SEATTLE SIGHTS AND ATTRACTIONS
Pioneer Square is Seattle’s historic district. Preservation campaigns have kept the area looking very much stuck in time, and the heavily-decorated Smith Tower (506 Second Avenue) is the pick of the buildings. Within Pioneer Square is the Seattle branch of the Klondike Goldrush National Historic Park, which tells how Seattle rose to prosperity of gold miners in Alaska and here.. I’ve written about it in more detail
More futuristic (or at least it was in 1962) is the 184m Seattle Space Needle (203 Sixth Avenue, 00 1 206 905 2200). It has an observation deck at the top. Most charming, however, is the Fish Ladder by the Hiram J Chittenden locks. It was purposely built in so salmon could make it to their traditional breeding grounds when the Lake Washington Ship Canal came into being. During breeding season, you can watch the salmon hurl themselves upstream.
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The Seattle Symphony (00 1 206 215 4747) does a great job in reaching out beyond the traditional orchestral music audience, with highlights including classic film screenings where the Symphony plays the soundtrack live. The Seattle Art Museum (1300 First Avenue, 00 1 206 625 8900) is equally refreshing – it’s far more about big set pieces and new works than room after room of mediocre old paintings. Music-lovers should head to the Experience Music Project (325 5th Avenue North, 00 1 206 770 2702) next to the Space Needle. It’s visually impressive – if pompous – and does a great job of covering the history of the Seattle music scene.
You could happily spend a day walking through Pioneer Place and Pike Place Market, then up to Belltown and the big ticket attractions at Seattle Center. The best route will take you past the Olympic Sculpture Park (2901 Western Avenue). Discovery Park in the northwest offers a more peaceful alternative, with a series of walking trails cutting through this big green public space.
Savor Seattle Food Tours (00 1 888 987 2867) runs a serious of gourmet-inclined tours, including walks around Pike Place Market or the city’s chocolate shops and foodie ambles around the fashionable Capitol Hill District. Prices start at $42.71.
Seattle has a not-so-secret subterranean city that lurks below Pioneer Place, the result of raising the street levels following the Great Seattle Fire in 1889. Bill’s Spiedel’s Underground Tour (00 1 206 682 4646) takes you down into the depths. I’ve written about it in more detail here.
Considerably less claustrophobic is the two-and-a-half hour Seattle Locks Cruise offered by Argosy (00 1 206 622 8687, $33.50) – it does a circle through Puget Sound, the Hiram J Chittenden Locks and Lake Union. To get acquainted with the massive Pacific Northwest microbrewing scene, head on the sampling-heavy three brewery tour with Road Dogs (00 1 206 249 9858, $79). I reviewed the tour in more detail here.
Not quite in Seattle, but not too far away either, the Boeing Assembly Plant at Everett is the largest building in the world. The tours show how the planes are made, and the sheer scale is incredible. If you’ve not got your own car, then Viator sells packages including transport from Seattle. I’ve reviewed the experience here.
Budget accommodation in Seattle
The Seattle City Hostel (2327 2nd Avenue, 00 1 206 706 3255) has to be one of the most likeable hostels in the world. There’s street art over the bedroom walls and bathrooms are spotlessly clean. They also keep chickens outside whilst growing fruit and honey on the roof. Private doubles with shared bathrooms start at $80. The Moore Hotel (1926 2nd Avenue, 00 1 206 448 4851, from $82 with shared bathroom) has flamboyant hallways that don’t match the dowdy-but-spacious rooms, but it’s excellently located on the cusp of Pike Place, Downtown and Belltown. Otherwise www.lodginginseattle.com is the place to go hunting for decent suburban B&Bs.
Mid-range hotels in Seattle
The Max (620 Stewart Street, 00 1 206 728 6299, from $150) has plenty of energy; each floor has a different theme, bright colours hold sway and treats such as pillow menus are thrown in. The best value tends to come in the Queen Anne area, however. The Maxwell (300 Roy Street, 00 1 206 286 0629, from $124) is lovely, with wooden floors, rainbow rugs and coffee makers giving the heart to balance the surprising luxuries of marble bathrooms and small pool. The Marqueen (600 Queen Anne Avenue North, 00 1 206 282 7407, from $150) has a glorious vintage feel; fridges, microwaves and deep burgundy splashes compliment the dark woods and antique furniture.
Luxury hotels in Seattle
The Scandinavian-tinged Andra (2000 4th Avenue, 00 1 206 448 8600, from $184) has spacious rooms that manage to be contemporary without veering into bland. Touches such as the furry headboards and roaring lobby fires add soul. The endearing Inn at the Market (86 Pine Street, 00 1 206 443 3600, from $214) has two key points of difference – the location at Pike Place market and the fabulous rooftop deck overlooking Puget Sound. The Hyatt at Olive 8 (1635 8th Avenue, 00 1 206 695 1234, from $226) offers much the same look and facilities as the Grand Hyatt around the corner, but at more competitive rates. It’s businessy without feeling whitewash corporate.
Hotel 1000 (1000 First Avenue, 00 1 206 957 1000, from $405) is Seattle’s best top end bet. The art in your room is adjusted to your tastes, water in the baths pours down from the ceiling and there’s a virtual golf course downstairs. The Monaco (1101 4th Avenue, 00 1 206 621 1770, from $317) is very much love or hate, coming across as a gaudy circus-esque palace. Wallpaper is extravagantly stripy, they’ll lend you a goldfish in a bowl for company and the bathrobes are leopardskin print. Less exciting is the predictable Four Seasons (99 Union Street, 00 1 206 749 7000, from $365) – but the facilities are arguably the best in town.
EAT & DRINK
Lowell’s (1519 Pike Place, 00 1 206 622 2036) is a somewhat basic diner and claims to have been ‘almost classy since 1957’ but it’s right in the heart of Pike Place Market and serves fish, meat and cheeses sourced from the stallholders. Nearby Café Campagne (1600 Post Alley, 00 1 206 728 2233) has a relaxed French bistro vibe that matches the menu. Further afield, the Tamarind Tree (1036 South Jackson Street, 860 1404) is a real find. This regional Vietnamese specialist is at the back of a car park, but it oozes contemporary class and has a great outdoor seating area. The $5 lunchtime specials tend to include a killer pho.
The Dahlia Bakery (2001 Fourth Avenue, 00 1 206 441 4540) is tiny, but is a brilliant spot to pick up salad boxes, cookies, baguettes and sandwiches made from a bewildering array of artisan breads. For anyone with a sweet tooth, the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (1491 First Avenue, 00 1 206 262 9581) and its range of chocolate-covered apples, truffles and other calorie-packed goodies should prove an irresistible draw. Down at Pioneer Square, the queues outside Salumi (309 Third Avenue South, 00 1 206 621 8772) should give ample proof of the quality of soups, pastas and sarnies. Get there before the lunch rush if hungry.
Seattle fine dining
In a city where casual is the norm, the Georgian restaurant (411 University Street, 00 1 206 621 7889) inside the Fairmont Olympic Hotel is the grandest dining room for those who fancy dressing up. The French cuisine is mighty good too. Rovers (2808 East Madison Street, 00 1 206 325 7442) comes near the top of just about every Seattleite’s dream dining list for its quality local ingredients and Gallic twist. Tom Douglas, meanwhile, is Seattle’s ubiquitous celebrity chef and The Dahlia Lounge (2001 Fourth Avenue, 00 1 206 682 4142) is arguably the best in his widespread collection of eateries. Steaks and seafood are the menu choices to get excited about.
SEATTLE NIGHTLIFE AND ENTERTAINMENT
For a drinking joint that sums Seattle’s warmness up, try the Whisky Bar (2000 Second Avenue, 00 1 206 443 4490). It has knowledgeable staff, a massive beer and spirit selection and everyone sits round the bar chatting to strangers rather than slinking away to the booths. The sprawling Pike Pub (1415 First Avenue, 00 1 206 622 6044) brews a massive selection of largely excellent beers on site, and the food is surprisingly good to anchor down a session with. To learn about the wines of Washington State (and drink them, of course), try tucking into the generous tasting flights at 106 Pine (106 Pine Street, 00 1 206 443 1106).
Live music in Seattle
Belltown’s Crocodile Café (2200 Second Avenue, 00 1 206 441 4618) is a scene stalwart – it’s where Nirvana and a host of other Seattle bands played on their way up the ladder, and the guitars are still turned up nice and loud for the new kids on the block. The Moore Theatre (911 Pine Street, 00 1 206 682 1414) is a flamboyant old building in which to catch the bigger acts, but you’ll usually need to book tickets in advance. For other genres, the Triple Door (216 Union Street, 00 1 206 838 4333) is a great all-rounder. It can be folk one night, soul the next and gospel the day after.
Neighbours (1509 Broadway, 00 1 206 324 5358) is ostensibly a gay club, but it serves as that place you go to for bad dancing and guilty pleasure pop hits after a drink or two too many. The Deep Down Lounge (126 South Jackson Street, 00 1 206 682 3242) has more credibility – it’s a dark basement club that puts an emphasis on quality drum ‘n’ bass and attracts kids who know what they’re talking about. The Baltic Room (1207 Pine Street, 00 1 206 625 4444) is a great all-rounder; it’s intimate, but with a surprising amount of space to dance in. The music policy diversifies wildly from night to night.
SHOPPING IN SEATTLE
The Pike Place Market is arguably Seattle’s crowning glory. It’s a chaotic affair that spawls over seemingly hundreds of levels and working out how they interlink takes equal measures of time, patience and luck. Cheese shops, Russian bakeries and fruit stalls are all mixed in with buskers, fishmongers lobbing salmon around for the crowds and small scale jewellers selling home-made bangles. Other markets in Seattle are always going to be dwarfed by this justifiably popular behemoth, but the Fremont Sunday Market (www.fremontmarket.com) held along Phinney Avenue North is also worth a browse for collectables and limited edition art amongst an ocean of assorted tat.
Nordstrom (www.nordstrom.com) is Seattle’s major department store, and the flagship is at 500 Pine Street. One of its neighbours is Pacific Place (600 Pine Street), the most agreeable of Seattle’s shopping malls. There’s a stand-out-from-the-crowd feel and the odd local boutique to go alongside upmarket giants such as Tiffany and Co. If you’re after gifts and souvenirs, then Made In Washington (1530 Post Alley, 00 1 206 467 0788, www.madeinwashington.com) should give you plenty of locally-sourced ideas. There are the predictable boxed salmon and chocolates available, but some of the blown glass pieces are superb. The small vases and coasters are the best bets for those with limited luggage space.
A standard Seattle joke runs something like this: “We have two seasons, winter and August.” This is an exaggeration of course, but it really is one of those cities that is best visited in or near peak season. Seattle is notoriously rain-soaked, but the rainfall decreases dramatically between (approximately) mid May and mid September. Also, while there’s plenty to keep you occupied around Pike Place, Downtown and Pioneer Square, areas such as Capitol Hill, Belltown and Queen Anne are worth visiting to get an idea of the city’s numerous – and hugely likeable – personalities.
Further information: Visit Seattle
Disclosure:was a guest of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau. All details correct as of May 2011, when this guide was researched. This guide was originally written for the Sun-Herald in .