I spent a month in Seattle, which means I had a lot of time to explore the city – and I am glad I got to get to know the city beyond its Downtown core, Pike Place Market and Olympic Park. I started to truly enjoy Seattle once I got to know further away neighborhoods, parks and beaches, and I am leaving you with a list of places to visit in Seattle that goes beyond the classic Seattle attractions. My list of 35 places I love in Seattle includes some of the best coffee shops, speakeasy bars, markets and neighborhoods that I think are worth checking out. However, since these are my personal favorites, this list is pretty biased and focuses on the things that I love: craft beer, parks, great views, cool neighborhoods, food, and of course COFFEE.
I feel like I only got a taste of Seattle during my four weeks there, and with a lot of rained-out days (hello Seattle fall weather!), I also didn’t get around to visiting all the places I had on my to-do-list, so please consider this list by no means complete. These are some of the places I loved, so feel free to use this post for some inspiration for things to check out on a trip to Seattle. For practical information on how to visit Seattle and the best hotels and Airbnb’s, scroll down to the end of the article. Without further ado:
The 35 best places to visit in Seattle – iconic Seattle attractions and beyond:
1. Golden Gardens
This gorgeous beach in North Seattle made me wish I was visiting during the summer months, but even on the chilly October day I visited it made for a nice autumn walk along the beach. There are several hiking trails and two wetlands in the park. I think this is also an amazing spot to watch the sunset.
2. Top Pots Doughnuts
I’ve done thorough research on the topic of doughnuts during my time in Seattle, and can attest that Top Pots have the best doughnuts in town (their Apple Fritter is to die for). If you’re a doughnut lover, I’d recommend skipping the highly praised General Porpoise and heading straight to one of the Top Pots branches instead.
3. Joe Block Park
This little gem of a park is a place I would’ve never found, had a friendly local not pointed me towards it. A little-known park (even for Seattlites!) it is a little tricky to find, but well worth getting lost. It is located in West Seattle, close to the port, and basically on the way to Alki Beach. But since it is closer to Downtown Seattle than Alki, the views here are actually better (Alki is also known for fantastic views over Seattle). There is a walking pier that has an observation deck with benches at the end, offering sweeping views over Downtown Seattle and Puget Sound. I loved this place and would go back for a sunset picnic next time.
4. Storyville Café
Another place to while away a rainy day? Storyville Café! The coffee is excellent, and the pastries are divine. I’ve only been to their branch in the Queen Anne neighborhood so I don’t know if all of their cafes have fire places, but that definitely added to the coziness factor. There is also a branch right by Pike Place Market.
5. Seward Park
I loved this little park which occupies the Bailey Peninsula in Lake Washington so much that I dedicated an entire Polaroid Of The Week to it – I loved the paved trail that goes around the entire peninsula along the water, and the dirt trails that lead up the hill through the forest. If you make it here, I recommend combining it with a coffee at Caffe Vita (see below) in the nearby Seward Park neighborhood.
6. Café Chocolati
Luckily for both my waistline and my wallet, I only discovered this place during my last week in town (and still managed to visit twice). This is seriously some of the best hot chocolate outside of Paris, where I’ve had the thickest, richest hot chocolate in my life. A cup of it is basically a meal in itself. My favorite: the Dark Vader (Raspberry Hot Chocolate). Extra tip: You get a free truffle on your first visit. Yes, they know how to make you addicted. I don’t think there’s a better place to spend a rainy afternoon than at one of the five Chocolati cafés. (The downtown branch is in the Public Library which is also worth a visit).
This neighborhood in the north of Seattle describes itself as the ‘Center Of The Universe’. While I am not sure how much I agree with that, I loved the artsy vibe in this neighborhood: there are plenty of sculptures, some street art and even a troll who lives under the Aurora Bridge and is cherished by the locals. So yes, Fremont is one of Seattle’s quirkier neighborhoods. If you go, don’t miss the Theo Chocolate Factory Tour – it’s only $10 and includes a chocolate sampling. There’s also a factory shop worth visiting should you not make it on a tour.
8. Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park sits right on the shores of Puget Sound and belongs to the Seattle Art Museum. If you’re into art, both are worth a visit. The Art Museum is free on the first Thursday of every month.
