Located on the shore of sparkling Elliott Bay, with the snowy peak of Mount Rainier in the distance, Seattle has a magnificent setting, with a modern skyline of glass skyscrapers, a friendly charm, and plenty of fun coffeehouses, good restaurants, and engaging clubs.
Flooded out of its first location on Alki Point in what is now the suburb of West Seattle, the town in the 1850s shifted to the present location of Pioneer Square, renaming itself after the Native American Chief Sealth, who helped reduce violent tensions between whites and local tribes. As the surrounding forest was gradually felled and the lumber shipped out, Seattle grew slowly until the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 put it firmly on the national map as a transport and commercial hub. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, the Boeing corporation has been crucial to the city's economic strength, and more recent success stories have included Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon.com , the boom times interrupted only by the occasional dot-com bust, earthquake (in February 2001), or housing crunch.
Despite the changes wrought by Seattle's solid economy as the city grows into an international destination, its more established neighbourhoods remain distinctive, and it has a pleasantly down-to-earth ambiance, whether you come here in the summer with the rest of the tourist trade, or make like the locals and brave the steady rains (with many fewer visitors) from October to May.
Despite the city's relatively brief history, diversity and tradition fill the streets of Seattle. This medium-sized urban hub is booming economically, growing and evolving at a rapid rate, with help from multinational corporations like Microsoft and Starbucks. For many who live here, however, the blue skies, abundant water and picturesque mountain ranges are what make this beautiful city so appealing.
About as close as Seattle gets to California, this sandy beach in west Seattle draws swarms of walkers, joggers, bikers, skaters, scuba divers and volleyball players. Cafes and restaurants such as Salty's on Alki line the main street, ready to nourish those who've played at the beach all day. Alki Beach , directly across Elliott Bay from downtown, is the spot where the first European settlers camped in the winter of 1851 before they moved to the more sheltered area that is now downtown.
Affectionately known for slow drivers and the lilting accents of its many residents of Scandinavian descent, this area was first settled by immigrant Nordic fishermen and mill workers. Visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks to watch boats travel from salt water to freshwater, then take a trip to Golden Gardens Park to watch the sunset. Popular restaurants in the area include Ray's Boathouse and Bad Albert's Tap & Grill . Stop by Fisherman's Terminal for a look at the boats that keep the fishing industry thriving. Capitol Hill
Yes, this Washington has one too and its mix of eclectic shops, art-house theaters, wonderful restaurants and interesting people make it one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Seattle. Some of the city's most historic houses are located here, as is the renowned Seattle Asian Art Museum and Volunteer Park . Seattle University and Cornish College of the Arts also grace this hill. A popular Capitol Hill restaurant is 611 Supreme . To catch a movie, check out Harvard Exit Theatre .
Hip and eclectic, Fremont is always a fun place to go. The sign that says "Welcome to the Center of the Universe" is the first clue that you've arrived. Oddities like the Freemont Troll , a smoking rocket and a bronzed Vladimir Lenin statue will leave you laughing while the Saturday gallery walks and the Fremont Sunday Flea Market will have you browsing. Say hello to the group waiting for a bus, but don't expect an answer—they're life-sized statues, often dressed in celebration of someone's birthday or another grand event. The Fremont Oktoberfest is also held here each year.
Quaint shops, restaurants and cafes fill this upper-crust neighborhood on the shores of Lake Washington. Everyone seems to know each other at restaurants like Madison Park Cafe , and everyone appears to be going someplace important. Walk down the street to the Madison Park & Beach , take in the beautiful view of the Eastside, and dream about owning a waterfront villa. The Museum of History and Industry can also be found in Madison Park.
Pungent aromas and delectable dishes emit from restaurants like Bush Garden and Sea Garden in this primarily Asian neighborhood. Specialty shops filled with unusual treasures line the streets. The district is home to the inner-city oasis Hing Hay Park, complete with a pagoda and the Wing Luke Asian Museum .
Across Lake Washington from Seattle lies the "Monterey of the Northwest," so called for its posh art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and waterfront. The Kirkland Performance Center and the Kirkland Parkplace Cinema 6 can both be found here. The waterfront Yarrow Bay Grill is a popular stop for fashionable lunches and dinners. While close to the city, Kirkland manages to maintain its small-town atmosphere, which adds to its appeal.
Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is the heart of Seattle and the number one tourist site in the area, attracting frenzied crowds of visitors and locals. The oldest continually operating farmer's market in the country, Pike Place features fresh fish, fruits and vegetables, and arts and crafts as far as the eye can see. Abundant restaurants include Maximilien in the Market . Shops offer goods from around the world. Bring some change as there are always street musicians singing for their supper.
This is Seattle's oldest neighborhood and the place where the term "Skid Row" originated. Lumberjacks skidded logs down "Skid Road," now Yesler Street, to a mill at the bottom of the hill. Saloons and brothels lined the street, and the term soon took on its derogatory connotation locally and nationwide. The Underground Tour explores the now subterranean storefronts of the original neighborhood. Today the neighborhood is filled with art galleries, small shops, bookstores, including Elliott Bay Book Co. , and restaurants like the elegant Il Terrazzo Carmine . At night the square comes to life. Popular nightspots include Central Saloon , one of Seattle's oldest bars. Many clubs feature live music, and a group of bars and clubs in the area offers admittance to each for a single cover charge.
Queen Anne Hill
A combination of a quiet hilltop neighborhood and a young trendy hot spot, Queen Anne has popular restaurants like Peso's Taco Lounge as well as coffee shops and nightspots like the trendy Tini Bigs . The view of the city from the west slope is incredible, especially from Kerry Park, which offers Seattle's most photographed view.
Thriving due to corporate residents like Microsoft and Nintendo, Redmond has an unlikely yet appealing combination of countryside and technology. The software industry brings money here and with it good shopping at Redmond Town Center . Cyclists appreciate the velodrome at Marymoor Park and the Lake Sammamish State Park Trail (for those of us too slow for the velodrome).
Part amusement park, part festival grounds, the center hosts The Bite of Seattle , Bumbershoot and many other popular festivals. Permanent fixtures of this 74-acre park include the Seattle Opera , Intiman Theater , Paul Allen's Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame , the Pacific Science Center and the Space Needle .
This area is home to the University of Washington , known to locals as "U-Dub." The park-like 700-acre campus is perfect for a midday stroll. Boats filled with die-hard Husky fans fight for space around the waterfront stadium on game days. Low-priced restaurants and pubs like Flowers line the "Ave" (University Avenue), and stylish young people fill the streets. The University Bookstore anchors a thriving shopping scene.
Elliott Bay, part of Puget Sound, laps against Seattle's Waterfront . On summer days, visitors pack the area to enjoy the fresh air, quaint shops and many seafood restaurants, which include Elliott's Oyster House , Anthony's Pier 66 , Fisherman's Restaurant and Ivar's . Catch a ferry to Bremerton or Bainbridge Island , or take a water tour to Blake Island's Tillicum Village for a salmon dinner and Native American dance show.
Seattle is a city growing up. Neighborhoods like the University District , Ballard, Fremont and Capitol Hill attract younger crowds of students and artists with diverse tastes and small budgets. Downtown Seattle and Belltown have become hot spots for new entrepreneurs, high-tech employees and anyone else with extra spending money.
One of the fastest-growing and trendiest downtown neighborhoods, Belltown is a popular hangout for yuppies. Hip restaurants here include Flying Fish and Shiro's .
This neighborhood is known for the numerous shops and theaters along Broadway Avenue and for the variety of alternative lifestyles it welcomes. Tasty bites include Pagliacci Pizza and the popular Siam on Broadway , which serves excellent Thai food. If you're in the mood for a casual night out or a hangover breakfast, head to Linda's Tavern . Relax at a booth with friends, shoot a game of pool with the regulars or get some fresh air on the patio out back. For a swanky, sultry night, rock the casbah at The Capitol Club . The Mediterranean menu and romantic vibe make it a great date spot. Capitol Hill, known for its close-knit gay community, also has some of the best dance clubs in Seattle. For an all-out, get-down-and-boogie experience go to Neighbours , a primarily gay bar, for dancing into the night. Or try The Baltic Room for top-notch live shows and a stylish crowd. Nearby sits the Comet Tavern where an entertaining mix of people go for beer and pool.
Continuing westward, the nightlife seeker enters the quaint districts of Fremont and Ballard. In Fremont, drink a beer at the Dubliner , an authentic Irish pub. If you're in the mood for a mellow evening, sip coffee in the Still Life Coffeehouse, a Seattle classic. West of Fremont in Ballard, Irish pubs and seafood abound. Enjoy Irish brews at Conor Byrne's Pub or Bad Albert's Tap & Grill . For more elegant dining make your way to Shilsole Bay, where good restaurants like Ray's Boathouse line the shores of Puget Sound, offering great views and delicious seafood.
Midtown and Waterfront
Don't miss downtown dining, but do bring your credit cards because prices are higher here than elsewhere in the city. The Brooklyn offers a happy hour oyster and beer selection. Fine dining establishments on the piers of Elliott Bay include Anthony's Pier 66 & Bell Street Diner , Elliott's Oyster House and The Seattle Crab Company . For a little less pretense and expense, try Red Robin . Other noteworthy downtown restaurants include Wild Ginger and Dragonfish Asian Cafe . Pacific Place , an upscale shopping mall, features famous chain restaurants like the Gordon Biersch Brewing Company .
Most of the nightlife in downtown Seattle clusters around the famous Pioneer Square . On weekends, this four-block radius fills up with college students, beer enthusiasts, local band fans, jazz devotees, sports fans and others. By paying a single joint cover charge during the weekend, one can enter any of nine affiliated Pioneer Square bars and clubs including the Central Saloon , one of Seattle's oldest taverns. The Last Supper Club is also a popular spot in the downtown nightlife, offering a trendy New York-style club experience. Showbox , northeast of Pioneer Square, is a large nightclub featuring highly regarded DJs on weekends and nationally-known bands on other nights.
