Heading to the USA’s west coast? Do yourself a favour and visit Seattle – I think I’ve just found your new favourite US city. While Seattle still flies relatively under the radar of the backpacker masses, that peace and quiet won’t last for long with everything it has to offer visitors. Seattle may be a hi-tech metropolitan city, where you can order practically anything you want to your doorstep in under two hours, but it is also incredibly beautiful. Its location on an archipelago, means you are never far from water, plus the Olympic and Cascade Mountains, and Mount Rainier – a strato-volcano – dominate the horizon. Sure, it rains a fair bit in Seattle, but only a touch more than London, so don’t listen to the haters. Plus, there are apparently more dogs than children!
While the best area to stay in Seattle will depend on your interests, as a general guide we recommend spending your days here soaking up the sights, exploring its wide-ranging and healthy food scene, and revelling in the music history of the city that gave the world Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana. There are museums to visit, ferries to ride, unique neighbourhoods to get to know and over in West Seattle, miles of sandy beaches perfect for summer lounging, particularly at Alki, which draws in crowds of serious sunbathers (and rollerbladers). If you have time to explore further afield, Seattle is close to national parks, boasts the beautiful San Juan Islands to the north, and Vancouver and Portland are both just four hours away.
- 1 Getting around
- 2 Jump straight to:
- 3 1. Downtown: the best area to stay in Seattle for museums
- 4 2. Capitol Hill: the best area to stay in Seattle for nightlife
- 5 3. Ballard: the best area to stay in Seattle for breweries
- 6 4. Fremont: the best area to stay in Seattle for arty types
- 7 5. University District: the best area to stay in Seattle for dive bars
- 8 6. Pioneer Square: the best area in Seattle to stay in for sports fans
- 9 7. South Lake Union: the best area to stay in Seattle for techies
- 10 Keep reading:
- 11 About the author:
While Downtown Seattle is walkable, getting to some of the less central neighbourhoods is more of a slog, mostly because Seattle is HILLY. This city would be prime sledding territory, if there wasn’t so much traffic! Uber and Lyft operate in the city and are affordable. A journey from one neighbourhood to the next is unlikely to be more than $15, but as Seattle can get congested, particularly during rush hour, it’s best to pick and choose when you take those Ubers if you’re on a budget. Seattle’s Link Light Rail line is a cheap and simple way to hop around town. The line runs through the centre of Seattle, and has stops in prime locations like Sea-Tac Airport, Capitol Hill, Downtown, Pioneer Square, Stadium and the University of Washington. Trains run every six to fifteen minutes depending on the time of day, adult fares range from $2.25 to $3.25 depending on how far you are travelling, or grab a day pass for under $7. Seattle’s bus network is decent and extensive, and is the best way of hopping between neighbourhoods. If you fancy peddling your way around the city keep an eye out for all the Jump Bikes and Lime Bikes around town, just waiting for you to show up and saddle up. Make sure you register and have the apps loaded on your phone so you’re ready to rock.
Jump straight to:
Downtown: the best area to stay in Seattle for museums
- What to do Downtown
- Best places to eat Downtown
- Best places to stay Downtown
Capitol Hill: the best area to stay in Seattle for nightlife
- What to do in Capitol Hill
- Places to eat in Capitol Hill
Ballard: the best area to stay in Seattle for breweries
- What to do in Ballard
- Best places to eat in Ballard
Fremont: the best area to stay in Seattle for arty types
- What to do in Fremont
- Best places to eat in Fremont
- Best places to stay in Fremont
University District: the best area to stay in Seattle for dive bars
- What to do in the University District
- Best places to eat in the University District
Pioneer Square: the best area to stay in Seattle for sports fans
- What to do in Pioneer Square
- Best places to eat near Pioneer Square
- Best places to stay near Pioneer Square
South Lake Union: the best area to stay in Seattle for techies
- What to do in South Lake Union
- Best places to eat in South Lake Union
1. Downtown: the best area to stay in Seattle for museums
If you’re in Seattle to tick off everything it offers, basing yourself Downtown minimises travel time as all the city’s most iconic locations are on your doorstep, plus it’s very well connected via the light rail allowing you to hop about with ease. The majority of the Downtown action is centred along the waters of Elliott Bay in Puget Sound, and around Pike Place Market and 2nd and 3rd Avenue. For a bit of variety, take a wander to Belltown and Queen Anne to the north of Downtown to experience a more local vibe.
