- Lifestyle & Sports
- 05 Aug 14
It’s a gritty industrial town that has reinvented itself as a high-tech and foodie hotbed. Pittsburgh is also one of the sporting capitals of the United States, and a city that is immensely proud of its blue-collar heritage.
Where is it?
Pittsburgh is in the east of the United States (though in the west of Pennsylvania). The 58-square-mile city is at the convergence of three rivers, with the Allegheny and the Monongahela joining to form the Ohio.
How do I get there?
There are no direct flights from Ireland though Delta operates a service out of Paris. It is, of course, easily linked with more accessible destinations on the east coast, such as New York and Boston.
What language do they speak?
Ostensibly English. But most of the locals, or ‘Yinzers’, would tell you it’s ‘Pittsburghese’. This is a slang-heavy version of what you’ll find anywhere else in the United States. Etymologists believe early Irish immigrants are responsible for the area’s nuances. It mightn’t sound foreign at all!
What is the local beer like?
Like many US cities, the craft beer revolution is in full swing in the Steel City. Recently established Duquesne Brewing offers a few excellent strains, and East End Brewing has an outstanding IPA definitely worth your dollars. In truth, the original is the best. Yuengling is brewed in Pottsville, PA, at the oldest brewery in the country. Just make sure to pronounce it correctly: Ying-Ling…
As you’d expect from the epicentre of the Whiskey Rebellion of the 1790s, residents of the Burgh are partial to a drop. If you find yourself in a blue-collar spot (this being Pittsburgh, you’re likely to), take a shot to knock back along with your beer. If you’ve gone upmarket, grab a cocktail. There’s no particular local favourite, so suit yourself!
What is the transport like?
A light rail system, locally known as the T, will get you around the centre of the city. If you plan on travelling further afield, taxis are relatively inexpensive. Be careful where and when you walk; the city is full of hills, so a trip that looks short on a map can quickly turn into a tiring hike!
What’s the food like?
The cuisine of the city owes a lot to its European heritage. Popularised by the Polish community, Pierogi is pasta dough stuffed with potato and cheese, and one of Pittsburgh’s favourite foods. We can heartily recommend Bloomfield Bridge Tavern, the “Polish party house” residing at 4412 Liberty Avenue (bloomfieldbridgetavern.com). Also, any trip would be wasted without a feed at Primanti Brothers. With branches all over the city and suburbs, its enormous sandwiches piled high with coleslaw and fries have become the stuff of legend. Even Barack Obama has confessed to being a fan.
What’s the nightlife like?
Truly, Pittsburgh after dark has something for everyone. If you’re looking for the college scene, both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University are within spitting distance of one another and the thoroughfare of Forbes Ave. in Oakland offers plenty of choice. If spit-and-sawdust is more your taste, practically every street will have a local dive bar and a low-key night in a neighbourhood hang-out is an outstanding experience. If, however, partying hard is your thing, get down to Carson Street in the South Side, or the Strip District where you can partake of a Burgh’ Bits & Bites Food Tour (burghfoodtour.com). Both are packed with excellent bars and clubs. Be warned: with so many lively spots in proximity, transport home can be a nightmare. Consider booking a cab if you plan on getting down ‘til the early hours.
Why should I go?
Pittsburgh is immensely proud of its past. As a place which once thrived on traditional industries like steel, its blue-collar heritage is part of the city’s identity. It is also impressively modern in places. There is world-class architecture, a burgeoning foodie scene and an impressive arts and music culture. Furthermore, the city’s layout, with distinctive neighbourhoods close to one another, means that if you want to experience something different, a change in vibe is just minutes away.
What are the touristy things to do?
There are a number of fantastic museums: The Carnegie Museum of Art is probably the most impressive. Special mention, though, must be given to the Andy Warhol Museum. Though he made his name in New York, Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, and the museum houses a comprehensive collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, photos and film pieces from his legendary career. Also, no trip would be complete without taking the Duquesne Incline and enjoying the spectacular views from Mount Washington.
If you’re a sports fan, you are in luck. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the most successful team in American Football, having won the SuperBowl on six occasions. Tickets for a game in Heinz Field are difficult to come by, but pulling up a stool at one of the city’s sports bars is the next best thing. The Penguins (known simply as the Pens) are one of the strongest ice-hockey teams around and play at the recently completed CONSOL Energy Center. In off-season, give the baseball a go: the Pirates might not be the greatest, but PNC Park is one of the nicest grounds in the States.
Anything to avoid?
As with most cities, some sketchy spots are best avoided. You might, for instance, wish to steer clear of Homewood and the Hill District. Generally, the city is safe, as long as you take the usual, sensible precautions.
What should I bring home?
No self-respecting Yinzer is without a ‘Terrible Towel’. Created in 1975 by legendary sportscaster Myron Cope to support the Steelers, the towel is yellow and emblazoned with the words ‘The Terrible Towel’. However baffling it may be to outsiders, it has become a symbol of the city, finding its way to the top of Mount Everest and into orbit on the International Space Station.
When should I go?
Pittsburgh can be clammy during the summer and devastatingly cold through winter. In spring and autumn, however, the weather is ideal. We recommend you pack your bags for September.
What’s my challenge?
Attend a big game and get stuck in. Pittsburghers take their sport seriously; you’ll need to work hard to hold your own!
What’s the currency?
Something to remember?
Pittsburgh has a high concentration of people claiming Irish ancestry. The last Census Bureau figures put the number above 10%. There’ll be plenty of locals asking you about Ireland, so brush up on your domestic geography before you go!