Seattle has been labelled a “United States of neighborhoods”: where each district has its own distinct personality. It’s been said you could never understand the city without visiting each of those neighborhoods.
And while that might be true, few have the time to see them all, particularly not in a single visit. But it’s still possible to get a feel of the city by prioritizing some of Seattle’s coolest neighborhoods. We suggest these five:
Think of Queen Anne Avenue as the backbone that runs straight through the middle of the city, rising up to the top of Queen Anne Hill, the highest point in Seattle. Upper Queen Anne is very chic and home to two of the city’s finest restaurants: How To Cook A Wolf and Canlis.
Lower Queen Anne sits at the foot of the hill and is a little more down-to-earth. You’ll probably head here without even knowing it when you visit such staples as the iconic Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center and Seattle Center. An impressive array of local restaurants and bars should ensure you stay longer.
Seattle Secret: Kerry Park in Upper Queen Anne will give you the best photo opps of downtown Seattle and the more distant Mount Rainier.
An elegant neighborhood northeast of Downtown, Capitol Hill is the youthful heartbeat of Seattle.
By day, expect a sprawl of markets, cafés and hip boutiques—plus the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room, dubbed the “Willy Wonka factory of coffee." By night, an almost endless array of clubs, bars and music venues come alive. The Pike-Pine Street corridor has some of the city's edgiest shops, clubs and cafés, while the Jimi Hendrix statue on the corner of Broadway and Pine is a reminder of the city’s musical legacy. Venues such as Neumos and Comet Tavern keep that tradition alive, as does the Capitol Hill Block Party, a three-day sonic assault held every July.
Seattle Secret: Despite being one of the most densely populated areas of the city, Capitol Hill offers great green spaces at Volunteer Park, Interlaken Park and Cal Anderson Park.
While Pioneer Square is another neighborhood blessed with excellent shops, restaurants and galleries, head here if you also want to step back in time. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour is the best way to explore the city’s subterranean history—after the Great Seattle Fire in 1889, the city was rebuilt on top of its old ruins.
For a loftier view, climb to the observation deck of the Smith Tower, one of the world’s first skyscrapers, for panoramic views of the city. After dark, some of the city’s best nightlife kicks into gear. Drop in on Central Saloon, Seattle’s oldest bar, established in 1892, and take it from there.
Seattle Secret: Pioneer Square is a literary playground and home to three must-visit stores in The Globe Bookstore, Arundel Books and the legendary Elliott Bay Bookstore, which boasts 150,000 titles laid out on cedar shelves.
If your life feels like it’s lacking a little color, head across the Aurora Bridge to Fremont, the self-proclaimed "Center of the Universe." The neighborhood has a very lofty opinion of itself, but it might just be justified.
Home to such global giants as Google, Adobe and Amazon, it’s also where you’ll find block after block of independent stores, galleries, cafés and restaurants. Every week brings a new party, parade or festival, while it’s also possible to take a tour of a chocolate factory, a distillery and a brewery, all in a single day.
Seattle Secret: While Fremont is noted for being home to a statue of Vladimir Lenin, it’s most famous for the Fremont Troll, a giant sculpture that lives beneath Aurora Bridge. No visit is complete without saying hello.
Steeped in maritime history, Ballard remains a neighborhood with strong and proud Scandinavian roots—the story of its fishermen, boat builders and mill workers is retold in the Nordic Heritage Museum.
Modern-day Ballard has reinvented itself as the city’s most happening neighborhood. Head down to bustling Ballard Avenue and you’ll see why—there are more restaurants and bars, shops and art installations than a single visit will ever allow. Oysters at The Walrus and the Carpenter offer a fitting—and delicious—taste of Ballard old and new.
Seattle Secret: Golden Gardens Park is one of Seattle’s best green spaces, not to mention home to one of its few sandy beaches. Head here for wetlands, forest trails, and spectacular views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.
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