Over the past 50 years, evolving from an industrial epicenter to a progressive town known for its culture and educational institutions. Its location at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers (which unite to form the Ohio River) made it an important colonial trade post, and the 19th century saw it expand into one of the United States’ most important industrial hubs, home to U.S. Steel and dozens of major producers of glass, iron, and machinery. Like many cities, the latter half of the 20th century saw large-scale industry and manufacturing moving overseas; unlike many cities, this transition was managed smoothly and efficiently, leaning on its solid base of world-class cultural institutions and highly ranked universities to remake itself as a cultural hub friendly to technology and the arts.
With its factories converted to lofts and its manufacturing plants remade into open-plan tech offices, makes this a vibrant, affordable alternative to other large East Coast cities. Its dining is sophisticated, its sports teams beloved (go Steelers!), and its universities — Carnegie Mellon, Pitt, and others — are some of the best in the nation. And it’s not just yinzers (that’s Pittsburgh-ese for “Pittsburgh-native”) who know it: Over the past few years, The Economist has repeatedly rated this one of the most livable cities in the United States.
When to Search
Like other towns with large universities, many rentals — especially near Pitt and Carnegie Mellon — adhere to academic schedules. In areas like Oakland or Shadyside, it’s a good idea to begin looking for an August rental in the spring. This is a large city, though, and much of it is residential. The farther from the center you look, the more open the market gets.
Life in Pittsburgh
With over 446 bridges and three rivers — the Monongahela, Allegheny, and the Ohio — city planning has been in overdrive since its founding. Today, the Port Authority of Allegheny County services over 100,000 passengers a day via subway, light rail, bus, and… funicular? That’s right, you can use your Port Authority Pass on the Monongahela Incline railcar, which climbs Mt. Washington and ends with one of the best views of the skyline.
Where to play
With many neighborhoods, it’s not hard to find one to suit your particular style. Like student bars and late-night food? Oakland and Shadyside might be for you. Want to imagine you’re in Williamsburg circa 2005? Check out Central Lawrenceville. And if you want to put on a suit and see it reinvent itself — head downtown, where a new generation of developers is converting old corporate headquarters into boutique hotels and shops, all within walking distance of that great paragon of urban development: Point State Park.
It's come a long way since its days as one of the most polluted, industrial landscapes in the U.S. As industry moved elsewhere, it's steadfastly dedicated itself to green living, accentuating the natural beauty in which it is situated. Case in point: the elaborate indoor and outdoor exhibits at the Phipps Conservatory, an innovative botanical garden that was founded in 1893 and is now one of the greenest facilities in the world, certified LEED Platinum. The Victorian steel-and-glass greenhouse was the largest in the world when it was built, and features thousands of rare and exotic plants, as well as dozens of acres of formal gardens in a variety of styles.
But if you want to see what made this the industrial capital of the U.S., you can still do so, without ruining your lungs. The River of Steel National Heritage Area offers tours of the Homestead Steel Works site, which once produced almost half of the nation’s steel. Former workers lead the tour and offer their unique perspectives on Steel City.
For a more zoomed-out perspective, head over to the Duquesne Incline, an inclined plane railroad that scales Mt. Washington in iconic, red-roofed funicular cars. Waiting at the top is the most-photographed view of the river confluence.
Restaurants here perfectly reflect the city’s history as a magnet for immigrant blue-collar workers (many of them Irish, Polish, German, and Eastern European) and its current cultural diversity. Hungry diners have the option of contemporary American eats, North African cuisine, kielbasa and kolsch — even french fries on a sandwich — at the iconic joint Primanti Brothers. For an amazing hangover cure, lounge on The Porch at Schenley for a lovely view of the Plaza and a delicious breakfast sandwich. For lunch or dinner, you can snatch up some delectable wings for only a few cents a piece at Smokin’ Joe's Saloon’s afternoon happy hour (with 60 beers on tap and over 350 in bottles, you’ll easily find something to drink as well). For a more innovative menu, take a look at Everyday Noodles, an Asian restaurant that caters to both the adventurous (jellyfish salad, anyone?) and the tame. Chengdu Gourmet offers excellent Sichuan specialities that are sure to scorch the palate (but not the wallet).
