Downtown Pittsburgh is the main business district and urban center of life in the city. Constrained by the Allegheny River on the north and the Monongahela River on the south, which join to form the Ohio River at what is known as the "Point", Downtown has been forced to grow upwards. Although Pittsburgh is in some ways a small town, its downtown contains some big city structures and is a bustling center; office workers stream in and out on the weekdays, packing buses, light rail trains, and the bridges during rush hours. In Downtown, visitors will find exceptional examples of architecture, a picturesque park where Pittsburgh's three rivers meet, numerous hotels, restaurants, theaters, and the home arena of the city's hockey team.
If you're arriving in Pittsburgh by bus or train you'll likely be getting off in Downtown anyway — the Greyhound Depot is located at 11th and Liberty, while Amtrak serves Union Station, just across the street from the Greyhound depot. For detailed info on arriving via those modes, see the Get in section on the Pittsburgh article.
Downtown Pittsburgh is readily accessible by a number of freeways and bridges. From the east, I-376 (The Parkway East) connects downtown to the eastern side of Pittsburgh and I-76 (the Pennsylvania Turnpike), with three exits into Downtown: Second Avenue (right lane exit), Grant Street (left lane exit), and Stanwix Street (left lane exit). I-376 is also the best option for coming in from the airport and western suburbs, coming across the Fort Pitt Bridge (take the middle lane to exit into Downtown). I-279 (Parkway North/West) is your best option for coming in from the north - either exit on I-579 (the Veterans Bridge) or continue across the Fort Duquesne Bridge and exit there. From the southeast, Liberty Ave (which enters the Liberty Tunnel and then becomes the Liberty Bridge) is a good option.
By public transit
Because most bus routes terminate downtown, it is usually easy to access from any direction. From the south or the stadiums to the north, Pittsburgh's light rail system ("The T") provides quick access, with four stops in the district: First Avenue, Steel Plaza, Wood Street, and Gateway Center. From the east, the MLK East Busway (bus rapid transit line) provides traffic-free service to a few East End communities. To the west, the West Busway operates on a separate right-of-way for most of its trip. There is also a South Busway, though it is less useful.
If you're flying into Pittsburgh, the Route 28X Airport Flyer will bring you directly downtown from Pittsburgh International Airport, via the West Busway.
Downtown Pittsburgh is optimal for walking as it is small (covering approximately 0.7 square miles) and very dense.
Taxis are more difficult to come by and typically accessed by request at one of the various hotels.
Buses are the norm downtown as well as the light rail/subway ("The T") which has three subway stops at Steel Plaza (Grant St. and Oliver Ave.), Wood Street (and Sixth Ave.), and Gateway Center (Liberty Ave. and Stanwix St.), as well as a surface station at First Ave (and B St.) Fares on buses and "The T" are free within downtown.
- Toonseum, 945 Liberty Ave (between 9th and 10th Sts), ☎ +1 412 232-0199. Th-Su 11AM-5PM, closed M-W. One of only a few museums in the nation dedicated solely to the art of cartooning, with exhibits of original work by renowned comic artists. $8 adults/teens, $4 children, under 6 free.
Anyone interested in American architecture will love downtown Pittsburgh; there are numerous prime examples of 19th-century and early 20th-century architecture scattered throughout the area, as well as many notable and interesting structures of more recent times.
- U.S. Steel Tower (Formerly known as the USX Tower), 600 Grant St (between 6th and 7th Aves). A 64 story office building which is the tallest in Pittsburgh, and briefly held the honor of being the tallest building in the world outside of New York City and Chicago. It is constructed of a special type of steel, "Corten" steel, developed by USS. It is not painted and is intended to rust to a tough, brown finish and then stop rusting. (One hopes.)
- One Mellon Center, 500 Grant St. A sleek 55 story building which holds the title of the city's second tallest building. It is situated directly across from the U.S. Steel Tower, separated by only a street and a small park, standing as if to challenge the older and larger lion that is the Steel Tower. One of its unique features is the building's eight-sided design.
- PPG Place, between Forbes Ave and Boulevard of the Allies, east of Stanwix St. A unique set of buildings developed by Pittsburgh Plate Glass as their headquarters. All the buildings are faced entirely with a glittering, sun inhibiting plate glass and sport ornate, yet modern, glass pinnacles like candles on a birthday cake. One PPG Place (the tall one) is one of the most recognizable buildings in the skyline and the city's third tallest. Among these buildings is an unusual park which, in the winter, is flooded with water and used for ice skating, like Rockefeller Center in Manhattan.
