One of my college roommates is visiting Seattle, and she (wisely) asked me for some thoughts about her trip. I was pretty thrilled to give her some ideas, but naturally, since I’m a writer, she has to read the blog for my thoughts. Seattle is a city of art, culture, food, music, fine dining, small dining, family, friends, and quirky-ness. I’ve traveled a fair bit, and I believe it’s my favorite city for my personal fave: classy, delicious, affordable food. So, here is my ideal three-day tour of Seattle that allows you to hit the major sites and the delicious foodie spots. Feel free to abandon the list or substitute higher or cheaper end restaurants and visits, but since I’m a freelance writer, the budget is what it is.
Visit Dahlia Lounge for happy hour. The menu is pretty generous, and the happy hour prices make the restaurant a little more accessible for my budget. If you feel like going all-out, then definitely stay for dinner. Remember to save room for the Coconut Cream Pie. It really is as good as they say – rich, creamy filling and a firm but crumbly crust.
You can also visit the Palomino Restaurant for their late night happy hour. They have fantastic pizzas on their happy hour menu. I didn’t care for the lavender drinks, but some people do. The Manhattan was pretty tasty, according to Josh. It’s a classy restaurant, and you would fit in wearing nice jeans or even a summery cocktail dress.
If you want to stay up later and check out a more quirky restaurant, then trot over to the Pink Door in Post Alley next to the Pike Place Market. They have Cabaret performances on Monday nights and Burlesque performances on Saturday nights. There is a $15 cover charge for the Saturday performances. Be sure to call the concierge ahead of time to get details and to make reservations.
The next day is dedicated to touring the major sites of Seattle.
Have breakfast at the Pike Place Market around 8:30 or 9:00 am. This way, you can watch the market come to life and watch all the vendors set up. It’s usually less busy until 11, but after that, the rest of the tourists will arrive.
Get a cup of coffee at Seattle Coffee Works
, which is on Pike between 1st and 2nd Ave. If you like single origin coffees (coffees that come from one country and are not a blend of beans) you’ll love the selection that Seattle Coffee Works has amassed. They also offer at least three different brewing methods for making coffee, so splurge and have your selection of coffee brewed in two ways. They are the owners of the Northwest’s only Trifecta
coffee machine, which rivals Starbucks’ Clover coffee machine, and a cup of coffee has never tasted so alive until you’ve had it brewed there. I like their South American blends, because they’re bright and citrusy, a great way to start my day. Talk to any of their talented baristas, and you’ll find a coffee that suits you. On Monday afternoons, they offer free coffee cuppings in which they feature 7-9 coffees that you can slurp and sample to your heart’s content. On Thursdays, they offer a vertical coffee cupping in which one or two selections of coffee are brewed in different ways. These are great ways to expand your coffee knowledge in a fun environment.
Have breakfast at The Crumpet Shop
, which is next to the Pike Place Market on 1st Ave. Crumpets are prepared daily in an open-window bakery to the side of the counter, so you can watch them prepare crumpets while you nosh on yours. I like the almond ricotta honey crumpet myself, but they also offer crumpet sandwiches, open-faced pesto crumpet caprese sandwiches, and a Nutella chocolate crumpet. Grab a fork and knife, and sit outside while you eat.
Now that you’ve eaten and had some coffee, begin exploring the Market itself. Everyone starts at DeLaurenti
Specialty Food at the south end of the Market. Here you can buy wine, bread, and specialty items. Just outside their door, going west, you will see the famous Pike Place Fish
. These fishmongers are famous for throwing their fish. They put on a great show. Stand around and talk to them, and they might let you try catch a fish. They package their fish to go, if you want to lug around a salmon all day. Locals usually buy their fish from Jack’s Fish Spot
, but Jack is closing after the holidays, because rennovations will be taking place in that building next year. Wander through the stalls and feel free to buy items from the artists and businesses that occupy the stands in the Market. Be prepared for a leisurely stroll, and don’t walk too closely behind someone, because you might get into a pedestrian collision.
Have lunch at Lowells, which is in the middle of the Market as you walk north. You can also dine at the Athenian, which is right next door. The Pike Place Market News paper, for which I write some articles, covered a piece about the best clam chowder, and I voted for Athenian this year. So, that’s my pick for chowder. They also have a generous salmon pita that shows off the salmon obsession we have in Seattle.
As you walk through more of the Pike Place Market, get a snack at Piroshky Piroshky
, which is on the east side of the Pike Place street. Watch out for cars as you dash across the street. You can’t miss the bakery; you can smell the sweet dough baking for about half a block away. They offer both sweet and savory piroshky, and the pastries are large enough to split as a snack. Be sure to stop by La Buona Tavola
and sample some delicious wines and truffle oil products and meet the owner Rei.
For some sweet treats, head to Post Alley, which is a quarter or half block east of Pike Place. You would have found it if you dined at the Pink Door the night before. While checking out the boutiques in Post Alley, be sure to stop in for a chocolate truffle at Rose’s Chocolate Treasures
, a truly remarkable little shop hidden away.