What is the area best for?
From Downtown, hop on the monorail at Westlake Centre and float above the traffic en route to a dose of culture courtesy of the Seattle Centre. This 74-acre site is home to a number of museums, performing arts and concert venues, and the International Fountain, which blasts music as it delights you with 137 jets of water. Ride the great glass elevator to the 160m observation deck of the iconic Space Needle for the best views of the city, Mount Rainier, the islands of Puget Sound and the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. Check out the colourful exhibits at Chihuly Garden and Glass. The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) is a fantastic way to spend a few hours, particularly on one of Seattle’s rainy days. The Museum was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and covers all areas of pop culture from music and movies to video games and literature. Learn about how Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana started their careers on the streets of Seattle, record your own demo, and check out props and costumes from film and TV. Seattle Art Museum (SAM) is a real winner, but bear in mind if you want to see it all, you will need at least four hours. Be sure to check out their exceptional collection of Native America art hailing from the Pacific Northwest. SAM has two other sites in the city, the Asian Art Museum in Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill, and the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is located on Elliott Bay.
What to do Downtown
Ask any Seattleite and they will tell you Pike Place Market is the best farmer’s market in the USA. The nine-acre market is composed of different levels and winding alleys, all full of delicious fare and arts and crafts, so grab your canvas tote bag and go nuts! If you’re looking to dine at the market, there are a range of stalls outside, or restaurants in Post Alley. Make sure you order some Chowder Fries, Seattle’s signature seafood dish. Yes, they are exactly what they sound like – a bowl of fries swimming in chowder. For the full low-down on the history of the market and tons of local knowledge join a tour for $40.
One of Seattle’s most bonkers sites is the Gum Wall, which you can find by following a flight of stairs down from Rachel the Piggy Bank – Pike Place Market’s mascot. The wall started getting sticky back in the 90s when audience members leaving the adjacent Unexpected Productions improv theatre would use their gum to stick coins to it. Over time, people started pulling out all the stops and now you’ll see people’s names or impressive mini artworks. Who knew gum had so much artistic potential! The wall has been cleared three times, but bubble gum lovers keep on coming back for more. Back in 2015 (the last time the wall was cleared), the gum was inches thick and there were estimated to be more than a million pieces of gum. It’s definitely worth a look – just don’t stand too close!
Take a wander along the boardwalk at Waterfront Park, preferably at sunset if plans allow. There’s plenty to do round these parts – spend a few hours in Seattle Aquarium ($32.95), take a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel ($14), or take a virtual flight over the state of Washington with Wings Over Washington ($17). If while you’re wandering the waves start calling to you, hop aboard a sailing boat and enjoy an hour and a half whizzing around Puget Sound for $39. And, can you really say you’ve been to Seattle if you haven’t crossed Puget Sound on a ferry? The answer is no. Plus, everyone loves a ferry ride, particularly in such a scenic location. Head out to Bainbridge Island ($8 return), which is great spot to grab some lunch and have a mooch around the shops. The views of the city skyline you’ll see from your return ferry are pretty darn special. Secure your spot at the front of the ferry for the best views.
Best places to eat Downtown
Another must-try dish is the Seattle Dog – a traditional hot dog, slathered with a combination of cream cheese and grilled onions. Check out Taxi Dogs in the market for the best in town. For a Mexican brunch and spicy Bloody Mary’s head to Villa Escondida. Their chilaquiles (tortilla chips cooked in salsa, drowned in cheese and served with eggs) will set you up just right for a day of exploring the sights. Should you want to carbo-load, head to Il Corvo, Seattle’s premier pasta joint – just ask the queue of people snaking out of the door at all hours of the day. A huge portion is just $9.95. Pasta Casalinga is another bargain pasta restaurant, right in Pike Place market. For something a little more special, The Pink Door serves diners Italian fare while they are dazzled with views of Elliott Bay and trapeze and burlesque shows. Main courses start from $20.