- Fifth Avenue Place (Highmark Place), between Penn and Liberty on Stanwix. The city's fourth tallest building, this building is easily recognizable due to it's pyramid-shaped top with its tall mast. A food court is available on the second floor.
- One Oxford Centre, 4th and Grant. A gleaming white set of buildings, the tallest of which is the city's fifth tallest. At night they are lit up rather nicely.
- Gulf Tower, 435 7th Ave. Completed in 1932, this building was the city's tallest (and for that matter, the state's tallest) until the U.S. Steel Tower was completed in 1970. Today, it's the city's sixth tallest. The building is named for the Gulf Oil company, and the top of the tower is designed to resemble a step-pyramid/mausoleum which is illuminated at night with a coded system that shows the current weather with colors, or to celebrate the local teams achievements and also the holidays.
Other interesting buildings
- 200 Block of Fort Pitt Blvd, Fort Pitt Blvd, between Market and Wood streets. Facing the Monongahela River, this area was once a major commercial hub due to its proximity to the now long-defunct Monongahela Wharf. Along the 200 block of Fort Pitt Blvd is a surviving fragment of the commercial architecture of the late 19th century which defined this neighborhood. Cast-iron ornamental elements and Queen Anne style structures reflect the architectural tastes of the time.
- Alcoa Building (also known as the Regional Enterprise Tower), 425 6th Ave. The first all aluminum building ever constructed. It stands 30 stories tall and was built of aluminum panels in 1953. Alcoa recently built a new building on the North Side and no longer occupies this landmark building.
- Allegheny County Courthouse, On Grant between Forbes and 5th Aves. A gorgeous stone building built in 1884 that serves as the seat of the Allegheny County government. You can walk into the lovely courtyard with its fountain, overshadowed by the building's prominent tower. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and widely regarded as one of the most beautiful courthouses in the nation.
- City-County Building, 414 Grant St. Built in 1917, the City-County Building is a grand structure which still serves as the seat of government for the city of Pittsburgh.
- David L. Lawrence Convention Center, 1000 Fort Duquesne Blvd. The convention center is quite a sight, with its sweeping design facing the Allegheny River. Be sure to walk up to the entrance on 10th Street near Penn Avenue - a walkway starts there that runs underneath the building towards the shore of the Allegheny River. The walkway is flanked on both sides by illuminated waterfalls.
- Dollar Savings Bank Building, 4th Ave and Smithfield St. Fourth Avenue used to be the financial center of Pittsburgh, and a lot of great architecture remains on Fourth even if most of the banks have moved to taller, shinier buildings. However, a branch of the Dollar Savings Bank remains, with impressive classical architecture in dark stone and lion statues flanking the entrance.
- Frick Building, 437 Grant St. A 20-story building constructed by the industrialist Henry Clay Frick in 1902. The building sports many lavish features, such as marble ceilings, intricate grillwork, and stained glass windows.
- Koppers Tower, 436 7th Ave (at Grant St). One of the best examples of Art Deco in Pittsburgh, this building is constructed with Indiana limestone and has a polished granite base, a dark copper roof, and marble walls in the lobby.
- Union Trust Building, 435 Grant St. A gorgeous Flemish-Gothic structure built in 1916 by Henry Clay Frick, the structure is decorated with a steep mansard roof, terra cotta dormers, and two chapel-like towers. The church-like appearance of the structure owes to the previous use of the land, a nineteenth century catholic cathedral.
- First Lutheran Church, Grant St between 6th and 7th Aves. This lovely church looks particularly out of place next to the massive office buildings surrounding it, but serves as an interesting reminder that this was once a residential area.
- Smithfield United Church, Smithfield St between 6th and 7th Aves. Near Mellon Square
- Trinity Cathedral, 6th Ave between Smithfield and Wood Sts. Intricately decorated.
Point State Park
Point State Park is a delightful 36 acre park located at the tip of downtown where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to form the Ohio. Lawns, gardens, riverfront promenades, and sweeping views of the rivers, hillsides, bridges, and skyscrapers of Pittsburgh make it a very scenic place to stroll and relax. At the parks apex, where the three rivers meet, is a large fountain.
The Point has a very rich history, as indicated by the many plaques and monuments throughout the park. In the 1700s the Point was a very strategic location for the British and French forces in North America to claim control of this portion of the continent. George Washington, who at the time was fighting for the British, said:
- I spent some time in viewing the rivers, and the land in the fork; which I think extremely well situated for a fort, as it has absolute command of both rivers. -- journal entry by George Washington, November 1753
In 1754 the French built Fort Duquesne at the Point. George Washington was sent to capture the fort, but suffered his only defeat before he could reach the Point, at Fort Necessity 50 miles to the southeast. Other British attacks in the area were repelled until 1758 when a large British force led by John Forbes threatened the fort, forcing the French to burn down Fort Duquesne and abandon the site just before the British arrived. Soon Fort Pitt, one of the most elaborate British forts constructed in North America, was built on the site.