If you're looking to impress, head downtown to Butcher and the Rye, which specializes in fine meats and small-batch bourbon. Or check out the cities most acclaimed fine dining at Cure, a locally sourced Mediterranean bistro run by James Beard award-winning chef Justin Severino.
Though locals joke about being a "shot and beer" city, visitors don’t have to limit themselves to an Imp n’ Arn (that’s an Iron City beer with a shot of Imperial Whiskey, for all yins not from here). You can get your hands on great whiskey and amari at Bar Marco, or a pre-prohibition classic at Acacia Speakeasy, another unique 1920s-style bar. For an international experience, head on over to Hofbrauhaus for some Bavarian food with a side of German beer, which is extra cheap on college night. Students looking for the perfect dives might like Hemingway's Café, which offers insanely cheap pitchers, shots, and a wide variety of beers. It's also located right across the street from some of the best late-night bites in town, making it the perfect place to have a few drinks and make some nutritionally questionable choices.
With a long history of arts-centric philanthropy, and most of it's iconic cultural institutions have a steel baron’s name attached to them. Theater and music geeks can raid the Cultural District and enjoy performances at the Ballet Theatre, Opera, Public Theater, Symphony Orchestra, or one of the many private theaters in the area. Lovers of the visual arts and architecture can enjoy the Carnegie Museum of Art, Andy Warhol Museum (the famous pop artist was a native of the Iron City), the Frick Art and Historical Center, as well as the Nationality Rooms at Pitt. History buffs can explore the Senator John Heinz History Center, a huge museum that offers a large library and exhibitions recounting classic battles in Pennsylvania’s history.
Late spring and early summer is prime festival season in here. Music lovers have much to look forward to during the summer months between the two-day JazzLive International Festival and the early summer WYEP Summer music festival, which features local and national bands at Schenley Plaza. Enjoy 17 days of art, free music performances, and mouth-watering food during the 17-day Three Rivers Art Festival. This huge fest is over 50 years old and attracts artists from all over the country.
Looking for some wintertime fun? Have a beer or two (or ten) at the Winter Beerfest or enjoy seeing the city illuminated in Christmas lights during the Hartwood Celebration of Lights.
With mall brands like American Eagle, rue 21, and Dick’s Sporting Goods calling this home, it should come as no surprise that the area boasts quite a few large shopping centers. The Mall at Robinson is a local favorite because of its huge store selection. The nearby Ikea draws shoppers from as far as Cleveland, and SouthSide Works offers a plethora of designer labels and upscale boutiques. If you're looking for some shopping combined with some great eats, look no further than the Ross Park Mall, which offers a lush selection in their food court.
Small boutique shopping is abound in almost every neighborhood, but none more than Shadyside. This lovely neighborhood offers a number of local businesses and galleries along beautiful tree-lined streets, creating a charming open-air atmosphere that’s perfect for spring or summer shopping.
Nicknamed the "City of Champions," this is the spiritual home of The Terrible Towel, that bright yellow rag of Steelers fandom and fervor. The city takes pride in its sports teams’ reputations for blue-collar, rough play. It's not uncommon for the football game results to be the lead news story for the day, or for Terry Bradshaw bobbleheads to be treated like holy relics.
Although the Steelers usually garner the most love, yinzers (that’s what natives call themselves) are big fans of hockey, and the Penguins often sell out games. The Pirates, despite their recent struggles, still attract diehard fans to the beautiful PNC Park, one of the finest baseball stadiums in the country. If you want a quick way to feel part of the community, attending a sporting event is a good way to go.
While it might be known as an old industrial city, but you wouldn't know by looking at the area's beautiful parks. Schenley Park is wedged between University of Pitt and Carnegie Mellon, offering 465 acres of gorgeous hiking trails, recreational fields, and green space. Frick Park is even bigger, and in addition to basketball and tennis courts, playgrounds, and an off-leash dog walking area, it is home to the only public lawn bowling field in Pennsylvania. If you'd like to gaze at the stars, head over to the Allegheny Observatory, which sits on a hill in Riverview Park, above hiking trails, horse stables, swimming pools, and 287 acres of green space.