This post was written by Chelsea Loren — a branding & product photographer based in Southern California.
Seattle: the pinnacle of the Northwest, known for its coffee game, and notoriously gloomy weather.
Going into this 3-day trip, I knew I wanted to visit the legendary Pike Place Market and was extremely interested in its history and food stalls — but a number of the other things that made this itinerary were suggestions I picked up from locals!
For those of you that are dedicated fans of the ‘Bucks, I’ll touch on Starbucks’ origins…and then steer you to a different place for coffee. 😉
As a note, I chose not to visit the Space Needle, but rather appreciate it as part of Seattle’s iconic skyline; if you’re like me, here are the top things to do in Seattle! However, if you want to include it in your visit, I’ve noted where I think it would mesh well.
For those that love indulging in local delights and finding cool places to snap photos, here’s the ultimate 3-day Seattle itinerary!
Before You Go
I went at the end of May for Memorial Day Weekend and was greeted with gorgeous weather. There was a light mist when we got in, but other than that we were greeted by sunshine.
The weather (and whether it’s raining or not) will definitely impact some of the outdoor activities. In terms of weather, the best times to visit Seattle are May to mid-October for sunnier skies and less rain.
Be aware that since the summer tends to be the high season, there may be more crowds and you’ll likely find fewer deals when it comes to hotel rates.
Where to Stay in Seattle
We stayed at the Alexis Royal Sonesta, about 10 minutes from Pike Place. The rooms were lovely, guest service was great, and it was an ideal walking distance — would definitely recommend its central location.
Wherever you choose to stay, I would highly suggest somewhere close to Pike Place, as it is pretty central to most things you’ll be doing, and staying in this general area makes walking to things pretty manageable.
A few other hotel options:
- Budget: Green Tortoise Hostel
- Mid-Range: Hotel Theodore, Alexis Royal Sonesta
- Luxury: Edgewater, Inn at the Market, Four Seasons Seattle
Getting Into Seattle from the Airport
Getting to our hotel from the airport, we took the Seattle Light Rail and it was about $5 to get into the center of Seattle and took about 50 minutes.
Ubers and Lyfts are available; will take about 20-25 minutes without heavy traffic and the price without surge was roughly ~$50. I’ve been told by locals that rideshare prices are not super reliable and can quickly surge…which I experienced firsthand.
My flight out of Seattle was an early morning one, and the first Uber slated the price at $60. It then canceled a few minutes later and the price jumped to $90. So just keep that in mind.
The Neighborhoods in Seattle
To get a lay of the land, here’s a quick overview of some of the neighborhoods:
- Ballard: Hip waterfront area, lots of breweries
- Belltown: Cool dive and cocktail bars, some storied music venues
- Fremont: Kind of a hipster vibe with vintage shops, this is where the iconic Fremont Troll is located
- Queen Anne: Lots of older Victorian architecture, can get great views of the city
- Capitol Hill: LGBTQ+ friendly, lots of fun bars and restaurants
- Pike: Where the famous market is located, quite touristy
- Pioneer Square: Downtown vibes, some of Seattle’s origins, older area, as a note, there are a lot of homeless in this area
*There are a bunch of other places but these are the main ones that came up when talking to locals about where to visit and what to see!
Your First Night
I’d recommend making a reservation at Pink Door for your first night! After you check in to your hotel and get your bearings, make your way over to Pike Place Market.
The market itself closes around 5 pm, so you’ll likely be seeing it after it’s closed. You can snap a few pictures of the iconic sign and get a taste of what the area will be like…before the hustle and bustle of the morning.
Keep walking until you find Post Alley. Now, there is NO sign for the restaurant. There is just a pink door.
Dinner at Pink Door
If you’re able to snag a reservation — do so! This place books up weeks (and maybe months) in advance.
While I didn’t manage to make a reservation, I did read that Pink Door normally keeps half the restaurant available for walk-ins.
For reference, we were there on a Thursday night around 6:30 pm and put our names on the waitlist (they said it would be about 1 hour 30 minutes); other times of the year the waitlist might be too long.
If there’s a wait — don’t fret! Make your way right across the alley to the wine tasting room, literally called “The Tasting Room.”
Go in, do a wine tasting, share a charcuterie board that has Beecher’s Homemade Cheese on it (definitely recommend getting this local cheese as it’s on the list of musts to try in Pike Place — but the line is usually CRAZY long. So if you can sample some here, do so).
Once you’ve imbibed a couple of glasses and your table is ready, prepare yourself for a decadent meal.
Pink Door’s menu features Italian delights and is especially known for their lasagna — made of thin layers of spinach pasta with bechamel sauce and pesto, and then topped with marinara sauce.
