal Market, and other locations, such as Seoul, Korea!
John’s Water Ice
I can’t have a list of Philadephia’s best ice cream places without having at the top John’s Water Ice. It is legendary and where I learned to love my lemon and chocolate together! Since 1945, they have been making their Lemon, Chocolate, Raspberry, and the very special Blueberry that you can only get in July.
It’s as iconic as the Philly Cheesesteak and soft pretzel. Just remember that it’s only open from April until October!
- John’s Water Ice, 701 Christian St, Philadelphia, PA 19147
You can imagine, after a hard day at the Congressional Congress trying to form the United States, Tommy Jefferson and Johnny Adams heading over to the Franklin Fountain for an ice cream cone or two. Right in the heart of Old City close to Independence Hall sits Franklin Fountain.
Although it was opened in 2004 by Ryan and Eric Berley, it harks back, maybe not as long ago as 1776, but definitely when the classic ice cream parlor reigned supreme. Where else can you find Hydrox Cookie and Cream ready to be scooped into your cookie cone. The sundaes are amazing. The iconic Mt. Vesuvius Sundae gets all the press, but my favorite being the Lightning Rod (Coffee Ice Cream, Brownie Pieces, Pretzel Rod, Whipped Cream, A Shot Of Coffee Concentrate, Chocolate Espresso Beans, White Chocolate Shavings) – a nod to their namesake, neighbor, and electricity enthusiast Benjamin Franklin!
- Franklin Fountain, 116 Market Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Gran Caffe L’Aquila
Close you eyes, take one bite of this creamy, rich gelato and you would swear you were in Italy…L’Aquila, Italy to be exact. After the devastating earthquake in L’Aquila in 2009, Stefano Biasini arrived in Philadelphia with the dream of recreating his hometown caffe. His dream became a reality and the Gran Caffe L’Aquila was born. Did I mention that Sterfano was already an internationally awarded gelatiere (ce cream maker)!
Right off Rittenhouse Square, you can find those classic gelato flavors you would see in in Italy, from Pistaccio to Bacio (chocolate and hazelnut), and of course, Espresso. But Stefano wouldn’t be the maestro he is if he didn’t blend up a few flavors of his own. His signature flavor Valentino is a blend of fresh strawberries and milk and dark chocolates) and this award winning Desire combines Amarena cherries all the way from Modena, Italy which are added to Fiore di latte gelato made with local Lancaster milk!
They also sell coffee, olive oil, and many other imported Italian products, as well as a wonderful restaurant which changes its menu food every week to highlight a different Italian region!
- Gran Caffe L’Aquila, 1716 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
If you are not a native Philadelphian you might be confused by the name of this fabulous ice cream parlor. A jawn is anything you want it to be and after tasting Milk Jawn, you’ll want it to be ice cream. They might have only opened their shop just a few years ago, but owners Amy Wilson, Ryan Miller, and Cathryn Sanderson have been making ice cream for ages.
Not surprisingly, they make Philly-style (egg-free) ice cream in small batches with incredible flavors such as Earl Grey ice cream with honeycomb candy, lemon curd with blueberry basil swirl, peanut butter and jelly, and ones based on the famed Girl Scout Cookies favs – thin mint and peanut butter sandwich cookies)! Most flavors come vegan as well.
If you can’t get to their shop in South Philly, then don’t miss this at different farmers markets around the city.
- Milk Jawn, 1439 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19147
You’ve never had soft-serve ice cream like the soft-serve at Scoop Deville. In 1989, they more than disrupted that market and now are Philly legends. Not only do they have eclectic, self serve flavors, such as PB Cookie Crunch and Flintstones, but you can choose hundreds of mix-ins and create your own signature style.
They also have vegan blends, hard ice cream, and incredible sundaes.I love the Philly-themesd Penn’s Landing Blend which is Peppermint ice cream blended with scooter crunch and brownie bits and then all topped up with hot fudge. The Boathouse Row Blend with Pistachio ice cream blended with nutella and topped with honey is another favorites.
- Scoop DeVille, The Bourse, South Street, and Midtown Village on Walnut St.
D’Emilio’s Old World Ice Treats
Although this is a list of the best ice cream in Philadelphia, we would be remiss if we left out Philadelphia’s classic frozen treat, water ice, the Philly variation of sorbet. At D’Emilio’s Old World Ice Treats in South Philly, they’ve take water ice, refashioned it as Sorbetto and turned it up a notch! They are happy to do the traditional lemon or chocolate, but it’s their combinations that just zing: blueberry pomegranate; pineapple orange and guava, even birch beer!