Best places to stay Downtown
Green Tortoise Seattle is the city’s biggest party hostel, plus it’s right in the heart of the action, just metres from Pike Place Market. The hostel has its own smoking lounge, cash machines and privacy curtains for every bunk. They host lots of parties and pub crawls, and offer a number of free tours. Alternatively, you can check out City Hostel Seattle, which is housed in a 1920’s hotel which used to host stars of the silver screen like Humphrey Bogart. Every room here is designed and painted by a different local Seattle artist. For something a little more private, check out The Baroness Hotel. All rooms come with their own bathroom and kitchenette and there’s a great rooftop patio perfect for sunnier days.
2. Capitol Hill: the best area to stay in Seattle for nightlife
Wander the streets of Seattle’s Capitol Hill and you’ll spot constant reminders that this is a liberal, welcoming neighbourhood. I’m talking encouraging signs on street corners, community gardens, posters for events encouraging interaction, and people on the streets actually talking to one another! As well as being the heart of Seattle’s LGBTQ community, Capitol Hill is home to many of the city’s top restaurants, bars and clubs, most of which you will find around East Pine Street and East Pike Street. The neighbourhood also hosts some of Seattle’s best events, from Seattle PrideFest in June, to Capitol Hill Block Party in July.
Capitol Hill Block Party 📸:@dhamp15
What is the area best for?
For late night fun, Capitol Hill is the best shout, particularly if you’re looking to dance. The main drags for bars are 15th Avenue East, East Pine Street and East Pike Street, but you’ll find little gems tucked everywhere. Seattle locals are friendly, so don’t be shy when it comes to asking where the party is at. Unicorn Bar is a real show stopper. With its carnival theme, drag brunches, karaoke nights and a range of shots named such things as ‘unicorn jizz’ – you’re guaranteed a raucous night. Unicorn’s sister bar, Narwhal, is also guaranteed fun. For more of a speakeasy vibe, head to Needle & Thread, which is located above Tavern Law, another popular place to drink and eat in Capitol Hill. The Pine Box and HoneyHole are ideal for relaxed beers and cocktails. HoneyHole also does a fine line in sandwiches, which could be handy for lining that stomach! Maybe you fancy catching a gig at The Crocodile, an iconic venue that’s hosted Pearl Jam, the Foo Fighters and Kurt Cobain. Neumo’s Crystal Ball Reading Room is another music venue hosting mainly hip hop, rock and metal acts. For dancing until dawn, head to Neighbours gay club, which is open Thursday to Sunday, and cover is just $10. The Baltic Room is a slightly swankier affair, while Kremwork offers dance DJs, burlesque shows and a great outdoor seating area for when you need a break from the dance floor.
What to do in Capitol Hill
If you manage to swerve the hangover, there is plenty to do around these parts. For something decent to smoke in Capitol Hill, head to The Reef, Ruckus or Uncle Ike’s. Take on the thrift stores on Broadway East. If the sun is shining, head to Volunteer Park to catch some rays, soak up some culture at the Asian Art Museum, or enjoy a dance party in the conservatory. If Bruce Lee was your hero, visit his grave in the neighbouring Lakeview Cemetery. The nearby Washington Park Arboretum is 230-acres of park on Lake Washington. Hug trees from all corners of the world, and swing by the Japanese Garden, which offers a beautiful backdrop if you’re seeking some peace and quiet.
While the first ever Starbucks is down in Pike Place Market, Capitol Hill’s Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room is a far more exciting destination for coffee lovers. Learn all about the roasting and brewing process, plus sample new concoctions and delights like whisky barrel-aged cold brew. Yum. If it’s pouring down and you want somewhere cosy to set up shop for a couple of hours, check out The Elliott Bay Book Company. Open since 1973, this independent, family-owned bookstore is a lovely place to discover new reads over a hot chocolate. The Egyptian Theatre is a cool spot for checking out independent and foreign-language movies, and is the home of the prestigious Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF)
Best places to eat in Capitol Hill
For superb coffee, banging crepes, and friendly baristas, hit up Joe Bar for your morning coffee fix. 11am may seem early for ramen, but if you want to be in with a chance of getting inside Ramen Danbo, you need to rock up early doors. General consensus is that Danbo has the best ramen in the city, and it’ll only set you back $12.95 a bowl. Aviv Hummus Bar is ideal if you’re hankering after falafel smothered in your choice of top-notch hummus. For the best tacos in the neighbourhood, hit up Taco Chukis, for bargain Mexican street food. Spend $15 and you’ll be full for days. If you’re keeping things strictly ‘burgers and fries’ while in the U S of A, head to Two Doors Down, where a main meal and drink costs $15. They also do a decent corn dog if you’re keen to tick that American ‘delicacy’ off your list.
