One of the things that makes Seattle such a great city is its distinctive neighborhoods. Much like it’s feisty sister to the south (Portland), you can think of Seattle as a collection of smaller cities all stuck together. Each neighborhood has its own vibe, its own community, its own sense of purpose. All of them contributing to the whole of the Emerald City.
New visitors need not look far beyond the obvious draws such as the Space Needle, Safeco Field, and Pike Place Market to realize that beyond these tourist areas lie many other rich experiences. The quaint shops in Capitol Hill, the stately 19th-century architecture in the Queen Anne district, the laid-back flavor of West Seattle, to name just a few. Much like the different regions of a country, the diverse neighborhoods in Seattle make the entire city a truly cosmopolitan destination.
Countless photos have been taken of the famous Seattle Skyline from this residential neighborhood, just to the north of the Space Needle (think the TV show Frasier, whose fictional apartment reportedly is located here.) The main commercial hub is Queen Anne Avenue, with lots of trendy restaurants, upscale hotels, and boutique shopping. But my favorite hangout here is a hometown diner, the 5 Spot. It’s my opinion that the best breakfast in Seattle is served here.
Located south of downtown, the neighborhood’s old brick buildings of their industrial yesteryear have been converted to trendy lofts and eateries. After the defunct Rainier brewery, other notable breweries have popped up here. There is also some good antique shopping and art galleries with which to satiate your browsing soul.
Designated as a historical landmark district just southeast of downtown Seattle, here you will find colorful, turn-of-the-century houses and shops. This neighborhood, in particular, has retained its small-town vibe. People move a little slower here and many will greet you walking down the street as if they know you. The fact that it has a light rail stop makes it very easily accessible from the center of the action in downtown Seattle. Visit PCC Grocery, hands down everyone’s favorite.
I love this neighborhood because it’s conveniently located smack dab in the middle of Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. Here’s where I go to unwind with a cocktail after a long day of sightseeing. My favorite Mexican restaurant, Mams’s Cantina is here as well. Dinner AND drinks, sign me up! Nightlife is prevalent here, with lots of nightclubs and music venues to choose from.
This area has more waterfront property than Seattle herself. Which makes it seem more removed from the main city than the other neighborhoods. I suspect its laid-back vibe is because it’s surrounded by water on three sides. Island time, man. They even have a water taxi here! Alki Beach Park with sooth your soul – or if you’re feeling feisty, rent a kayak and peruse the Sounds. There are many fine shops and restaurants here, but for one-stop-shopping-and-eating, visit The Junction.
On the north side of Lake Union, here you will find charming sidewalk cafés in eclectic old buildings, one-of-a-kind family-run shops, interspersed with residential houses. Affectionately called Wallyhood by its residents, it is near the site of Seattle’s first World’s Fair. Take in a movie at the iconic 45th Guild or relax in Gas Works Park. 45th street is the place to people watch.
South Lake Union
Here you can watch people carve wooden canoes at the Center for Wooden Boats! Yeah, it’s just that cool. Take a walk along the waterfront and marvel at all of the yachts docked on shore. But I don’t visit Seattle without having brunch at the Portage Bay Café. YUM. REI’s flagship short is here, and for crying out loud, don’t miss visiting MOHAI (Museum of History and Industry).
A tiny, quiet neighborhood on the shores of Lake Washington, east of downtown. I like to just stroll around and take in the magnificent homes. Be prepared for a bit of a workout, though, for this place is hilly! After the “workout”, relax in Madrona Park, or do the cooldown on the trail following the waterfront.
Yep, this is where all the cool kids hang out, and some of the cool professors as well. As one of Seattle’s oldest communities, there is more students and staff that reside here than other residents. (Duh) If you’re here in springtime, you’re in luck, the campus’ sprawling grounds offer up spectacular cherry blossoms. “The Village”, an outdoor shopping center and “The Ave” (University Avenue) are the best places to go for shopping, dining, and entertainment. My favorite shop on The Ave is Gargoyles Statuary, an unusual gift shop for all things macabre! They also help support local artists.
I invite you to explore some or all of these neighborhoods. You will no doubt find your newest favorite eatery, activity, or shop in Seattle in any one of them. I know that, for me, getting to know a new city intimately, beyond the obvious tourist attractions will offer a more profound and authentic experience. And for Seattle in particular, the locals are usually more than willing to offer their recommendations when asked.
There are other fine neighborhoods I have not covered here, this is true. That is for another post. But these are the neighborhoods I can most heartily recommend. So get out there and explore them!
YOUR Seattle neighborhood not on this list? Let me know! I’m all ears!