Where to Stay in Pittsburgh

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Updated: February 2, 2022

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Where to Stay in Pittsburgh

With a spate of cultural attractions, a burgeoning culinary scene, and a surprisingly scenic location at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny, and Ohio rivers, the “Steel City” is Pennsylvania’s less visited gem. Located in the Allegheny Mountains in the southwest of the state, with a metro population of around 2.4 million, Pittsburgh boomed in the 19th century as the home of Carnegie Steel, but its grimy industrial past is long gone. Today it’s a modern, attractive, and relatively wealthy city, defined by its distinct neighborhoods – some 90 in all – as well as the shiny skyscrapers downtown.

Also known as the “Golden Triangle”, Downtown is the traditional heart of the city and the home to most of the hotels, while the adjacent Strip District is a major nightlife and restaurant hub. The South Side includes breezy Mount Washington, best known for its historic incline tramways and sensational views back over the valley. The North Side is home to the Andy Warhol Museum and a cluster of art galleries, while the East End is anchored by Oakland, the city’s university district. It encompasses several important museums and the stunning Cathedral of Learning, while the sprawling neighborhoods further east harbor some of the city’s best shops, bars, and restaurants.

Pittsburgh International Airport lies 15 miles west of Downtown. Local bus #28X is a bargain ($2.75) and runs every 30 minutes between the airport and the city (around 40-minute journey time).
• Though it’s fairly straightforward driving into central Pittsburgh (thanks to I-376 and I-279), a car is not really needed once here, especially Downtown, where the one-way system and the “Pittsburgh Left” can be confusing. This latter local custom refers to a driver that is going straight-on slowing down or even stopping at an intersection to allow a left-turning driver to go ahead of him (even though the driver is not legally obliged to).
PAT runs an efficient bus service all over the city (single ride $2.75), while the small “T” subway system connects North Side and Downtown with the South Hills (also $2.75, but free from First Avenue Station to Allegheny Station).

Best Places to Stay in Pittsburgh

Best Areas in Pittsburgh for…

  • Best Neighborhood to Stay for First Timers/Sightseeing: Downtown
    Downtown Pittsburgh wins this category primarily because it is at the heart of the local transport system and boasts by far the biggest choice of accommodations. Note that even though there are restaurants and bars here (around Market Square and the Cultural District), there’s not much life in downtown itself after dark. The bars and restaurants of the Strip District are not far away, though. You’ll also be relatively close to one of the city’s chief joys, its riverside trails and parks, notably Point State Park at the tip of the “Golden Triangle”.
  • Most Romantic Neighborhood: Mount Washington
    This is a tough one, but it’s hard to beat the sensational views from Mount Washington and Grandview Avenue, especially at dusk. The city looks gorgeous from the viewpoints along the avenue, where there are also plenty of romantic spots for drinks or dinner (Altius or the Monterey Bay Fish Grotto are the best options for fine dining). Stroll further up to shady Emerald View Park for even more spectacular views and wooded trails.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Nightlife: South Side Flats, Strip District, and Lawrenceville
    South Side Flats is Pittsburgh’s nightlife hotspot with craft breweries, wine bars, karaoke bars, clubs, and live venues lining the main drag, East Carson Street (just under 2 miles east from Downtown). Speakeasy-themed Acacia is a favorite here, along with local hangouts Jack’s Bar, Carmella’s Plates & Pints, and the Vault Taproom. Just north of Downtown, the Strip District features dancing at Cavo Night Club, craft beers at Cinderlands Warehouse and Insurrection AleWorks, and Irish fare at Mullaney’s Harp & Fiddle.

    With more time it’s worth checking out hip Lawrenceville, with the main drag Butler Street prime territory for bars and venues such as Thunderbird Café & Music Hall, Belvedere’s Ultra-Dive, and nearby Cattivo.

    • Located on the North Shore, Rivers Casino offers all the usual entertainment, 2 bars, restaurants, and the bonus of being open 24 hours a day. If you fancy staying on-site, the Landing Hotel at Rivers Casino should be open by summer 2022.

