Pittsburgh perks up: Why a visit to the Steel City feels so fresh
US City Breaks
This once-struggling steel city is enjoying a visitor-friendly reboot, writes Thomas Breathnach.
Set the mood
Forget its steely rep, Pittsburgh's had a makeover.
Pennsylvania's way-out-west metropolis is today enjoying such a post-industrial reboot, its food, tech and culture booms could rival any of its Northeast neighbours'. Sure, icons like Heinz, Carnegie and Warhol remain abiding local legends, but they're now joined by a new swell of native exports, bridging every sector from apps (Duolingo) to rap (Wiz Khalifa).
The result? A city noted for its older population has seen the hipsterati migrate back, and the great Rust Belt dust-off, evolving everywhere from Charleston to Detroit, is in full steam effect. Don't be mistaken - you'll still see tourists outnumbered by Steelers fans here, but that's what makes a visit to the 'Burgh simply feel so fresh.
Got five bucks and a head for heights? Pittsburgh's hilly topography has gifted the city a quirky history of cable railways and a trip on the Duquesne Incline (duquesneincline.org) really puts the fun into funicular.
Hopping aboard chocolate box carriages straight from Toy Story, passengers ascend a route which has been cargoing commuters to the lofty 'hood of Mount Washington since 1877. Expect the best Instagram opps of the city with vistas of Pittsburgh's 'Golden Triangle' wowing with every cog turn.
From pilsners to pierogis, Pittsburgh knows how to eat and drink big. The city's heaving Strip District is the best spot to savour some Yinzer (aka local) flavour, with a trove of happening eateries, breweries and market stalls stacked along gritty warehouse facades.
For breakfast, join the lines at Pamela's Diner (pamelasdiner.com; $9/€7.30) for its dreamy banana walnut pancakes, while for lunch Smallman Galley (smallmangalley.org) is a neat incubator food court celebrating local concept chefs.
Thirsty? The Wigle whiskey distillery (wiglewhiskey.com; $20/€16.30) makes for a giddy booze-stop - try their punchy Deep Cut, known as "the Cadillac of ryes".
A seven-story homage to Pittsburgh's most eccentric son, the Andy Warhol Museum (warhol.org) offers a psychedelic spiral through the pop artist's eclectic works (think Campbell Soup, think erotica). Admission is $20/€16.30 so try visiting for the gallery's half price "Good Fridays".
Pittsburgh's luxury Fairmont Hotel delivers an awesome view: its 185 glass-enclosed executive rooms (above) offer spectacular widescreen snapshots of the city's skyline. Downstairs, the hotel's massive mezzanine lobby hosts a sceney jazz bar called Andy's, while its just-opened American brasserie fl.2 is luring destination dining back downtown (fairmont.com/pittsburgh; rooms from €90pps).
Downtown Pittsburgh may well be climbing the social ladder but it can still feel a little pedestrian come evening. An alternative? Head to the nearby neighbourhoods of Lawrenceville or East Liberty to enjoy the city's most vibrant social scenes.
Get me there
With new routes including Detroit, Cleveland & St Louis, WOW air (wowair.ie) continues to connect Ireland with previously unheralded US hubs. The airline now flies from Dublin to Pittsburgh with fares from €260 return. That doesn't include luggage (add €84 for a carry-on bag), but you can add in a free Icelandic stopover, if you fancy a twin getaway.
For more info on Pittsburgh, see visitpittsburgh.com.
NB: Prices/exchange rates subject to change.