Seattle, Washington is a popular coastal city escape for both domestic and world travelers. Located in the gorgeous Pacific Northwestern region of the United States, the Emerald city is a popular place to visit and live.
Seattle is known for its lively waterfront, evergreen forests, and rugged islands with a stunning backdrop of the Cascade Mountains. It is also famous for being the home of Starbucks, the iconic Space Needle, Pike Place Market and a huge array of bars, restaurants and coffee shops.
High-tech corporations like Microsoft and Amazon have made Seattle a popular place to relocate in the last couple of decades, even though it’s arguably the rainiest city in the nation (ask anyone living on the east coast about this.)
From famous landmarks to plenty of cultural and outdoor opportunities, here is what Seattle is known for.
At least two famous landmarks define the iconic Seattle skyline.
Originally built for the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle is an architectural wonder built to represent the future. Visitors get an incredible view of the city, the Olympic and Cascade mountains, Puget Sound, and the star of Washington state, Mount Rainier from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows on the way to the observation decks.
Stroll down to the waterfront’s Pier 57 for a thrilling (and scenic) ride aboard the Seattle Great Wheel. Standing at 175 ft tall, it’s the tallest Ferris Wheel on the west coast and one of the top 10 tallest in the USA. Riders get sprawling views of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, and the distant mountains from a comfortable, enclosed gondola. A sunset ride is divine, and nighttime brings a dazzling LED light show.
The Seattle Waterfront is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. In addition to fantastic views across Elliott Bay to the mountains, the lively waterfront district features restaurants, souvenir shops, and seasonal events. Go a little further and take a harbor cruise from Pier 55 with a guide that narrates the city’s maritime history.
Stop by the Seattle Aquarium while you’re there. The tropical aquarium is home to triggerfish, puffers, and touch pools with starfish and urchins. Then climb the steep Pike Hill to browse around the…
Pike Place Market is the heart and soul of Seattle and the oldest farmer’s market in the USA that’s still in operation. The market began selling local produce in August of 1907. Today, the market boasts over 500 vendors, shops, restaurants, and bars. Travelers with cooking facilities should definitely pick up some fresh seafood (especially salmon, crab, and clams) along with locally-grown veggies.
But you’ll also want to sample the waterfront cuisine with items like signature American mac n’ cheese or international delights like Russian pastries. Oh, and don’t forget to stop for a coffee at the world’s first Starbucks.
Seattle’s history dates back to the 1850s. Delve into it at Pioneer Square, the city’s original downtown located on the southwest side. Wander among the Renaissance Revival architecture and browse the many shops, art galleries, cafes, and bars in the Romanesque-revival style old buildings.
Touring the neighborhood, you’ll see some amazing murals, a totem pole, and the Iron Pergola as you approach the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Here you can explore the subterranean part of the city and discover gems like the Waterfall Garden Park featuring a 22-foot manmade waterfall.
Travelers visiting Seattle shouldn’t overlook the city’s abundance of outdoor adventures surrounding the city. All that green right in the Pacific Northwest! That is why it’s called the Emerald City. There are several green spaces to explore immediately outside the city including Green Lake, Woodland Park Zoo, and the forests and beaches of Discovery Park where you’ll find a charming lighthouse.
You can also go kayaking or paddleboarding around Lake Union, a huge city lake in the center of Seattle. Further out, Mt. Rainer provides hiking, kayaking, and bouldering over rock formations. And you can also head to Lake Washington, Elliot Bay and the nearby Olympic Mountains and Cascade Mountains, where there are even more options.
During the latter part of the 20th century, the area underneath the George Washington Memorial Bridge became unkempt and unsightly. In an effort to remedy the problem, four local artists created the Fremont Troll in 1990. The sculpture is a throwback to the Norwegian folktale of a troll living under a bridge.
Clutching a Volkswagen Beetle, the troll is in Fremont, a counter-culture area much like what the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco or the East Village in NYC used to be. The area is also home to some of the city’s best coffee shops like the Fremont Coffee Company and Milstead & Co.
The troll statue isn’t the only oddity in the area. You’ll also find a statue of Vladimir Lenin, a five-foot-tall one brought over from Slovakia after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
The Fremont neighborhood also has a very pleasant farmer’s market that opens on Sunday afternoons.
Yes, Seattle is known for its coffee!
Maybe it’s the many rainy, foggy days that are responsible for all the coffee snobs and coffee shops in Seattle. Anyway, something led to the founding of the first Starbucks Coffee shop at Pike Place Market. Now an internationally recognized brand, the Original Starbucks is one of Seattle’s star attractions although Seattleites don’t seem to care as they patronize over 2,000 coffee shops around the city.
At the Pike Market Starbucks, you can enjoy a range of coffee drinks from regular and espresso to lattes, Frappuccino, and chai tea. It’s also a good place to purchase freshly roasted coffee beans to take back home.
In addition to the coffee culture, Seattle is also known for…
The Emerald City also has a craft beer culture that’s impossible to overlook. The city has an abundance of independent and small-batch breweries. Some of them, like the Fremont Brewing Company and the Rooftop Brewing Company, have become quite well-known.
You’ll find refreshing ales all around the city, especially in the Belltown neighborhood. Small bars and clubs in the community serve craft beers and host local musicians as well as national ones like Cheap Trick and R.E.M.
You’ll want to wash down a Seattle Dog with your craft beer. This special hotdog is Seattle’s twist on the American hotdog. The all-beef hotdog is on a lightly toasted bun and topped with cream cheese, caramelized fried onions, and spicy jalapeño peppers. Add an order of kettle chips for crunch. They’re available at bars, grills, and outdoor hotdog stands. Don’t leave town without trying one.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.