Six reasons to visit Seattle

Lucy Rock

Seattle-based writer

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October 2017

Famous for its coffee culture and as the birthplace of grunge, America’s fastest growing city also boasts a lively food scene, world-class museums and expansive green spaces. Local writer Lucy Rock picks six of the best.

Park life

Seattle isn’t known as the Emerald City for nothing. Flanked by scenic lakes and national parks, the city is also home to thousands of acres of glorious parkland. The largest expanse is Discovery Park, where you’ll find miles of trails, beaches and an old lighthouse. Gas Works Park – a former industrial site – is a scenic place to fly a kite or watch the boats on Lake Union. Beyond the city is a cluster of scenic national parks. Take a day trip with a local tour guide such as Evergreen Escapes to see the majestic landscapes of Olympic National Park, or the active volcano of Mount Rainier.

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Market values

A vibrant farmers’ market scene reflects Seattleites’ appetite for quality produce, seasonal ingredients and artisanal goods. Regular markets in neighbourhoods such as Ballard (on Sundays), Wallingford (on Wednesdays during the summer) and the University District (on Saturdays) reliably draw big crowds. The Fremont Sunday Market has a quirky vibe, selling everything from local honey to vintage collectibles. And no visit to the Seattle is complete without a trip to the covered Pike Place Market, one of the oldest in the US. Open daily, you can lose hours browsing stalls selling fresh farm produce, foraged food, flowers, jewellery and crafts. Don’t miss its famous ‘fish throwers’.

  • Cold brew at Anchorhead Coffee Co.

    Caffeine culture

    A global hotspot for all things espresso, Seattle is also the birthplace of the original Starbucks, first opened in 1971 at the gateway to Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market.

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  • Pike Place Public Market © Alamy.

    Downtown attractions

    In June 2017, the iconic Pike Place Market underwent a major $74 million renovation, allowing for 47 new rooftop day stalls and 30,000 square feet of new public space.

    Your 48-hour itinerary
  • Guitar sculpture at the Museum of Pop Culture © Tim Street-Porter.

    Make it pop

    For some interactive fun, other top-pick city museums include the Pacific Science Center and Seattle Children’s Museum (open Mon-Fri from 10am).

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The life aquatic

Water plays a big part in Seattle life – and not just because of its rainy reputation. The city is surrounded by bodies of water, with Puget Sound to the west, Lake Washington to the east, and Lake Union and Green Lake to the north. Discover the history of Lake Washington on a 90-minute cruise and catch a glimpse at the homes of Seattle’s famous residents, including Bill Gates’ estate. For an exhilarating day trip, try whale watching off the San Juan Islands – look out for orca, minke or humpback whales.

Seattle oozes musical credibility. It is, after all, the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and the grunge movement led by Nirvana.

Caffeine – and beyond

A coffee lover’s paradise, Seattleites are said to drink more than in any other US city – and they’re fussy about their beans. Its streets are punctuated by cool, high-quality cafés that multi-task as work and social spaces. Try a cold brew with house-made almond milk at the Anchorhead Coffee Co or sip a classic cappuccino at Café Allegro, considered the city’s oldest espresso bar. Starbucks is famously headquartered here and the first 1971 shop in Downtown is a draw for tourists.

  • The cultured crowd of Seattle Art Museum © Benjamin Benschneider.

    See the big picture

    A sophisticated way to whittle away an afternoon, your Seattle Art Museum entrance fee covers all collections and installations (excluding special exhibitions). Closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

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High notes

Seattle oozes musical credibility – it is, after all, the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and the grunge movement led by Nirvana. Get an overview of the city’s musical heritage at MoPOP, the Museum of Popular Culture, housed in a futuristic Frank Gehry-designed building. After viewing the memorabilia, release your inner rock star in the Sound Lab where you can jam, sing and drum as loud as you like. Hendrix fans can salute his statue in Capitol Hill and make a pilgrimage to Jimi Hendrix Park in the Central District, whose paths form the outline of a guitar. For live music, head to The Crocodile in Belltown, a legendary venue where Nirvana and Pearl Jam played in the 90s.

Culture fix

There’s no shortage of cultural riches in Seattle, which is brimming with credible galleries, museums and theatres. It’s also known for its strong public art programme, with hundreds of works in parks and on the streets (don’t miss the enormous Fremont Troll, under Aurora Bridge). Wander through the galleries at Seattle Art Museum to see everything from Native American artwork to paintings by the European masters. Discover the Scandinavians’ contribution to the city at the Nordic Heritage Museum, which holds a jolly Yulefest in November with music, craft stalls and glögg, Scandinavia’s mulled wine.

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