Germans began immigrating to Pennsylvania in the 1600s, with Pennsylvania Dutch and Bavarians making a lasting mark on the Commonwealth. With an influx of German settlers, Pittsburgh at one time even had German as one of our official languages, with a daily newspaper written in German that was published through the early 1900s.
While the Hofbräuhaus or Penn Brewery are staples in the local German scene, there are more than pints of pilsner to experience in the city.
Max’s Allegheny Tavern on the North Side specializes in traditional German fare from sandwiches to wursts, spatzles and schnitzels. Try one of the Old World favorites that have been on the menu since 1890 and don’t leave without sampling the German potato salad.
Lorelei is bringing the Alpine aesthetic to East Liberty. While woodfired pizza may not initially come to mind when thinking of German grub, it’s the warm beer garden atmosphere combined with a great selection of Austrian and German wines that makes for a Bavarian experience.
The Biergarten is the place to ascend when looking for a Bavarian-style pretzel Downtown. The Kimpton Hotel Monaco rooftop is open seasonally and a warm, sunny autumn day makes for a perfect excuse to meet with friends and share in some light bites.
Add homemade sauerkraut to your brats by taking a class with Community Cultures. The fermentation workshops will show how you can take your own veggies and create stellar krauts to add to your next German-themed home-cooked meal.
While a sweet tooth may associate German Chocolate Cake with the country, the namesake actually comes from the last name of an American baker. Try Black Forest Cake instead. Oakmont Bakery makes a decadent chocolate cake with the iconic maraschino cherry topping.
Celebrate your German heritage by joining the members-only club, Teutonia Mannerchor. Members have weekly opportunities for meetings and cultural activities, with local food trucks regularly featured. Check for the East Allegheny club’s events that are open to the public, including musical performances with food and drink offerings for the entire community to enjoy.
Arts & architecture
Bayernhof is a museum that music lovers, history buffs and antique enthusiasts will love. The unique collection is housed in the O’Hara Township mansion, but feels like you’ve set foot in a German castle. The architecture is indicative of the Bavarian style and many of its musical instruments are German-designed music boxes and musical machines. Tours are open to the public, but reservations are required.
One of our famous previous residents, H.J. Heinz, was of German descent. Learn about the city and its people, including the contributions of Heinz by spending an afternoon at the Heinz History Center. Be sure to make a stop at the Detre Library & Archives, which houses photographs, books and periodicals capturing the rich history of Western Pennsylvania.
The windows by Franz Mayer of Munich Glass at St. Paul Cathedral in North Oakland are a reverent example of German-style stained glass that was popular in the design elements of Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Take a weekend to experience La Hutte Royal, one of the Troy Hill Art Houses. German artist Thorsten Brinkmann transformed an abandoned house and created an immersive art experience. The visit is full of surprises, so the best advice is to go and have the experience firsthand. Visits are free, but space is limited so booking an appointment online in advance is required.
Explore the Deutschtown neighborhood of the city. Spend the night at the Priory Hotel, a boutique historic property. The Grand Hall is a beautifully restored space, originally part of St. Mary’s Church built by German immigrants in the late 1800s.
Make a day trip to Old Economy Village to experience what life would have been like in a historic Harmony Society, where German Lutheran Separatists sought religious freedom, escaping Europe in the 1500s. See firsthand where the Harmonists would have lived and worked, the style of building for the period, and what a typical day in the life of an immigrant would have looked like at the time.
We might not have the autobahn but the Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum will have drivers racing behind the wheel of an Audi. Spend the day in Lawrence County, speeding around the track as if you were motoring along the German highway.
The work of celebrated German-American architect Frederick Sauer can be found throughout the city. Several of his buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of his noteworthy buildings rests as a prominent feature in the Strip District: St. Stanislaus Kostka Church.
Pitt Deutsch Klub is there for students and community members who want to improve their German language skills. In addition, the group hosts cultural events like dining opportunities and film nights. Keep up with upcoming happenings via their Facebook page.
Stammtisch is German for a group that has regular get-togethers and the Pittsburgh German Language Meetup Group is another one that focuses on mastering the language. They frequently host free events in Squirrel Hill, so you can keep up with weekly practices.