Picture this, you’ve scoured the internet and narrowed down the top destinations to add to your travel bucket list. Maybe you’ve even checked out our New York Travel Guide and Los Angeles Travel Guide to gather additional insights into what these cities can offer. But now that you’ve chosen where to visit next, let’s call it official: you’re going to Seattle!
Whether you're beckoned by the evergreen scenery, offbeat feel, or the silvery mists over Puget Sound, it’s not hard to fall in love with the Pacific Northwest’s most romantic city. But before packing your hard shell luggage and travel bags and diving three cortados deep at the country’s top coffee shops, you’ll need some guidance on where to stay, what to eat, and how to explore the Emerald City.
In this Seattle Travel Guide, find all the tips you need to curate an impeccable itinerary for Seattle and soak in everything this iconic West Coast city has to offer.
Where to Stay: How to Live Like Seattle Local
Whether you’re a newbie to the city or a longtime visitor, finding the perfect home base for your visit will set the tone for your journey.
Below, find our picks for the best neighborhoods to stay in in the Seattle metropolitan area.
For First-Time Visitors
If this is your first time traveling to Seattle, staying in the best places near the city center will put you a quick Metro ride away from some of the area’s most famous attractions (no rental car necessary!). Some centrally located districts include:
- Downtown Seattle – Seattle’s downtown area offers a variety of restaurants and shopping options to choose from. You will get to visit Pioneer Square, the Seattle Art Museum, and the Seattle Aquarium. You’ll also be treated to incredible views of Puget Sound when you stay here!
- Capitol Hill – Capitol Hill is chock full of casual coffee joints, trendy pubs, and eateries lined up in a hodgepodge of colorful storefronts. Here, there are plenty of ways to spend an afternoon strolling and absorbing the artsy vibe.
For Short Trips
Planning a quick weekend-long getaway to Seattle? You’ll want to stay in downtown’s neighboring districts to make the most of those 48 hours.
Two destinations to consider include:
- Belltown – North of downtown, the Belltown neighborhood abounds with entertainment options. If you love live music, you’ll find a host of music venues here to serenade you with up-and-coming acts. With Seattle Center close by, you’ll be within walking distance of attractions like the Space Needle and the Museum of Pop Culture.
- South Lake Union – South Lake Union, the tech hub of Seattle, is slightly quieter than some of the surrounding downtown neighborhoods. While you’re here, be sure to stop by one of the waterfront restaurants to enjoy gorgeous lakeside views while nibbling on fresh seafood.
If you’ve been to Seattle before, it’s time to branch out of the downtown area and explore what lies beyond the city bustle. You’ll find a more relaxed vibe in these two neighborhoods:
- West Seattle – This neighborhood is a phenomenal option if you’re craving nature on your Seattle expedition. Peruse handcrafted goods in local shops, enjoy the community-oriented atmosphere, and visit Alki Beach to take in breathtaking views of the Olympic Mountains.
- Ballard – Ballard is certifiably one of Seattle’s grooviest neighborhoods, offering everything from brunch bars, bakeries, and eclectic vintage boutiques. Wander around the marina and be sure to catch at least one sunset at Golden Gardens Park.
Where to Eat: What to Eat While You’re In Seattle
It goes without saying that you’ll probably have a robust cup of coffee—or five—from Seattle’s plethora of coffee shops during your visit.
But what about this city’s food scene?
From locally-sourced oysters to hot dogs with cream cheese (yes, it’s a thing), Seattle’s culinary makeup is as diverse as the city itself.
Give these famed Seattle dishes a try while you’re in town:
- Oysters – Ask any Seattleite what food their city is known for, and the first thing they’ll likely say is oysters. Next, they’ll direct you to The Walrus and the Carpenter. With oysters sourced from nearby Northwest waters, this restaurant serves them up fresh, shucked, and ready to eat daily. For the best prices, come for happy hour from 4 to 6 pm.
- Seattle Hot Dogs – When a hot dog marries a bun slathered in cream cheese and is topped with sautéed onions, you’ve got yourself a Seattle dog. If you haven’t tried one before, this is your moment. Stop by the grab-and-go hot dog stand Dog in the Park for a quick bite, or head to Cycle Dogs if you prefer a sit-down meal. For the plant-based crowd, Cycle also makes creative vegan versions of this Seattle classic!
- Pho – What’s better on a cold, drizzly day than a hot, steaming bowl of pho? Not much, which is why Seattle is by and large a pho-loving lot. The city owes this savory delicacy to its large Vietnamese community, and both chefs and eaters treat this dish as an art form. For the best broths in town, head to Pho Bac Súp Shop or Pho Than Brothers.
What to Do: Can’t-Miss Sights In Seattle
Whether you’re keen to revisit your punk phase or shop for the best seafood in the Pacific Northwest, there’s plenty to do in the grunge-inspired wonderland of Seattle.