Fort Pitt lasted for several decades, defending the small settlement on the Point against various Native American attacks and serving the Americans as a headquarters for the western theatre of the Revolutionary War before being decommissioned in 1792. The growing settlement of Pittsburgh built on top of the remains of the old forts. The Point was occupied by commercial and industrial structures until the 1950s, when the city used eminent domain to acquire the land and construct the current park.
- Point State Park, 101 Commonwealth Place (at the western end of downtown), ☎ +1 412 471-0235, e-mail: email@example.com. Daily Sunrise-11PM. Free.
- Point State Park Fountain (Where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers join to become the Ohio.). Daily Sunrise-11PM. Powerful water stream aimed upwards. A Christmas tree is installed instead on December. Free.
- Fort Pitt Block House. W-Su 10:30AM-4:30PM (F-Su only during the winter). A former redoubt - a structure that extends the line of fire beyond the walls of a fort - the Fort Pitt Block House is the only extant relic of Fort Pitt and is the oldest European-built structure west of the Allegheny Mountains. It has functioned as a museum of the French & Indian War era since 1894 and has a small gift shop. Free.
- Fort Pitt Museum, ☎ +1 412 281-9285. Daily 10AM-5PM. Housed in a recreated bastion above the remains of one of Fort Pitt's structures, the museum explains some of the history of the forts on the Point, from the French and Indian War to the Whiskey Rebellion after the American Revolution. While parts of the museum may seem a bit bare, some of the exhibits and artifacts are very interesting and give a good insight into the history of the site. $6 adults, $5 seniors, $3 students/youth/military, 5 and under free.
- Consol Energy Center, 1001 5th Ave. Home of the Pittsburgh Penguins NHL hockey club. The arena also hosts many other events including basketball and concerts — both rock and classical. Check the link for the current event schedule.
The northern part of downtown (along Penn Avenue) is the Cultural District, where you can see symphony orchestra performances, opera, plays and many other events.
- Benedum Center, 719 Liberty Ave, ☎ +1 412 456-6666. A large and very historic theater, built in 1927 and faithfully restored. The Benedum is home to the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.
- Byham Theater, 101 6th St, ☎ +1 412 456-6666. A grand historic theater with many lavish decorations, the Byham plays host to a variety of events.
- Harris Theater, 809 Libetry Ave, ☎ +1 412 456-6666. Originally opened as a movie theater, the Harris plays both movies and live performances.
- Heinz Hall, 600 Penn Ave, ☎ +1 412 392-4900. A magnificent concert hall, Heinz Hall is the home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
- Three Rivers Arts Festival Gallery, 937 Liberty Ave. An extension of the Three Rivers Arts Festival held annually in June.
- Wood Street Galleries, 601 Wood St. Tu-Th 11AM-6PM, F-Sa 11AM-8PM. A contemporary art gallery with some interesting exhibits, with a focus on new media.
Festivals and events
- The Three Rivers Arts Festival provides eleven days of art through the month of June for the people with a mix of art, live music, food, and festival fun. The most popular parts of the Three Rivers Arts Festival are the program of free outdoor concerts, and the vibrant artist market where artists from all over the country display and sell their wares. The festival is located around Point State Park and the Gateway Center. On weekends, street closures will expand the area, creating a plaza to accommodate the larger events.
- Anthrocon. Is the world's largest furry convention, and has been held in Pittsburgh since 2006. Over 5,000 people attend each year, and over 1,000 of them are costumed mascots and fursuiters. The all-ages event is held in late June or early July each year; admission is charged.
- The Three Rivers Regatta is the region's biggest Fourth of July event. Taking place on the Fourth of July weekend around Point State Park and just across the river on the North Shore, this massive event plays host to a lot of music, food, stunt shows, boating events, family activities, and (of course) a huge fireworks show over the river.
- During the summer, Market Square and Mellon Square play host to free concerts and other events.
- Christmastime in Downtown can be quite fun. Among all the holiday decorations, there are a few highlights: At PPG Place, the fountain in the plaza is turned into an ice skating rink, the lobby of One PPG Place (the tall building) holds an massive holiday display, and throughout the complex are displays of beautiful gingerbread houses created by local school children. The U.S. Steel Tower puts up a nativity scene (creche) just outside the building which is a reproduction of the one at the Vatican.
