Attractions in Pittsburgh

Or, "Come to Pittsburgh for Bookstore Tourism but Don't Forget to Ride the Inclines"

(Art lovers, follow this link: Art in Pittsburgh )
(Book lovers, follow this link for more on Bookstore Tourism)

The view of Pittsburgh and the Monongahela River, from the Monongahela Incline, South Side

Inclines and Grandview Avenue

Pittsburgh boasts two working inclines (aka trams or funiculars), the Monongahela Incline and the Duquesne Incline, both running between West Carson Street on the South Side and Grandview Avenue on the top of Mt. Washington (a 400 foot climb). While locals use these inclines as routine public transportation, tourists love the views these slow-moving carriages afford, and their unique history. The Monongahela Incline has been running since 1870, and the Duquesne, since 1877, but the latter uses a much older style of renovated cable cars; the Monongahela cars look like they are from the 1960s.

Follow the link for Fare and Location Info for the Inclines

Grandview Avenue, at the top of the ride, is aptly named. Near each incline station there is a scenic lookout to view the three rivers and their confluence, the Golden Triangle of downtown, the closest bridges, the North Side stadiums, and a good deal of the city and its skyline.

Public Steps

According to Bob Regan and his book The Steps of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh has 712 public stairways, more than any other city in America. The South Side's "South Slopes" have some of the city's more notorious steps, with wonderful views for the adventurous. Regan's book gives six walking tours complete with maps.


Don't miss one of Pittsburgh's best museum collections, the Heinz History Center (part of the Smithsonian), located in the Strip District near Downtown. Other highlights include the Fort Pitt Museum at Point State Park (a key site in both the French and Indian, and Revolutionary Wars), and Homestead and The Pump House, site of the Battle of Homestead in 1892.

Union steel workers staged the infamous Homestead Strike against Carnegie Steel in 1892. Photo (c) Jason Kosnoski, 2007.

Jazz History

Pittsburgh was once well known for its vibrant jazz scene. See a list of "Pittsburgh jazz musicians" and what that definition includes here. Visit the Jazz Hall of Fame in the University of Pittsburgh's William Pitt Union for a tribute to some of jazz's greatest talents. The Pittsburgh Jazz Society still brings national jazz acts to the greater Pittsburgh area. And local jazz radio station, WDUQ, hosts a Pittsburgh jazz calendar on their website.

The Hill District and especially the Lower Hill was once flush with jazz joints such as the Crawford Grill (2141 Wylie Avenue), the Hurricane Lounge, and the Webster Grill. People from all over Pittsburgh and visitors from all over the world stopped into these joints to soak up the music, and to see and be seen, from the 1930s to the 1960s. But city planners systematically razed the Lower Hill, ignoring its cultural and community value and focussing only on the blight of the buildings. They erected the Mellon Arena, destroying almost 100 acres and displacing thousands of residents, starting in the mid fifties. The neighborhood never recovered.


Titus de Bobula, Henry Hornbostel, Frederick Osterling, and H.H. Richardson each have stunning buildings here; other notable architects represented in Pittsburgh include: Walter Gropius, Philip Johnson, Richard Meier, Frederick Sauer, Mies van der Rohe, Robert Venturi, and William Halsey Wood.

Follow this link for a virtual tour of a well-renovated Victorian street, East Carson Street on the South Side.
Detail, Henry Hornbostel's City-County Building in downtown Pittsburgh.

If you want a comprehensive account of the architects and their buildings, the two books to look at are: Pittsburgh’s Landmark Architecture: The Historic Buildings of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by Walter C. Kidney, or Pittsburgh: An Urban Portrait by Franklin Toker. You can also find walking tour brochures from the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation online store.


Between the terrain and the architecture, Pittsburgh neighborhoods are a delight to walk around. Try Downtown, The Strip District, Bloomfield, Lawrenceville, Point Breeze, Shadyside, South Side, the public stairs on the South Slopes, the Mexican War Streets, Oakland, Squirrel Hill, or Homestead.


Allegheny County is dense with bridges, with approximately 2000 of them in county limits. Brooklyn Bridge designer, John Roebling, designed "The Three Sisters," three very walkable bridges that span the Allegheny River from downtown to the North Side. The Smithfield Street Bridge is a beautiful bridge leading from the Monongahela side of downtown to Station Square on the South Side.


Kennywood is one of America's oldest-running and best-loved amusement parks, and it is accessible by the 61C busline. Click the link for a list of hotels offering package deals for Kennywood.

The Racer is one of the oldest rides at Kennywood Amusement Park: a wooden roller coaster from 1927. Photo (c) Jason Kosnoski, 2007.