Want to get a real feel for Washington State’s largest city? Head to Downtown Seattle, the beating heart of the bustling metropolis. Overlooking the endless Eliott Bay, Downtown Seattle is packed with things to see, from eclectic art galleries to superb museums. Dynamic and diverse, Seattle’s city center has something for everyone.
Downtown Seattle has a charming waterfront that is both an industrial and social hub. Take a ride on the famous Ferris wheel and watch cargo ships unload their treasures in the dock below. The waterfront is also home to the Seattle Aquarium and the Seattle Art Museum, both well worth visiting.
Skyscrapers may dominate the city skyline but hidden between them are some of the city’s most eclectic restaurants, cool cafés, buzzing bars, and big-name stores. Be sure to wander around the century-old Pike Place Market and tuck into some fresh seafood. No matter your fancy, Downtown Seattle will meet your every expectation and more.
Looking for more ideas for your trip? Check out our Seattle Travel Guide for more recommendations on when to visit, where to go & what to do!
What to see & do in Downtown Seattle
Pike Place Market
Make the century-old Pike Place Market your first stop in the Emerald City. One of Downtown Seattle’s most famous attractions, this world-renowned farmer’s market has been operating since the early 1900s. Overlooking the bay from 1st Avenue, the market is the go-to spot for fresh produce and handmade goodies.
Pike Place Market was established in 1907 by eight farmers with just 76 stalls. Today, the market is the beating heart of Downtown Seattle with over 500 shops, restaurants, bars, and vendors.
Grab a coffee at the original Starbucks café, just outside the market, and meander around the colorful stalls of fresh produce and mouthwatering delicacies. Explore the myriad of shops selling handcrafted items made by local artisans.
Watch the famous fish-tossing tradition by wader-clad fishmongers. Don’t forget to drop a few notes into the market mascot Rachel the Piggy Bank for the Pike Place Market Foundation.
Dive into the deep at the Seattle Aquarium to meet the residents of Puget Sound. Based on the Waterfront’s Pier 59, the family-friendly sea sanctuary is a fantastic place to spend a few hours exploring the ocean’s creatures.
Admire the toothy smiles of sharks as they glide overhead in the 360° Underwater Dome and watch scuba divers feed frenzied schools of fish. Fall in love with playful sea otters and marvel at the grace of giant graceful octopi.
Head to the touch tank and do just that: touch feathery sea stars and spiny urchins. Take a virtual trip to the tropics in our Pacific Coral Reef exhibit and learn about the marine habitat of Seattle’s inland seas.
Grab lunch at the aquarium café while you soak up lovely views over the water. Head to the gift shop on your way out to pick up some sea-centric gifts and souvenirs to take home.
The Seattle Great Wheel
Get a bird’s eye view of Downtown Seattle and Eliot Bay from the top of the Seattle Great Wheel. Built in 2012, the 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel stands on the end of Pier 57 and is both a famous fixture of the city skyline and one of the best places to visit in Seattle.
Climb into one of the wheel’s 42 glass-encased gondolas and rise into the sky to see some breathtaking panoramic views. Admire the shimmering skyscrapers of the city and count the ships in Eliott Bay. Enjoy three gentle revolutions in the air-conditioned gondola before making your way back to Earth.
For a special treat, book the VIP gondola and get 360-degree city views through the glass bottom of the capsule. You’ll enjoy a free drink during your ride and get a souvenir T-shirt.
Olympic Sculpture Park
Take in some modern and contemporary sculptures at the Olympic Sculpture Park on Western Avenue in Belltown. Art and the outdoors come together at this peaceful park, where 20 distinct sculptures are scattered between geometrically sloping paths.
Olympic Sculpture Park was established by the Seattle Art Museum in 2007 and is a lovely place to take a break from the bustle of the city. A little beach runs parallel to the nine-acre park and boasts beautiful views of the bay.
Wander along the odd-shaped paths and admire the vivid artworks. Don’t miss the colorful glass bridge or the vivarium with fungi and moss growing on a tree trunk. Sit and relax on one of the benches shaped to represent eyes and revel in the tranquility of the park.
Seattle Art Museum
Whether you’re an art lover or not, this is one museum you won’t want to miss. Based in a distinctive building on 1st Avenue, the Seattle Art Museum is one of the city’s best, with an impressive collection of multi-faceted art.
Art assails you before you even enter the building with a vast, 50-foot metal sculpture of a laboring man. A huge, automated arm swings its hammer four times a minute, making quite an impression on passersby. Inside, several floors of exhibitions display interesting artworks from around the world.
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Explore the airy galleries and admire an array of thought-provoking artwork, from Australian Aboriginal creations to ancient American art. Temporary collections of global art are sometimes on display, as well as installations from the museum’s permanent collection. Browse the gift shop for beautiful art books, cards, and handmade gifts.
Sky View Observatory
For the best panoramic views of Seattle and beyond, head to the Sky View Observatory. Head up to the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center and map your journey through Downtown Seattle from riding the Great Wheel to exploring Pike Place Market.
From 902 feet above the ground, you’ll have incredible 360° panoramic views of the entire region. Follow the Cascade and Olympic Mountains to the hazy peak of Mt. Rainier and around Eliott Bay and the San Juan Islands.
Relax over a drink at the Sky View Café & Bar or enjoy a meal against a backdrop of some of the best views in the Pacific Northwest.