  • Best Neighborhood for Food and Restaurants: Strip District
    One of the nation’s top destinations for foodies, Pittsburgh is home to plenty of award-winning chefs as well as local specialties such as Primanti Brothers sandwiches, Polish-style pierogis, Prantl’s burnt almond torte, Eat’n Park “Smiley Cookies”, and Beto’s Pizza. Hotspots are scattered all over the city, but the revitalized Strip District is always a good bet, crammed with Italian groceries, specialty stores, wholesalers, food carts, and restaurants. The Primanti Brothers opened here in 1933, and despite the hype, still knock out amazing sandwiches. Pamela’s Diner is justly famous for its breakfast and crepe-style hotcakes (cash only) – be prepared to wait. Jimmy & Nino’s is the place to sample take-out pepperoni rolls, a local favorite, while Peppi’s is home of the “#7” aka the “Roethlisburger” and Pittsburgh-style salad, topped with French fries instead of croutons. Get your pierogi and haluszki (Polish egg noodles) fix at S&D Polish Deli, tacos at Edgar’s, and gourmet coffee at La Prima Espresso.
  • Best Neighborhoods for Shopping: Downtown and South Side
    Pittsburgh’s walkable downtown features over 180 stores at last count, making it the best place to start any shopping trawl of the city. Near central Mellon Square are classics such as Brooks Brothers and Burlington, as well as local boutique Steel City Brand. There are also several fashion boutiques along Fifth Avenue leading up to the Fifth Avenue Place indoor mall.

    Station Square is a huge entertainment complex just across the Monongahela River on the South Side, with everything from Pittsburgh souvenirs to toys, fashion, jewelry, and wine. Further along in South Side Flats, East Carson Street is lined with cafes, restaurants, galleries, and cool indie shops: Buffalo Exchange, Figleaf Boutique, Indigo Owl Culture Shop, Pittsburgh Guitars, Slacker, and many more. At the eastern end of the strip, the SouthSide Works has transformed the former J&L Steel Works into a “city lifestyle center”, with entertainment venues, restaurants, and stores like Urban Outfitters. You’ll also find plenty of intriguing indie boutiques in Lawrenceville and East End neighborhoods like Shadyside and Squirrel Hill.

    • Shopping in Pittsburgh, there is no sales tax on clothing or shoes.
    • Look to the suburbs for the city’s major shopping malls: the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, Ross Park Mall, and Grove City Premium Outlets.

  • Best Neighborhood for Local Vibe: Lawrenceville
    On of the city’s most fashionable neighborhoods, Lawrenceville lies around 3 miles northeast from Downtown, on the right bank of the Allegheny River. Stroll the main drag, Butler Street, to check out the scene, made up of restaurants, bars, indie cinemas, nightclubs, vintage stores, and trendy gift shops. There’s no special target to aim for, though at the southern end of the strip, the Clemente Museum honors former Pittsburgh Pirates baseball star Roberto Clemente. At the northern end, historic Allegheny Cemetery serves as a who’s who memorial of early Pittsburgh.

    • The only recommended hotel in the area is TRYP Lawrenceville boutique hotel.

  • Unsafe Areas of Pittsburgh
    Central Pittsburgh is generally quite safe, though the usual precautions should be taken at night. North Side neighborhoods such as Northview Heights, California-Kirkbride, and Spring Hill City View, as well as East End’s East Hills, tend to post the highest crime rates, but tourists are highly unlikely to end up in any of these neighborhoods. The Strip District can be edgy late at night – stick to the main drag. Lawrenceville, Oakwood, and East End neighborhoods like Squirrel Hill and Shadyside tend to be the safest areas.

