You might think of Seattle as an overcast and moody place and several of the city’s major exports like grunge music and multiple coffee roasteries contribute to that image. But this shining gem in the Pacific Northwest has so much more to offer — although coffee and grunge music is pretty great! You can wander through whimsical art exhibitions and explore flavors you’ve never encountered before at many of the city’s restaurants. This area perfectly merges chaotic city life with lush natural beauty; here's the ultimate Seattle travel guide!
What to Expect in Seattle
Language: American English is the most commonly spoken language in Seattle.
Currency: The US Dollar ($)
Credit Cards and Banks: Seattle has most major banks and ATMs throughout the city and you won’t need cash for most purchases. If you visit Pike Place Market or a similar venue, you may want to have some cash on you as that may be easiest for the vendors. These sites will likely have ATMs available, but these will likely come with higher fees.
Climate: Like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle has mildly hot and dry summers and rainy and chilly winters. The overcast rainy weather that Seattle is known for typically happens between November and March every year.
Helpful Tip: When you’re packing for a Pacific Northwest getaway, you should definitely consider bringing some outfits that have layers you can easily shed. The weather can switch up pretty fast, especially during the spring season, so you’ll have a better time if you are prepared. Most Seattle residents don’t use umbrellas, so make one of your layering options a rain jacket of some kind.
Getting Around in Seattle
- Ballard: Hip waterfront district with lots of local 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: Known for its older Victorian architecture, this neighborhood is where you can find a lot of Seattle’s most famous landmarks like the Space Needle.
- Capitol Hill: One of the most popular places to spend time in Seattle thanks to its trendy bars, charming cafes, and unique boutiques. It’s also where Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community is centered and historically has been home to strong counterculture movements.
- Pike: Where the famous market is located. It’s quite tourist-friendly and part of Seattle’s downtown district
- Pioneer Square: Downtown vibes, some of Seattle’s origins, older area, as a note, there are a lot of homeless in this area
Where to Stay in Seattle
There are a lot of places to stay when you visit Seattle — whether you’re hoping to treat yourself to luxurious accommodations or are seeking a more budget-friendly option, this list of the best accommodations in Seattle will have something for you.
Hostels are an underrated option, especially amongst American travelers, but they’re a great place to stay if you’re looking to save some money and have a built-in casual community or network in the place you’re visiting. Green Tortoise Hostel is one of these budget options, and if you stay here you’ll be within a minute of Pike Place Market and other famous landmarks like the Seattle Great Wheel. The hostel offers dormitory-style accommodations as well as private rooms, and there are group activities offered regularly like pub crawls or walking tours of Seattle.
This beautiful boutique hotel in Seattle’s downtown district provides an upscale yet still attainable option. Hotel Theodore is just a few steps away from famous Seattle landmarks like the Paramount Theater, and just a few blocks from the Pike’s Place Market. In addition to being in a great location, the Hotel Theodore has gorgeous modern interiors that you can enjoy during your stay.
From the vibe of The Bookstore Bar & Café to the luxurious design touches that were inspired by the music and art scene of the city, The Alexis Royal Sonesta is distinctly Seattle. The building that houses the hotel is historic, dating back to 1901! But the hotel you can stay at today has been updated with all of the modern comforts you could want.
If you’re a fan of Seattle’s incredible music history, a stay at the Edgewater Hotel is a must! Music legends like Kurt Cobain and the Beatles have stayed at this downtown Seattle hotel. The hotel is truly located on the edge of the water, so many of the rooms and public spaces in the hotel have stunning views of Elliot Bay. In addition to cozy and comfortable rooms, the hotel offers unique perks like the complimentary use of record players and guitars to use throughout your stay.
Location: Central Waterfront
Price Range: $$$
If you want to stay as close as you possibly can to Pike’s Place Market, Inn at the Market is truly your best option as it’s the only hotel that’s located within the famous market. In addition to the hotel’s unbeatable location, you can enjoy the view with various amenities like the rooftop deck and the floor-to-ceiling windows in the rooms.