3. Ballard: the best area to stay in Seattle for breweries
Ballard is a hip waterfront neighbourhood in northwest Seattle, known for its maritime history and Nordic roots – which you probably could have guessed given the volume of beards and man-buns knocking around. This is a good-looking neighbourhood – water views, blossom-lined streets and bars, breweries and boutiques that were made for Instagram. Most of the action happens around Old Ballard, close to the water. Head to Shilshole Avenue, NW Market Street and Ballard Avenue Northwest for the best hangouts. While you may only come to the neighbourhood to see the famous Ballard Locks, do yourself a favour and set aside time to explore this corner of the city after dark. You’ll find the city’s best beers, and bars hosting improv comedy, well-known musicians and great parties. It’s worth checking what’s on when you’re in town, as there’s always something going down. Ballard Night Out takes place on the third Thursday of the month between 6-9pm. Take a stroll and check out free performances and artwork happening in local galleries, studios, shops and restaurants.
What’s Ballard best for?
This Seattle neighbourhood is going to knock your beer-loving socks off! With 11 breweries in just five square miles – how does an afternoon spent getting squiffy on seriously decent local beers sound? Take a guided tour, join a 16-passenger cycle saloon, or simply wander between establishments on your own time. Many of the best breweries are clustered around the main drag mentioned above. Those who like their beers scientifically brewed to perfection should hit up Stoup Brewing. Their award-winning Baltic Porter is sublime. Reuben’s Brews is a family run venture housed in an impressive converted warehouse, which has been thrice-named one of the 10 best breweries in the USA. Nearby Populuxe Brewing won the title of Washington’s Best Small Brewery of 2018. Rooftop Brewing Company is just across the water in the Fisherman’s Terminal. Grab a seat on their roof terrace for water views and fill up on free popcorn or grab something delicious from the onsite food truck. Check out whether they have any events on as their block parties are infamous.
What to do in Ballard
Watch Seattle’s swankiest yachts (and fishing boats) pass through Ballard Locks on their way from Lake Union and Lake Washington out into Puget Sound. Ballard Locks are a major migration spot for salmon and if you’re around during peak salmon season (July until mid-August) you can watch hordes of these determined fish battle their way upstream to lay their eggs via the locks’ Fish Ladder viewing room. Other wildlife also congregates here to hunt during this time of year so keep your eyes peeled for seals, herons, and the 12ft remote-controlled orca used to scare predators away from the salmon. The free tours offered start at 1pm and 3pm every day. At weekends, an additional tour kicks off at 11am. The Carl S. English Botanical Gardens, located beside the locks, are a nice place for a stroll or a picnic and just down the road is the Nordic Museum, which charts the neighbourhood’s Scandinavian roots.
Old Ballard is a great spot for vintage shopping. Check out Lucky Vintage, Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop, and Gold Dogs for Seattle’s best selection of cowboy boots and flannel shirts. For the best bars in Ballard, head to Ballard Avenue NW – a gorgeous street straight out of a film set, lined with bars, cafés, shops and restaurants. This is the ideal spot for some bar hopping. Head to Percy’s and Co – a fun place to enjoy a fancy drink. Tell the bartender what you’re hankering after and they will whip you up something special. For something more casual, The Sloop Tavern is a classic dive bar offering pool, fish tacos and ‘sloopersized’ mugs of ice-cold beer. King’s Hardware is a great shout for burgers, beers and ciders and plenty of decent cocktails. For something to smoke, head to Dockside Cannabis – tell their knowledgeable bud-tenders what kind of high you’re after and they will offer up suggestions. You will need to show your passport to get in – driving licenses don’t cut it unless they are from the US.
