A creative's guide to Pittsburgh: where to eat, sleep and explore
Located at the confluence of three sparking rivers and banked on all sides by lush green hills, the up-and-coming city of Pittsburgh has earned its reputation as one of America’s most livable cities.
A place once known for its industrial roots in steel, iron and glass, Pittsburgh’s economy now thrives on technology and has become an essential place to visit if you love arts and culture. It's where Andy Warhol was born. It has a burgeoning food scene. And a wealth of attractions and museums along with a long tradition of jazz, blues and bluegrass music. Here's our creative guide to Pittsburgh.
Where to stay
Since its opening in 1916, the Omni William Penn Hotel has played a starring role in the city of Pittsburgh and it's definitely one to go for if you prefer something classy as well as central. Rates from £95 / $127 per night.
The recently opened boutique Distrikt Hotel is a little more contemporary, located at the former Salvation Army headquarters in Downtown. The former gymnasium downstairs has been converted into a restaurant or, The Whale, a seafood chop house gives you an exquisite cultural experience. Even better, each guest gets complimentary bicycle hire, offering a free exploration of the city and cycle trails. Rates from £72 / $99 per night.
The Kimpton Hotel Monaco is an elegant hotel, also based Downtown, with beautifully decorated rooms and a rooftop bar offering amazing views of the city. In-room spa treatments are also available for a relaxing evening in. Rates start from £108 / $153 per night.
The Fairmont Pittsburgh is a little pricier at £165 / $219 per night. But there's a reason why. Its 185 elegant guest rooms and suites offer floor-to-ceiling views and lavish amenities. Or for another luxurious option, try the Renaissance Hotel in the heart of the Cultural District. With a coveted riverfront location, it is within walking distance of PNC Park, the Andy Warhol Museum and the city’s celebrated performing arts theatres. From £125 / $166 per night.
Finally, check out the Hotel Indigo Pittsburgh East Liberty – a beautiful boutique hotel nestled in Pittsburgh's hip East End neighbourhood. Each of its spacious guest rooms features plush bedding and spa-inspired showers. Located in the lobby is Wallace's Whiskey Room + Kitchen serving breakfast, lunch and dinner along with an impressive selection of local and prestigious libations. Enjoy those libations indoors or take full advantage of the comfy outdoor seating area. Don’t forget Hotel Indigo’s complimentary local shuttle is available to all guests and will travel within a three-mile radius of the hotel. The hotel is pet-friendly as well. Rates from £72 / $99 per night.
Art and cultural hotspots to explore
Discover the quirky side of art in Pittsburgh at the exuberantly colourful landmark, Randyland. This outdoor art studio, located in Central Northside, was created by artist Randy Gilson and also acts as his home. Nearby properties have also become local treasures and the murals display vivid colours set on upbeat wall paintings and brightly coloured objects that have become a psychedelic dream for visitors to enjoy.
Arguably America’s most prolific modern artist, Andy Warhol, was born in Pittsburgh in 1928, this visionary would have celebrated his 90th birthday last August. His work is celebrated in his home city at the Andy Warhol Museum. This is the most comprehensive museum dedicated to a single artist in the USA – a vast space of seven floors and 17 galleries and home to a permanent collection that contains over 900 paintings, 4,000 photographs and more than 4,000 film and video exhibits. As well as containing Andy Warhol’s work, the museum also rotates exhibits by artists who push the boundaries of art, just like Warhol did.
Wrapped with rivers and intertwined with trails, parks and pathways, Pittsburgh is full of outdoor adventure. You can explore the city by bike with Golden Triangle Bike Rentals from $8 per hour along the city’s riverfront trails, taking in famous landmarks and public art and over one of the 446 bridges that join the city together. For more adventure, you can explore the Great Allegheny Passage – disused railroads developed into trails to commemorate the historic routes of Pittsburgh’s old booming industrial past – stretching 150 miles from Pittsburgh’s iconic Point State Park located at the confluence of the city’s three rivers.
Take a short trip out of Pittsburgh to the Fallingwater House, the only house of renowned American architect Frank Lloyd Wright still standing in its original setting, with original furnishings and artwork intact. Fallingwater was designed in 1935, originally as a private residence and weekend home and has now become one of Wright’s most widely acclaimed works and best displays his philosophy of organic architecture, the harmonious union of art and nature. The house rises above the waterfall on which it was built. A variety of guided group house tours are offered, including a sunset tour.