9. Gas Works Park
I loved this park for its stunning views over Lake Union and since it is sitting on the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company, a gasification plant, the rusty remnants of the plants make for awesome photo ops. Every time I went there on a sunny day, the meadows were filled with sun worshippers. Just like Freeway Park, this is a park that’s unlike any other park I’ve been to, and for that reason alone one of the most unique best places to visit in Seattle.
Even if you’re not a vegetarian, I highly recommend stopping by JhanJay’s, where I had the best vegetarian Thai food outside of Thailand. There are two branches – one in Ballard and one in Wallingford. You’ll thank me later.
11. Frye Art Museum
Another great art museum – and this one is FREE all the time! Located in the First Hill neighborhood, you can walk to the Frye Museum from downtown.
12. Alki Beach
This might be my favorite beach in Seattle – and a great place to run or walk. Alki Beach is 3.1 miles (5k) long and offers sweeping vistas of Downtown Seattle. It’s a little out of the way in West Seattle, but if you have a car, it’s worth going there and you could combine it with Mexican food & drink happy hour at Cactus, or a doughnut breakfast at Top Pots, artisan pizza at Phoenicia or more scrumptious burritos at El Chupacabra (scroll down to #26 for more details).
13. The Top Of The Smith Tower
Head up to the newly revamped Temperance Café and Bar on the 35th floor observatory deck of the Smith Tower. Not only do you get tasty Prohibition Era-inspired cocktails here, but also amazing views over Seattle. Tickets have to be reserved in advance, and you can choose between tickets for the bar or simply the observation deck.
Seattle’s oldest neighborhood is industrial and still feels a little gritty, but it is quickly becoming super hip and makes for a fun afternoon: there are a couple of cool coffee shops (The Conservatory and All City), a superb Mexican restaurant (Fonda La Catrina), Georgetown Liquor Company and a couple of small breweries (Georgetown Brewing Co and Machine House Brewery), all a short walk from one another, and there is also some cool street art to admire.
15. Ballard Locks
The Ballard Locks are a complex of locks in the Lake Washington Ship Canal at the west end of Salmon Bay. Apparently they carry more boat traffic than any other locks in the U.S. which makes it fun to hang around for a while and watch the water being drained or elevated in order to let ships pass through. Don’t miss the salmon viewing station on the south side of the locks – here, you can watch salmon migrate up the fish ladder between June and October.
16. Tutta Bella Neapolitan Pizza
I am a huge pizza snob, especially after spending so much time in New York City. Domino’s or Papa John’s? Hell no. Never! If I treat myself to a pizza, I want a thin-crust, Neapolitan-style pizza. I spent quite a while researching the best Neapolitan-style pizza in Seattle and finally settled on Tutta Bella, which has five branches in the Seattle area, and hit the spot. On my list to try next time I’m in Seattle: Via Tribunali, Pizza Credo and Veraci.
17. Kerry Park
I wouldn’t go as far as calling this little lookout a park, but I’d definitely recommend visiting it for its amazing views over Seattle’s skyline and Elliott Bay. If you’re lucky and the weather is good, you’ll even see Mount Rainier from here. One of the best places to visit in Seattle for photographers! While you’re there, why not check out Queen Anne Ave just a few blocks north of Kerry Park? The 5 Spot is great for a casual dinner, or further up the road, How To Cook A Wolf is a more upscale Italian restaurant. The aforementioned Storyville coffee shop is also on Queen Anne Ave.
18. Fremont Sunday market
I’ve already mentioned Fremont, but the Sunday market deserves an extra mention. A mix of flea market, handicraft market and food market, it makes a fantastic Sunday activity and you can easily combine it with a stroll around the rest of the neighborhood. The nearby Milstead & Co has been awarded the title of the best coffee shop in all of Washington several times.
19. Rainbow Crosswalks in Capitol Hill
Of course Capitol Hill isn’t only worth a visit for its rainbow crosswalks, but also for its lively bar scene. What used to be Seattle’s gayborhood has branched out a little more over the past few years (some might want to say the neighborhood has gentrified) it is still the city’s prime gay hot spot.
Speaking of gayborhood – Wildrose is not only Seattle’s only lesbian bar, but also one of the last remaining lesbian bars on the West Coast, and the longest running lesbian bar in the country. Most fun on Wednesdays for karaoke.
