The appealing ten-block district known as the Golden Triangle, at the heart of downtown Pittsburgh, stands at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio rivers; an area once bitterly fought over as the gateway to the West. The French built Fort Duquesne on the site in 1754, only for it to be destroyed four years later by the British, who replaced it with Fort Pitt. Industry began with the development of iron foundries in the early 1800s, and by the time of the Civil War, Pittsburgh was producing half of the iron and one third of the glass in the US. Soon after, the city became the world's leading producer of steel, thanks to the vigorous expansion programs of Andrew Carnegie, who by 1870 was the richest man in the world. Present-day Pittsburgh is dotted with his cultural bequests, along with those of other wealthy forefathers, including the Mellon bankers, the Frick coal merchants, and the Heinz food producers.
The city has gradually ditched its Victorian reputation for dirt and pollution since its transformation began in the 1960s and has now established itself as one of America's most attractive and most liveable cities, a destination to be reckoned with. The face-lift involved large-scale demolition of abandoned steel mills, which freed up much of the downtown waterfront to make way for sleek skyscapers and green spaces. That said, all-out sanitization has been kept in check by the student population, the small-town feel of the older areas to the north and south, and the effects of economic downturn. Each of Pittsburgh's close-knit neighbourhoods – the South Side and Mount Washington, across the Monongahela River from the Golden Triangle, the North Side across the Allegheny River, and the East End, especially the university area of Oakland – has an individual feel and attests in its own way to the city's history and its resurgence.
Pittsburgh has three rivers—the Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio-- and five main districts—North Side, West End, South Side, East End and Downtown, all of which are comprised of many other smaller districts. Everything else, such as the Pittsburgh International Airport , is in the surrounding Allegheny County.
It's a short trip from the airport to Downtown. Here stand the old, classic parts of Pittsburgh, including Fort Pitt Museum and Blockhouse , the original settlement built by the British settlers in the 18th Century. Here too are the modern economic structures of the Golden Triangle district that reflect Pittsburgh's dynamic economy. The smaller neighborhood of the Strip District provides a satisfying place to find dinner and nighttime entertainment. Restaurants and bars like Mullaney's Harp & Fiddle Irish Pub , and Primanti Bros. Restaurant give you plenty of ways to experience the eclectic community. The Strip offers a wide choice of coffee shops, cafes, and some living history in the wholesale produce markets.
The North Side is dominated by two baseball and football stadiums. It's an old working-class neighborhood that is noteworthy for the interesting architecture of the many 19th-century homes that line the streets, such as the Preserve Cottage . Stroll through and take a look at the intricate woodwork, decorative ceramic tile, slate roofs, and stained glass. For those searching for a day out, you can take in a game and then have something to eat at a place like Penn Brewery or the Church Brew Works .
This neighborhood is often overlooked for its busier counterparts, but West End holds its own treasures. It encompasses the Mount Washington district, and the best view from the 400-foot top of Mt. Washington. The whole city and the mighty, muddy Monongahela River are laid out below, like a postcard. Among its most interesting features are its inclined railways, or funiculars, that run up the Appalachian hills in and around the city, a remnant of the old mining industry. Still, there are many things to do in this district. The James Gallery and the Meter Room host modern art pieces in contemporary settings. A tasty meal can be had at Cain's .
This is the place to be on weekends, with plenty of restaurants and bars within walking distance of each other. Once the crowded home to thousands of mill workers, this has become a trendy place to live and also a great place to scope out art. Houlihan's and Pittsburgh Steak Company keep their customers satisfied with stellar cuisine. The Carson Street and Shadyside neighborhoods also have some galleries, like the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History .
This area is primarily known for its universities and ritzy neighborhoods. Both Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh call this district home, and the businesses have shaped themselves accordingly. The street-side cafes, restaurants, and bookstores all exude academia, all the while mingling with the high-end residential neighborhoods that surround them. Prantl's Bakery , La Feria and Caesar's Designs are all must-stops.