Finally, enjoy a historic tale as you explore the local neighbourhoods of Pittsburgh on foot, stopping to sample cuisine from some of Pittsburgh’s best small local businesses and eateries along the way. Public and private tours are available throughout many Pittsburgh districts providing visitors with an enriching food tasting adventure. Tickets available for $43.
Where to eat and drink
No visitor to Pittsburgh should leave without enjoying the well-known Primanti sandwich from Primanti Brothers, open 24 hours, 7 days a week. For $7, the much-loved sandwich is made fresh on site from daily sourced ingredients including coleslaw, tomatoes, French fries, meat and melting cheese layered between two slices of freshly baked Italian bread. The original restaurant can be found in the square-mile shopping district known as The Strip. There are now a total of nine Primanti Brother’s restaurants in Pittsburgh.
The Smallman Galley launched in 2015 as a new restaurant concept providing a food hall for 200 guests, and space for four undiscovered chefs to showcase their capabilities and bring their concepts to market at low-risk and low-cost. Last December saw the launch of its second project, Federal Galley, an indoor/outdoor space with a bustling beer garden highlighting 30+ local breweries as well as four unique restaurants, offering affordable dining, from the culturally-rich flavours of Mexico to Detroit-style pizza.
Pittsburgh’s premier seafood restaurant, Monterey Bay Fish Grotto, boasts stunning 360 views of the city’s legendary skyline, high atop Mt. Washington. The menu features flown-in-daily Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Certified Sustainable seafood paired with seasonal local ingredients, prepared expertly with a focus on fresh flavours.
Even if you’re not a whiskey drinker, it’s impossible not to feel awed by Butcher and the Rye’s hulking eight-shelf bar with 600 different types of whiskey taking up all the space. That dedication to maintaining a museum-quality bar is emblematic of the restaurant’s careful attention to detail in its menu as well. Meats are the obvious fan favourite here, but the mac n' cheese deserves its own shout out – the blend of taleggio, fontina, goat cheese, cheddar, and Parmesan is the city’s best.
Five things you didn't know about Pittsburgh
1. The largest collection of bicycles in the world
The Bicycle Heaven Museum was established in 2011 and is the largest bicycle museum and shop in the world showcasing over 4,000 bicycles under one roof. The collection includes the first fibreglass bike ever made and is also home to many bikes from films such as A Beautiful Mind, Father’s and Daughters and Fences. It even houses an extensive collection of memorabilia and theme bikes including The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Sports and Bobbleheads and many other rare items for you to enjoy.
2. The largest Robot Hall of Fame
Located at the Carnegie Science Center’s roboworld section sits the world’s largest permanent exhibition of robotics at the Robot Hall of Fame. The exhibition recognises excellence in robotics technology worldwide and honours the fictional and real robots that have inspired and made breakthrough accomplishments in robotics. The hall is also home to replicas of some of the most popular robots such as the Iron Giant, HAL 9000 and C-3PO, R2-D2’s sidekick.
3. Movie sets to popular films
Otherwise named “Hollywood of the East”, Pittsburgh is famous for being the filming destination for many high-grossing films. Visit the Carnegie Mellon University or watch a game at Heinz Field from The Dark Knight Rises film set, step foot in the Oakland neighbourhood in Downtown for scenes from Academy Award nominee Fences, ride at the Kennywood Amusement Park as seen in Adventureland or view panoramic views of the city and rivers from the West End Overlook featured in The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
4. The world’s largest Big Mac
One of the world’s most popular burgers, the Big Mac, was created in Pittsburgh over 50 years ago by Jim Delligatti. The Big Mac Restaurant just outside of Pittsburgh in North Huntingdon, features the world’s largest Big Mac measuring 14 feet tall and 12 feet wide.
5. The oldest funicular railway in the United States
The Monongahela Incline, built in 1870, is the oldest continuously operating funicular railway in the United States. Originally created for Pittsburgh city workers to navigate up and down Mt. Washington when new houses were built there, the funicular is now used for tourists and residents, 365 days a year offering spectacular views of the city and the three rivers that join right by the state park.
How to get there
Flights to Pittsburgh International Airport from London Gatwick via Reykjavik currently operate with WOW Air from just £135.00 one way. Find out more at www.wowair.com.
Our special thanks to Visit Pittsburgh who gave us loads of inspiration and ideas, and helped put this guide together.