A Guide to Pittsburgh

With an emerging local food scene, a coffee culture to rival the coastline, and a tremendous cultural wealth in the form of museums, historical sites, and diverse neighborhoods, Pittsburgh is a little gem that’s big on substance.

1197 W Carson St, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA
Some things are touristy for good reason. The Duquesne Incline can be a great way to familiarize yourself with Pittsburgh and its environs when you first arrive, offering an amazing river and cityscape view. A good option any time of year. Not far off is the Monongahela Incline—if you’re feeling like you want to get the most out of both, you can take one up Mt. Washington, walk along the top, and take the other down (at which point you’ll know you’ve covered all the bases!). Plus, riding a cable car up a steep hill is something that comes naturally to a San Franciscan—not that I’m biased or anything.
140 6th St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
Adventurous cocktail consumers should visit Olive Or Twist while in Pittsburgh. Come before the evening rush, secure a seat upstairs in their comfortable lounge and get ready to do some reading. Their cocktail menu is extensive with multiple pages of mixed drinks and martinis that I’ve never even heard of before. It’s tempting to try a few, especially on nights when they have live music as well.
1150 Smallman St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
Eleven has a hip, upscale vibe, and has a series of menus that place an emphasis on fresh ingredients, with a number of seafood dishes taking center stage. If you’re ordering from the tavern menu, give the Blue Bay mussels a try. It’s also open for lunch and Sunday brunch, and, if you’re feeling flush, the Chef’s tasting menu can be a good way to go as well—suffice it to say, you’re not short of options.
4400 Forbes Avenue
Whether you’re a fan of awe-inspiring dinosaur skeletons & dioramas, or 19th century European painting, the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh have you more than covered. The Carnegie Museum of Natural History is a great place to learn about the history and development of life and human cultures, while the Carnegie Museum of Art offers a broad spectrum of collections, including contemporary art, photography, decorative arts and design, and the Heinz Architectural Center. The best part is, admission to one buys you admission to both, so you can indulge your interests in the Jurassic period and Impressionism in one go.
2100 Smallman Street
At the heart of the Strip District’s local and fresh food movement is the Pittsburgh Public Market, which is home to a number of cafes, eateries & gourmet food shops. A great place to browse, shop, grab a cup of coffee, or pick out a bottle of wine.
3 Rivers Heritage Trail System
Whether you like to run, stroll or cycle, take advantage of the The Three Rivers Heritage Trail while in Pittsburgh. Stretching for 24 miles, the pedestrian path follows the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers across some beautiful space. Run by the Friends of the Riverfront, they have a dedicated following to build trails, parks and public spaces along the water that engage the community with their waterways. As a visitor it’s so nice to be able to take advantage of the gorgeous spaces they’ve created right outside the hotel!
60 21st St, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
Pamela’s is a Pittsburgh establishment through and through, and has been serving up classic breakfast fare done well since the 1980s. If you’re a hotcake lover, you owe it to yourself to check this place out—and make sure you order yourself a side of their famous potatoes. Get your name on the list early to avoid a long wait!
1 Wild Place
The Pittsburgh Zoo is impressively comprehensive, providing a look at a vast array of diverse creatures, as well as habitats. The exhibits range from Asian forest to African savannah, with the aquarium covering fresh and salt water species from the Amazon to the Antarctic. There’s also a petting zoo in the ‘Kids Kingdom,’ which is sure to be a hit with the little ones.
1734 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
Parma is a Pittsburgh institution that has a strong cultural connection to its origins. Founded by Alessio Spinabelli of Parma, Italy, who arrived in the Strip District in 1949 and set up shop shortly thereafter, this place is a go-to for dry-cured meats (salami, coppa secca, prosciutto, etc.) that can make for a great picnic or even a quick bite on the spot.
33 Terminal Way #537a, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA
During the warmer months, kayaking the Allegheny River with Kayak Pittsburgh can be a great way to introduce yourself to the city, and get a sense for the lay of the land—not to mention take in some fantastic skyline views! They’ve recently added stand-up paddle boarding to their repertoire, and also offer bike rentals—one of the best ways to discover the Three Rivers Heritage Trail along water’s edge.
649 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
Established in 2011, this gastropub goes well beyond the staples that the name suggests. The menu is based on classics done right, with a number of modern twists, like their Wagyu flat iron steak, served with wasabi mashed potatoes, miso butter and shiitake mushrooms—taking the standard and elevating it to a new level. Also, it’s a pub (and a good one), so it features a full bar that includes an extensive beer & wine list.
1601 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222, USA
Gaucho is a BYOB gem in the Strip District, serving up steak, pulled chicken, and chorizo sandwiches from a wood fire grill in a friendly atmosphere. It’s a hole in the wall of a restaurant, without much seating—there’s a wrap-around counter that you can stand at while you eat in a pinch, as well as a small patio. A welcome addition to Pittsburgh’s ethnically and culinarily diverse Strip, and well worth a visit.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks