We spent a week in Seattle during early autumn, awaiting Vanda’s arrival in North America. We got to know the city pretty well for tourists as we spent most days exploring and walking all over town. Here were our top ten favourite things to do in Washington state’s capital city.
1. Discover downtown Seattle
The first thing we normally do when we arrive in a new place is to quickly memorise a map and hit the pavement with no destination in mind. We did exactly this in Seattle, exploring the downtown, Pioneer Square and International District areas and being surprised around every corner.
Apart from being home to Starbucks, Seattle is generously populated by thousands of local cafés that sit side-by-side to street buskers, alternative shops, foreign retailers and unique artsy boutiques. Well worth an afternoon or two of exploring!
2. Get lost in Seattle’s public market – Pike Place
Pike Place Market is one of Seattle’s biggest icons, and rightfully so! The complex of market stalls and small shops sits right near the harbour and takes up an entire block of the city centre. You could easily get lost in its colourful displays and among the endless delicious smells coming from food stalls.
You’ll find everything at Pike Place from freshly caught Alaskan salmon to vinyl records, hot spiced apple cider and handmade kids toys. If you’re feeling extra courageous you can even get a piercing, tattoo your bicep or try out a new hair style!
3. Visit the world’s very first Starbucks store
Wth over 23,000 stores spread around the globe, Starbucks is one of the biggest coffee companies on the planet. Its first ever store was opening in downtown Seattle in 1971 selling coffee beans, teas and spices. The store is still operating today, located right in front of Pike Place Market, so well worth checking out while you’re already in the area.
Tourists pack the cafe almost every day (you’ll most likely find a queue running out the front door), so a bit of patience is required if you’re after your morning coffee. Street artists and buskers usually entertain the crowds near the front door and help pass the time waiting. Otherwise a peep in the window and a quick photo also does the trick (you’ll most likely find another Starbucks just around the corner if you’re after a cup of coffee).
4. See the city on a whole new level, literally – from the Space Needle
The Space Needle is an observation tower that was built in 1962 for the World’s Fair technology exhibition. Although it’s now rivalled by similar towers in Toronto, Auckland, Sydney and other major cities, the Space Needle was one of the USA’s highest buildings back in the day.
The observation deck sits 160 metres from the ground with views across Puget Sound, the entire city and all the way towards the impressive snow capped Mount Rainier. Admission is around $22 per adult but can be bundled with the Chihuli Garden and Glass Museum for $32 which saves you a few bucks!
5. Save some cash and enjoy the view of Seattle from Queen Ann Hill
If you’re on a budget like us (or afraid of heights), head to Queen Ann Hill where the view is just as good as from the Space Needle. Arrive in time for sunset for some pretty specky colours and a guaranteed popular Instagram snap.
6. Take a trip on the city’s elevated, historical monorail
Although the trip is short, a ticket for $2.50 will take you on this elevated monorail track from the Space Needle and entertainment district to the centre of downtown Seattle. You’ll get to see the city from a different perspective and be a part of historical culture of Seattle – you won’t believe it but the monorail was built back in 1962!
7. Taste Washington state’s best produce at the Ballard Farmer’s Market
Washington is famous for its fresh produce and organic/biodynamic food culture – and the best place to experience it all is at the weekly Ballard Farmer’s Market, held every Sunday from 10am to 3pm.
You’ll find everything from home-brewed Kombucha (fermented tea renowned for its health benefits) to gourmet hotdogs, organic fresh fruit and local art. You’ll even find freestyle poets seated at vintage type-writers who, for a donation of $5, will craft a poem on a theme of your choosing! Very unique :).
8. Salivate over the Hawaiian-Korean-Mexican fusion dishes at Marination
I never knew such a unique fusion of international cuisine existed, yet it does – and in amazing, mouthwatering style – at four Marination restaurants scattered throughout Seattle.
You’ve got to try their miso-sake marinated fish tacos, Aloha Kalua pork slider with spicy nunya sauce or their crunchy and creamy Kalua pork and kimchi quesadilla. If you’re a fan of crunchy hand cut fries, Marination will not let you down here either!
9. Take a walk in West Seattle’s Lincoln Park to digest all that food
Lincoln Park is a 135 acre green space that lines the Puget Sound in West Seattle. Apart from acres of squirrel infested forests and lush grasslands the park also boasts tennis courts, picnic tables and shelters, baseballs fields, many rocky beaches and a heated saltwater swimming pool that opens during the summer.
10. Make some friends
Seattle impressed us with its down-to-earth and super friendly locals. Of course like everywhere, this doesn’t stand for every single person, but we found it very easy to just stop and chat with people we met on the streets. We even got invited to have a coffee and catch up later in the week! And one of the perks of making friends is you’ll be privy to some local secrets on the best places to see and things to do!