Pittsburgh may not be as cosmopolitan as New York City or Chicago, but the sheer volume and variety of its dining and drinking options easily rival that of either of those aforementioned metropolises. An eclectic immigrant population accounts for streets dotted with restaurants serving French, Italian, Greek, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Ukrainian, and even some of the country's most beloved takes on traditional American fare; both the Big Mac and Heinz Ketchup originated here in Pittsburgh.
First thing in the morning, Downtown is a bustling farmer's market. The same energy flows through the lunch hour, with hordes of locals and tourists alike devouring Rubens and matzo ball soup at the Smallman Street Deli . Once night falls, the neighborhood takes on a decidedly different vibe. Converted warehouses and factories house dance clubs like Rosebud Cafe and cutting-edge restaurants like Roland's . Start your evening off right with Happy Hour at Mullaney's Harp & Fiddle . For dinner, stop by Lidia's , the Pittsburgh outpost of a world-famous Italian-food empire. Once full, take in some rock 'n' roll (and a few more drinks) at the 31st Street Pub , a factory-workers' watering hole turned hipster hangout. When the time comes, slake your late-night munchies with one of Primanti Bros. ' infamous Primanti Sandwiches (meat, cheese, coleslaw and fries piled high and packed between two thick slices of Italian bread).
After the Strip, pay a visit to Market Square's 1902 Landmark Tavern offers you a taste of the Pittsburgh of old (as well as tastes of booze, seafood and grilled steaks). Caffe Amante 's got many similar offerings, albeit with a strong Italian foundation, though perhaps not as strong as that of F. Tambellini Ristorante . Christo, the chef at Christo's , made a name for himself as Jackie Kennedy Onassis' personal cook aboard her personal yacht. If, rather than dinner and history, you'd prefer dinner and jazz, head on into Dowe's on 9th for soul food and live bands.
It is clear at this point that beer enthusiasts have a lot to look forward to on a trip to Pittsburgh, but perhaps none as surreal as Lawrenceville's Church Brew Works , an enormous beer hall on the site of a former church. Just a ways down Liberty Avenue is Del's Bar & Ristorante DelPizzo , in Bloomfield. Here, you'll delight in freshly baked gourmet pizza pies, or perhaps a rich veal entree if you're feeling hungry.
This neighborhood is home to sports meccas PNC Park and Heinz Field , so the dining options tend toward the pub and tavern variety. Penn Brewery is a keeper, featuring authentic German-style lagers and hearty German cuisine, all served in a historic industrial building. The Triangle Bar is classic Americana, famous for its huge hoagies (with names like "Destroyer" and "Battleship") and popular with locals for keeping special hours in accordance with Steelers games.
This is the place to be on weekends. Carson Street is packed with a striking variety of restaurants and bars that attract everyone from yuppies to bikers. During soccer season, spend an afternoon at Piper's Pub , a place so authentically British that soccer here is called "football" and games are "matches." If you're up for it, sample a handful of the wide variety of scotches Piper's offers. Mario's/Blue Lou's Southside Saloon were two bars that went so well together, the proprietors knocked down the wall dividing them, opening up one massive complex for patrons to enjoy; stop in at Happy Hour and see this anomaly for yourself. When hunger strikes, the options never end. Pop into Donnie's for a simple, hearty sandwich. Or try Fat Head's Saloon for a sandwich that is anything but simple. Their menu of colossal sandwiches (such as "The Artery Clogger") goes well with their startlingly global beer selection. For something more formal, enjoy drinks, jazz and dinner at Paparrazi . Or visit Dish for a contemporary yet traditional take on Italian. If steak is your fancy, go no further than the Pittsburgh Steak Company , and if you prefer surf to turf and you like your surf raw, step into Sushi Two . Finally, finish your night with a game of pool and perhaps some late-night snacks at Shootz Cafe .
Among other things, Oakland is home to some of Pittsburgh's most beloved Indian food. Star of India is famous for its wildly popular lunch buffet. India Garden is sitting pretty as well, having been continually chosen by Pittsburghers as their absolute favorite. If spice sounds good, but you crave something with a little more of a South-of-the-border kick, venture into Mad Mex , an esteemed regional chain that serves up lovingly made monster-sized burritos (alongside your choice of a number of interesting microbrews). For a mellower meal than all of that, slip into Oakland's Spice Island Tea House , a tranquil spot specializing in pan-Asian cuisine. Vegetarians love it here!