21. Espresso Vivace
Another outstanding coffee shop and coffee roaster in Seattle, Espresso Vivace has been around since 1988 and has three locations in Seattle. I loved the ‘quiet rooms’ in both locations I visited, and it didn’t hurt that their biscotti were mouth-wateringly tasty, too. Vivace was also awarded the title of ‘Washington’s best coffee shop’.
22. The Gumwall
It’s gross, it’s weird, but it is also something you should definitely see. There’s also some cool street art in Post Alley, where the gum wall is, and since it’s right by Pike Place Market, it’d be silly not to check it out while you’re there.
23. Pike Place Market
And while we’re at it: Pike Place Market is on every Seattle visitor’s to-do-list, it is probably the most iconic Seattle attraction. I expected it to be super touristy. However, I was surprised to see just how many locals do their fresh produce shopping here, especially in the fish section. Another surprise: how many good restaurants there are in Pike Place. I loved Country Dough, Pieroshky Pieroshky, Pike Place Chowder, Three Girls Bakery, and I still have some places on my to-do-list for my next visit, like the Pink Door, as I didn’t make it there during this visit.
24. Speakeasy Bars
I love speakeasy bars, and so I was excited to find out there were quite a few bars in Seattle where I could splurge on a tasty cocktail in a fancy setting. While I was disappointed that Bathtub Gin doesn’t have any resemblance to its New York counterpart (nope, no bathtub in there!), it’s still a speakeasy-style bar. The Needle & Threat, inside the Tavern Bar, is probably Seattle’s most iconic speakeasy bar, so make sure to reserve a table in advance. Backdoor at Roxy’s in the back of Roxy’s Diner in Fremont is another classic speakeasy, as is The Knee High Stocking Company in Capitol Hill. The above mentioned Temperance Bar on top of the Smith Tower is also a speakeasy.
25. Kubota Garden
This Japanese Garden in the south of Seattle is the perfect urban oasis. I went for some tranquility and self-reflection and couldn’t have chosen a better spot. What makes Kubota Garden special? 20 acre of greenscape that blends Japanese garden concepts with native Northwest plants. And the best thing? It’s FREE!
26. El Chupacabra: Burritos & Tacos
The best burrito I found during my time in Seattle – I loved the atmosphere in their Phinney Ridge branch (self-described ‘Mexican cantina with punk rock roots’ – to give you an idea), but the Alki Beach branch beats it with its waterfront location. No matter which El Chupacabra (the 3rd one is in South Lake Union) you head to, the food and drinks won’t disappoint.
Tip: Another amazing taco place is Tacos Chukis.
27. Green Lake Trail
The 2.8-mile trail that loops around Green Lake was one of my favorites and I bet it is even more gorgeous in the summer. I was told you can even swim in the lake! Reward yourself after a walk around the lake with some no-frills diner fare at Beth’s Café.
28. Pie Bar
Pie and liquor – need I say more? A combination that can’t be beat! If you don’t care about a drink with your pie, get a slice to go at the take-out window. And if one pie place isn’t enough, check out: Pie in Fremont, Pie Bar Ballard (owned by the twin sisters who own the original Pie Bar in Capitol Hill) and A La Mode Pies.
29. Columbia City
I stumbled upon this neighborhood when somebody recommend Empire Espresso to me, which happens to be in Columbia City. Apparently, it is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the entire country, with European and East African immigrants, Orthodox Jews and other cultural groups. I ended up returning several times to check out other places like Geraldine’s (great breakfasts), Columbia City Bakery and Flying Lion Brewing. I loved the ‘villagy’ feel of Columbia City and how walkable it was.
30. Biscuit Bitch
I didn’t even like biscuits & gravy, but Biscuit Bitch has converted me. After eating breakfast there I wanted to go back every single day. They have three branches in Downtown Seattle, including one right by Pike Place Market (the Belltown branch is usually less busy). Expect Southern-Inspired breakfast dishes with an emphasis on, you’ve guessed it, biscuits and gravy. Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Not a problem!
31. Caffé Vita
Yes, another coffee shop! Caffe Vita recently opened a branch in Bushwick, one of my favorite Brooklyn neighborhoods, and in L.A.’s hip Silver Lake neighborhood, and that’s an indication of what kind of coffee shop Caffe Vita is: definitely a hipster hangout. The small independent coffee roastery focuses on sustainable farm-to-cup relationships with local coffee farmers in Latin America and their baristas are incredibly knowledgeable about the coffee they offer.
