Why Market Square in Pittsburgh Should Be on Your Must-Visit List

Market Square Pittsburgh

Market Square in Pittsburgh is a vibrant hub of activity located in the heart of the city’s Golden Triangle. This bustling pedestrian plaza is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an authentic Pittsburgh experience. With its rich history, diverse culinary scene, and unique shopping and entertainment options, Market Square has something to offer everyone. In this article, we’ll dive into the many reasons why Market Square should be at the top of your list when visiting downtown Pittsburgh.

History and significance of Market Square in the Golden Triangle

Market Square has been a central gathering place for Pittsburghers since the city’s earliest days. Originally established as a marketplace in 1784, it quickly became a hub of activity for merchants, farmers, and shoppers alike. Over the years, Market Square has undergone many changes, including the addition of a fountain in the early 1900s and a major renovation in the 2000s. Today, it remains a vital part of the city’s downtown landscape, welcoming visitors from all over the world.

The city of Pittsburgh, PA was established at The Point, where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River. As the settlement at Fort Pitt increased in size, George Woods and Thomas Vickroy from Philadelphia were appointed to create a plan for the town. They designated an open space which was referred to as the “Diamond,” a term for a public square in Scotland. This Diamond eventually became known as Market Square, which is a shimmering gem in the middle of the city.

Market Square Origins

In 1794, the Diamond served as the initial home for the Allegheny County Courthouse and the inaugural jail. This was also the site for the publication of The Pittsburgh Gazette, the first newspaper to be printed west of the Allegheny Mountains. The Market House, situated on the eastern side of the square, was also housed in the Diamond. During this period, goods were delivered to the city by steamboat and unloaded at the Mon Wharf, where they were then taken to the Market Square. Additionally, farmers and merchants sold their goods at the Market Square.

In 1841, Grant Street became the new home of the courthouse, and the square was renovated to become an exclusive market area. Unfortunately, in 1845, a fierce fire damaged one-third of the structures in downtown Pittsburgh, though the wooden market buildings were left unscathed. Nevertheless, in 1852, two brick-constructed Diamond Market Houses were built in their stead, each one covering one-half of the square and being managed by the city.

Changes Come to Market Square in Pittsburgh

In 1914, after 62 years, the Diamond Market Houses were taken down and Market Square was reconstructed with The New Diamond Market. This H-shaped structure stretched across the four quadrants of the square and had openings for traffic from Diamond Street to go underneath and intersect with Market Street. Grocers, bakers, florists and other shops were drawn to the spacious market, which had an exhibit hall and even a boxing ring on the second floor. At one point, it even had a roller-skating rink on the third floor.

The Diamond Market’s attractiveness as a shopping hub diminished as more people migrated to the suburbs and shopping centers were constructed. In 1958, Mayor David L. Lawrence renamed Diamond Street to Forbes Avenue to commemorate General John Forbes who captured the region from the French.

In 1959, a startling incident occurred when a cornice fell from the New Diamond Market, striking a woman. This sparked an examination by officials of the building, where they discovered the need for considerable restoration as well as a pigeon-filled environment with droppings.

The Modernization of Market Square

In 1961, The New Diamond Market buildings were demolished to make way for a large open plaza. Composed of four grassy quadrants, the area was bordered by Forbes Avenue and Market Street. This soon became a popular spot for people at lunchtime, as well as a place to feed pigeons. Seven years later, Market Square was officially designated as the city’s first historic district. In 1977, the Hartzell Memorial Fountain was moved to the square. This structure was originally built by James E. Hartzell in 1909 in memory of his late wife Annie and inscribed with the words, “For Man, Beast and Bird.” It was used as a birdbath and public water fountain until 1990, when it was relocated to North Commons and Federal Street on the North Side.

Market Square in Pittsburgh c1964

In the 1980s, the area that was to be occupied by PPG Place necessitated the demolition of the existing buildings that were in the vicinity. Nearly a decade later, in 2009, a renovation of Market Square happened and the center of the square had its intersection removed, resulting in traffic being rerouted around the area. The four grassy sections of the square were then replaced with pavement, thus creating a larger plaza in the European style, which was encircled by eateries and stores.

PPG Place

The Present Day Scene at Market Square

Market Square in Pittsburgh is a popular hub for locals and tourists alike. Home to the Original Oyster House (open since 1870), it also hosts seasonal events like the Peoples Gas Holiday Market, a Farmers’ Market in the summer, Light-Up Night, the Irish Fair for St. Patrick’s Day, pep rallies for the Penguins and Steelers, free concerts and even Yoga in the Square.

The Golden Triangle, where Market Square is located, refers to the area where the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers meet to form the Ohio River. This strategic location made Pittsburgh a hub of trade and transportation in the early days of the United States, and the city’s downtown area has remained a vital economic and cultural center ever since. Market Square is at the heart of this vibrant district, surrounded by historic buildings, modern skyscrapers, and endless opportunities for exploration.

Top things to do in Market Square – food, drinks, shopping, and entertainment

One of the main draws of Market Square is its diverse array of food and drink options. From traditional Pittsburgh-style sandwiches at Primanti Bros. to sports bars like Cityworks and Italian food at Pizzaiolo Primo, there’s something here for every palate. Visitors can also sample local craft beer at The Yard or enjoy a refreshing cocktail at The Original Oyster House.

