A great choice for art lovers, foodies, and history buffs alike, Pioneer Square, Seattle, has a little something for everybody. From eclectic indie boutiques to hidden waterfalls, there’s not much this neighborhood south of Downtown Seattle can’t offer.
Pioneer Square, also known as Seattle’s “first neighborhood,” is a lively, historic setting for your Washington State vacation. With gorgeous architecture to admire and oodles of attractions to explore, the area is one of Seattle’s coolest places to explore. Points of interest like Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour and Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park are just the beginning…
Ready to take your Seattle itinerary to the next level? Let this complete Pioneer Square guide help you plan the perfect holiday, from what to see & do to where to eat, drink & stay!
What to see & do in Pioneer Square, Seattle
Looking for somewhere to spend a slower afternoon shopping, eating, and hanging out? Occidental Square is simply a cool place to chill and enjoy the day—or a few hours if that’s all you have to spare. Around this historic city square, you’ll find everything, from shops and cafes to indie bookstores and even a few art galleries, all in one neat little area.
The courtyard at Occidental Square offers a park and playscape area for your little ones to blow off some steam. It’s also a hotspot for adults who want some playtime; there’s a giant chess board, foosball, ping pong, and other game tables for everyone to enjoy.
Interested in the local arts scene? You’ll find several totem poles carved by Duane Pasco on display around the square.
You can’t visit Pioneer Square without visiting its namesake: Pioneer Square. Located in the north end of the neighborhood, this tiny urban park attracts tourists from every corner of the city. Why? This small but mighty landmark dates all the way back to 1889.
Around the square, you’ll find a massive totem pole, historic streetlamps, and a bust of Chief Seattle, the Suquamish and Duwamish leader whom the entire city is named after. There are plenty of restaurants and shops in the surrounding area if you’d like to grab a coffee, wander around, and make a day of it.
Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park
Come learn about everyone’s favorite metal at the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. This “park” is actually just a museum located on 2nd Avenue South. Park rangers will take you on a grand journey through the history of gold mining and this unique time in Seattle’s past.
During your visit to the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, you can browse two floors of interactive exhibits, watch the park’s feature film, and even try your luck at panning for gold!
Traveling with kiddos? They can participate in a series of interactive learning activities to earn a Junior Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park badge to bring home. What an awesome souvenir!
A trip to Smith Tower is an all-around good time, appealing to history buffs, sightseers, and happy hour celebrators alike. Dating back to 1940, this beautiful high-rise on the southern edge of Downtown Seattle was the city’s first skyscraper.
Today, you can ascend to the 35th floor of Smith Tower to dazzle at some of the best birds-eye views of the Seattle skyline and check out a few fun museum exhibits to learn about the building’s history.
Once you’ve reached your final destination, be sure to score tickets to the observatory to sit out on the open-air terrace and take in the views at your own pace. Then, you can head into the Smith Tower Observatory Bar, a speakeasy-style restaurant & bar that’s the only place where you can taste the exclusive Smith Tower barrel-aged liquors.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour
Did you know that there’s a whole other world in Seattle, just underneath your feet? Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour will take you below the surface to get a look at the city before the Great Fire of 1889. Now, these tunnels connect the remains of the “Original” Seattle to the magnificent modern metropolis built on top that we know and love today.
Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour will show you the humble and now-buried beginnings of the Pioneer Square neighborhood. You can also visit Doc Maynard’s Public House as part of your tour for an underground-themed meal.
It’s said that this tour can feel a little eerie. But fortune favors the brave. It’s such a cool experience that it’s totally worth the potential for minor haunts and frights!
Where to eat & drink
Is it even possible to claim you’ve visited a big American city without a stop for lunch at one of the tastiest delis around? Well, in Pioneer Square, it’s Salumi. Hands-down.
As the name suggests, this deli is all about salami. When crafting your perfect sandwich, choose between four different varieties, all made in-house.
Salumi also offers a variety of hot and cold sandwiches without their signature salami, ranging from braised porchetta to classic muffuletta. Planning a picnic for later in the day? You can take any of their sandwiches and sliced meats to go. They even offer fully curated cheese and charcuterie board!
For a really good burger and fries in Pioneer Square, head to McCoy’s Firehouse Bar & Grill. The restaurant building has a rich history, but, despite its name, it’s never been a firehouse. Instead, it’s all decked out in firefighter gear and memorabilia from all over the world, including uniform patches, hoses, helmets, and more.
Spend a happy hour (or two!) on Occidental Avenue at the Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar. Home of award-winning bloody marys and some of the freshest oysters around Seattle, this historic lounge is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. It’s also close to Lumen Field (the home stadium of the Seattle Seahawks) and T-Mobile Park (home to the Seattle Mariners), making it the perfect pregame spot.
Damn the Weather is the ideal resto lounge for couples, friends, and lively small groups. Though there are some options for picky eaters, this one is better suited for a more adventurous crowd. Damn the Weather is known for its experimental dishes like Duck Fat Fries and Lemongrass-Hibiscus Sorbet, fried fava beans with seaweed, and a fettucini dish with morels and grape-leaf pesto.
Want to add a little excitement to your mealtime? Flatstick Pub is a bar for people who can’t sit still. Between beers and platters of nachos and tacos, you can play the night away with a handful of arcade games invented onsite. There’s Seattle-themed mini golf (including a replica Space Needle), a one-of-a-kind hybrid of Duffleboard (another Flatstik specialty), and beer pong. They also host Bingo and Trivia Nights every week.
For an excellent craft cocktail, choose Good Bar. Located across from the Waterfall Garden, this bar has a wide selection of mixed drinks, a series of Spanish gin and tonics, and a handful of beers on tap. Feeling peckish? No problem. They also have a select menu with Middle Eastern-inspired dishes like halloumi, harissa chicken, and signature lamb burgers. Yum!
Looking for dinner and a show? Central Saloon combines the pleasure of live performance with the traditional pub experience. It’s also Seattle’s oldest bar, dating all the way back to 1892. In a room full of exposed brick walls, sticker collages, and of course, a band stage, you’ll delight in small-scale concerts and good beer. What more could you want?
Where to stay
If you want to travel in style, the citizenM Seattle Pioneer Square is the perfect place to stay. This uber-trendy, high-design hotel has bright splashes of color and an emphasis on modern art. They even have a massive library you can borrow from if you feel like a cozy evening curled up with a good book. It’s also part of a sustainable travel network, meaning you can sleep easy knowing you’re helping the environment by making smart tourism decisions.
At the Embassy Suites By Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square, it’s all about the amenities. Included in your stay are complimentary made-to-order breakfasts, evening receptions, access to a state-of-the-art fitness center, and use of a private sundeck. There are also two great restaurants on site: the Seattle classic 13 Coins and the ocean-friendly Zephyr Bar. So, what will your stay look like? Guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the harbor and city skyline.
Looking for an oceanview room from a brand you know and trust? Courtyard Seattle Downtown / Pioneer Square is the perfect choice at a mid-range price point. The hotel offers a beautiful bistro (with Starbucks coffee) and an indoor pool, plus subway access, making it super easy to get around the city for all your adventuring. If you’d prefer to get a bit closer to a homestyle experience, you can even rent studio apartments at this hotel, with full access to a kitchen and other amenities.