This is a favorite area for diners and drinkers on smaller budgets. Check out "The Ave" (University Way) for vegetarian restaurants like Flowers , which serves a lovely vegetarian buffet during the day and great mixed drinks at night. The Ave has cuisines for all tastes: Mexican, Indian, Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese among others. Barhopping on the Ave is popular as well. Join student crowds for beer at the Big Time Brewery then shoot some pool at the College Inn Pub . About six blocks west lies the popular Rainbow Bar & Grill , which features local and national jazz, rock and blues acts.
Seattle is a culturally and visually stunning place to visit: from the visual wonder of the Space Needle to the treasures of the Seattle Art Museum , there are many things to see and do.
Seattle Center Located downtown is the Seattle Center , built in 1962. It houses numerous tourist attractions including the Pacific Science Center , Paul Allen's Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum & Hall of Fame and KeyArena , home of the Seattle Supersonics. Try the clams at the Palace Kitchen . Most visitors come to the Center for Seattle's most famous and most visible landmark, the Space Needle , and all will enjoy the ride on its glass elevators and the panoramic views from the observation deck.
Westlake Center The Seattle Center is also at one end of the Monorail , and the tour continues with the 90-second, 1.3-mile ride from the Seattle Center to the Westlake Center , a popular arcade for shoppers. The Brooklyn is an excellent dining option in this area. When you've had your fill, head south to Seattle's historic multi-level Pike Place Market .
Seattle Art Museum Stop by the Seattle Art Museum near the Waterfront , and just a few blocks onward, you'll enter Pioneer Square . If you're with children, or have a taste for kitsch, cap off your walk with the 1.5-hour Underground Tour , which gives a sense of what Seattle life was like before the fire and provides details of the reconstruction process. The Pike Place Market is also located near the Museum. Here you can find something tasty to eat.
Seattle Waterfront The views of the surrounding natural beauty from the Seattle Waterfront are spectacular. Take a ferry to Bainbridge Island or visit the Seattle Aquarium and the Odyssey Maritime Discovery Center . You can grab some food to go from one of the many Waterfront restaurants, like Waterfront Seafood Grill , and hang out in the nearby Myrtle Edwards Park .
Seattle Opera The Seattle Center Opera House hosts the Seattle Opera , one of the most acclaimed opera companies in the United States. This is also home to the Seattle Symphony , in an excellent acoustic space. Stop for a quick bite at the Pike Street Cafe . Theater buffs will seek out the nationally-recognized A Contemporary Theater (ACT) a few blocks away.
With so much to see and do, visitors usually opt for a tour company to help them see it all. Catch a ride on a dinner train, or choose the more traditional bus or van ride, the choice is yours.
Bus Tours Gray Line of Seattle ( +1 206 624 5077 / http://www.graylineofseattle.com/ )
Van Tours Show Me Seattle ( +1 206 633 2489 / http://www.showmeseattle.com/ )
Historical Tours The Underground Tour ( +1 206 682 4646 / http://www.undergroundtour.com/ )
Air Tours Ride the Ducks of Seattle ( +1 206 441 3825 / http://www.ridetheducksofseattle.com/ ) Classic Helicopter Corp. ( +1 206 767 0515 / http://www.classichelicoptercorp.com/ )
Boat Tours Ride the Ducks of Seattle ( +1 206 441 3825 / http://www.ridetheducksofseattle.com/ ) Kenmore Air Seaplanes ( +1 425 486 1257 / +1 800 543 9595 / http://www.kenmoreair.com/ ) Argosy Cruises ( +1 206 623 1445 / +1 800 642 7816 / http://www.argosycruises.com ) American West Steamboat Co. ( +1 800 434 1232 / http://www.columbiarivercruise.com/ )
Train Tours Spirit of Washington Dinner Train ( +1 206 227 7245 / +1 800 876 7245 / http://www.spiritofwashingtondinnertrain.com/ )
Wine Tours Chateau Ste. Michelle ( +1 415 3300 / http://www.ste-michelle.com/ ) Columbia Winery ( +1 425 488 2776 / +1 800 488 2347 / http://www.columbiawinery.com/ )
Brewery Tours Maritime Pacific Brewery ( +1 206 782 6181 ) Redhook Ale Brewery ( +1 425 483 3232 / http://www.redhook.com/ )
Adventure Tours Downstream River Runners Inc. ( +1 800 234 4644 / http://www.riverpeople.com/ ) Brew Hops Tours ( +1 206 283 8460 )
Kayaking Tours Moss Bay Rowing & Kayak Center ( +1 206 682 2031 / http://www.mossbay.net/ )
Sports Tours Big League Tours ( +1 866 619 1748 / +1 317 534 2475 / http://www.bigleaguetours.com/ )