Pittsburgh Calling: Sharing This City With Travelers From Across the Pond

Pittsburgh Calling: Sharing This City With Travelers From Across the Pond

Tips for UK travelers coming to Pittsburgh

Upon first glance, Pittsburgh and London may not have tons of glaring similarities. Yet a recent hop across the pond allowed me to consider connections that would appeal to folks in both of these culturally-rich, riverside cities. 

From residents’ steadfast loyalty to regional sports teams on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as a shared love of urban green spaces and a propensity for pints of tasty, local beer, I’ve found plenty to celebrate about the two destinations now — and in the sunny months ahead. (Here’s an overview of some of Pittsburgh’s best bits, in any season.) 

It was a special family reunion in the land of Ted Lasso — specifically in Richmond, located in the Southwest of London — that took me back to the UK most recently. This charming oasis on the edge of the Thames, where the endearing TV series is set, happens to be exactly where my brother has resided for more than a half-decade, too. It’s been a lovely spot to grow to know.

Corinne's brother Matt poses in front of his favorite neighborhood hangout — and Ted Lasso's, too!

This particular trip provided the ideal opportunity to book the direct British Airways flight between PIT and LHR (London’s Heathrow, the UK's biggest airport, located 14 miles west of city center). Having just landed here last fall, I’m still dazzled by small-airport travel perks, like PIT’s ultra-affordable long-term parking options, the friendliest, laid-back staff at the American Airlines Admirals Club lounge and a lightning-speed immigration process that had me in a homebound Lyft 28 minutes after touching back down on U.S. soil. 

British Airways is the only airline that offers a direct flight between Pittsburgh and London, and the route is operated by a Boeing 787-8. Although BA currently operates four flights each week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays), it will ramp its service up to six flights in mid-May (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays), and increase incrementally until then.


So what might we recommend to Brits flying west to explore the City of Bridges in all her spring and summertime glory? Some may enjoy making contacts and checking out events hosted by Britsburgh, a local group “passionate about Pittsburgh community spirit.” 

Getting context for this place’s many immigrant communities is a great starting point — best done inside The University of Pittsburgh's 31 Nationality Rooms. These ornate spaces, gifts from the ethnic communities who helped build Pittsburgh, can be found inside the soaring 42-story gothic-style Cathedral of Learning. (Of relevance: the English Room, featuring stained glass windows, a brick from 10 Downing Street and architectural details inspired by the House of Commons.)

Then, to get a proper crash course on Pittsburgh’s identity — past, present and future — swing by the Fort Pitt Museum in Point State Park as well as the Heinz History Century, where “Clash of Empires” tells the story of local involvement in the French and Indian War. Among many venue highlights, another exhibit showcases the largest collection of Heinz artifacts in the nation, including an 11-foot ketchup-bottle display, comprised of 400-plus individual bottles. 

Other can’t-miss cultural hubs range from the Carnegie Museum of ArtAndy Warhol Museum and the brand-new Moonshot Museum, to unique venues like Bicycle Heaven and the Clemente Museum (located in an historic engine house), which seems to appeal to even the non-sports-lovers among us.

Invigorating live music by talents both local and national can be enjoyed at more intimate venues (like Thunderbird Cafe and Music Hall and Mr. Smalls) or those more grand (like symphony performances at Heinz Hall and big-name shows at Stage AE, an indoor-outdoor venue on the North Shore). 

A concert at the church-turned-hip-music-venue Mr. Smalls

This year a brand-new festival called WonderWorks (May 27-28) joins a lineup of old favorites like the free, 10-day Three Rivers Arts Festival (June 2-11). Those wanting to delve into some of the city’s quirkier vibes might want to pencil in memorable happenings like the annual Picklesburgh Festival (July 21-23).

For a true all-American experience, attend a Pirates baseball game, or travel just outside of town to Kennywood — a regional amusement park that still showcases three roller coasters dating back to the 1920s. (It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987.) Known for its beloved rides — including some new additions — and fun-filled seasonal events, locals will advise that you certainly can’t leave without first trying some “chips” from The Potato Patch


As much as Londoners enjoy time near their grand river, they’ll also want to delve into water-centric activities by and on the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers. Rent a kayak to explore on your own, or hop aboard a Gateway Clipper riverboat cruise to take in the skyline from a new vantage point. 

Corinne always enjoys strolling along the tranquil Thames, among chatty locals who often have four-legged friends in tow.

There are dozens of urban parks and trails to wander here; consider renting a bike to pedal along the Great Allegheny Passage, which spans all the way to Washington, D.C. And although a car is needed to access farther-flung destinations, nature enthusiasts will savor excursions to the scenic Laurel Highlands and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater masterpiece, located a 90-minute drive south of the city. 

The culinary and brewery scenes here dazzle at any time of year, but warmer weather brings the added bonus of good eats and drinks relished on sun-kissed patios. Sip tasty pints in outdoor spaces at Bloomfield’s Trace (where the morning coffee is a hit, too), Sly Fox at The Highline(where a new brunch menu features playful flights of mimosas), Regent Square’s D’s Six Pax and Dogz, Homestead’s Golden Age, Millvale’s Strange Roots or Grist House and Larimer's East End Brewing (where the vegan pizza was an unexpected bonus find).

Corinne and her family celebrated Pi Day in the best way possible — with pints and savory pies savored inside a friendly, cozy pub.

In the Strip District, the 2nd-floor balcony of The PA Market is an ideal spot on which to try dishes from the food hall’s enticing vendors. Lawrenceville loyalists regularly flock to Pusadee’s Garden for the tranquil outdoor setting and raved-about Thai dishes. Weekends are a prime time to enjoy a casual, riverside lunch in Aspinwall at the Farmer x Baker cafe, and locals are thrilled when downtown’s Biergarten reopens for the season, perched on the 9th floor of Kimpton Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh.

Booking a ‘Burgh Bits and Bites Food Tour is another prime way to learn about the city’s many, distinctive neighborhoods while getting nourished and making new friends along the way.  

Or, of course, you can always pick up a picnic-ready Primanti Bro.’s sandwich before flying back across the Atlantic — a true sign that you’ve properly experienced the welcoming Pittsburgh scene. Cheers, and come back soon!