Far and away, the neighborhoods are what make Pittsburgh such a special place. The rich history of this city is what shaped each of the neighborhoods into their own microcosm with distinct personalities. A great website for reference is http://www.visitpittsburgh.com. A map showing all the neighborhood is located at http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/cp/m...  But to expand upon what is offered there, read on.

Downtown

With a truly attractive skyline and some distinctive buildings ranging in age from 80 years to 8 years, you can get an eye-full down here. As of the time of this writing (June 06), there are some powerful forces at work downtown. There is a huge push to restore downtown to some of its former glory. Quite a few new residential projects are underway and following the residents of course will be commerical development. Understand, though, downtown still has a ways to go. The sidewalks are still basically rolled up at 6PM. The nightlife and dining options are somewhat slim. That aside, take a downtown walking tour during the day. There is some tremendous history here and some incredible buildings. The Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation ( http://www.phlf.org) offers a guide for walking tours.

The Strip District

Named for the long warehouses that have existed here for years, the Strip is a bit of a chameleon. During the day, it serves as the center for many restaurant wholesalers. Additionally, you can find some great eclectic stores here selling a wide variety of products. Two good websites for reference are http://www.1662designzone.com and  http://www.neighborsinthestrip.com One of the coolest things to do is to visit the Strip on a Saturday morning between 7AM and 3PM. All the vendors setup tables on the main drag through the Strip, Penn Avenue. Even if you're not in the market for olive oil from Tuscany, cheese from France, or the best hummus around, it's great just to see everything. At night, after the stores close, a few of Pittsburgh's top nightlife spots open up. The Strip used to be THE PLACE for nightlife, but it's been overshadowed recently by the Southside.

The South Side

A must-see for anyone visiting Pittsburgh. Carson Street is the main street running through the South Side. It's hard to believe as little as 2 decades ago, most shops were boarded up and the South Side was about ready to fold up. Now it's a main street that many other cities wish they could emulate. During the day you find a wide range of shops with tons of character. If the national chains are more your speed, head further up Carson Street where you'll find the Southside Works. A very new development that was built on top of a former steel mill site. But really, the true charm of the South Side is between 10th and 25th streets. As for nightlife, whatever your taste, you'll find it on Carson Street. Shot and beer bars, martini lounges, dance clubs, quirky neighborhood bars, no one will be disappointed. You can find the best pizza and cheesesteaks on Carson at 2AM as well, not to be missed. South Side's neighborhood site: www.southsidepittsburgh.com

Oakland

This neighborhood is the home to Pittsburgh's two largest employers, University of Pittsburgh (Pitt) and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). So catch Oakland before it's all completely bought up by these two entities and there's nothing left but brand-new buildings. Here in Oakland you will find the tallest educational building in the western hemisphere, the Cathedral of Learning. Be sure to check it out. The Pitt campus, while urban, does a good job of staying green. The area surrounding the Cathedral is green space as is the expansive Schenley Park which borders Oakland. The neighborhood has a very rich history and it's best to consult the Pitt website for a virtual tour ( http://www.pitt.edu) It's hard to the Pittsburgh Pirates won the 1960 World Series in this neighborhood at the long since demolished Forbes Field. You can still see the original home plate in one of Pitt's buildings, Wesley Posvar Hall.

Squirrel Hill

This neighborhood is just up the road from Oakland but it is a quintessential city neighborhood. It's one of the few remaining neighborhoods where one can live, work and shop without having to hop in a car. The main commerical area can be found at the intersection of Forbes and Murray Avenues. Here is where you'll find average Pittsburghers living their lives, but for some reason, there's something comforting in that. You find a wide range of ethnic restaurants in this area, from Thai, to Middle Eastern, to Jewish delicatessen, to burgers.

Shadyside

 This neighborhood is north of Squirrel Hill.  The commercial center is Walnut Street, which contains many boutique shops and restaurants.

While this list is not even close to conclusive, it's a good start.  Have fun!