Frye Art Museum
Venture into Seattle’s First Hill neighborhood to check out some fantastic contemporary and modern art at the Frye Art Museum. Established in 1952, the Frye Art Museum houses the legacy collection of Charles and Emma Frye, prominent early 20th–century Seattle art collectors. The collection includes 19th and early 20th-century American and German paintings and other contemporary works.
Explore the galleries and admire beautiful pieces by well-known artists such as Eugène Boudin, Hermann Corrodi, and Franz Stuck. You might be lucky enough to catch a rotating temporary exhibition of local emerging and contemporary artists.
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Join one of the museum’s many art-based workshops or lectures, or film screenings. When all that art has worked up an appetite, make your way to the museum’s casual Café Frieda for a coffee break or a light lunch. Browse the museum store for some beautiful items made by local artisans.
Seattle Pinball Museum
Get your game on at the Seattle Pinball Museum. Located on Maynard Avenue, the Seattle Pinball Museum has more than 50 antique pinball machines from 1960 to the present day.
Wander through the decades of American pop culture and pinball history and try your hand at some beautifully restored vintage machines. Be prepared for some lively action with ringing bells and flashing lights as you rack up your score. When you’ve worked up a thirst, refresh your playing power with local craft brews and ciders or a vintage soda.
The Seattle Pinball Museum is in the bustling hybrid neighborhood of the Seattle Chinatown-International District. Meander around this vibrant area and tuck into some delicious Asian fare.
Where to eat & drink
Downtown Seattle’s burgeoning foodie scene is evident in the plethora of restaurants, cafés, and bars serving all kinds of cuisine. Craving a great steak? Have a hankering for homemade Italian? You’ll find the perfect place to eat your fill here!
If it’s seafood you’re craving, head to Elliott’s Oyster House at the waterfront for ocean-fresh oysters and catch-of-the-day fish. Take a seaside table overlooking the bay for lovely views. For a more casual dining experience, local chain Ivar’s Acres of Clams serves delicious fried fish and homemade clam chowder.
Traditional Italian meets glitzy cabaret at The Pink Door for a one-of-a-kind evening. Tucked in the quaint Post Alley at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, the quirky restaurant serves classic Italian American fare alongside vibrant entertainment. Enjoy cabaret, live music, trapeze, and tarot while you tuck into your linguine alle vongole.
Prime, dry-aged cut steaks and award-winning red wines are the order of the day at the Metropolitan Grill. With classic steakhouse décor, excellent service, and a selection of prime beef, American and Japanese Wagyu steaks, this is a great spot for a business lunch or a romantic date.
When it’s time to kick back over cold beers and live rock music, the Yard House is top of the list. Beer and food lovers unite at this laid-back spot known for great food, classic rock, and an endless fleet of craft and local beers.
If gin is your sin, then Bathtub Gin & Co. is the cup that pours it. Tucked away in the basement of an old brick hotel, the Prohibition-style cocktail bar serves a fantastic selection of gins and tonics, along with classic and signature cocktails.
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Another popular Prohibition-era style whiskey and cocktail bar is the award-winning Radiator Whiskey on the top floor of the Corner Market building. Sip some of the finest whiskey in the state or try the signature version of a Manhattan called a ‘Showgirl.’ Hungry? Tuck into a whole smoked pig’s head off the meat-centric menu.
Some Random Bar is just that – the perfect spot for a casual drink with friends or a spontaneous night out on the town. A simple menu serves hearty fare like burrata and crab nachos.
Where to stay
Inn at the Market
If you want to be at the center of all the action, the Inn at the Market is a great place to stay. Located in the heart of the famous Pike Place Market, this tranquil hideaway is steps away from the hustle and bustle of the market and the Seattle Waterfront. Comfortable guest rooms boast modern Pacific Northwest style décor and lovely bay views.
Mayflower Park Hotel
Elegant and timeless, the Mayflower Park Hotel is a beautifully renovated historic retreat in the heart of downtown Seattle. Built in 1927, the hotel has luxurious accommodations, a chic Mediterranean restaurant, and an award-winning cocktail bar. Stay in shape at the state-of-the-art fitness studio and enjoy a range of concierge services. A short stroll from the hotel will take you to Westlake Center and the Seattle Monorail to explore the city.
Grand Hyatt Seattle
Located a mile from the iconic Space Needle and a short walk from Pike Place Market, the Grand Hyatt Seattle is an upscale, high-rise hotel with stylish guest accommodations and high-end amenities. Soak in your whirlpool tub while you take in stunning city views from floor-to-ceiling windows. Enjoy pampering treatments in the luxury spa and dine at one of several highly acclaimed restaurants.
The Sound Hotel Seattle Belltown, Tapestry Collection
Ideally located for exploring the city, the Sound Hotel Seattle Belltown, Tapestry Collection is a modern hotel within a mile of the iconic Space Needle. Sophisticated, air-conditioned guest rooms have modern in-room amenities and gorgeous bay views. Tuck into globally inspired cuisine and classic cocktails at the hotel’s hip restaurant and bar, and then hit the in-hotel gym to burn off those calories.
Lotte Hotel Seattle
The Lotte Hotel Seattle is a luxurious gem. History meets modernity in this superb hotel that is set within a beautiful Beaux Arts-style church and a shimmering glass high-rise. Luxuriate in spacious suites with designer décor and breathtaking views of the bay. Indulge in rejuvenating treatments in the deluxe spa and embrace Seattle’s culinary spirit at the Charlotte Restaurant & Lounge. Sip signature cocktails from the bar against unparalleled views of the Emerald City.