Where to Eat in Seattle
Seattle is often considered one of the best foodie cities in the country so the problem when you visit isn’t whether or not you can find something incredible to eat, but how you can possibly narrow down all your amazing options! This list of the best places to eat in Seattle includes restaurants, cafes, and alternative options like vendors at the famous Pike Place Market.
The Pink DoorItalian
Located along Post Alley in the iconic Pike Place Market, The Pink Door has been serving up incredible Italian cuisine to the people of Seattle since 1981. In addition to serving up amazing meals, The Pink Door is a beloved institution in the city because of the warm and welcoming ambiance it offers.
Ghost Alley EspressoCoffee
Each word of Ghost Alley Espresso’s name has a meaning – they serve espresso, they’re located in Post Alley, and there have long been reports of ghostly encounters with a spirit that’s said to be Arthur Goodwin, one of the market’s first managers who had a hand in designing the buildings! Although there are paranormal reasons to head to this Seattle coffee joint, there are some that are a little more grounded, like the artisanal coffee brews from some of the city’s best roasteries.
Bacco CafePacific Northwest
Located near Pike Place Market, Bacco Cafe offers a breakfast and lunch menu filled with cuisine inspired by flavors of the Pacific Northwest. Try the brioche french toast or one of the freshly squeezed juices like the Milan, made from cucumber, apple, celery, and ginger.
Pike Place MarketVariety
If you can’t decide what to eat, head to Pike Place Market to browse the vendors for your ideal meal or try small bites from a variety of sellers. If you’re looking for a place to start, consider Ellenos Greek Yogurt which is located right at the entrance of the market. You might encounter a line, even if you get there early, but I promise it’s definitely worth it! I loved the Marionberry Pie flavored yogurt, but if you can’t narrow it down, you can mix different flavors. Piroshky Piroskhy is a more hearty option, with a Russian-inspired menu.
Matt’s in the MarketSeafood
The name isn’t an exaggeration – Matt’s in the Market is located in the heart of Pike Place Market and you can actually see the famous market sign from the windows of the dining room. In addition to unique views, you can enjoy Pacific Northwest-inspired cuisine and a wine list filled with varieties from local vineyards.
The London PlaneModern French
Located in the hip Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle, The London Plane is a combination of a retail store, a bakery, a restaurant, and a flower shop. They choose to work with local farms and gardens to provide their inventory, and you can eat fresh baked goods and other fare like farm-fresh eggs and the quiche of the day at the restaurant. In addition to being a charming market, it’s also a wine bar so try some of the local offerings when you visit!
Beecher’s Handmade CheeseCheese
There’s cheese, and then there’s the mouthwatering and fresh product at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese. It’s seriously good, and they take care to utilize the best possible ingredients during their cheesemaking process which you can see when you look in the windows of the Pike Place Market flagship store.
Taste the flavors of the Caribbean at either one of Un Bien’s locations in Seattle! They specialize in Caribbean-inspired sandwiches but the other options like the fire-roasted corn are equally impressive. The Caribbean Roast Dinner is a hearty filling option – and you’ll probably be surprised by how much food you’re getting for such a great price!
Dough Zone Dumpling HouseChinese
Dough Zone Dumpling House only uses the freshest ingredients in order to provide a high-quality dining experience. The prices are reasonable and the dumplings are made using traditional methods and ingredients. In recent years they’ve expanded all over the west coast, but at their core they are a beloved Seattle establishment.
General Porpoise DoughnutsDoughnuts
With locations in Pioneer Square, Laurelhurst, and Capitol Hill, General Porpoise is one of the best places in Seattle to get some freshly made doughnuts. Whether you want a single doughnut now or pick up a dozen to enjoy later, General Porpoise’s doughnuts are sure to impress even the most skeptical customers.
The Walrus and The CarpenterPub & Oyster Bar
The Walrus and The Carpenter, or The Walrus Bar, is known as a fisherman’s pub and oyster bar in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. The seafood you can get here is extremely fresh as they work with their vendors to get what’s in season, which is why the specifics of the menu change daily.
