From neon lights & nightlife to historical landmarks & urban parks, there’s one Pittsburgh neighborhood that’ll give you a crash course on Pennsylvanian big city life like none other. Especially if this is your first time visiting the “City of Bridges,” Downtown Pittsburgh is the ideal home base to stay and play all vacation long.
Downtown Pittsburgh is home to many of the city’s top attractions, such as Point State Park and the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts. Good food & drink options abound, too, with iconic institutions of the city’s culinary scene like Primanti Bros. Restaurant & Bar Market Square right at your doorstep.
Ready to take your Steel City escapades to the next level? Plan the perfect itinerary with this complete Downtown Pittsburgh travel guide, including what to see & do and where to eat, drink & stay.
Looking for more ideas for your trip? Check out our Pennsylvania Travel Guide for more recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do!
What to see & do in Downtown Pittsburgh
Located at the corner of Forbes Avenue and Market Street, Market Square is a must-see local landmark for every tourist roaming around Downtown Pittsburgh.
Well-loved for its vintage clock tower and pretty tree canopy, Market Square is a quick addition to any itinerary. It’s also a pick-up location for a city-ran bicycle lending program, making it a great starting point if you want to rent some wheels for a day of exploring Pittsburgh.
So, what’s the best way to enjoy all that Market Square has to offer? If you fancy more than just a quick walk-through, snag a table and enjoy an al fresco lunch from one of the many cafe’s surrounding the square. With free outdoor WiFi, you could even plan the rest of your day’s touring from the comfort of your new favorite lunch spot.
Alternatively, you could target one of the many events held in Market Square, ranging from trendy pop-ups to regular live music and farmer’s markets.
Point State Park
Located on the tip of the “Golden Triangle” at the junction of three different rivers, Point State Park should be on every Pittsburgh bucket list. Despite spanning 36 acres, this is not your typical state park studded with pine forests and rugged mountainsides. Instead, this waterfront urban oasis offers a different perspective for viewing the city skyline, with towers stretching into the clouds on one side and arched bridges extending as far as the eye can see on the other.
Though there’s some outdoor recreation, Point State Park is mostly a place for laying in the sun and people-watching. If you’re looking to fit a good walk into your Downtown Pittsburgh itinerary, though, the Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage both pass through the park.
Point State Park is also a historical landmark with 23 monuments and one of the largest water fountains in the country to keep history buffs entertained.
Fort Pitt Museum
Want to do a deep dive into the history of Pittsburgh, all the way back to the 18th century? Head to Fort Pitt Museum. At this popular Pittsburgh tourist attraction, a series of storytelling exhibits and artifact displays will guide you through Pensylvannia’s role in the French & Indian War and the American Revolution.
The galleries at the Fort Pitt Museum are divided into two main sections: the frontier and the trader’s cabin. Through both, you’ll explore the legacy of colonialism in the region and its impact on the indigenous tribes living along the banks of the Ohio River.
During the summer months, you can even watch massive-scale live reenactments at Fort Pitt Museum for a more immersive experience.
Senator John Heinz History Center
A Smithsonian affiliate, the Senator John Heinz History Center is Pittsburgh’s premier museum highlighting Pennsylvania’s past and the prominent people who’ve left their mark on the great state. Exploring themes like slavery, freedom, politics, and industry innovation, there’s plenty to learn at this museum in Pittsburgh’s hip Strip District. There’s also an interactive discovery zone for kids, making it a top-notch attraction for families.
Among the most popular exhibits at the Senator John Heinz History Center, you’ll find collections of local woodworking marvels and galleries showcasing iconic photographs of Pittsburgh published throughout history.
The grand finale at the center? The Heinz Ketchup exhibit. With reels of vintage TV ads and an 11-foot ketchup bottle made of real bottles from throughout the brand’s history, this quirky exhibition is definitely the star of the show!
Benedum Center for the Performing Arts
Seeking some entertainment after the sun sets? Assuming party-hard nightlife isn’t quite your speed, a visit to the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts is just the thing. This mid-size venue in Downtown Pittsburgh is a marvel of historic architecture—and its performances are even better than its facade.
Though the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts features rotating performances, a few key events pepper the schedule, with the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Opera all calling this exquisite venue in Pittsburgh’s Cultural District home.
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Check the center’s events calendar here to see what falls during your visit.
Fourth Avenue Historic District
Looking for an urban sightseeing excursion? Set your destination to the Fourth Avenue Historic District. Dating back to the early 1900s, the area will enchant you with its architecture, cathedrals, parkettes, and bank towers.
To get the low down with facts, legends, and local lore, book a tour guide to parade you around the Fourth Avenue Historic District. Or, for a more relaxed time, just grab a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate and explore the neighborhood at your leisure.
From street level, Mellon Square may look like nothing more than your average parking garage. In reality, this urban oasis is one of Pittsburgh’s hidden gem historical landmarks. This 1.6-acre escape in the middle of the city, complete with a rooftop garden, dates back 60 years and has received national attention for its innovative design.
Bubbling fountains light up at night, making Mellon Square the perfect place to lay under the stars and admire the streaks of neon across the city skyline. It’s delightful during daylight hours, too, with beautiful blossoms and picnic benches for enjoying scrumptious local takeout.
Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts
Once known as Loew’s Penn Theater, the Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts is truly a work of art. Built in 1927 by a motion picture theater legend, the European-style lobby will transport you to another time and place, dressed head-to-toe with marble, crystal, domed ceilings, and velvet staircases.
The Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts events calendar offers a little bit of everything to suit every kind of theater geek or culture vulture. The venue is the official home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and other jazz and classical concerts are always on the docket if you’re a music lover at heart.
If you’d like to test the bounds of your imagination a little more, you can also find tickets to performances like acrobatics shows or Disney interpretations.
Where to eat & drink
Nothing says lunch quite like a big ol’ two-handed sammy. So, when your stomach starts to grumble in Downtown Pittsburgh, don’t miss the chance to head on down to Primanti Bros. Restaurant and Bar Market Square. Also known as the “World Sandwich Headquarters,” the restaurant serves a little bit of everything, but they’re known for sandwiches stacked a mile high. When ordering, you’ll have over 25 combinations to choose from. (And don’t forget the pickle and side of ‘slaw—for deli lovers, it’s to die for!)
Looking for street food, tequila, and mezcal? Täkō is a dark and moody Japanese/Mexican fusion restaurant that serves to surprise and impress. Most of what they do here is tacos. Only really, really well. From ginger-glazed tuna poke to classic al pastor, this little lunch spot will have you coming back time and again before the end of your vacation to eat your way through its innovative menu.
Siena Mercato is an Italian food lovers’ dream. With three locations, each with its own specialty, you can curate the perfect experience for your tastebuds. Head to Emperio if you want to sample meatballs of every meat, sauce, and style; Mezzo for epic charcuterie boards and woodfired pizza; or Il Tetto for craft cocktails and European beers.
If you’re seeking a fine dining atmosphere, The Capital Grille is a great option in Downtown Pittsburgh. With steak, seafood, and an endless selection of award-winning international wines on offer, you’re sure to eat like royalty here. Please note: The restaurant has a strict dress code, so it may not be the right choice if you’re stumbling in off the street on a hot summer’s day.
For comfort food, as you’ve never experienced before, head to The Commoner, located at the Kimpton Hotel Monaco. Give your tummy a treat with reinvented classics like wagyu beef burgers, gnocchi with black truffle butter, and pork belly in a yuzu caramel, and wash it all down with a libation. In addition to local beer, The Commoner’s 20-tap rotation includes craft cocktails and even draught wine.
The main event at Bridges and Bourbon is a catalog of over 100 whiskeys, but they also offer a well-crafted menu of small plates and entrees. If you do want to have a dining experience at this restaurant, however, weekend brunch is the way to go. Bruleed grapefruit, waffles with maple bourbon whipped cream, and dried cherry and pistachio coconut macaroons? Yes, please!
The Speakeasy is the city’s coolest prohibition-era bar, located at the Omni William Penn Hotel. As the name suggests, the bar carries with it a deep history and a whole lot of glitz and glamour. The mixologists certainly know what they’re doing, from recreating classic blasts from the past to modern creations with prohibition-inspired names. The secret’s out!
Howl at the Moon Pittsburgh is a highlight of the city’s nightlife experience. This popular bar and entertainment venue is one giant dance party, with live musicians performing hit bangers and bops from the 80s to the present day. (Pro tip: Splurge on one of their signature cocktail buckets, so there’s no need to wait in line at the bar to refresh your drink all night long.)
Where to stay
As the heart of the city, Downtown is one of the most popular places to stay in Pittsburgh. The area is jammed with great accommodation options, including many of the city’s top hotels and even a handful of apartments and vacation rentals.
Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown
The Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown promises guests relaxing neutral-toned guest rooms in a stunning historic bank building. Better yet, your stay comes with access to a Daily Kickback event, where you’ll have access to a limited-menu free dinner plus an adult beverage (and extras at just $1.00 each.) If you want to pre-game before a night out, the reception is a good way to make sure you’re in tip-top shape on a budget.
Hampton Inn & Suites Pittsburgh Downtown
The Hampton Inn & Suites Pittsburgh Downtown is the ultimate location if you’re looking for good value in the downtown core. Your reservation comes with free parking and a hot buffet breakfast. The hotel also has a plethora of premium amenities. You can start each day with a dip in the indoor swimming pool and hang out in your ultra-spacious room through the evening.
Courtyard by Marriott Pittsburgh Downtown
Looking for a slightly higher-end option at a mid-range price point? The Courtyard by Marriott Pittsburgh Downtown is just the thing. The hotel boasts a bright and airy design and a prime location on a safe and vibrant side street, close to all the best local shops and restaurants. Need one more reason to book? There’s a vintage arcade hidden inside the hotel restaurant!
Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, an IHG Hotel
The Kimpton Hotel Monaco brings a touch of whimsy to the table with an eclectic atmosphere and bold splashes of color. The on-site bar, The Commoner, will ply you with complimentary wine, beer, and cocktails from 5 pm to 6 pm each night, making happy hour a breeze. Alternatively, you can head up to the rooftop Biergarten at the Kimpton with giant lawn games. Traveling with pets? Beds, bowls, doggie bags, and custom treats can all be delivered to your room so you can travel light through the airport.
The Industrialist Hotel, Pittsburgh, Autograph Collection
For a stay that’s a little closer to a boutique hotel experience, check into The Industrialist Hotel. Loved for its innovative interior design mixing old-world character with modern trends, riverview guest rooms, and state-of-the-art fitness center, it’s sure to impress even the pickiest traveler. As if that’s not enough, the lobby bar is so hip that it draws in crowds off the street, not just hotel patrons seeking a quick-and-easy bite before hitting the town.