A Guide to Pittsburgh's Market Square
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A Guide to Pittsburgh's Market Square

Market Square in Pittsburgh
Cole Young /Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

As part of a summer series, T+L is highlighting amazing lesser-known attractions found in the United States. Next up: a Pittsburgh must-see.

In Pittsburgh’s Market Square, an outdoor public space between Forbes Avenue and Market Street downtown, you’ll find some of the most storied and some of the most exciting, new things to do in Pittsburgh. It’s a popular lunch and happy hour spot for locals who work in the business district, but it’s also a hub for pop-up art, flash mobs, artisan markets, and a great view of the PPG Place spires that give Pittsburgh its castle-like skyline.

Though Market Square has had a bit of a dotted history as a public gathering space, it underwent extensive renovations in 2009 to resemble more of a European-style plaza and has since become a central locale for Pittsburgh’s culture, bringing together dining, entertainment, and events downtown.

Its restaurants range from family-friendly fun to fine dining; and though you will find your standard chain eats like Subway, Chipotle, and Starbucks, don’t let that fool you. They’re neighbors with some of the ’Burgh’s favorite homegrown food stops.

To take an (admittedly, messy) bite out of a Pittsburgh tradition, stop at Primanti Bros. Famous faces like Jimmy Fallon, Hillary Clinton, and Jon Stewart have all paid a visit to this iconic eatery that piles the French fries and cole slaw right on top of its sandwiches.

If you’re passing through in the morning, grab a wake-up cup at Nicholas Coffee & Tea Co., which has been roasting and brewing in the same building since 1919. To satisfy your sweet tooth, stop at local favorite Prantl’s Bakery, where it’s practically illegal not to try the almond torte. There’s also Pittsburgh’s oldest bar and restaurant, the Original Oyster House, which has been open since the 1870s, and some much-awaited newcomers like Franktuary and The Yard, both downtown satellites to their beloved flagship locations elsewhere in Pittsburgh.

Other than the fare, Market Square’s biggest draw is its year-round events calendar. Light Up Night kicks off the holiday season each year, when the Square is transformed into Pittsburgh’s own North Pole with a shopping village inspired by traditional German Christkindlmarkts, and of course, a gingerbread house where kids can meet Santa. It’s also the main gathering place following Pittsburgh’s annual St. Patrick's Day parade—one of the largest in America.

On a more regular basis from spring to fall, there are live music performances on Monday and Wednesday afternoons, educational programs for children on Tuesdays, and the ever-popular Farmers Market on Thursdays, where out-of-towners can experience the flavors of Pittsburgh with local produce, gourmet treats, and handmade crafts.

If you’re in Pittsburgh for a weekend trip during the summer and looking for a way to stay active, check out Yoga or Dancing in the Square, both free, public classes that turn the Square into a giant dance floor or a place of inner peace in the middle of the city. For a complete schedule of events, visit the Market Square website.

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