32. Freeway Park
This might not be Seattle’s prettiest park, but it is surely its most unique: it was built on top of a freeway, as the name suggests. It is an interesting park – a series of irregular plazas that are intertwined and mixes concrete walls with planting containers and trees. I’ve never seen a park like this anywhere in the world.
33. Cowgirl Espresso
I can’t write about Seattle without mentioning the bikini baristas, which are a unique component of Washington and Oregon (plus one bikini barista coffee shop in Hawaii). They’re basically little roadside shacks in which scantily dressed girls serve caffeinated drinks. Even though they’re called bikini baristas, they don’t always wear a bikini – sometimes, it’s just a tiny string and a couple of strategically placed stickers. These coffee shops – despite serving excellent coffee – aren’t without controversy, as you might expect, and this video has some insights on bikini baristas, if you’d like to learn more about them.
It was too hard for me to pick only one here, so I’ll just leave you with microbrews in general, and some suggestions. I love that Seattle has a microbrewery in nearly every neighborhood! Ballard seems to have the largest number in a relatively small space (8 breweries in a 2-mile radius!), and I recommend this brewery crawl as suggest by Thrillist. For a complete list of all microbreweries in Seattle, check out Eater’s Essential Guide To Seattle’s Top Breweries.
35. Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room
I can feel you’re rolling your eyes now, but hear me out: I never understood the long lines outside the original Starbucks, the first ever Starbucks in Pike Place Market which is visited by hordes of tourists every day, rain or shine. And I didn’t even want to go inside the Reserve Roastery, but one day I happened to walk by there and thought: heck why not. And I was impressed! It’s nothing like your regular Starbucks. The 15,000-square-foot space is half coffee roaster, half coffee shop, and has a coffee specialty bar where you can order siphon coffee or an espresso flight – things you don’t get at any other Starbucks. And for anyone who loves Starbucks, this is a definitely one of the best places to visit in Seattle (along with the original Starbucks).
Practical Information For Your Visit to Seattle
How to visit the best places in Seattle
Public transportation: I found public transportation in Seattle rather difficult to use (unless you have an unlimited amount of time on your hands) but the Link Light Rail is pretty good for parts of the city and brings you all the way to the airport for only $2.75 (runs every 10 mins and takes about 40 mins from downtown to SEA-TAC).
Ride shares: If you don’t have a car / don’t want to drive, but want to get to some of the further away neighborhoods and attractions, I recommend the Lyft app (cheaper than Uber and they are nicer!). Uber and Via also operate in Seattle.
Car rentals: Renting a car is what I’d suggest; especially if you are looking to explore some of the further away neighborhoods like Columbia City or West Seattle. Seattle is very spread and definitely not walkable. I recommend Rentalcars.com (they are not paying me to say anything nice about them, I just had a great experience with them on my recent trip to LA and got a great rate).
Where to stay in Seattle
Most of the big hotels chains are right downtown, which is practical for most sightseeing. Here are the top-rated places to stay in Seattle – including budget, mid-range and luxury options:
Best places for budget travelers
- Green Tortoise is an excellent hostel right by Pike Place Market. They even offer free tours in Seattle and out-of-town, taco nights and other cool extras.
Best mid-range hotels in Seattle
Best luxury hotels in Seattle
Airbnb’s in Seattle
There are hundreds of Airbnb’s in Seattle, and they’re very affordable (here is a list of Airbnb’s under $100 per night!). But remember that the cheaper Airbnb’s are usually further away from Downtown Seattle and you’ll end up paying more for Uber / Lyfts or you’ll have to drive and deal with parking (which is expensive). Before booking an Airbnb, do your research about the neighborhood the apartment is in. Also decide if you’re comfortable renting a room in someone’s apartment or if you prefer having the entire apartment to yourself. Renting just a room can save you a lot of money, but it’s not for everyone. Also always important when booking an Airbnb: Read recent reviews.
Other resources for your visit to Seattle
- For food and drink recommendations, check out Thrillist Seattle.
- Pick up a copy of The Stranger, Seattle’s free alternative culture magazine, which is available in bars around town, or check out their weekly listings online.
- For things to do and attractions, browse TimeOut Seattle.