One of the best things about Seattle is its proximity to nature. Just 15-minutes from Downtown Seattle and across the docks from Ballard is the Magnolia neighbourhood – home to Discovery Park, a 534-acre park on the shores of Puget Sound. The park has a number of manageable and beautiful trails to hike or trail run. West Point Lighthouse is a popular spot for sunset – take a picnic, some beers and enjoy the show. Another great way to get the blood pumping in this corner of town is with some rock climbing. Stone Gardens and Vertical Limit are great options for indoor climbing.
Discovery Park, Seattle 📸:@paulmatheson
Best places to eat in Ballard
If you’re knocking around on a Sunday, Ballard farmers market is open from 10am-3pm year-round, and offers up fresh goods and artisan delights from local producers. For a cup of tea that will really hit the spot, head to Miro Tea, which offers more than 150 varieties, kept warm via candlelit teapots. I highly recommend their squash bread, which is served in ginormous moist slabs, warm and with lashings of butter. Combine top-notch beer with delicious and reasonable vegan fare at Cycle Dogs Food Truck which is parked at Peddler Brewing Company. As the name suggests, the truck serves vegan hotdogs, loaded with delicious toppings. The breakfast dog is a sensation no matter the time of day, and comes with a hash brown, vegan chorizo, chipotle mayo and grilled onions. Team this with a side of crinkle-cut fries and the price tag will be around $11.
4. Fremont: the best area to stay in Seattle for arty types
It’s a real toss up for which Seattle suburb is the coolest between Capitol Hill, Ballard and Fremont, but it seems Fremont is pulling into the lead. While it’s still growing, the area’s artsy vibe, great restaurants, and vibrant nightlife is pulling in all the punters. Even Google agrees – their premises are right in the centre of the neighbourhood. Fremont offers all the good stuff; waterside living, interesting architecture, independent stores, plus it hosts lots of cool events including Fremont Oktoberfest and the weird and wonderful Fremont Solstice Parade – known for its naked cyclists. It’s an easy suburb to discover on foot, plus there is so much to keep you occupied here, and in the neighbouring suburbs of Ballard, Wallingford and Queen Anne, you might even decide not to bother with Downtown.
What is the area best for?
There are wonderful artistic touches dotted all around this neighbourhood, from the 53ft Fremont Rocket to the Guidepost marking the (supposed) centre of the universe, but the most famous piece is the Fremont Troll – a 5.5 metre sculpture made from six tons of concrete. You can hunt down the troll, who holds a real Volkswagen Beetle in its clutches, lurking under the north end of the Aurora Bridge. Just down the road is a sizeable piece of the Berlin Wall, and you should also check out the 16m statue of Vladimir Lenin, which I believe is actually for sale should you have the space in your backpack. Also, every Sunday, no matter the time of year, head to the corner of 3410 Evanston Avenue North to check out the Fremont Sunday Market. Between 10am-4pm, this is just the spot for vintage finds, arts and crafts and delicious food. Speaking of vintage, definitely find some time to visit Fremont Vintage Mall for hours of browsing fun.
What to do in Fremont?
How about burning off some of those Seattle-brewed beers with a 2.8 mile run around Green Lake, which many compare to Central Park in New York. It’s also a great place for a dip if you’re brave enough. Woodland Park Zoo is just down the road, and in addition to the usual suspects, the zoo is home to wildlife native to this corner of the planet – grey wolves, elk, brown bears and North American river otters. Wander along Fremont’s canal to the Gas Works Park, for some sensational views of Lake Union and the city skyline.
Fremont’s nightlife is some of the best on offer in Seattle, especially if you’re looking to mingle with locals rather than fellow tourists. Hit up LGBTQ friendly, Norm’s Eaterie and Ale House or Schilling Cider House is a fun spot, as is Add-a-Ball arcade, a no-frills basement bar packed full of pinball machines. For Fremont’s best microbrews, head to Fremont Brewing, Outlander Brewery and Pub or Bad Jimmy’s Brewing Co. For some entertainment alongside your booze, head to Fremont Abbey, a venue that hosts visual art, local musicians, storytelling, spoken word performances, and dance parties.