The 6 Best Neighborhoods in Pittsburgh for Tourists

1. Downtown

Downtown Pittsburgh, surrounded by rivers and lush green hillsides beyond, is aptly known as the “Golden Triangle.” It’s the traditional commercial center of the city, but has also has been experiencing a residential boom in recent years, boosted by the restaurants, 7 theaters, and entertainment venues in the burgeoning Cultural District. The early history of Pittsburgh is chronicled at the Fort Pitt Museum in Point State Park. This scenic swathe of green is where the 3 rivers meet at the iconic Point State Park Fountain (the annual Three Rivers Arts Festival, Three Rivers Regatta, and the Head of the Ohio rowing competition all take place here). Shops, bars, and restaurants ring central Market Square and nearby Mellon Square, while the attractive Allegheny Riverfront Park lines the riverfront on the north side of the triangle. The Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts is the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

2. South Side: Mount Washington & South Side Flats

Beginning just across the Monongahela River from Downtown, the South Side encompasses several inviting neighborhoods. Station Square, a shopping and entertainment hub on the site of the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Station, is one of the city’s most popular attractions. River cruises depart here in the summer, while the Grand Concourse occupies the old station’s main hall, its stained-glass vaulted ceilings and marble columns beautifully restored.

Take the Monongahela Incline or Duquesne Incline tramways up to the Mount Washington neighborhood, where Grandview Avenue is lined with stunning viewpoints and a “Restaurant Row” of fine dining establishments like Monterey Bay Fish Grotto. Branching off the southern end of the avenue, Shiloh Street is the neighborhood’s main drag, lined with local bakeries, ice cream shops, and cafés.

Further east along the Monongahela, the South Side Flats neighborhood is anchored by East Carson Street, an indie shopping hotspot by day and hopping nightlife hub in the evenings. The popular City Theatre Company is based here, while South Side Works is a burgeoning entertainment complex containing a movie theater, restaurants, and specialty shops.

3. Strip District

“The Strip” is a former industrial district along the Allegheny River, a narrow wedge (one-half mile) of land just northeast of Downtown. The main draw here is the phenomenal culinary scene, from old-school Italian grocers and produce stands to high-quality restaurants and coffee roasters. It’s also a major nightlife hub, home to everything from dive bars to nightclubs. In terms of sights, the Senator John Heinz History Center is the best place to get a sense of the city’s complex and eventful past.

4. North Shore & North Side

The North Shore lies just across the Allegheny River from downtown, a primarily modern district best known for its sports stadiums and museums. Stay here for easy access to Heinz Field, home of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, and PNC Park, home to baseball’s Pirates; the whole area gets very busy on game days. The Andy Warhol Museum is also here, dedicated to the iconic pop artist that grew up in Pittsburgh, while the Carnegie Science Center, National Aviary, and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will appeal to families. There’s more artsy attractions further up in the North Side, where Mattress Factory highlights cutting-edge contemporary art, and Randyland is a showcase for the colorful work of folk artist Randy Gilson.

5. Oakland

Part of Pittsburgh’s East End, Oakland is the city’s university district, containing at least a full day’s worth of sights and attractions. There’s also plenty of places to stay, making this an interesting alternative to Downtown, though the hotels primarily serve the universities: Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh (aka “Pitt”). The chief draw for visitors is the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, a 42-story gothic building where tours take in 30 “Nationality Classrooms” furnished with antiques, arts, and crafts donated by the city’s various ethnic groups. Nearby are 2 world-class museums: the Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History. Other attractions include the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum, which commemorates local veterans and the wars they fought in.

6. East End

The rest of Pittsburgh’s East End is a sprawling area of several distinct neighborhoods, each with their own flavor – some of the best restaurants and bars can be found here. Check out at least one or two neighborhoods to get a feel for how locals experience the city – staying in one of the hotels or B&Bs here isn’t very convenient for touring the rest of the city, but will provide a much more authentic and intimate Pittsburgh experience.

Point Breeze is chiefly known for the Frick Pittsburgh, a complex of historic mansions and art and transport museums commemorating Gilded Age tycoon Henry Clay Frick. Just over 2 miles north, along the Allegheny River, Highland Park features the fun Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, while the hip central neighborhoods of Squirrel Hill and Shadyside are best known for their restaurants, bars, and shops. Bloomfield is Pittsburgh’s “Little Italy”, a great place to eat as well as see live bands at night. North of the Strip District, Lawrenceville has become one of the most hip neighborhoods in the city, with Butler Street lined with indie shops, trendy boutiques, late-night coffee shops, restaurants, and craft breweries.

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