Canon is a small and intimate bar that features over 4,000 varieties of liquor – giving it the distinction of having the largest spirit collection in America. So even if you’re super picky about what kind of liquor is used in your cocktails or what type you’ll sip on over ice, you can be pretty sure that Canon will have something to impress you.
What to Do in Seattle
Seattle is one of the biggest cities in America, and you won’t run out of things to do when you visit! When you’re putting together your Seattle itinerary, you’ll be able to pick from a seemingly endless list of iconic landmarks, historic sites, food tours, museums, and more! From famous sites to more underground options (literally!), this list of things to do in Seattle will help you plan your perfect trip to this Pacific Northwest city.
Definitely check out my ultimate 3-Day Seattle Itinerary as you plan!
One of the best things to do in Seattle is visit Smith Tower, a beautiful 38-story high observatory. It was built in 1914, which makes it the oldest skyscraper in the city and at the time it was built, it was one of the biggest in the world! Step back into Old Hollywood glamor inside this historic building and enjoy stunning views and delicious craft cocktails. The wait to visit may be long, but it’s definitely worth it!
The colorful neighborhood of Capitol Hill is one of the most popular places to spend time in Seattle thanks to its trendy bars, charming cafes, and unique boutiques. It’s also where Seattle’s LGBTQ+ community is centered and historically has been home to strong counterculture movements.
If you visit during July, you might be able to attend the Capitol Hill Block Party. This annual music festival has been held annually since 1997 and has had some famous names headline like Macklemore, Lizzo, Sonic Youth, and Jack White.
While you are exploring the Fremont neighborhood, be sure to pay a quick visit to the Fremont Troll. This famous piece of public art is located under the Aurora Bridge, and has become a legendary landmark ever since it was created in 1990.
There are numerous vintage shops throughout the area, including the well-known Fremont Vintage Mall, which features one-of-a-kind art, clothing, jewelry, decor, and pretty much anything else you can think of. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, definitely check out the Fremont Market which has been held in the area for the past 30 years!
If you’re a fan of Starbucks coffee, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Original Starbucks which is located in Pike Place Market. It can be pretty crowded, but if you walk by at a time where the line isn’t too long, it’s a fun place to order your favorite coffee drinks and maybe even grab a souvenir or two.
Glass might not sound like the most exciting and innovative art medium, but Dale Chihuly’s glass studio is definitely making waves in the art world. It’s located right next to the Space Needle so it’s easy to get to, and when you arrive you’ll be able to see some stunning and whimsical glass worlds of art displayed throughout Chihuly Garden and Glass. It does occasionally close for private events, so make sure to check the most up-to-date schedule before you go.
Seattle is filled with history, and some of that is a little less obvious when you’re just wandering around. I recommend taking a guided tour of Seattle’s underground — my favorite is the Beneath The Streets Underground History Tour. 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.
One of Seattle’s most famous landmarks, Pike Place Market, first opened in 1907. While it’s definitely become more of a tourist attraction in recent years, the vendors who set up shop here are as authentic as it comes. Stop by Pike Place Fish Market to experience a unique workplace dynamic and fish-throwing throughout the day. Wander the alleyways to find amazing bites, fresh flowers, and more.
The Queen Anne neighborhood is where many of Seattle’s most famous things to do are located such as the Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture, and Chihuly Garden and Glass. That means you’ll probably end up here at least once during your Seattle vacation, so why not budget some extra time exploring one of Seattle’s most interesting neighborhoods? You can see gorgeous old Victorian houses and learn about Seattle’s striking architectural history.
While Seattle is beautiful, there’s nothing like the natural beauty that surrounds it! Take a quick and scenic ferry ride over to Bainbridge Island and spend a day enjoying the view of the Seattle skyline, exploring via rented bicycle, and enjoying the charming cafes and restaurants located throughout the island. You can finish off your day by visiting one of the seven amazing wineries located on Bainbridge Island and enjoying a glass of wine while admiring the sunset.
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