Best places to eat in Fremont
Fremont is an excellent choice for any meal time. Head to North 36th Street to find the best options. Check out Fremont Bowl for enormous donburi bowls of fish and rice for $15. Don’t miss out on their homemade smoky soy sauce. If you’re in the market for sensational Turkish food, Café Turko has got you covered. For sandwiches, check out Paseo Caribbean food truck or Roxy’s Diner, which serves up lip-smacking New York style hot pastrami sandwiches. Jai Thai offers Fremont’s best Thai fare, plus no dish is more than $15. Red Star Taco Bar offers the dream combo of $3 tacos and great Happy Hour options every day. Dick’s is an American institution due to its ‘life-changing’ menu of burgers and fries. Its doors are open from 10:30am-2am, so you can roll in for a burger any time day or night. If you’d prefer to buy your own ingredients to cook with, head to the PCC Community Market. If you think Whole Foods is sexy, just wait until you see this place!
Best places to stay in Fremont
Hotel Hotel Fremont is an excellent choice if you’re keen to stay in the hippest part of town. Although it’s only a small hostel, it has a full kitchen, decent bathrooms and their free breakfast is a good’un.
5. University District: the best area to stay in Seattle for dive bars
The University district (or U District) is located in the north east of the city at the very end of the light rail line. The journey from the airport takes just over half an hour and costs less than $4. The neighbourhood is home to the University of Washington, so if you base yourself here you’ll be hanging out with the city’s current or recently-graduated students, and will be treated to a party vibe most nights of the week. The laid-back area is full of affordable bars and cheap eats mostly located along University Way, or ‘The Ave’ as it’s better known. The neighbouring suburb of Wallingford is also worth a visit for some beers or decent grub.
University of Washington, Seattle 📸:@rubik3x
What is the area best for?
Seattle is full of swanky bars, staffed by knowledgeable bar tenders who spend so much time stirring and shaking and flavouring rims that you feel guilty smashing it back in one gulp. You needn’t worry about that in the U District, which is dive bar central. Blue Moon is Seattle’s most legendary dive bar, which opened in 1934 in celebration of the end of prohibition. The graffiti-covered bar has pulled in some seriously impressive patrons in its time, including Allen Ginsburg and Dylan Thomas. Depending on the day you visit you could be treated to live music or some punk poetry. It’s open until 2am every night of the week, and expect to pay a cover of $7-10 for live acts. The Monkey Pub is ideal for cheap beer, free pool and drunken karaoke. Flowers is housed in an old florist and much of the original décor remains. Here you’ll find a decent veggie and vegan buffet and different daily drinks offers. Earl’s on the Ave is another spot known for its late hours (2am), stiff drinks and great selection of burgers. This is also a fantastic place to catch a game if the Seattle Seahawks are playing.
Things to do in the University District
While it’s possible to catch glimpses of Mount Rainier’s majestic beauty from various vantage points in the city, the 14,410ft stratovolcano is best seen from the University of Washington’s Red Square. If you’re knocking around this neck of the woods on a clear day, it’s the very best place in town for a photo. If Mount Rainier is calling your name, it’s possible to visit on a day tour from Seattle for around $40, with a spot of snowshoeing thrown in. You’ll visit the lakes, forests and waterfalls of Mount Rainier National Park, as well as some of the mountain’s 26 glaciers. Keep those eyes peeled for black bears, coyotes and elk! If you’re in town in spring, the 200 cherry blossoms at the University are a remarkable sight, even if flowers don’t usually float your boat. Speaking of boats – the U District is a great place to hop on a boat tour of Seattle’s waterways.
When Seattle is living up to its rainy reputation, visit the Grand Illusion Cinema – Seattle’s oldest-running. The cinema has a reputation for showing the most cutting-edge movies, plus it’s housed in an old dentist office. If you love an escape room, hit up Ninja Zombie Escape or Quest Factor. Check what’s on at The Neptune Theatre, as they regularly host great rock, hip hop and comedy acts.