Then head to Beecher’s Cheese
and get your wine matched to some of the flagship cheeses. They will let you sample most of the cheeses, and they have a window open to the cheese making side of the house. It’s mesmerizing to watch the curds and whey be stirred and separated. My personal choice is the smoked flagship cheese, but see what you like. Then walk a little bit north to an open area that overlooks the Puget Sound. Lay a picnic blanket down and enjoy your cheese with a stunning view of West Seattle and Alki beach across the sound. You can also continue walking two blocks west to the Waterfront and walk along the docks.
At Pier 55, you can ride the West Seattle water taxi
to Alki beach (last boat back is at 7 pm but check the schedule to be sure). On the Seattle side’s waterfront, there are shops along the docks to check out, and you can stop anywhere for great views of the ferries, commercial ships, cruise liners, and yachts sailing through the Sound. If you continue walking several blocks north, you’ll be in the Olympic Sculpture Park
, which is a vast area dotted with various works of art. The area is hosted by the Seattle Art Museum and is free to walk through.
If you have more time in your day, walk to 3rd Avenue and catch the #358 bus to Pioneer Square. Be sure to jump off the bus around Yesler (just ask the driver) and walk around the Pioneer Square plaza and shopping areas. Be sure to check out Salumi
, which is Chef Mario Batali’s family’s charcuterie and cured meats deli. If you still have some Beecher’s cheese, then you’ll be set for a low tea in downtown Pioneer Square. Once you’ve shopped til you’ve dropped and peeked at the cute galleries in Pioneer Square, jump on the #358 again (going the other direction), and ride back towards your hotel.
For dinner, wander over to Long’s
, an uptown Vietnamese bar based on the popular-but-challenging-to-find Tamarind Tree restaurant in the International District. They offer higher class Vietnamese food in portions large enough to share. The bar drinks are also pretty tasty. The glowing jelly fish tank is an unusual decoration, but it helps create the jazzy bar feel that complements the menu satisfactorily.
After dinner, walk over to the Westlake Center
and the plaza right in front of them. Occasionally, they host events for the community like live music performances. In the summer, it’s light until 9 pm, so be sure to take advantage of walking around outdoors. The Westlake Center is in the center of some great shopping, and you’ll find many of the big brand name stores in a three block radius.
The next morning, ride the bus or walk to the Seattle Center
. It’s in the northern end of the Seattle downtown neighborhood called Belltown, my neighborhood. Get off the bus at the Seattle Center on 5th and Denny and walk around the corner to 5th Ave. Pop into Caffe Bella
and snack on the gluten free pastries (made by Wheatless in Seattle
) or the wheat pastries and grab a cup of coffee on your way to the Seattle Center. Wander around the Seattle Center and be sure to splurge on the ride up to the top of the Space Needle. The panoramic views of Seattle are pretty impressive. You can also walk into the Experience Music Project
and Science Fiction Museum, which are both adjacent to the Seattle Center. Belltown has some great places to eat, and I would have brunch at Tilikum Place Cafe
. If you’re visiting Seattle on a weekend in the summer, then check the Festal events at the Seattle Center. Different cultural groups put together events at the Center and usually have food, music, and shopping stands that offer items from that culture.
If you don’t want to pay festival prices for food, then walk back to Denny and 5th Avenue and wait for the #8 bus (details and schedule here
). It’s not free in that area, and it will cost about $2, so be sure to bring cash. Ride the bus to Westlake, about 4 stops east of where you are.
When you dismount at Westlake, walk towards the Whole Foods Market plaza. In the upper level, you’ll find both the Seastar Restaurant and Bar
and Tutta Bella. Tutta Bella is a popular pizza restaurant that offers Neopolitan style crusts. Seastar offers freshly rolled sushi and delicious entrees. It’s a little more expensive, but the lunch and happy hour prices are quite acceptable. The truffle fries complement the sandwiches, and the salads are generously portioned. The sushi is what I return for, and I really enjoy the spicy tuna roll, which sounds run-of-the-mill, but the tuna filling is actually spicy and very fresh. They are well-known for the cedar-planked salmon, which is beautifully executed. Ask about the smoked broccoli, too, because you will enjoy the cedar flavor and find that you’ve polished off your broccoli without much thought.
From the Westlake and Denny intersection, you can also ride the #17 bus (not free
) to Ballard, another neighborhood in north Seattle. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Ballard Locks, an area where boats and small ships traveling between Lake Union and the Puget Sound. Although the concept is very simple today, it’s interesting to watch the technology in action, as the boats are ushered to and from higher levels of water to lower levels of water. The boats don’t seem to mind all the people milling around to watch them travel through the locks, so it makes an interesting few minutes and is a great teaching point for younger tourists.
