48 hours in Seattle


By Lucy Rock, Seattle-based British writer and journalist.

Photography by Thomas Kurmeier/Getty

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August 2017

It might be home to Starbucks and Microsoft, but there’s more to thriving Seattle than coffee and computers. Local writer Lucy Rock gives some pointers on where to visit, eat and sleep with just 48 hours in the Emerald City.

Day one

Settling in

British Airways flies non-stop from London to Seattle every day, and with all flights touching down around mid-afternoon, you can start making the most of your trip from the get-go. Downtown is the perfect launchpad to explore one of America’s coolest cities. Unwind with a cocktail amid a touch of Old-World glamour at the Fairmont Olympic Seattle, built in the style of the Italian renaissance. For something a little different, stay at The Edgewater – Downtown’s only waterfront hotel – where you’ll be in good company, previous guests include The Beatles and David Bowie.

16:00 – Going underground

Soak up some culture in Pioneer Square, the city’s oldest neighbourhood. Art installations, an 18m totem pole and a six-metre waterfall decorate the area. Browse the eclectic art galleries and bookstores before descending underground. Fire destroyed much of the area in 1889 and the city was rebuilt on top of the ruins. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour reveals the network of streets and shop fronts that lie hidden beneath their modern counterparts.

20:00 – Food with a view

The multi-award winning Canlis is perfect for a spot of fine dining. Established in 1950, picture windows on the east-facing side of the mid-century building offer magical views of Lake Union and the Cascade mountains, while the tasting menu provides a plethora of innovative and elegant dishes, such as the malted pancakes (fermented rapini, cabbage and smelt bagna cauda).

  • Grab a cocktail in the lounge at Fairmont Olympic Hotel.

    Mix it up

    Stop by the hotel’s restaurant, The Georgian – it’s the only downtown Seattle restaurant that serves up traditional afternoon tea.

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  • Canlis has been a fine-dining hotspot for 66 years.

    Let’s be Pacific

    Canlis is open Monday to Saturday between 17.30 and 22.00. As it’s fine dining, the restaurant insists men wear a suit or sport’s jacket.

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  • Be sure to check out Seattle’s totem poles, an unofficial emblem of the city © Getty.

    Did you know…?

    A lot of people think the region’s indigenous population introduced Seattle’s totem poles, but they actually came first from further north, in Canada and coastal Alaska.

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Day two

08:00 – Flying high

Get up early and beat the crowds to the top of the Space Needle. Built for the 1962 World’s Fair in the Seattle Center cultural complex, the flying-saucer design is the iconic symbol of the city. Take the lift 158m to the observation deck for a 360-degree view of the streets below, the Puget Sound waters, and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, including imperious Mount Rainier.

Take selfies with the enormous Fremont Troll that lurks under the Aurora Bridge and the statues of six people and a dog waiting for a train.

09:30 – Back on terra firma

Hours can easily be whiled away in the Seattle Center. Be inspired by glass artist Dale Chihuly’s colourful sculptures in the Chihuly Gardens or watch DJs broadcast live as you sip an espresso at La Marzocco café inside KEXP radio station. Alternatively, brush up on the history of music at the Museum of Pop Culture or dinosaurs and planets at the Pacific Science Center, while young ones will love the Children’s Museum.

13:00 – Super market

A trip to lively Pike Place Market is a must for any visitor to the city. Opened in 1907, it’s one of the oldest farmers’ markets in the US. Take the monorail to the Westlake Center and walk three blocks to watch fishmongers toss whole salmon to each other while cracking jokes. Refuel at Lowell’s, which boasts three floors of waterfront views, and indulge in wild Alaskan king salmon, Dungeness crab cakes, or tiger prawns fresh from the market’s seafood stalls. Don’t miss the Giant Shoe Museum and maze of shops selling curios and collectables downstairs.

  • Chew over Seattle’s famous Gum Wall, home to tiny art installations © Getty.

    Sticky situation

    Seattle’s Market Theater Gum Wall, became popular after theatre workers gave up scraping off the gum and the city turned it into a tourist attraction which some artists now use to showcase miniature pieces of their work.

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16:00 – A sticky situation

One of the more bizarre tourist attractions can be found in Post Alley next to the market. You’ll smell Gum Wall – a 12m stretch of brickwork covered in blobs of chewed gum in all colours – before you see it. Over the road from the market, see where it all began for the world’s most famous coffee shop, with a visit to the original Starbucks.

19:00 – Take a troll

A 15-minute cab ride north takes you to the arty, free-spirited neighbourhood of Fremont, nicknamed the ‘centre of the universe’ by locals. Take selfies with the enormous Fremont Troll that lurks under the Aurora Bridge, and check out Waiting for the Interurban – a sculpture of six people and a dog waiting for a train. Choose from a host of culinary delights for dinner: go French at Pomerol, Korean at Revel or Japanese at Chiso

22:00 – Gig economy

Seattle is known as the birthplace of grunge thanks to bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam and the city still boasts an exciting music scene. Round off the evening by catching a live performance at the Nectar Lounge where there are shows to satisfy every taste.

Day three

10:00 – On the waterfront

Start you final day with a look at the fun and funky installations in the nine-acre Olympic Sculpture Park at the north end of the two-kilometre waterfront. The Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59 is home to a variety of marine life, with the cute, cuddly sea otters being the main draw. For a different perspective on the city, ride the Seattle Great Wheel to see the orange cranes and shipping containers in the nearby port.

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Midday – Sail away

Set sail for spectacular views of the mountains, Puget Sound and the city skyline. Explore the shoreline of Elliot Bay in a one-hour narrated tour with Argosy Cruises, or board a Washington State Ferry for a 35-minute voyage to Bainbridge Island. Stop at the Hitchcock Deli, a few minutes walk from the terminal for a steelhead trout tartine or house-smoked pulled-pork sandwich. Top off your visit with a mojito or green tea ice cream from the Mora Iced Creamery before boarding the ferry back.

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