The Original Oyster House

But Market Square isn’t just about food and drink – it’s also a shopper’s paradise. From trendy boutiques like Boutique La Passerelle to the shops just a couple blocks away at Fifth Avenue Place, there are plenty of opportunities to find that perfect souvenir or gift. And if you’re in the mood for some entertainment, be sure to check out the live music and events at Market Square’s outdoor stage. From jazz bands to salsa dancers, there’s always something happening here.

Events and festivals in Market Square

Throughout the year, Market Square hosts a variety of events and festivals that celebrate the city’s rich cultural heritage. In the summer, visitors can enjoy free concerts and movies in the square, while in the winter, the square transforms into a festive holiday market. Other popular events include the Three Rivers Arts Festival, the Pittsburgh Wine Festival, and the Pittsburgh Pierogi Festival. No matter what time of year you visit, there’s sure to be something exciting happening in Market Square.

Exploring Market Square’s surrounding neighborhoods

While Market Square is a destination in its own right, it’s also a great starting point for exploring the surrounding neighborhoods. Just a short walk away is the historic Strip District, known for its vibrant food scene and bustling markets. And a few blocks in the other direction is the Cultural District, home to some of Pittsburgh’s best theaters and galleries. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or food, there’s plenty to see and do in the neighborhoods around Market Square.

Tips for visiting Market Square

If you’re planning a trip to Market Square, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, be sure to wear comfortable shoes – you’ll be doing a lot of walking! Second, bring a camera – the square’s historic architecture and beautiful fountain make for great photo opportunities. And finally, be prepared for crowds – especially during peak tourist season. But don’t let that deter you – the energy and excitement of Market Square are part of what make it such a special place.

Other attractions in Downtown Pittsburgh

While Market Square is certainly a highlight of downtown Pittsburgh, there are plenty of other attractions worth exploring in the area. Just a short walk away is Point State Park, where visitors can take in stunning views of the city and learn about its history at the Fort Pitt Museum. And a few blocks in the other direction is the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Whether you’re interested in history, art, or outdoor recreation, there’s plenty to see and do in downtown Pittsburgh.

Accommodations near Market Square

If you’re planning to spend some time in Market Square and the surrounding area, there are plenty of accommodations available to suit every budget and preference. From luxury hotels like the Fairmont Pittsburgh to budget-friendly options like the Hampton Inn & Suites, there are plenty of places to rest your head after a day of exploring. And with many hotels within walking distance of Market Square, you won’t have to worry about transportation.

Getting to Market Square and parking options

Getting to Market Square is easy, whether you’re driving, taking public transportation, or walking. If you’re driving, there are several parking garages in the area, including the Smithfield-Liberty Garage and the Fifth Avenue Place Garage. If you’re taking public transportation, the square is served by several bus and light rail lines, as well as the free “T” downtown circulator. And if you’re walking, there are plenty of sidewalks and pedestrian crossings to help you navigate the city safely.

Market Square should be on every visitor’s list

Market Square in Pittsburgh is a destination that should be on every visitor’s list. With its rich history, diverse culinary scene, and unique shopping and entertainment options, it’s a hub of activity that captures the spirit of Pittsburgh. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, Market Square is sure to delight your senses and leave you with lasting memories. So what are you waiting for? Plan your trip today and discover all that Market Square has to offer!

Experiencing Market Square: The Holidays

Market Square Pittsburgh truly comes alive during the holiday season, adopting a magical ambiance reminiscent of traditional European Christkindlmarkts. The Peoples Gas Holiday Market™ is a highlight, featuring an array of global shops showcasing Asian, African, Haitian, and Latin American goods. There’s even a dedicated Santa’s House for the young and young-at-heart to capture memorable holiday snapshots.

Concurrent with the Holiday Market, The Rink at PPG Place offers ice skating against the backdrop of a stunningly illuminated 65-foot high Holiday tree. Don’t miss the Market Square’s transformation on Highmark Light Up Night, where the lighting of the Christmas tree is accompanied by musical performances, fireworks, shopping, and tantalizing food.

Shopping Extravaganza in Market Square

Market Square Pittsburgh is a shopper’s delight, with a myriad of local businesses offering unique products. The PG&H store, managed by the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, is a showcase for local artisans and makers, selling a range of high-quality home goods, accessories, decor, and gifts. Fashion lovers should make a beeline for Boutique La Passerelle , renowned for its European-inspired fashion with a Pittsburgh twist, and 306 Forbes Boutique, which offers women’s fashion, accessories, and cutting-edge beauty treatments. For menswear, stop by Heinz Healey’s, a local institution that has been providing high-fashion menswear for over three decades.

Self-Care in Market Square

For those seeking a little self-care, Market Square plays host to several salons and spas. The Health Club & Spa at the Fairmont Pittsburgh offers an exhaustive spa menu, from massages to full-body treatments. If fitness is your goal, Moxie Mind & Body offers Pilates classes in private, duet, or group settings.

The Pulse of the Square: Market Square Farmers Market

Market Square Pittsburgh stays vibrant all year round with a range of events and activities. From May to October, the Market Square Farmers Market sets up shop, featuring a variety of local vendors and live performances. During the summer, the Square morphs into an open-air yoga studio for Yoga in the Square sessions, providing free classes to the public. The Saturday Night Market is another highlight, running from June to October, and bringing together local businesses for a lively pop-up shopping event.

Parking at Market Square

While Market Square itself does not offer vehicle parking, there is limited street parking in the surrounding area. The Market Square Garage, managed by the Alco Parking Corporation, is an alternative, or you can check real-time parking availability via ParkPGH.


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