It’s said that Bill Gates once asked the owner for the recipe and she said no! So, do yourself a favor and try it while you’re here. 🙂
Day 1: Pike Delights + Victorian Views
Hopefully you’re hungry as this is quite a foodie-centric day!
Get up early and head to Pike Market — it generally opens at 9 am. I would suggest getting there earlier rather than later as queues start quickly filling up and the place is flocking with tourists.
There may be delivery trucks and vans in front of the iconic sign and flying fish stand, so just keep that in mind (if you’re trying to snap an epic photo, you may need to come at a later time or be patient).
Take Yourself on a Food Tour
I’m all for going on food tours! There are guided ones you can book — which if you want to try a lot of things, might be the best bet. Plus, you’ll get some of the history and fun facts about each thing.
Want to do your own tour? I’ve listed out some of the top picks for you to sample for yourself!
Pro Tip: get the small sizes of whatever you can to save room for everything.
- Try Ellenos Greek Yogurt right at the opening of the market. We got there first thing — like 9:15 on a Friday morning and there was already a small line. It’s definitely worth waiting for and will likely be the best Greek yogurt you’ve ever had. You can also mix flavors if you’d like! I loved the Marionberry Pie (which is a type of blackberry).
- Mee Sum Pastry for bao, or you could opt for Piroshky Piroshky Bakery (didn’t get to try either but was super interested in Mee Sum Pastry)
- Beecher’s Handmade Cheese is the cheese I mentioned at the wine bar. The line was always out the door and up the block, but I’ve heard it’s incredible. They also have to-go cups of mac and cheese.
- Daily Dozen Donuts for warm cinnamon sugar donuts
About the “First” Starbucks
Regardless of your feelings about Starbucks, it does appear on a number of itineraries when visiting Seattle. So, if this is something you’d like to do — do it!
It’s located just outside of the covered market at 1912 Pike Place.
The line seemed to stretch down the street and up the block at all points of the day. I snapped a photo outside, for prosperity, but headed elsewhere for some brew.
If you’d like a more in-depth experience, you may want to check out The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room at 1124 Pike Street.
Time for a Coffee Break
Take a break from sampling delicious treats! Head to Ghost Alley Espresso, located in Post Alley.
It’s right next to the bubblegum wall, which is a little gross…but also impressive. Snap a photo here if you’d like! The coffee shop does have gum available if you want to make your mark on the wall.
At Ghost Alley Espresso, I would highly recommend getting the Mystery Mocha (Barista’s Choice)!
They might ask if you have preferred flavors or anything you don’t like, and the one I sampled was INCREDIBLE. We asked and they said it had a mix of white chocolate, coconut, and rose.
Wander the Market
The Pike Place Market opened in 1907, and while I’m guessing most locals don’t actually shop here today and it’s more geared towards tourists, it’s just as cool as I thought it would be.
While here, see the iconic fish throwing booth, Pike Place Fish Market, and then wander the alleyways of the market.
Depending on the season, grab a bouquet of flowers for your hotel room. Flowers here grow incredibly well and the peonies were super cheap! Later in the summer, it’ll be dahlia heaven throughout the market.
There’s a place called Rings-N-Things that’s sort of unassuming, but the owner, Chad, grew up in the market! He said it was his dad’s stall and he took it over a few years ago. He now designs super cool shirts, mugs, and stickers.
I really liked these as they weren’t the typical tourist shirts, rather they were designed by a local artist.
A number of his designs are really cool and spell out “Seattle”’ in curious ways that you wouldn’t really know at first glance — like an octopus whose tentacles coil to spell out Seattle.
Finish Out Pike with a Bowl of Chowder
Haven’t had enough yet and continuing on with your food tour? While you may be stuffed by this point, Pike Place Chowder is worth it! You can order for pick-up or wait in line (the line may look long but isn’t as bad as it seems).
I got the Original and that seems to be the most popular choice, but I’ve heard they’re all incredible! If you can find seating, eat here, or take it to go and eat on the benches that overlook the water!
Afternoon in Queen Anne
After you’ve worked your way out of a food coma, make a trip to Kerry Park. We chose to walk — necessary after all the food from the morning — and it definitely got the blood pumping.
Kerry Park has incredible views of the city and is a prime place for photos!
Continue on to see all the Victorian houses in the Queen Anne area. The neighborhood towers above the rest of Seattle and is a mix of residential streets and quaint shopping blocks.
There are a few must-sees in the area, but my advice would be to wander and admire all the incredible architecture!
The Coleman House is a spectacular cottage that looks like something out of Alice in Wonderland. Heads up, it is a private residence, so please be respectful if you’re snapping photos!
Make your way to the main street of the area and find a snack! There are a handful of coffee shops and bakeries, but most of them close around 4/5 pm.
