Scholar-Led Walking Tours Debut in Philadelphia

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
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May 21, 2009 / 0 comments


Context expands its network of scholars in the U.S. and begins offering walking seminars in Philadelphia.

Context Travel, the network of scholars who lead in-depth walking tours of major world cities, announced today its expansion to Philadelphia. Context will offer a series of half-day walking seminars led by historians, art historians, and architects of Philadelphia’s monuments and museums. Like a seminar class in a small college, walks are crafted around themes and limited to six people maximum.

“Our model of pairing scholars with intellectually curious travelers has worked well on this side of the Atlantic so far,” say co-founder Paul Bennett in reference to the group’s expansion to New York from Europe last year. “Philadelphia offers us a lot to work with: deep historical context, centrality to the founding of America, and a rich architectural and material fabric. In other words, there’s a lot of stuff here in terms of buildings, streets, and monuments to use in crafting narratives about the American experience.”

As in its other cities, Context will limit the group size on its Philadelphia walks to no more than six people. The “docents” who lead the walks are scholars who teach in local universities or work as curators in local museums and monuments.

The first offering of walks, which are available to the public immediately, will include a three-hour introduction to the colonial history of Philadelphia called “The Colonial City in Context.” This walk looks at the origins of Philadelphia in the Penn plan and the social and political evolution of the city as it grew to become one of the largest, most powerful cities in America during the 18th century. The “Franklin Seminar” is a three-hour companion walk that uses the figure of Benjamin Franklin to probe more deeply into the context of the events of the late 18th century and visits such sites as Christ Church, Franklin Square, and the American Philosophical Society.

With a strong base in art history through its programs in Rome, Paris, and London, Context has also designed two art history walks of Philadelphia for its first offering, including an in-depth exploration of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and a walking tour of American Art in Philadelphia, which includes the portrait gallery at the Second Bank and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

All walks last three hours. Spaces on group walks, which are scheduled regularly during the week, cost $65 per person; while private walks cost $300 for the entire group. Walks are capped at six people maximum.

More information about Context in Philadelphia can be gleaned at:

Founded by National Geographic writer Paul Bennett and designer Lani Bevacqua, Context is a network of scholars and experts in such fields as art history, archaeology, gastronomy, and architecture who organize and lead thematic walking seminars in nine cities: Rome, Paris, New York, London, Naples, Florence, Venice, Istanbul, and now Philadelphia. Travel + Leisure has named Context one of the top tour companies for its innovative approach to travel and the depth of its programs. To learn more about Context visit its website at: