The Easy and Practical Newcomer's Guide to Pittsburgh

Here's everything you need to know about getting settled in the Steel City.

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Two years ago, after living in Colorado for almost a decade and then in Boston for two years, we moved to Pittsburgh. Settling in a new city is exciting — there are new neighborhoods to explore, restaurants and museums to visit and delightful local slang and accents to understand. Simultaneously, it’s also exhausting: Finding housing, navigating the DMV and learning bus routes all can be exercises in patience. Just managing the documents you need to acquire a neighborhood parking pass can require a notary-level management of paperwork.

Lucky for you, Pittsburgh newcomers and visitors, we’ve done all the hard work for you — and the steps we took are fresh in our minds. We present our guide to learning the ropes in the Steel City. A guide to neighborhoods you should think about choosing. Where to buy groceries (and beer). And how to register your car.

Welcome to Pittsburgh.

Where to Live if You're a …

Shadyside and Oakland get much of the love from students, but the smartest choose Bloomfield, the city’s historic Italian neighborhood. Filled with Italian markets, bakeries, restaurants and bars, the area is walkable and affordable on a grad-student stipend. Finally, you won’t need a car: Bloomfield is a short bus ride, or a 1.5-mile walk or bike ride, to Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and their neighbors in higher education.

Median Sales Price: $130,000
Average Days on Market: 59
Population: 8,442
Owner-occupied: 36.7%
Median Income: $33,604
Walk Score: 88
Honorable Mentions: Friendship, Shadyside


Central Lawrenceville
Nicknamed the “Brooklyn of Pittsburgh,” Lawrenceville is home to an eclectic mix of retail outlets (within a block on Butler Street: a tea shop, a bike shop, a guitar store, a florist and a zombie-themed store) and hordes of bars ranging from divey to upscale. The area has become popular rapidly (and highly sought by investors and house flippers), but rowhouses and single-family homes still can be had at reasonable prices.

Median Sales Price: $182,500
Average Days on Market: 63
Population: 4,482
Owner-occupied: 49.2%
Median Income: $34,679
Walk Score: 73
Honorable Mentions: Central Northside, Garfield


Highland Park
The quiet streets, friendly neighbors and leafy, 380-acre park here all attract young couples looking for a little more space. While the community mostly is residential, it also features one of the best coffee shops, Tazza d’Oro, and some of the best neighborhood restaurants, including Park Bruges, Teppanyaki Kyoto and Smiling Banana Leaf.

Median Sales Price: $244,900
Average Days on Market: 66
Population: 6,395
Owner-occupied: 53.6%
Median Income: $66,985
Walk Score: 59
Honorable Mentions: Regent Square, Dormont


Mt. Lebanon
Young families are laser-focused on top-notch educations for the kids, and it’s hard to beat the schools of Mt. Lebanon, which is home to some of the best in the region and country. Don’t mistake the community for a drab suburb, though — Mt. Lebanon boasts a popular main street, tree-lined sidewalks and a manageable (20- to 30-minute) commute to downtown.

Median Sales Price: $229,900
Average Days on Market: 60
Population: 33,137
Owner-occupied: 71.4%
Median Income: $76,953
Walk Score: 60
Honorable Mentions: Dormont, Fox Chapel


Strip District
After spending a couple of decades focused on soccer practices, dance classes and dioramas, empty nesters may want to get back to urban living once the kids move out. There are few better spots than the resurgent Strip District, where new lofts and condominiums are going up amidst restaurants and markets.

Median Sales Price: $286,820*
Average Days on Market: 93*
Population: 616
Owner-occupied: 37.0%
Median Income: $70,706
Walk Score: 70
Honorable Mentions: Downtown

*Housing sales data for Strip District and downtown combined


Squirrel Hill North
While far from the cheapest neighborhood in the region, Squirrel Hill boasts classic dining spots, ethnic restaurants and tons of retail shops on Murray and Forbes avenues. Retirees also flock to the adult-targeted Manor Theatre (which sells beer, wine and cocktails) for new movies — and not just for matinees.

Median Sales Price: $325,000
Average Days on Market: 75
Population: 11,363
Owner-occupied: 59.2%
Median Income: $91,409
Walk Score: 59
Honorable Mentions: Mount Washington, Forest Hills

Walk Scores are based on a 0-to-100 scale (the higher, the better) and calculated by measuring walking distances to nearby amenities.

Next: The Newbie's Guide to Pittsburgh

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21 Great Communities

Around the Point

With exciting options for work, play and attractive new housing – these Pittsburgh neighborhoods are the places a rising number of urbanites want to call home.

The New North

If you venture to this neighborhood only to attend a sporting event or concert at PNC Park or Heinz Field, you’re missing out; the area is full of restaurants, museums, cultural landmarks and churches, as well as some lovely historic homes.

The Old Allegheny Slopes

No matter where you drive or walk in The Old Allegheny Slopes, you are probably going up or down a hill. This makes for a lot of good views, along with hidden surprises tucked into these city neighborhoods.

The Northern 'Burbs

The area commonly referred to as the North Hills maintains its long-held status as a fine suburban place to live or go for a walk in a nature park, but the area also offers plenty of shopping and dining and play options.

The Near East

There’s a reason all of the out-of-town trend pieces praising Pittsburgh’s 21st-century rebirth seem to focus on these neighborhoods. This thriving part of the city is where design, the arts, restaurant culture and high-end shopping are integrated into Pittsburgh’s working-class bones.

Where 8 Meets 28

The river communities that have been home to many families with histories in steel- and glass-making have a wealth of quaint, independent retail stores, restaurants and businesses, as well as much-loved libraries, festivals and community days.

Allegheny River Communities

Each borough and municipality in this northeastern corner of Allegheny County contains surprises. To those who live along the river’s edge, they’re familiar, hometown destinations and sights; to visitors, they’re spots worth making the drive out along (the finally construction-free) Route 28.

College Town

When people talk about the revitalization of Pittsburgh, it usually involves the tagline meds and eds — and meds and eds it is in College Town. You’ll find the sprawling buildings of Carnegie Mellon University, Carlow University and the University of Pittsburgh as well as several UPMC medical complexes.

Green Pittsburgh

Green Pittsburgh is a story of the birth and rebirth of our city: students and young professionals flock to Squirrel Hill and Shadyside, adding vibrancy that radiates from top universities. Meanwhile, redevelopment in Hazelwood and Glen Hazel offers new chances for affordable housing and a blossoming community.

The Hidden East End

The Mellons, Fricks, Carnegies and Westinghouses built their mansions in this most-stylish part of town. But their departure for greener and more secluded pastures — and the mass relocation of families here after the razing of the Lower Hill — left much of this area economically depressed for decades. Now the long-awaited renaissance of East Liberty is beginning to bring major reinvestment here, too.

The Eastern Border

Most of these communities, which lie to the east of the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, are residential suburbs with small business districts. There also are tons of beauty in these hills, which are packed with historic homes, parks, schools and churches, as well as evidence of Pittsburgh’s steel-making and industrial past.
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The Sprawling Suburbs

Roadways, which prompted the construction of shopping malls, always have played a key role in this region’s growth. Research labs for U.S. Steel, Westinghouse and others attracted engineers from around the world, particularly India, and the new immigrants often built temples — one of which is a familiar sight perched on a hillside overlooking I-376

The Mon and Beyond

Past meets the present in the communities making up Pittsburgh’s eastern and Mon Valley regions. Here you’ll encounter reminders of where we started as leaders in the steel industry and — while plenty of these small towns still face challenges — you’ll find glimpses of where we’re going in neighborhoods moving towards revitalization.

Scaling the Mountain

There’s a lot happening in the area between the South Side and the Hilltop, and every time you visit, it seems a new business has cropped up. The communities around Mount Washington enjoy beautiful views of the city as well as parks, strong neighborhood associations and ethnic restaurants.

The Reborn 'Burbs

This is where the city’s southern suburbs begin, at the edge of the city limits and drifting into the areas closest to Pittsburgh proper. Along the south bank of the Monongahela River — in an area with heavy industrial roots — you’ll find neighborhoods in the midst of revitalization, with plenty of business and more quaint places to live.

Far Down the River

Pittsburgh loves its blue-collar industrial history, and at the heart of that are the communities that make up the Mon Valley. Where the Monongahela and Youghiogheny rivers meet is the beginning of a network of proud, tight-knit communities with lots of trails and woods to explore, plenty of fishing spots and — important for any community — a wealth of beloved soft-serve ice cream stands.

The Southern Suburbs

With their abundance of green spaces, thriving business districts and walkable sidewalk communities, Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs offer plenty of incentive for families looking for a peaceful place to call home. Though mere minutes from Downtown, these neighborhoods make residents feel as though they are worlds away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

The Midwest

The neighborhoods west of Downtown were among the region’s first. Most were part of Chartiers Township, which (like the creek) was named for Pierre Chartier, a local trader of French and Shawnee parentage who later became a chief. Formerly farmland, most of this area was transformed by industry into working-class neighborhoods, a legacy which persists today.

Down the Highways

While driving southbound on Interstate 79, don’t be scared to take an exit and explore. These townships and boroughs range from scenic farmland to busy main streets. Regardless of the surroundings, the areas in this region all offer plenty to experience.

The Far-Flung 'Burbs

These primarily residential communities have spent the past years growing — and becoming more and more popular. With Pittsburgh International Airport nearby and increasing economic development, it’s easy to see why so many call this end of the region home.

The Ohio River Valley

The lands north of the Ohio River became part of the Depreciation Lands used to pay Revolutionary War veterans for their service. The numerous small boroughs and townships along Ohio River Boulevard are collected into slightly larger (but still compact) school districts, befitting their continued status as popular hometowns to raise families generation after generation.
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Getting Around & More

Your Guide to Getting There

How to make your way through construction, inscrutable directions and traffic and (quickly) get to everything Pittsburgh has to offer.

Six More Things You Might Not Know about Pittsburgh

The thing that annoyed a young Andy Warhol. A typo broadcast over the city skyline. And how our first mayor outwitted hostile natives at age 13. All of this and much more in the latest edition of Things You Might Not Know About Pittsburgh!

The Easy and Practical Newcomer's Guide to Pittsburgh

Here's everything you need to know about getting settled in the Steel City.
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