Olive Oil Tasting
If you’ve never done an olive oil tasting (or even if you have!), stop by A Bit of Taste.
They have so many unique flavors and ideas for pairings that you wouldn’t ever think of, but they’re wonderful! They offer travel sizes of olive oils and different kinds of vinegar in case you just have a carry-on. 😉
Day 2: Pioneer Square + Alki Beach
London Plane for Breakfast
Make your way to Pioneer Square and head to London Plane for breakfast! It’s an adorable brunch spot that doubles as a floral shop and place to pick up homewares and an assortment of other goodies.
Get a main dish and do yourself a favor by ordering a Kouign-Amman (it’s a buttery and sweet Breton (France) pastry that’s an absolute delight.
In case you’re wondering how to pronounce it, it’s like “queen ah-mon.” (I’ve got your back!)
After breakfast, wander around Pioneer Square. There are some really unique murals and artworks in the area, along with old bookstores, bars, and vintage shops.
Just a note that the homeless population is strong in Pioneer Square and sadly it’s gotten worse because of COVID.
Book the Underground Tour of Seattle
Beneath the Streets has a short and sweet tour (just an hour) that will give you a good glimpse into Seattle’s origins!
You’ll learn a little about the Great Seattle Fire and the “amethyst” blocks that line the sidewalks, what happened during the Klondike Gold Rush, and see a bit of the underground.
Take the Ferry to Alki Beach
To see the other side of Seattle, take the ferry to Alki Beach. The ferry is $5.95 one way, and takes about 15 minutes to get over to the beach.
You’re welcome to wander the area or have a cocktail at Salty’s. We were told by locals that Salty’s isn’t known for its food but is a place where people go to celebrate or for a fancy meal.
You likely will need reservations for Salty’s!
I’ll agree, the food was just okay; I wasn’t super impressed, especially for the price. HOWEVER, if you’ve never had the crab cracking experience — this isn’t a bad place to try it for the first time.
So my recommendation would be to come here for one crab cluster and a glass of wine.
Again, you come here for the views and the experience, not necessarily the food.
Smith Tower for Drinks
Other than Pike Place Market, if there’s one thing you absolutely must do in Seattle, I would say go up to Smith Tower for drinks!
The 38-story building was completed in 1914, making it the oldest skyscraper in the city, and was one of the tallest skyscrapers outside of NYC at the time it was built.
The tower is regal, to say the least, it’s replete with gilded interiors and marble. It looks like something out of an Old Hollywood movie.
The viewing platform offers some of the most beautiful 360-views of Seattle. Plus, the cocktail bar has a sort of speakeasy style, which is seriously cool.
Talk about swanky!
It’s $16 per person to go up to the observation deck/bar, and then another fee for whichever drink or food you choose, but in my opinion, well worth it.
Grab Dessert at Shug’s
If you’ve got a hankering for something sweet, cap your day off with an ice cream sundae at Shug’s!
(They close at 8 pm)
Day 3: Fremont + Capitol Hill
Fremont has a large vintage market on Sunday mornings! If you’re into vintage threads and fun goodies, this may be your cup of tea. It seemed to cater to locals, so you won’t find a lot of typical touristy garb here.
See the Troll
The iconic Fremont Troll under the bridge is located here. It will likely be covered in people snapping photos, so snag your photo when the coast is clear!
Other Things to Do in Fremont:
- Gas Works: Steampunk-looking former gasification plant of Seattle, has a park built around it
- Fremont Brewing: Family-owned craft brewery and beer garden
- Theo Chocolate: You may have seen this brand in stores. The organic chocolate brand has its flagship store in Fremont
Is the Space Needle on your lists of musts for Seattle?
You could fill the afternoon by heading there and then checking out the Chihuly Garden and Glass, which is right next door.
Capitol Hill for Cocktails
Later in the day, head over to Capitol Hill for a night of cocktails and funky food!
Unicorn is a lurid carnival-themed bar with an arcade below. They’re known for their corn dogs, suggestively named drinks, and sugary delights.
(Try the fried peanut butter balls — they don’t look appetizing but they are delish!).
Make sure to watch Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” before heading here to hype you up — a number of the scenes were filmed inside the bar.
It’s definitely a vibe and probably not for everyone, but we had a good time!
The Capitol Hill area has a ton of fun bars and cafes. Chophouse Row caught my eye with its string lights and array of eateries. Take your pick!
Have another day or two in Seattle?
These are the things I’m planning to do on my next trip: take the ferry out to Bainbridge island, rent bikes, and go wine tasting!
I would love to rent a car and hike Mount Rainier — this was recommended to me by numerous locals.
And there you have it, folks! My 3-day itinerary for Seattle! What’s on your Seattle agenda? Let me know in the comments below!