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There may be more beautiful cities than Pittsburgh, but few mix the seemingly contradictory aesthetics of filigreed beaux-arts elegance with muscular art-deco swagger. This is a city of stone and steel, with old public libraries and brick row houses beside wide bridges and towering skyscrapers. There's an old-school class to Pittsburgh's good looks, underlined by an attitude towards dining, drinking and the arts that is genuinely innovative.

Pittsburgh's surroundings also set the city apart. Situated between the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers and the upland ridge of Mt Washington, this city has a distinctive geography; physically, it is very much defined by its mountains and rivers. While this is the main urban center for western Pennsylvania, it has avoided the economic depression of the surrounding region by investing in 'meds and eds' – hospitals and universities – buttressing its economy with expansive intellectual energy.

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