Here, we depart from tavern-centric dining and get decidedly more eclectic. Sandwiches, salads, soups and more, all featuring fresh seasonal ingredients are the stars of the show at Cafe Zinho . Girasole also traffics in fresh and seasonal fare, this time with an Italian flair. While Italy may be on the Mediterranean, its cuisine is by no means the only dining option there. Casbah presents a broad range of specialties from countries and cultures all around the storied sea. While Casbah celebrates a whole panoply of cultures, La Feria sets its sights on just one. It is a restaurant/craft gallery dedicated to preserving and honoring Peruvian culture. Enjoy some South American soul food and then peruse the gift shop. Finally, sometimes you just crave sushi. When the mood hits you, hit Sushi Too .
Pittsburgh can be a good place to explore by taking a day to wander or bike around, but if you want something a bit more organized, there are things to do and see that you might not have considered on your own.
Colonial Trust Building
Take a walking tour through the bustling Downtown district, where you'll pass the City-County Building , the Allegheny County Courthouse , the Frick Building and the Colonial Trust Building , which now houses the impressive Carnegie Library. Grab a bite at Caffe Amante , where Italian is the specialty.
The Strip offers many restaurants, cafes and shops that attract visitors year-round. The nearby History Center , the largest museum in the state, is a must for art lovers. Grab a bite to eat at the Rosebud Cafe or the Primanti Bros. Restaurant for a giant, delicious sandwich. Take a stroll along the waterfront to the historic Point State Park . The Boardwalk features live music and several nightclubs if you'd like to do some dancing.
The main concourse of Union Station is one of the most stunning areas in the city. A space of important historical significance, it has now been restored and the enormous skylight repaired to recreate the original setting. The Benedum Center for the Performing Arts has also been recently restored, and offers various interesting cultural performances throughout the year. Dine at nearby Christo's Mediterranean Grill or 1902 Landmark Tavern . Tour the home stadium of the Steelers, the mammoth Heinz Field .
Carnegie Science Center
The Carnegie Science Center contains an aquarium, a planetarium, three live theaters and a movie theater, all to help visitors to learn about science. Have lunch at Donnie's . Walk through one of the six Allegheny County Parks , or go to the nearby Sandcastle Waterpark , which has over 10 different water slides. Observe the 600 species at the National Aviary .
Carnegie Museum of Natural History
Downtown offers plenty of small art galleries, as well as large museums. The Space Art Gallery and La Fond Galleries hold contemporary art pieces. Grab a bite at nearby Bossa Nova . The Wood Street Galleries feature unique video and multimedia exhibitions. For a larger selection of art, stop into the Carnegie Museum of Natural History , where you'll surely get lost for a few hours.
Consulting a tour operator is a definite way to make sure your trip is well-planned and comfortable.
Annual Friendship House Tour ( +1 412 441 6147/ http://www.friendship-pgh.org/ )
Go Go Tours ( +1 412 921 3900 )
Commemorative Tours Inc ( +1 412 681 3314 )
Azzurra Tours ( +1 412 341 4420 )
Abco Tours ( +1 412 531 4220 )
Earth Tours ( +1 412 371 0690 )
Coach USA ( +1 412 761 7000/ http://www.coachusa.com/lenzner/ )
Action Tours ( +1 412 833 6103 )
McCarter Coach & Tour ( +1 724 847 0530 )
Just Ducky Tours Inc ( +1 412 928 2489/ http://www.justduckytours.com/ )
Gateway Clipper Fleet ( +1 412 355 7980/ http://www.gatewayclipper.com/ )
Three Rivers Regatta ( +1 412 875 4841 )
Seven Seas Tours & Travel ( +1 412 459 0211 )
Dream Cruises & Tours ( +1 412 364 6790 )
Big League Tours ( +1 866 619 1748 / +1 317 534 2475/ http://www.bigleaguetours.com )
Molly's Trolleys ( +1 412 281 2085/ http://mollystrolleys.com )