Weekend travel guide to Pittsburgh including the best hotel recommendations, restaurants, bars, museums, things to do, eat, see and explore.
FROM STEEL CITY TO SOPHISTICATION
Pittsburgh is not commonly thought of as a weekend destination on its own, but maybe it should be. More famously known for its brawny side—steel and related industries (and sports teams!)— Pittsburgh has risen from “rust belt” status to cool cultural destination. The “Burgh’s” creative culture has inspired an ongoing gentrification of diverse neighborhoods and given birth to notable restaurants, bars, contemporary art museums, and a lively social scene. Its museums and universities are world-class, and with more tech companies rooting their research and development here, it has attracted young, educated, forward-looking professionals into its charming and distinctive neighborhoods. And on top of all of this, its three rivers, golden bridges, and dramatic skyline add to a scenic beauty that's hard to beat. If you visit during baseball season, be sure to catch a game not only to witness the energetic fan base, but because the stadium has some of the best views of the city from across the river.
The city and neighborhoods are accessible by Uber (and you might even get lucky enough to drive in an autonomous vehicle).
THE ACE HOTEL PITTSBURGH
THE ACE HOTEL. An old YMCA turned hip hotel in the newly gentrified area of East Liberty, this Ace Hotel might put the others to shame. The lobby and restaurant are light-filled and dreamy and stays true its YMCA roots with a gymnasium that holds wine tastings, events, and work spaces. The rooms are true to the Ace reputation: small, smart and simple furnishings.
KIMPTON HOTEL MONACO
KIMPTON HOTEL MONACO. If you would rather be in downtown, stay at the Hotel Monaco. This historic building has kept its original exterior facade, but the interior is modern, stylish, and eclectic. A gorgeous floral chandelier anchors the bright airy lobby that links to The Commoner restaurant which is a favorite for B,L&D.
EAT_ PAMELA'S P&G DINER (Strip District Location) and/or PEACE, LOVE & LITTLE DONUTS (Strip District Location). Start your morning by heading off to the Strip District. If you want a fuller breakfast, head to PAMELA'S P&G DINER. It's your traditional 50's themed diner, but the food (especially the crepe pancakes!) is why locals have been coming here for decades. If you want a lighter option, head to PEACE, LOVE, AND LITTLE DONUTS. Think the Chipotle of mini donuts (which means you can have more then one). You can choose a signature flavor or create-your-own with your choice of glazes and toppings.
WALK_ THE STRIP DISTRICT. This thriving area of the Strip District, next to downtown, is home to food galleries, imported specialty shops, butcher markets, spice boutiques, and outdoor farmers markets. Imagine NY's meatpacking district meets Pike's Place market on a much smaller scale. If you want more of a history lesson, head to the HEINZ HISTORY CENTER. You'll find all things Pittsburgh-- history that goes beyond the ketchup and the sports teams that make the city famous.
SEE_ MATTRESS FACTORY MUSEUM. Head across the river to the MATTRESS FACTORY MUSEUM. This contemporary art museum is located in a residential neighborhood and spreads across multiple satellite buildings, so be sure not to miss all the exhibits/installations as you will have to take a stroll down the block to see it all. You won't want to miss two Kusama installations (if you don't know her work by name, you will definitely recognize her Instagram famous "infinity mirrored rooms" ).
LUNCH_ ELEVEN or THE COMMONER. When it's time for brunch/lunch head to ELEVEN. The space pays tribute to the "Burgh's" blue collar roots by converting an old warehouse into an industrial-chic space that has two floors and a patio. The food is superb with dishes like smoked lamb huevos rancheros, Scottish salmon salad, and fancy sandwiches. For a more gastropub vibe, head to THE COMMONER in the Hotel Monaco. The space capitalizes on Pittsburgh's steel industry with a factory-like exposed ceiling, lighting, dark interior, and communal tables. The food is what you would expect from the setting, hearty and delicious.
