What a wild and unique city Seattle is! Somehow managing to meld the 90s grunge with modern-day big tech influences, there really is something for everyone.
You get the best of both worlds here. The Emerald City sits right on the Puget Sound, surrounded by water and endless evergreen mountains.
Oh, and if you’re a foodie or coffee connoisseur, you should have visited here like yesterday! Let’s get into all the must-see places so we don’t waste any time!
Seattle has a very unique though tumultuous history. The naturally hilly indigenous land was settled in the 1850s, with an exploding population of over 1,000 people moving there per month. However, in 1889, a massive fire unfortunately leveled the city center.
When rebuilding, city planners ended up raising the street level of the whole area to avoid flooding. This left Seattle with subterranean passageways which eventually would become abandoned or used for illegal activities.
When what is now Pioneer Square became restored in the 1950s, local Bill Speidel, started running underground tours. Today, you can partake in Seattle Underground Tours that focus on all kinds of wild and weird stuff – and the city has a never-ending supply.
While it only covers 3 blocks, it’s fascinating to see insight into a way of living few know today. Alternatively, you can go an even spookier route and take a Haunted History Ghost Tour, which also starts out in Pioneer Square.
You’ll learn all about how it came to be the bustling metropolis it is today, as well as see plenty of old bars, speakeasys, some of the first buildings, and more. Oh, and obviously hear plenty of ghost stories (maybe even see some!).
The same guys who put on the haunted tours also do the Sub Seattle Tour, not to be confused with the underground tours. These are perfect for those who’d like to dive into the quirkier side of the city’s history.
You’ll get to see Kurt Cobain’s house tucked away on a hillside overlooking Lake Washington (also beautiful to visit during the summertime), Bruce Lee’s gravesite, and much more.
One of the reasons Seattle is so intriguing is the old-world charm of the older neighborhoods. Take a Historic Seattle walking tour which leads through the beautiful bungalows in the Ravenna neighborhood as well as the marvelous bridges that are found throughout the city.
Some of the homes are open for touring, and every season except for wintertime allows for tours inside the Frye Museum, St. James Cathedral, Stimson-Green Mansion, and the Sorrento Hotel. Don’t forget to stop by Pike Place, where there are plenty of great bookshops and history to learn about.
The historic district is super close to Columbia Center, which (insider secret) has the best views of Seattle – not the Space Needle! Its 73rd floor has a Sky View Observatory that allows for great vistas of the needle, though.
If you want to escape the commotion of city life, you’re only minutes away from peace and tranquility. There is so much to see, you could live here your entire life and still not explore every hiking trail, mountain peak, or cruise. That’s not to say that some aren’t better than others, though.
Mount Rainier can be seen from just about anywhere in Seattle on a clear day, but seeing it up close is unreal. It’s one of the best places in the world to see wildflowers, but is also decorated with waterfalls, rare flora and fauna, and incredible viewpoints.
Your guides will tell you all about the history and science of the area, with a full narration on your climate-controlled bus.
The active volcano is best seen from a Mt. Rainier Tour from Seattle, navigating you through the most gorgeous parts of the ancient forests and meadows. Some even include additional excursions like wine tastings!
If you didn’t already know, Washington has some of the best vineyards in the country, so they come highly recommended!
Covering over a million acres, the Olympic National Park is a can’t-miss. You likely won’t be able to find anywhere near as diverse in the United States, seeing as it’s the only rainforest in the country.
With lowland forests, glacier-encapsulated mountains, glass-like alpine lakes, rushing rivers, temperate rainforests, and rare wildlife, it’s like hopping into a National Geographic.
It’s hard to believe that all this lies just a couple of miles from the city. However, if you want to make the most of the experience, we recommend taking one of the Olympic National Park Tours from Seattle.
These tours include experts who know the area like the back of their hand, snacks, and seamless transportation. There are tours no matter the season, and if you plan on going during the wintertime, they even provide snowshoes! How cool is that?
There are few things as refreshing as the breeze coming in off the Sound during the summertime. The Seattle waterfront is probably the prettiest area in the city, and that’s really saying something.
When the sun starts setting, you’ll definitely want to make sure you’re there to catch it. Something about the way it sets behind the mountains turns it an electric red, and that reflection off the blue water perfectly contrasts for a postcard-esque scene.
If you want to spend some time actually on the water, there are various cruises you can take. Among the Seattle harbor cruises, you have a few different take-off points. The Argosy cruises are more like a ferry setup, with indoor and outdoor spots for viewing.
There are others that take you on a classic schooner for that old-school feel (they also have a mini cannon that they fire into the harbor – need we say more?).
No matter which one you take, though, you’ll get to enjoy the Seattle skyline from the other side. Not only that, but there are plenty of jellyfish, fish, and even whales that may make an appearance!