Best places to eat in the University District
For the best food in the U District, head to The Ave (University Way Northeast), which might as well be a food-court that stretches eight blocks there are so many great dining options. Head to Café Solstice and pull up a chair in their gorgeous outdoor patio area. These guys deliver with seriously tasty vegan and veggie food. For Thai food that will make you feel like you’re back on the Khao San Road head to Thai Tom. All dishes are under $10 in this cash only spot. For German beer and sausages, head to Shultzy’s Bar and Grill. Café Racer is a popular bohemian beauty, known for its sensational brunches, improv jazz and excellent coffee. Don’t visit without heading upstairs to the OBAMA Room – The Official Bad Art Museum of Art, a collection of art so bad it’s actually good. Head to Chili’s South Indian Cuisine for affordable and delicious veggie dishes.
6. Pioneer Square: the best area in Seattle to stay in for sports fans
Pioneer Square is where settlers first laid their hats when they arrived in the Pacific Northwest, so technically it’s Seattle’s very first neighbourhood. This historic corner of town is ideal for those that love being central. Not only are you located close to the waterfront, but you’ve got much of Seattle’s nightlife and food scene right on your doorstep.
Pioneer Square, Seattle 📸: @inertkrypton
What is the area best for?
Pioneer Square is perfect for sports lovers, as both the Safeco Field (T Mobile Park) and the CenturyLink Field are close by. Take in a Mariners baseball game at Safeco Field. While they’re hardly the best team in the league, there are certainly worse things to do than hang out in the bleachers on a sunny day. While ballpark grub may not sound that appealing, Seattle’s selection is surprisingly superb. The garlic fries are sensational, especially when paired with a margarita or two. Also, tickets start from just $7. CenturyLink Field is home to the Seattle Seahawks NFL team and the Seattle Sounders soccer team. It’s also where the city’s biggest concerts take place, so always check what’s happening when you’re in town. As well as enjoying a game, the stadium offers distracting views of Elliott Bay, Downtown Seattle and the Olympic Mountains. If there’s no match on when you’re in town, take in a 90-minute stadium tour ($14), where you visit the pitch, the locker room, the press box, and enjoy the best views in the place.
What to do in Pioneer Square
Before the Space Needle stole its thunder, The Smith Tower was the boss of the Seattle skyline. The 38-storey building, which is named after a chap who made his fortune in the typewriter business, is located on Pioneer Square and was Seattle’s first ever skyscraper. The observation floor offers great views of the city and is home to a bar which turns into a Speakeasy-style joint after dark.
Being surrounded by water, it’s no surprise Seattle used to have a major problem with flooding. However, after a fire ignited by a cabinet maker’s glue pot wiped out 31 blocks, Seattle’s streets were reconstructed to be one or two storeys higher. You can explore the cavernous underworld of Seattle on Bill Speidel’s 75-minute underground tour, learn all about the city’s pioneer past, and see how these underground spaces have been repurposed into cool venues.
Have you ever tried wine from Washington state? If not, now’s the time to rectify that. This corner of town is home to some great spots for a tipple. Check out Browne Family Vineyards, Hand of God Wines and The Estates Wine Room. If you prefer hard liquor, head down to Black Rock Spirits in SoDo for local vodka and tequila.
Best places to eat near Pioneer Square
Start your day with an American style breakfast at Planet Java Diner, which has really nailed its 1950s feel. Most breakfast dishes are all under $11, and their lunchtime menu of burgers and sandwiches is even cheaper. For no frills BBQ and chilli at lunch time, head to Hole in the Wall BBQ, a Seattle institution that has been serving Seattle’s carnivores incredible meat for over 30 years. Head to Salumi for seriously delicious sandwiches. A monstrous meatball sub will set you back just $12. Another dish that Seattle absolutely bosses is teriyaki. Asia Ginger Teriyaki may not have a website, but it has some of the best teriyaki this side of Japan. Being based in Pioneer Square means you’re close to Chinatown, Little Saigon and the International District, which couldn’t be more perfect for cheap eats. Saigon Vietnam Deli serves delicious sandwiches for just $3 and their banh mi is so good it will haunt your dreams. For cheap and tasty dim sum and dumplings check out Jade Garden and Hong Kong Bistro, or for design-your-own noodles try King Noodle.