They then combine ice cream with their sorbetti and turn them into amazing sundaes These are some special sundaes that because they use donuts from neighboring Federal Donuts for their Cinnamon Sugar Ice Cream and Isgro’s famed cannoli shells for their Hot Cannoli Sundaes. You just can’t find these anywhere else!
- D’Emilio’s Old World Ice Treats, 1928 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
If there is one email list that you need to get on, it’s 1-900-ICE CREAM! Every week, they drop the flavors of their next batch and you run to their shop to get it. You can only find it on their mailing list or their website until it sells out.
They make the ice cream in Kensington and sell it in Rittenhouse square and out in the burbs. Sign up, sign up, sign up!
- 1-900-Ice-Cream, 229 S. 20th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
If you can’t head to Mexico for ice cream, then La Guerrerense is your place. With over 60 flavors in house, you will be coming back more than once. The name, La Guerrerense, is a nod to the owner, Gabriel Rojas home state of Guerrero. Speaking of Guerrero, don’t miss sampling the Cheese flavored ice cream, inspired by the cheese production on ranches in Guerrero. There are plenty of classic flavors as well, but you would be silly not to try one of the different flavors, such as Piña Colada or Tamarind.
- La Guerrerense, 1143 S. 9th St, Philadelphia, PA, 19147
Weckerly’s Ice Cream
If an ice cream sandwich is your thing, then head straight to Weckerly’s Ice Cream. A truly local favorite, where all products are made within West Philly or Fishtown. Pastry Chef, Jen Weckerle is dedicated to seeking out local farmers and getting natural ingredients and creating seasonal flavors with their gorgeous products.
Not only are they making ice cream, but they are also making their own cookies – everyone wins!
- Weckerly’s Ice Cream, 9 W Girard Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19123
Home of the folded bubble waffle, Arctic Scoop is another reason to head to South Philly for ice cream They have flavors that are gorgeous to look at as well as to eat like neon-green Pandan and and pink Lychee Rose.
All wrapped up inside a bubble cone and it looks to good to eat. Eat the best pizza in Philly next door at Marra’s and then head to Arctic Scoop for dessert, or you can find them in Shops at Liberty Place in Rittenhouse Square.
- Arctic Scoop, 1812 E Passyunk Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19148
Ice Cream Shops You can Find All Over the Country
If you like soft-serve and bubble-tea, then Surreal Creamery is for you. You can get one of their “floateas” like Thai Milk Bubble Tea & Vietnamese Iced Coffee Ice Cream or Matcha Bubble Tea & Taro Ice Cream, If you are more a traditional ice crema lover, you won’t be disappointed by their towering sundaes served in mason jars. You can make your own or have the Nom Nom Cookie – Monster Cookie Ice Cream, Chocolate Crunch, Chocolate Syrup, Cookie Crisp, Marshmallows, and Oreos!
- Surreal Creamery, 3818 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Van Leeuwen is another out-of-towner set to take on the Philly with its delicious ice cream. Prices are not cheap, but the ice cream wouldn’t be taking over the world if it wasn’t great! The Black Cherry Chip does it for me!
- Van Leeuwen, 115 S 18th St, Philadelphia, PA 19103, United States and 119 S 13th St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
Although Jeni’s in not originally from Philly, we can’t hold them against her when she has Brandied Banana Brûlée on the menu. Ohio, where she opened first, us just one little state away, so practically one of the neighborhood. One taste and you don’t care.
- Jeni’s, 1901 Chestnut St, Philadelphia, PA 19103 and other locations.
Haagen-Daz and Baskin Robbins can be found in town as well!
A bit out of town, but worth the drive!
A stalwart of the neighborhood since the 1950’s, C & C Creamery wouldn’t be the same without seeing ice cream lovers emerge without cones higher than an elephant’s eye! Serving both soft-serve and hard ice cream, with toppings galore!
They also have water ice and all different kinds of cones – my favorite being a pretzel cone. Do not leave Roxborough without trying something.
- C&C Creamery, 5461 Ridge Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19128, United States
Zsa’s Ice Cream
If you are sick of eating that same old ice cream cone then pack a suitcase and head straight to Zsa’s. They work with a Brooklyn company, The Konery, to create signature cones such as Salted Blue Corn, Pink Vanilla, and Birthday Cake. Their ice cream sandwiches are the stuff of dreams as well. Think Chewy Gingersnaps + Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream or – Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies + Sweet Cream Vanilla Bean Ice Creamy.
- Zsa’s Ice Cream, 6616 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19119
The cherry on top!
I’m a Philly girl, so just the mention of John’s Water Ice makes me long for home. I scooped ice cream in Independence Hall as a kid and I think that’s where my love for ice cream was solidified! It’s was good then and now it’s great!