10 Epic Locations for Photos of Downtown Pittsburgh
I’ve traveled to more than thirty countries during my life and have visited some of the world’s largest and most photographed cities. However, I honestly don’t think I’ve come across a city that has more great places to photograph its skyline than Pittsburgh.
During my visits to Pittsburgh over the last few years, I’ve made a point of seeking out some of the city’s best spots for epic photographs. Some of these spots are well-known, while others are little-known even to Pittsburgh natives. Whether you love to take photos or just want to admire the city, these ten spots are sure to delight!
The most well-known spot for shots of downtown Pittsburgh is Mount Washington. Located just across the Monongahela River from downtown, the photos from this overlook are truly some of the best you’ll come across anywhere. If you want the classic shot of downtown Pittsburgh that you’ve probably seen many times before, this is where you want to head. In the past, I’ve declared this to be the best natural overlook in the world, and I still hold that this is definitely true.
While the shot above is the classic shot from Mount Washington, there are many other great vantage points here. Turning your camera to the east gives a unique view along the Monongahela River, and the view of the west overlooks the Ohio River.
There are also great shots to be had near the western edges of Mount Washington. From here, shots of George Washington and Guyasuta can be quite interesting.
To get photos from the top of Mount Washington, head to the following coordinates and walk along the ridgeline: 40.438147, -80.018890.
Located in west Pittsburgh near Oakland and Squirrel Hill, Schenley Park is one of the city’s coolest parks and its second largest. Once home to horse racing, the park is popular today with hikers, bikers, and golfers. However, what I enjoyed most was the great view over downtown Pittsburgh.
What makes the view from the southern corner of Schenley Park so great is that you can see the entire skyline of Pittsburgh from one spot. This gives a great opportunity to see the skyscrapers of both downtown and Oakland. It also really allows you to grasp how much taller the Cathedral of Learning is than the other buildings around it.
To get to this view, head to the following coordinates within Schenley Park: 40.430600, -79.945468.
North Shore Bike Path
The views along the entire North Shore Bike Path are quite exceptional. However, my favorite section is the area from just west of the Roberto Clemente Bridge to the Rachel Carson Bridge. From here, the views of downtown Pittsburgh are simply phenomenal. Despite being separated from downtown by the Allegheny River, it really feels like you are completely enveloped by the majesty of downtown Pittsburgh.
What I love most about the view from here is how close you are to the iconic yellow bridges of Pittsburgh. There is something amazing about standing next to these bridges and looking over the downtown area.
To visit the North Shore, start at the following coordinates along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail near PNC Park and walk upstream until you reach the third bridge: 40.446398, -80.004102.
West End Overlook
Mount Washington gets all the love, but the West End-Elliot Overlook Park, which sits a bit further downstream, provides an equally amazing view. What’s especially great about the overlook here is that you are looking directly at Point State Park, providing a very symmetrical view of downtown Pittsburgh and the three rivers.
What puts it a step below Mount Washington, in my opinion, is that it’s a bit harder to reach from downtown Pittsburgh, and there is really only one angle here for photographing. However, with such an amazing view, it’s well-worth visiting and one of the best views in the city.
West End-Elliot Overlook Park can be found at the following coordinates: 40.445217, -80.033227.
Located on the southern shores of the Monongahela River, this view is somewhat similar to the one from the North Shore. However, having to shoot over railroad tracks makes the downtown area seem a bit further away. Nevertheless, there are great views to be had from this shopping and entertainment area of Pittsburgh.
The view here is also fairly similar to some of the vantage points that you can get from the top of Mount Washington, which is directly behind this viewpoint, but being much closer to water levels provides a nice vantage point and some cool photography opportunities.
Your GPS should be able to direct you to Station Square, but just in case, these views can be had from the backside of the complex at the following coordinates: 40.434280, -80.004602.
36th Floor of the Cathedral of Learning
The Cathedral of Learning on the University of Pittsburgh campus is one of Pittsburgh’s tallest buildings and is the second tallest university building in the world. There are many great places to explore on the lower floors, but if you’re looking for a great view, head to the 36th floor.
While the building itself is 42 stories, the 36th floor is the highest one that is publicly accessible. Home to the university’s Honors College, the 36th floor offers an impressive view over Oakland the the surrounding city. Unfortunately, the windows here are quite small and don’t provide a great view of the downtown skyscrapers. However, as best I can tell, this is the highest, publicly-accessible building floor in the city.
The Cathedral of Learning is located at 4200 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
Frank Curto Park
Located along Bigelow Boulevard between downtown Pittsburgh and Polish Hill, Frank Curto Park is a speck of land that is very easy to miss. In fact, I initially drove right by the park and had to make a long detour through downtown Pittsburgh to circle back around again. However, the unique view here is well-worth checking out.
At the western edges of the park, there’s a great view of downtown Pittsburgh with the traffic along the busy roadway in the foreground. The park itself is home to several very interesting sculptures and you can frequently see wild turkeys here as well.
The park is located at the following coordinates: 40.452754, -79.974149. The listed coordinates are the entrance to the park’s one-way road, which can only be accessed by traveling towards downtown on Bigelow Boulevard. The best view of downtown is from the far edge of the park.
Union Station Portico
Old train stations are almost always designed with beautiful architecture, but the portico for Union Station at the intersection of 11th Street and Liberty Avenue is especially beautiful. Today, this is also part of a condominium complex, in addition to Pittsburgh’s Amtrak station.
From here, the view of downtown Pittsburgh’s skyscrapers is quite beautiful. However, what makes this view so amazing is that you can see the skyline from inside the insanely exquisite architecture of the train station.
This amazing view can be found at the following coordinates: 40.443992, -79.992564.
The Deck of the Gateway Clipper
While it might be touristy, a trip on the Gateway Clipper provides many great vantage points of downtown Pittsburgh that you simply can’t get from land. And, while you could take your own watercraft out, it’s much easier to photograph or simply enjoy the view from the deck of the boat.
Cruises are offered throughout the day, including several during and after sunset. When I rode on the Gateway Clipper, I opted for a sunset cruise, which created many great photo opportunities, many of which were hard to capture because shooting long-exposures doesn’t work very well from a moving boat. Nevertheless, I was able to get a few good shots, and I really had a great time watching the city’s lights turn on from the comfort of the boat.
The Gateway Clipper leaves from Station Square at regular intervals throughout the year.
Fineview Overlook takes its name from the Fineview neighborhood of Pittsburgh, which is, rather obviously, known for its fine view of the city. The overlook itself is nothing more than a few benches and the sidewalk along Catoma Street between Meadville and Lanark Streets.
Despite simply being called Fineview Overlook, I would say that the view from here is really pretty awesome. I especially loved how the baseball diamond at Fineview Fields is in the foreground, giving a really unique look at the meshing of residential and urban life.
Fineview Overlook can be found at the following coordinates: 40.460525, -80.004395.
[Click here for information on how to use coordinates to find your destination.]