HI Seattle at the American Hotel
Best places to stay near Pioneer Square
HI Seattle at the American Hotel is another hostel housed in a building that dates back to the 20’s. The hostel is perfectly located in the heart of the International District, close to Union Station, which means easy access to the airport and to all city’s attractions.
7. South Lake Union: the best area to stay in Seattle for techies
Located on the southern tip of Lake Union, South Lake Union (SLU) is an exciting area where Seattle’s biggest brainboxes congregate in the offices of tech giants like Google and Microsoft. Mingle with Seattle’s brightest in the neighbourhood’s lively bars, sample healthy organic food at lunchtime food trucks and hip dining spots, and enjoy some of the city’s best views from Lake Union Park. SLU is easy to get to from Downtown. Either walk the few blocks, or hop aboard the South Lake Union Streetcar or the SLUT as it is affectionately named. It’s an ideal location for exploring the city, as you’re close to major sites like the Space Needle and MoPop, plus the banging nightlife of Capitol Hill is a short walk or Uber ride away.
Lake Union, Seattle 📸:@doctortinieblas
What is the area best for?
South Lake Union was once a manufacturing zone, but now it has become a hub of research institutes and tech businesses. Facebook, Google and Uber all love this corner of the city, and you can take a tour of Amazon’s impressive premises, known for their enormous glass domes, or ‘Bezos’ Balls’ as the cool kids say. You can take a tour of the spheres, which were built as an eco-friendly workspace for employees and house more than 40,000 plants from 50 countries. You can tour The Spheres during weekend public visit days, which happen two Saturday’s per month. Make sure you book in advance and once there swing by the Amazon Community Banana Stand for free bananas. Now for one that might just blow your mind – Amazon Go – a convenience store which removes all need for human interaction. Simply download the app, walk in, take what you want and walk out. The future is here people! There are two locations in South Lake Union, so go be dazzled by what’s sure to become the future of retail. Also, if you fancy seeing what charitable organisation, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been up to around the world, visit the Discovery Center. It’s free and the hands-on exhibits keep things interesting.
Things to do in South Lake Union
To see Seattle from the sky, treat yourself to the quintessential Seattle experience – a flight in a seaplane. These planes take off from and land on the water and buzz around the city’s best sights. On a clear day, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the Cascade Mountains and Mount Rainier. Take a stroll around the 12-acres that make up Lake Union Park, soaking up the views of Seattle’s iconic skyline. Check out the Museum of History & Industry, to clue-up on Seattle’s most important businesses and inventions. Or, should the glistening waters of Lake Union be calling your name, The Center for Wooden Boats offers kayak, paddleboards, canoes and rowing boats. Get out on the water and marvel at the seaplanes coming in to land around you.
Best places to eat in South Lake Union
For the best grub in South Lake Union, head to the area around Westlake Avenue, Denny Way, Terry Avenue North and the surrounding blocks, all of which are lined with superb places to grab a bite. If the words ‘pancake toppings bar’ excite, head to Portage Bay Café, who offer a great brunch – plus all their fare is local, organic and sustainable. This is a busy spot, so we recommend reserving your table. Ever tried Hawaiian-Korean fusion? If not, food-truck-turned-franchise, Marination is worth a visit for tasty tacos, sliders and kimchi rice bowls. Kati Vegan Thai brings you spicy plant-based goodness for reasonable prices – around $15 per main meal. For world-class wood-fired pizzas, check out Serious Pie and Biscuit. For the best burgers in South Lake Union, visit Lunchbox Laboratory. All of their burgers are made with American Kobe beef. You can build your own burger or choose one of their hilariously-named concoctions. Their boozy milkshakes are a real winner. If you want to dine on the banks of Lake Union, Duke’s Seafood and Chowder offers the best views.
Are you planning a trip to Seattle? Have you been there and you think there’s something we left out? Let us know in the comments!
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Amy Baker is the author of Miss-Adventures: A Tale of Ignoring Life Advice While Backpacking Around South America, and founder of The Riff Raff, a writers’ community that supports aspiring writers and champions debut authors. You can follow Amy on Twitter here.