Seattle is one of my top five destinations. The drizzly climate suits me, there’s an abundance of arts, music and food, and it’s just so damn cool. The people here are hip, tech savvy and seemingly pave the way for the rest of us without caring if we know it or not. It’s also so close to the effortlessly amazing Vancouver. I love the Pacific Northwest.
That being said, it’s hard to do a city guide for a few days because there’s just so much to see. I could probably do a half dozen guides representing each trip I’ve taken here in the past 5 years, and maybe one day I will. I’m a true believer that you should do the touristy things on your first trip to get them out of the way so that you can start exploring the local vibes of a city, but in Seattle some of their tourist spots are the best and I like to visit them every time I’m in town.
SO much to do, you’ll probably be left sleepless in Seattle…
I always like to start out my trips to Seattle by going to Pike’s Place in the morning (yes, I know the picture is from dusk). I never get tired of seeing the fish mongers throw fish, there’s something so uniquely Seattle about it, gets me in the mindset.
Of course, grab a cup of coffee from the original Starbucks.
…and some mini-donuts from the cart near Rachel the Piggy bank (Georgia Gerber).
If it’s later, head to Beecher’s. If you’ve read our airport review, you’ll know we have a fondness for this place and its oh-so-good mac and cheese. Piroshky piroshky and the dim sum counter also have great cheap eats. Macrina bakery, a few blocks down is a local favorite for pastries.
A nice place to take your treats is the Olympia sculpture garden. There are works by Alexander Calder and Jaume Plensa amongst others lining a pedestrian path where you can enjoy the backdrop of Puget Sound. This Seattle Arts side exhibit is about 4 large city blocks away from the Space Needle, Chihuly Gardens, Science Center, Pop Culture Museum (formerly known as EMF), and Seattle Children’s museum.
Visit one, visit all, there’s so many options. I recommend starting with either the Space Needle or Chihuly, you will undoubtedly need to split up these attractions over the next two days.
There is a weekday lunch only spot in Downtown near Pioneer Square that is one of my favorites, so if you can get there, Il Corvo has delicate handmade pastas. Conchiglie, rigatoni, campanelle, papardelle, all sorts, served with the most robust of sauces. It’s simple food done so right.
I usually stay Downtown for ease of walking when I visit, so after checking in at the hotel, I’ll start my walk around this area for some shopping. Seattle is the home of Nordstrom and in the city centre, you’ll find the flagship. You’ll also find the Amazon supermarket where you just walk in and out and pay via your phone.
For dinner, you’re going to have to sample one of restauranteur Tom Douglas‘s venerable establishments. I’ve dined at Lola and Dahlia Lounge and both are luxe and inventive.
Start your day by walking to the market (I know, again) to Biscuit Bitch for an explosion of doughy goodness. Traveler’s tip: the city Target near Pike’s Place has souvenirs. Travel up to Queen Anne and sample any number of their coffee shops: La Reve, Caffee Ladro, El Diablo, the list goes on and on (Storyville is my fav). From here, continue your discovery of Seattle’s finest museums, or head down to the waterfront or Library. If look down from the top floor, you’ll get a dizzying view from the conch spiral design. It’s definitely worth the vertigo.
For lunch, head down past Century Link Field to the International District for a quick trip to Japan at Uwajimaya. This supermarket has it all, from Japanese goods to snacks and also has Samurai noodle, a ramen shop located within. There are also sushi spots around this area and Vietnamese fare on the other side of the freeway. Also, an unexpected gem in this dicey part of town is Humble Pie, a hipster to the max neapolitan pizza joint with chickens running around the back. It’s near the world’s largest Goodwill.
The afternoon is yours for Aquarium, Flight museum, Japanese Garden, Asian Museum, Zoo. Or head up the I-5 to the University of Washington Campus. The streets lining the area around campus are filled with shops and eateries (U: Don hits the spot for me), it’s a great college town vibe.
The South Lake Union area is newly developed and filled with pretty trendy spots, restaurants, bars, entertainments spots. It’s no wonder, a lot of Amazon’s headquarter buildings are located here. Like a lot of the buildings are Amazon. It’s pretty impressive and it’s worth a drive through towards your next destination, Capitol Hill.
This is my favorite neighborhood in Seattle. It’s got a true young, arty vibe. End your afternoon at Victrola coffee, a vintage space with exposed brick. Walk around this neighborhood up Pine and Pike Streets to take in all the restaurants/bars and murals painted all over the buildings.
You literally cannot go wrong picking anywhere to dine in this area, but for some reason when I’m in Seattle I either eat Italian or Japanese, so Momiji and Anchovies & Olives or Bar Cotto are my picks. Bar Cotto and A&O are from Ethan Stowell, another Seattle culinary wunderkind, who owns like a dozen amazing restaurants in town. Bar Cotto is a salumeria/pizzeria and is worth it just for the torta fritta and proscuitto. Both melt in your mouth. Amazing with a glass of wine.
In the mornings, I like picking up some pastries at Dahlia Bakery because it’s close to downtown hotels. It’s also a more economical way to enjoy Tom Douglas’s food. They also randomly have momo, a tibetan meat-filled dumpling that is comforting and tasty.
For your last day, I highly recommend taking a ferry to Bainbridge or Mercer Island, or even driving down the road to any number of picturesque cities sprinkled along the shore. I have friends who live south of Tacoma in Steilacoom, and you can’t get more Norman Rockwell coastal town than that. It’s cozy, welcoming and tranquil, the perfect way to settle down after an action packed few days in Seattle.
Seattle eats: COFFEE, then have more COFFEE
Listen to: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Death Cab for Cutie, Jimi Hendrix, Band of Horses, the Head & the Heart, Heart, Macklemore, Sir Mix-A-Lot
Suggested souvenirs: anything music related, coffee
Seattle sports: Seahawks (NFL), Mariners (MLB), Sounders (MLS)