The Newcomers Guide to Downtown Pittsburgh | City Guide | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Newcomers Guide to Downtown Pittsburgh

click to enlarge The Newcomers Guide to Downtown Pittsburgh
CP photo: Jared Murphy
Market Square
Forget what you’ve heard about Pittsburgh being a steel town. Sure, we root for the Steelers and you can still find some steel mills on the outskirts of town, but the dark, smoke-filled streets of Downtown Pittsburgh’s past have been replaced with a thriving Cultural District, a project of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Head to a show at one of the many theaters including the beautiful Heinz Hall (, O’Reilly Theater (home to Pittsburgh Public Theater,, or Benedum Center ( Checking out a free Downtown Gallery Crawl ( is a must for art fans, as is the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival (, when artists and musicians fill Downtown for two straight weeks every June. Visit Market Square in the center of Downtown for a mix of old and new restaurants, a great seasonal farmers market, ice skating in the winter, and a night market with live entertainment on summer evenings. Once you’re ready to chill, head to the very tip of the city at Point State Park, where the three rivers meet, and soak in the relaxing view in a green space with a killer skyline as a backdrop.

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click to enlarge The Newcomers Guide to Downtown Pittsburgh
CP photo: Jared Wickerham
Pittsburgh's Funky Fly Project at August Wilson Center for African American Culture

Arts + Culture

Tickle your funny bone at Arcade Comedy Theater ( and check out standup, improv, sketch comedy, and variety acts.

Named for the famed local playwright, August Wilson Center for African American Culture ( is an art gallery and performance space that hosts activities ranging from music and dance to film festivals and community events.

Theater fans: Check out Bricolage Production Company (, specializing in outside-the-box immersive and creative performances. Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company ( is a top destination for dramatic works written by local playwrights past and present.

As Downtown’s only movie theater, Harris Theater ( shows mostly indie, foreign language, and art-house films.

The Pittsburgh CLO ( is a nonprofit theater company specializing in musical theater classics, with food-and-drinks table service before each show.

With its floor-to-ceiling glass windows, SPACE ( showcases rotating exhibits in various mediums for patrons and passersby.

Wood Street Galleries ( is an edgy contemporary art museum with a special emphasis on work that incorporates light, sound, and digital technology.


Bae Bae’s Kitchen ( is a delicious, Korean-inspired spot offering fresh food and vegan options.

Like tacos? Grab some at Bea Taco Town (, build your own at Condado Tacos (, or splurge for some unique Asian-influenced Mexican street food at täkō (

Located in the swanky Hotel Monaco, The Commoner ( features unique takes on traditional comfort food.

NOLA on the Square ( specializes in Creole-inspired dishes and has a lively atmosphere straight out of New Orleans. 

Meat-lovers, try Meat and Potatoes (, a gastropub designed around dinner staples like pot roast and spring chicken; Pork and Beans ( features Texas-style barbecue dishes (including its namesake) and country sides like pig ears.

Sharp Edge Bistro ( is a bar and restaurant with one of the largest domestic and imported beer lists in the city, weighted heavily in the Belgium column.


Amazing Books ( has a wide selection of used records and books, including some hard-to-find gems.

Love, Pittsburgh ( specializes in gifts made by local artists, featuring artwork, soaps, clothing, and jewelry.

Stop in at S.W. Randall Toyes & Giftes ( for the latest kids toys or pop-culture novelty items.

Steel City ( offers a more elevated take on Pittsburgh pride and black-and-gold merchandise.

Where the Locals Go

Original Oyster House ( is a Pittsburgh institution believed to be the city’s oldest restaurant. Opened in 1871, it’s best known for its fried-fish sandwich, but locals also love their oysters, beer, and the down-to-earth atmosphere. Bring cash — it’s so old school, they still don’t take cards.