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You could call Philadelphia one big campus, with 27 degree-granting institutions within city limits and 50,000 annual college graduates. The oldest and most prestigious university is Penn. This private, coeducational Ivy League institution was founded by Benjamin Franklin and others in 1740. It boasts America's first medical (1765), law (1790), and business (1881) schools. Penn's liberal arts curriculum, dating from 1756, was the first to combine classical and practical subjects. The university has been revitalized in the last 30 years, thanks to extremely successful leadership, alumni, and fundraising drives. The West Philadelphia neighborhood where the core campus has been based since the 1870s has experienced a revitalization, too, thanks to former president Judith Rodin, and current president Amy Gutmann. Nowadays, Penn is a fun place for an afternoon of shopping or a night out. Sansom Common, with Urban Outfitters, Douglas Cosmetics, and Pod restaurant, is across the street from campus. There are also the wonderful Inn at Penn and the massive Barnes & Noble-run university bookstore.

The core campus features serene Gothic-style buildings and specimen trees in a spacious quadrangle. Visitors can hang out comfortably on the lawns and benches. More-modern buildings are results of the 20th-century expansion of the university to accommodate 22,000 students enrolled in four undergraduate and 12 graduate schools, in 100 academic departments. Sights of most interest to visitors include the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, and the always intriguing Institute of Contemporary Art, with its changing exhibits.