Hop on a cruise to Blake Island on Argosy if you’d like to check out the birthplace of Chief Seattle and Tillicum Village, which offers some interesting insight into indigenous traditions.
Oh, and if you want to learn more about sea life, the Seattle Aquarium is located right on the waterfront at Pier 59 – super close to where most of these cruises depart from. The giant Pacific octopus is one of the most impressive, though kids love the tide pools where you’re able to touch starfish and anemones.
Art & Music
Music and art are what really makes this city what it is. Aside from seeing your favorite artists at legendary venues like The Crocodile, Neptune Theatre, Neumos, and Seamonster Lounge, there are plenty of tours to take to learn more about “the scene”.
If you ask us, you can’t visit Seattle without going on a grunge tour. Start off at Seattle Center’s Museum of Culture (MoPOP), which is an impressive shrine dedicated to pure rock music and pop culture. If you’re a Soundgarden fan, make sure to check out the bronze statue commemorating Chris Cornell outside.
Inside, you’ll find exhibits honoring Nirvana and Pearl Jam, with tons of cool artifacts, stage and music video props, and much more. It’s an experience you won’t find anywhere else.
The KEXP Gathering Space conveniently located on First Ave is a community radio station where you can watch all kinds of DJs play while learning about the history of the studio. If you’d like to pick up some unique vinyl, stop at their Light in the Attic Records or grab a coffee at the La Marzocco Café next door.
If you’re really into shopping for new or used vinyl (or just enjoy a hearty brunch), check out Easy Street Records in West Seattle. Eddie Vedder and bandmates often make appearances here, whether it’s just to hang out or perform.
Not only that, but they serve up some of the best American breakfasts and burgers out there. We’ll get to more of that in a moment.
Seattle Art Museum (SAM) and the Olympic Sculpture Park are just a block from Pike Place Market, with all kinds of contemporary and historical art pieces. You’ll find art from all over the world here, from Ancient Mediterranean and European to Oceanic and Australian Aboriginal! The Olympic Sculpture Park is completely open-air so there’s no entrance fee and an adorable beach at the end.
Drinks and Eats
Seattle is definitely not lacking in eccentric nor upscale places to eat and drink. The two forms coexist in a way that somehow perfectly mirrors Seattleites, themselves. Due to the wide variety of options, we’re going to break them down into smaller categories.
With the normally-grey weather, one starts to crave a warm, greasy burger or thick slices of French toast accompanied by a steaming cup o’ Joe. No matter when your cravings strike, The 5 Point Café is there to serve you. This legendary dive bar and diner is open 24 hours a day, the service is great, and staff are always perfect for striking up an interesting convo.
Lost Lake Café is like something out of a movie. It crosses between an old-school diner and modern-day eatery. The menu is huge, and where else can you try a breakfast quesadilla there with taxidermized cougars staring at you?
Geraldine’s Counter is cozy, cute, and incredibly delicious. The Columbia City spot is known for serving up the best French toast in the city.
From the finest craft bars to the weirdest dives, you’ll find it all here.
Shorty’s is perfect if you want a more hipster, underground version of Dave and Buster’s. Inside Passage is perfectly PNW, making you feel like you’re underwater, complete with a sunken ship and tropical immersion bar. For a carnival-themed (without scary clowns) adventures, check out Unicorn. Their sister bar Narwhal is also a blast!
If you’re into some craft material, check out the elusive Bathtub Gin. Located in a random alley, it’s hard to miss it. You can usually spot it by a small plaque on the wall, or a bouncer standing outside.
It’s 2 levels, but the prohibition-themed bar super limited in space (we’re talking like 10 people on each floor). Deep Dive is incredibly beautiful, with antique maritime gems on display everywhere you turn and blue velvet booths. We recommend the effervescent “Rope Climb”.
First off, make sure you grab some fresh produce or check out the offerings around Pike Place Market. There are tons of little shops to grab a pretzel, pastry, or some fresh fruit in.
The Walrus and the Carpenter serves up all kinds of local oysters and raw seafood dishes pristinely curated and paired with thoughtful cocktails. For more oysters, there’s the Seattle classic, Elliott’s. The one on Alaskan Way is the way to go.
The Pink Door has been around since the 80s and is a vibrant Italian locale filled with character and cheese. If you’re digging Mediterranean flavors, Terra Plata in Capitol Hill is another great choice.
While you can find a big bowl of delicious pho just about anywhere in Seattle, Pho 99 is our top choice. For more savory options, check out Café Campagne downtown, which will transport you to old Paris.
You should know that Seattle is a huge foodie town, though, and even if you live here there will always be new places popping up. Maybe the near-constant drizzle keeps everyone indoors perfecting their dishes? Or maybe it’s just the quantity of fresh seafood – whatever it is, we’re sure you’re going to love it here.