Downtown doesn't have a particularly impressive shopping scene; shops here mostly cater to office workers and are usually run-of-the-mill places - copy stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, the like. However, there are a couple of large department stores still in downtown, as well as a scattering of some small, interesting shops. Most shops of interest to the visitor are located along Smithfield Street or in the "Cultural District" along Penn Avenue.
- Arcade Shops at Fifth Avenue Place, 120 5th Ave. M-F 10AM–6PM, Sa 10AM–3PM. 15 shops and dining establishments housed in a glitter gold arcade.
- PPG Place, 2 PPG Pl (between 3rd and 4th Aves, east of Stanwix St). M-F 10AM-6PM. 18 shopping and dining establishments in the stunning PPG complex.
- Burlington Coat Factory, 339 6th Ave, ☎ +1 412 263-4800. M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su noon-5PM. A large department store, bargain prices on many items, be sure to check for discounts at their website.
- Sports World Specialties, 645 Smithfield St, ☎ +1 412 232-3343, toll-free: +1-800-726-3143, fax: +1 412 232-0793, e-mail: Dmeans3767@aol.com. M-F 9:30AM-4:30PM, Sa-Su by appointment. A small dusty shop holding a lot of terrific Pirates and Steelers merchandise, some of it vintage and most of it autographed by the players themselves.
- SW Randall Toys & Gifts, 630 Smithfield St, ☎ +1 412 562-9252. M-Sa 10AM-5:30PM. An old-fashioned toy store, SW Randall is a survivor from Pittsburgh's heydey and worth a visit for its idiosyncratic collection.
- Specialty Luggage, 915 Liberty Ave, ☎ +1 412 281-3852. Great store for luggage and other travel needs, with an especially knowledgeable and friendly staff.
- Bigelow Grille, 1 Bigelow Sq (in the downtown Doubletree hotel), ☎ +1 412 281-5013. 6AM-11OM daily.
- Bill’s Bar & Burger, 1001 Liberty Avenue, ☎ +1 412 567 2300. Su-Th 11AM-11PM, F Sa 11AM-12PM. Handmade griddle burgers and sweet milkshakes. $7-$25.
- The Carlton, 500 Grant St (in BNY-Mellon Center), ☎ +1 412 391-4152.
- Christos, 130 6th St (near the theaters), ☎ +1 412 261-6442. Greek food.
- Dream Cream Ice Cream, 539 Liberty Ave, ☎ +1 412 540-5393. Daily noon-8PM. A tiny non-profit ice cream shop with a great generous twist. 25% of the cost of each cone and dish of Perry's Ice Cream go to fund some Pittsburgher's dream. Perhaps 'Panda Paws' is funding a mission trip abroad, or 'Cocoa-Nut Bliss' will help a struggling family move into a new home. The Dreamers, as they're known, help out at the store scooping the goods, and they're always eager to share the story behind each dream—or to let you sample an unfamiliar flavor. $3-$5.
- Hanlon's Cafe, 961 Liberty Ave, ☎ +1 412 394-3500, fax: +1 412 394-3501, e-mail: Hanlonscafe@comcast.net. M-F 7AM-3PM, Sa-Su 8AM-2PM. A small cafe that serves food from the grill. The food is average "greasy-spoon" diner fare but the prices are pretty good for being in the heart of downtown and only a block from the Convention Center.
- Mancini's, 440 Market St, ☎ +1 412 281-8116. An excellent bakery which does bread and rolls. Mancini's pizza rolls are surprisingly filling, making for an excellent lunch. There is no seating inside, but there's plenty just outside in Market Square, weather permitting.
- Meat & Potatoes, 694 Penn Ave, ☎ +1 412 261-6442. Delicious cuts and very nice atmosphere.
- Prantl's, 438 Market St, ☎ +1 412 471-6861. M-F 7AM-3PM. Specializes in deserts.
- Nine On Nine, 900 Penn Ave (close to convention center), ☎ +1 412 338-6463.
- Original Oyster House (northeast corner of Market Square). This is a "must do" if you like seafood and historical places. Go back in time while eating the best fish sandwich you'd ever want to eat. Wash it down with creamy buttermilk or a beer. Of course, there are oysters, lightly breaded, or their specialty oysters which are sort of like a fritter. Other seafood dishes and foods are available and all delicious.
- Pittsburgh Grille, 600 Grant St, ☎ +1 412 434-0800. Located in the lobby of the U.S. Steel Tower. $30.
- Primanti Bros., 2 S Market Sq, ☎ +1 412 261-1599. Su-Th 10AM-midnight, F-Sa 10AM-2AM. The definitive Pittsburgh chain, noted for their popular sandwiches.