WALK_ SHADYSIDE. This upscale neighborhood has kept its charm throughout the years thanks to its historic homes, tree lined streets, boutique shops, and art galleries. We recommend starting the walk on Walnut street and take small detours to the side streets.
EAT_ SPOON or UNION STANDARD. Since SPOON opened nearly a decade ago, it continues to hold a top dining spot by staying current with food trends and flavors from all over the globe. The amuse-bouche biscuits of the day are perfection. The ambiance is lively thanks to the the lounge-style environment and social crowd. If you're looking for a more informal atmosphere head to the historic Union Trust building downtown to UNION STANDARD. Union Standard may be the new kid in Pittsburgh's dining scene but the chef has been celebrated in the city for years and has filled the restaurant void by creating a modern two-floor space with a shared plate atmosphere serving innovative comfort foods and full service raw bar.
DRINK_HIDDEN HARBOR. This modern Tiki themed bar, has mastered the Aloha spirit by creating drinks that will make you feel as if your toes are in the sand. However, don't expect your typical Mai Tai. Expect drinks that combine flavors like bitters, absinthe, guava, cardamon and coconut.
EAT_ PRIMANTI BROTHERS. If you're a foodie and like to indulge in late night bites (or full-on meals) head to PRIMANTI BROTHERS in the Strip District as they are open 24 hours. Their sandwiches are famous for being piled high with french fries, cole slaw, and quality meats.
DRINK_ ADDA COFFEE. A few blocks from the Ace you'll find the cozy and chic ADDA COFFEE. The blue hues and brass industrial glam, will make it your favorite modern coffee shop. Each drink is created with TLC, and the food menu is limited but changes daily. Expect a specialty scone, quiche, muffin, and toasts that perfectly complements the coffee.
SEE_ ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM. Andy Warhol might be Pittsburgh's most famous export. This museum honors Andy's career as a brilliant art innovator and houses some of the most influential art of the 20th century. Plan on spending a few hours at the museum and at least 30 minutes in the gift shop.
EAT_ WHITFIELD'S AT THE ACE HOTEL. The Ace is the hottest thing to hit Pittsburgh in the last few years and with that comes WHITFIELD'S. The inviting light-filled dining room serves up light and simple food. The deconstructed trout nicoise is one of our favorite salads of all time.
SEE_ PHIPPS CONSERVATORY or CARNEGIE MUSEUMS. Post lunch, head to the Oakland area, which is the university and cultural center of the city. For a leisurely stroll at one of the most beautiful botanical gardens we've seen, head to the PHIPPS CONSERVATORY. Escape from the city to this venerable Victorian greenhouse to enjoy a few hours of lush beauty and solitude. If art is your interest, head to the CARNEGIE MUSEUM OF ART, or check our the Jurassic dinosaurs at the NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM.
SEE_ MOUNT WASHINGTON via DUQUESNE INCLINE. For a flashback to the past and a Mr. Rodger's vibe (yes, this is actually the city where Mr. Rodger's Neighborhood was filmed), take the Duquesne Incline funicular from Station Square up to Mt. Washington for views and more views of the skyline, three rivers, and bridges. The Incline experience brings you back to the coal mining and rail days where the interior seating and signage has not changed. Take the funicular just before sunset for a spectacular view, as the steel and glass buildings reflect the setting sun.
DRINK_ MONTEREY BAY FISH GROTTO. At the top of the incline, walk three minutes to the MONTEREY BAY FISH GROTTO. You can enjoy the most spectacular 360 views of the city through the restaurants floor to ceiling windows. Head to the lounge for a drink that provides a more relaxed seat without the formal dining setting.
EAT_ BUTCHER & THE RYE or TAKO. Head down the hill to BUTCHER & THE RYE in downtown. This award winning restaurant focuses on your favorite indulgences with a modern twist. Their whisky and cocktail selection is noteworthy and the two story rustic industrial space is impressive as well.
If you're craving tacos and margaritas, next door to Butcher & The Rye is TAKO. This more casual joint is Pittsburgh's spin on Mexican with an expansive taco selection and specialty drinks like Thai Coconut margaritas.