Catch the #17 bus back to downtown Ballard at Northwest Market St. and Leary St. and grab a snack at Cupcake Royale
. They offer some really creative cupcakes and sweet speedy coffee drinks. Miro Tea
is around the corner on Ballard, and they offer crepes, including an all-buckwheat crepe for wheat intolerant guests (but they cook the crepe on the same equipment as standard crepes, so don’t get them if you’re allergic to gluten). They also offer a wide assortment of loose-leaf teas, kombucha, and sandwiches.
Catch that same #17 bus, and ask the driver to drop you off as close to Fremont neighborhood as he or she can. You should see a large bridge just west of the bus stop. Walk over the Fremont bridge and you’ll be in one of the quirkiest neighborhoods in Seattle. A 15 minute walk up Fremont will bring you to the Lenin statue in the middle of Fremont. All along that neighborhood is good shopping and good eating.
In Fremont, we eat at the Flying Apron
bakery, but it’s a vegan, gluten-free bakery, so be sure to eat with that in mind. It’s delicious, but the flavors are just a little different than traditional, wheat-based foods. You’re pretty safe eating anywhere in Fremont for dinner, but we hear that Chillies Paste
in Fremont is great for Thai food. Wander into the PCC Natural Market
as well, because that’s a local chain that is part co-op and all health food store. Certain PCC stores offer cooking classes
in specialized classrooms adjacent to the stores, and the staff is knowledgeable about good grub in the area. If you feel up to it, walk east on 35th to Gas Works Park
(turn south onto Stone and then walk east on Northlake Way for about 15 minutes). This gives great views of Lake Union and Downtown Seattle. Then you can catch the #26 bus from 35th and Wallingford Avenue and ride back to Downtown.
On your third day, you’ll visit Capitol Hill and the University District, two significant areas in Seattle. Ride bus #49 to Capital Hill’s Broadway Avenue. You’ll dismount the bus in front of Seattle Central Community College. Then walk east and south to Elliot Bay Book Company
and spend some time wandering the shelves. This large bookstore used to be located in Pioneer Square but has consolidated and is now hiding behind Broadway on 10th, between Pine and Pike. Just south of the bookstore down Broadway is the home of Seattle University, a private Jesuit university. The campus is lovely and worth wandering through. Have lunch at Dilettante Chocolates
on Broadway, north of Seattle University. Definitely be sure to save room for the chocolate martinis. This class, small cafe is trendy, and the food staff is friendly. They offer local favorites and seasonal specials. Happy Hour is 5-7 pm.
Catch the #49 from Broadway and ride it to the University of Washington. Get off the bus at the Henry Art Gallery
and stop in to see the students’ work. On the first Thursday of each month, the museum (and several others in the city) is free. You can also walk north up 15th Ave (or Memorial Way) on campus to the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
. Both museums are relatively small, but the spaces are well used. Then continue north to NE 45th and walk two blocks west to University Blvd. That’s the Ave, and there are a multitude of eateries and restaurants lining both sides of the street. Inexpensive Vietnamese, Thai, and Italian restaurants offer a variety of food. Bubble (or Boba) tea can be found at WOW Bubble Tea
, and you can sit in the cafe and take advantage of the wi-fi or take it to go and continue wandering.
For dinner, dine at Cedars Restaurant
on NE 43rd and Brooklyn. The Indian food there necessitates reservations, and during the summer the patio makes for a fun dining experience. You can also check out Pagliacci
pizza, which you’ll have to pass in order to walk to Cedars. Their pizza features locally procured and seasonal ingredients. As far as creativity is concerned, Pagliacci rates high with its toppings. They also serve gelato for dessert. You can catch the #73 bus back to downtown Seattle.
It’s a whirlwind trip of Seattle, but you’ve seen a few major neighborhoods in Seattle and had a chance to taste some of the fine cuisine of the area. Of course, you’ll notice I only talk about a few Seattle neighborhoods. There are many neighborhoods, including Greenlake, Wallingford, and the Central District that also offer delicious food and great sites. I totally missed the east-side cities of Bellevue, Redmond, Issaquah, and and our northern neighbor Woodinville as well. There are also dozens of small cafes that I like to frequent that I couldn’t squeeze into the itinerary, including Bell Thai, Top Pot Doughnuts
, and Kukuruza
For as many people as there are in Seattle, there will be different recommendations. But those are my ideas for an initial teaser tour of Seattle. Naturally, you’ll have to return for another visit or five.
If you’ve been to Seattle and are reading this post, what would you suggest or mandate in a visit? Let me know in the comments below.
If you want a nice French bistro, check out Pike Place Market's Cafe Campagne with Chef Daisley. He was a contestant on the Food Network's Iron Chef last year.
5 Point Cafe in Queen Anne
Julias in Queen Anne
The Matador in Ballard
Thank you so much for this list! I live just south of Seattle and my 2 year old son was just diagnosed with Celiac after an endoscopy and several biopsies. 🙁 This list will provide so much relief as I learn to cook gluten-free and just want to grab something good on the fly!
Thanks, Meliski, for your comment! If you have suggestions, feel free to share! There are so many new businesses that appear in Seattle – seems like weekly – that this list is probably already outdated!