- Seviche, 930 Penn Ave (next to the convention center), ☎ +1 412 697-3120. M-Sa 5PM-1AM. A tapas restaurant and bar with small plates delivered in an artistic presentation. The Caipirnha and Pisco Sour are the best drinks, along with mojitos, margaritas and martinis.
- Six Penn Kitchen, 146 6th St, ☎ +1 412 566-7366. Great place for a local beer and a pizza. Also a nice rooftop terrace.
- Sonoma Grille, 947 Penn Ave, ☎ +1 412 697-1336. Lunch daily 11AM-3PM, Dinner daily 5PM-11PM. A casual restaurant with an airy dining room. International cuisine; good wine list.
- Sree's Foods, 701 Smithfield St (at Liberty), ☎ +1 412 860-9181. M-F 11:30AM-3PM. Simple, no-frills Indian restaurant with great food. Their selection isn't big (they usually have only about five dishes per day) and it's pretty low-key (all dishes are served in styrofoam take-out containers), but it's very tasty and inexpensive. $5, cash only.
- Wiener World, 626 Smithfield St, ☎ +1 412 471-3013. A small hot dog stand tucked on Smithfield St. There's no tables or chairs here; just one small counter inside and an order window facing the street, but the franks are excellent, as are the fries and fish sandwiches. Cash only.
- Nicholas Coffee, 23 Market Sq (NW corner of Market Sq), ☎ +1 412 261-4225. M-F 7AM-5:30PM, Sa 8:30AM-5:30PM.
- Tavern 245, 245 4th Ave, ☎ +1 412 281-4345. Friendly downtown bar near Market Square and PPG Place with a good beer list and good food, open til 2 am.
- The Sharp Edge Bistro, 922 Penn Ave (near the convention center), ☎ +1 412 338-2437. Generous beer menu - especially Belgian drafts. Complete food menu too.
There are numerous hotels in downtown Pittsburgh, from the venerable old Omni William Penn, where innumerable political deals were cut and business deals sealed, to the Wyndham Grand hotel near Point State Park.
- Cambria Suites Pittsburgh, 1320 Centre Ave, ☎ +1 412 381-6687. An all-suites hotel right next to the CONSOL Energy Center, with a walkway leading directly into the arena. Cambria has an expansive definition of "suite"; the most basic rooms have a semi-private sleeping area and an uncomfortable sleeper sofa. If you want a fully private bedroom, make sure you get at least a "one-bedroom" suite. Bathrooms are contemporary in design to the point of frustration. Can't beat the location if you're going to a Pens game, though. Private parking $14/night. $189-$359.
- Courtyard Pittsburgh Downtown, 945 Penn Ave, ☎ +1 412 434-5551.
- DoubleTree Downtown Pittsburgh, 1 Bigelow Sq, ☎ +1 412 281-5800. It hosts the Bigelow Grille and a complimentary swimming pool, on top of all the normal DoubleTree features.
- Fairmont Pittsburgh, 510 Market St, ☎ +1 412 773-8800. "Habitat" restaurant on the second floor.
- Marriott City Center, 112 Washington Pl, toll-free: +1-888-456-6600.
- Omni William Penn, 530 William Penn Pl, ☎ +1 412 281-7100. Located in the heart of downtown, the renowned Omni William Penn is a historic landmark recently renovated while retaining its 1916 charm.
- Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel, 107 6th St, toll-free: +1-800-468-3571.
- Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh, 1000 Penn Ave, ☎ +1 412 281-3700, fax: +1 412 227-4500, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: Noon. Despite the high price of the rooms, don't expect a lot of extras. There is no airport shuttle, no daily newspaper, and you only get one day of free Wi-Fi (after that, it's $9.95/day). The plumbing can be loud as well. However, one advantage is that this hotel has a skybridge connecting it to the Convention Center so there is no need to go outside if you are a convention attendee. They also have a full gym and provide loaner workout clothes. $210-270.
- Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown, 600 Commonwealth Pl (overlooking Point State Park), ☎ +1 412 391-4600.
Although nightlife Downtown has improved significantly in the past few years, it is still primarily a business district, which means much of it becomes largely deserted after 6PM. While violent crime is fairly rare here, be cautious and aware of your surroundings if wandering downtown at night.
Almost all of downtown has WiFi which can be accessed free for two hours daily.
- Carnegie Library - Downtown and Business, 612 Smithfield St, ☎ +1 412 281-7141. M-Th 8:30AM-6PM, F 8:30AM-5PM, closed Sa-Su. Offers free wireless.
|Routes through Downtown|
|END ← North Side ←||N S||→ South Side → South Park|
|END ← North Side ←||N S||→ South Side → Upper St. Clair Township|