Formerly a large industrial city in the Midwest, thanks partly to its strategic location intersecting three rivers – the Ohio, Monongahela and Allegheny – Pittsburgh has remerged from its grittier post-industrial era. Now it’s a hotbed of heartland American culture, with American football and baseball playing a central role, and resident tech giants like Apple and Facebook influencing its make-up (plus keep an eye out for Uber’s first test of driverless cars).
While the city is already popular with Americans, its direct door to London, thanks to British Airways new direct service, now means that it will no doubt gain in popularity this side of the pond too. So before it really takes off, make the most of the cheaper fares by heading there first.
For your guide on what to do and see in Pittsburgh, here’s the Flexicover team’s top tips.
Planning your trip
Spring and autumn are perfect times to pay a visit, when the greenery of the city looks particularly fab and it’s not too hot and sticky. Like the rest of the US, its currency is dollars, and most of us can apply for an ESTA before travelling instead of getting a visa. Prices are very reasonable, with an average three-star hotel costing around £110 a night – there’s a great choice of chain hotels, a few boutiques, and guest houses too. If you’re staying downtown, you can ride the buses and subway free within the central zone.
What to do
There are plenty of walking tours to help you get your bearings and discover the key historical moments in Pittsburgh – try the History & Landmarks Foundation’s tour for starters. If you love history, you’ll love The Frick. It’s a six-acre area of museums and restored buildings featuring the collections of late industrialist Henry Clay Frick, including works by Jean-François Millet and Apollonio Di Giovanni, plus a Car and Carriage Museum and a delightful greenhouse and gardens. Outdoorsy types can feel free to explore further afield – the Pittsburgh and Allegheny County trails are famous for their hiking, biking and fishing appeal. Or why not catch a sports match – there are plenty of choices here.
What to see
Given that Pittsburgh’s most famous son is Andy Warhol, it’s only right to spend a morning admiring his works at the Andy Warhol Museum, featuring 900 of his paintings plus photographs, artefacts and more. Another feast for the eyes is found outside: there’s a river tour that takes guests through the bridges and waterways that form a key part of the city’s landscape. Got kids? Keep them occupied at the National Aviary where they can watch the resident penguins, or the Carnegie Science Center, to come face to bone with dinosaur remains. It’s also worth spending a day in The Waterfront, Pittsburgh’s buzzy riverside shopping and dining area.
Where to stay
There are Hyatts, Hiltons and Hampton Inns galore – perfect if you like to know exactly what you’re getting. The coolest place to stay is the Ace Hotel – one of its 10 global locations is in the uber-hip East Liberty area. Or the Distrikt Hotel uptown is another urban boutique hotel that oozes cool. If the convenience of a kitchen appeals, Stay Alfred suites are super chic and right in the heart of the cultural district. But if budget is the main consideration, the SpringHill Suites feature a kitchenette and a complimentary shuttle to take guests across the Roberto Clemente Bridge towards downtown – all for £78 a night.
What to eat
You won’t go hungry in Pittsburgh. It’s best known for its working-class grub and its ethnic hidden gems. Try their signature sandwich – of cold cut meats with French fries and coleslaw included as part of the filling – at Primanti Bros, a chain of eateries that began in the 1930s. Or Prantl’s Bakery’s light and airy burnt almond torte is just as famous. For a forward-thinking take on the urban food hall, try Smallman Galley, which attracts creative chefs across the US for its four stalls. They rotate every year or two, and each use it as an incubator for their creative styles of cooking. Finally, for a classic American restaurant, try Superior Motors, a former car warehouse turned diner.
Wherever you plan on heading to this year it’s good to know that Flexicover Travel Insurance is committed to providing you with the highest level of protection to ensure you are safe and secure 24 hours a day when away.