A Visitor’s Guide to Seattle Neighborhoods

Downtown – in addition to the central business district, skyscrapers and government buildings, downtown holds a large number of retailers (Nordstrom, REI) and many key visitor attractions, including the waterfront along Elliot Bay, Pike Place Market, the Seattle Central Library, and the Seattle Art Museum. Some of the streets can be steep, but, nevertheless, walking (or public transportation) is the best way to get around. Downtown is also an active place for locals, so there’s plenty of options for eating and drinking, and many hotels.

Pioneer Square – wedged between downtown and the stadiums, the Pioneer Square area is Seattle’s oldest neighborhood and still has some cobblestone streets and many original old, red brick buildings. The area currently serves as a general gathering place for the city and has great shopping and nightlife. Eating options range from coffee houses and bakeries to delis to ethnic restaurants.

International District – Seattle’s Asian neighborhood, with cultures and authentic restaurants ranging from Chinese to Japanese to Vietnamese to Cambodian represented. Just west of the I.D. are SafeCo Field, CenturyLink Field, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park.

Capitol Hill – Capitol Hill spawned the grunge music scene in the early 90’s, and it’s still considered the center of counterculture in Seattle, as in gays and lesbians, hipsters, artists, and musicians, along with college students and young professionals. There’s great public art, The Elliott Bay Book Company, music clubs, vintage clothing stores, galleries, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Belltown – located just north of downtown, this urban neighborhood is densely populated and trendy, with gobs of cool restaurants, bars, clubs, music venues, and cool people walking and biking waiting to get in all of the cool places. Most of the action is on 1st and 2nd Avenues. They also have the Olympic Sculpture Park.

Queen Anne – most of the action here is in the Lower Queen Anne area that borders Belltown to the south. For the visitor, Seattle Center includes the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center, and the EMP Museum, Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Queen Anne Drive Bridge and Kerry Park, plus theaters, opera, cinema, and ballet. Heading north, up the hill from Lower Queen Anne, things get more residential, with historic Queen Anne–style homes and century-old trees. and the whole neighborhood offers great shopping and a good selection of notable restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops, and bars.

South Lake Union – this up-and-coming neighborhood is transforming from old and industrial to a technology center with housing in industrial lofts and upscale condos. Amazon’s new headquarters are here, there is a vibrancy that is attracting the young and entrepreneurial. The new Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is here, as is the Center for Wooden Boats, Ping Pong Plaza, and a huge REI store with a bike test trail and climbing wall. The restaurants scene is new and burgeoning.

University District – home to the University of Washington, this area has a typical college town feel with coffee shops, cafes, bookshops, theaters and dive bars. Most of the commercial development is along University Way NE, also called “The Ave”. The scenic campus has historic buildings, green spaces, gardens, and blossoming cherry trees in the spring.

Fremont – this eclectic, bohemian, and artistic community is also known as the “The People’s Republic of Fremont,” and the restaurants and shops reflect the diversity and creativity of the area. Fremont is also known as a tech center, as it houses some of the country’s largest tech companies, including the Seattle offices of Adobe and Google.

Ballard – with its prime waterfront location, Ballard is historically a fishing town and has a nationally registered historic district along Ballard Avenue. It is currently a very trendy place to be for young professionals and has plenty of sandwich shops, bakeries, gelato shops, and farmers markets to support the scene. Attractions include the Ballard Carnegie Library and the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, and there are great views from here across the Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains.

SoDo and Georgetown – located just south of CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field, SoDo is a former industrial district where vacated factory buildings have been converted into lofts and artist studios. There is still some industry here, but there are also breweries, bars, sandwich shops, Mexican restaurants, bakeries, and barbecue joints. Farther south and bounded on the north by railyards, the east by I-5, the south by Boeing Field, and on the west by the Duwamish River, Georgetown is a former industrial area in the midst of transformation into a vibrant, hip enclave. Old, industrial buildings are being renovated into loft apartments, dive bars, coffee shops, galleries, and ethnic and innovative restaurants.

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