Below, find our top-rated suggestions (and some under-the-radar options) to add to your Seattle itinerary.
Tour Seattle Center
Originally built for the World Fair in 1962, Seattle Center today is an entertainment mecca for visitors and locals looking to make a day of it in the city.1 You can even catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier, Lake Washington, and Elliott Bay from here.
Some must-see highlights include:
- The Space Needle
- The Museum of Pop Culture
- The Pacific Science Center
- Chihuly Garden and Glass
Peruse Pike Place Market
Aside from the Space Needle, sprawling Pike Place Market might be one of the most iconic venues in Seattle. The Market (as the locals call it) started bustling in 1907 and has since grown to accommodate over 500 vendors.
Be sure to visit these three all-stars if you swing by:2
- Pike Place Fish Market – Whether you’re looking for some fresh Pacific catch or just want to watch fishmongers toss giant fish to each other like they do in the movies, Pike Place is the place to do it.3
- Daily Dozen Donut Company – Mini donuts, fresh from the oven. Need we say more?
- Market Magic & Novelty Shop – This charming shop is full of magic tricks, tchotchkes, and mystical goodies waiting to be found.
Take The Seattle Great Wheel For A Spin
On this iconic ride, you'll have the chance to see sweeping vistas of the city and Puget Sound. The Seattle Great Wheel is nestled on the end of Pier 57 where you’ll find food courts, a carousel, and amusements galore—ideal if you’ve got little ones in tow!
Head Outdoors For A Hike
They don’t call it the Emerald City for nothing! From Yoshino Cherry trees to Douglas Firs, Seattle dazzles with natural beauty year-round.
While you’re in town, enjoy some fresh air and ground yourself in the local greenery with some of the city’s plentiful hiking paths. These trails are just an hour's drive from the city center:
- Discovery Park (2.8-mile loop)
- Mount Si (5-mile loop)
- Mailbox Peak (9.4-mile loop)
Take A Ferry Ride
Taking a ride across the Puget Sound on a Washington State Ferry is a rite of passage for every Seattle visitor.
The ferries sail around 10 routes throughout the Pacific Northwest, and from Seattle you’ll have two day-trip destinations to choose from:4
- Bainbridge Island – A tiny, eco-conscious hub. Bainbridge Island features nature preserves, wineries, and excellent museums.
- Bremerton – A Seattle outpost with nautical roots, this peninsula town has a slightly grittier feel with galleries, an Art Deco theater, and a lively culinary scene.
Know Before You Go: 4 Tips for Your Seattle Trip
Before you strike out on your evergreen vacation, there are a few unique traits to this city you’ll want to prepare for. Avoid being sleepless (and stressed) in Seattle with these four tips:
Bring a rain jacket – Despite the local climate, you won’t often catch Seattle residents carrying an umbrella. Why? Because while Seattle sees quite a bit of rain, precipitation typically arrives as more of a drizzle and less of a downpour. A rain jacket should suffice for most rainy days, but feel free to stash a mini umbrella in your backpack just in case.
Pack plenty of layers – Wondering what to pack for a weekend trip to Seattle? Washington weather tends to change quickly—mornings can start out chilly and warm up considerably in the afternoon. To that end, pack plenty of layers so you can adapt your outfits as each day progresses.
Bring comfortable shoes – Seattle is a city full of hills. If you intend on doing some sightseeing, be sure to pack some comfortable (and, as a bonus, waterproof) shoes that can support you as you stroll up and down the city. Look to us for all the tips when it comes to learning how to pack shoes to optimize luggage space for your upcoming trip.
- Take advantage of public transit – Seattle has excellent public transportation to whisk you through its neighborhoods efficiently and affordably. The Seattle Center Monorail, buses, and ferries should be sufficient if you’re staying in the metro area, so you’ll only need to rent a car if you plan on trekking out of the city!
Take Seattle by Storm with BÉIS
Whether you’re drawn to Seattle for its lush landscapes, entertainment scene, or inclusive atmosphere, planning the getaway of your dreams starts with some dreamy travel essentials.
Indulge your wanderlust and tour Seattle like a pro with BÉIS’ gorgeous range of bags, luggage, and travel accessories. From toting your laptop to the city’s cafés to taking your backpack on hikes through the evergreens, BÉIS’ chic, durable bags are ready to carry through Seattle in style.
Get inspired and start packing by shopping the latest at BÉIS’ online shop today.
- “Century 21 World’s Fair.” Seattle. https://www.seattle.gov/cityarchives/exhibits-and-education/digital-document-libraries/century-21-worlds-fair
- “Family Day.” Pike Place Market, 30 Apr. 2022, www.pikeplacemarket.org/suggested_itinerary/family.
- “The Best Fish Markets in the City.” Seattle Magazine. https://seattlemag.com/article/best-fish-markets-city
- “Washington State Ferries.” Washington State Department of Transportation. https://wsdot.wa.gov/travel/washington-state-ferries