Planning a trip to the Pacific Northwest? Start by exploring all the best things to do in Seattle. The vibrant Washington State metropolis is the PNW’s biggest city. Seattle is loaded with attractions that cater to travelers of all styles.
Seattle is famed for its coffee shops, arts & culture, and greenery. Art lovers will delight in world-class museums like the Seattle Art Museum. Nature buffs will love wandering through the Emerald City’s expansive green spaces. On the way, you’ll marvel at views over mountains, lakes, and the ocean.
Not sure what to do in Seattle? Plan the perfect trip with this guide to the best places to visit in Seattle.
What to see & do in Seattle
Browse the stalls of Pike Place Market
Need a first idea for where to go in Seattle? Start off your trip in Pike Place Market. Opened in 1907, Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market is rich in history. Today, the market houses over 500 shops, bars, vendors, and restaurants.
If you delight in antiques, browse through its antique shops, brimming with treasures. At Pike Place Market, you’ll also stroll past craft stalls where you can pick up gifts for friends and family.
Need to relax on your trip to Pike Place Market? Cool down with a craft beer or sample some seafood at one of its seaside restaurants. If you only have one day in Seattle, a visit to Pike Place should be atop of the list of the best things to do in Seattle.
Enjoy a cup of coffee at the original Starbucks
Got a passion for coffee? Carve out time on your trip to visit the original Starbucks. Although the “real” original location was up the street, it moved next to Pike Place in 1977. After more than four decades, the branch is still operating. For coffee lovers, it’s a must-visit Seattle attraction.
At the original Starbucks branch, you’ll see its original logo, fixtures, floors, and counters. You may need to be patient. There’s often a queue of coffee buffs waiting to savor a cup of gourmet coffee at its North American “birthplace.”
You can continue your “coffee tour” with a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. It lies about 20 minutes away. The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is a museum, store, and café all in one. At the roastery, you’ll learn all about the process of making coffee. Slide over to the main bar to sample delights such as barrel-aged coffee and coffee & ice cream treats.
See the city from above at the Space Needle
Of all the top points of interest in Seattle, none is more iconic than the Space Needle. Opened in 1962, the Space Needle is the most definitive point in the Seattle skyline. The tower is located in the Seattle Center complex to the northwest of Belltown and Downtown.
The observation deck at the Space Needle hangs at a height of 520 feet. From the deck, you’ll marvel at spectacular 360-degree views of the Seattle cityscape, Puget Sound, and the surrounding areas. It’s the perfect opportunity to snap memorable photos. On a clear day, you’ll even see as far as Mount Rainier!
After visiting the Space Needle, save time to explore the many other activities at the Seattle Center. If you’re traveling to Seattle with kids, pop into the Pacific Science Center.
The whole family will be intrigued by the Pacific Science Center’s hands-on exhibits. Kids will love its interactive dinosaur display and planetarium. The center is also home to theatres showcasing 3-D films. It all adds up to an unforgettable experience
Kids will also have a ball at the Seattle Children’s Museum. Let their imaginations run wild as they mull over the next space to explore.
Explore Seattle’s music history at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP)
Whether you’re into popular culture or rock & roll, you’ll find plenty to keep you amused at the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). The museum hosts interactive exhibits dedicated to Seattle’s music icons and various movie & film themes.
The Museum of Pop Culture stuns with its remarkable modern architecture. It’s housed in a futuristic building designed by famed architect Frank Gehry. Its gnarled steel panels almost resemble a smashed electric guitar. (An homage to Seattle music legends Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain perhaps?)
MoPOP’s exhibitions revolve around renowned personalities in television, music, and other creative fields. The highlight of the visit is the chance to perform like a rock star in front of a virtual audience. You’ll also enjoy visiting the Sound Lab and interactive galleries.
Not into music? Movie lovers will find plenty here, too. Sci-fi fans should check out the Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, including a cool Star Trek exhibit. Horror film buffs will also find several memorable horror cinema exhibits.
MoPOP is next to the Space Needle in the Seattle Center complex.
Ride the Seattle Center Monorail
Finished exploring some of the top tourist attractions in Seattle at the Seattle Center? Hop onto the Seattle Center Monorail to downtown. Opened in 1962 for the Century 21 Exhibition, the Monorail moves between the Seattle Center and Westlake Center in Downtown.
With no intermediate stops, the ride to downtown from the Space Needle takes just two minutes. Along the way, you’ll enjoy a birds-eye view of the modern buildings of Seattle’s downtown. The monorail departs every 10 minutes.
Enjoy the cityscape at Kerry Park
Looking for more photographic opportunities for your Seattle holiday? The unique vantage point at Kerry Park won’t disappoint. Located on the slopes of Queen Anne Hill, Kerry Park is one of the best places to go in Seattle for locals and travelers alike.
At Kerry Park, you’ll delight in fantastic views of the Space Needle, the downtown skyline, and Puget Sound. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of Mount Rainier in the distance.
The view from Kerry Park is even more magical at night. You’ll enjoy the sight of lit ferries on the water with the city lights shining in the distance.
In the middle of the public park, you’ll spot a hollow steel sculpture named “Changing Form.” The sculpture is a favorite spot for children to play as you take in the views from a bench.
Peruse modern art at the Seattle Art Museum
Art lovers need to spend time at the Seattle Art Museum. The museum has three facilities around town. The main building is in Downtown Seattle. The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) offers a rich cultural experience for travelers visiting the Pacific Northwest city.
If you’re into arts & culture, you’ll enjoy viewing the SAM’s diverse art forms. The collections span the entire world and several different eras. Immerse yourself in modern art hanging in bright galleries. Or take in performances representing its art in moving pictures. You’ll also spot several contemporary photographic exhibitions.
If there are specific exhibits you would like to view, visit the official SAM website. The site offers information on all its permanent & temporary exhibits.
Have a picnic at Gas Works Park
Like Kerry Park, Gas Works Park on the shores of Lake Union is a favorite escape for Seattlites. If you’ve got time in your itinerary, pull up a blanket and enjoy a picnic at this unique park. As you relax, you’ll dazzle at unmatched views over Seattle.
Formerly the site of a coal gasification plant, Gas Works Park found new life as a 20-acre recreational area. If you’d rather not lounge around, go sailing on the lake or take a bike ride. There’s also a playground to keep the kids busy as you people watch.
If you can, hang around Gas Works Park until nighttime. You’ll enjoy the unforgettable sight of seeing the city lights reflected on the water.
Get up close to rare animals at the Woodland Park Zoo
Looking for family-friendly activities in Seattle? Kids will love visiting the Woodland Park Zoo. The award-winning zoo in Green Lake opened its doors in 1899. Woodland Park Zoo is home to 300 species, featured in their natural habitats.
Habitats at Woodland Park Zoo include the Trail of Vines, Tropical Rainforest, and the African Savanna. You’ll also be able to view some endangered species. Conservation is a top priority at the Woodland Park Zoo.
Chill out at Green Lake Park
Done checking out the animals? About two and a half miles away is Green Lake Park. This beautiful recreation area is a great place to let off the steam.
Hit up Green Lake Park’s trails for a relaxing walk or invigorating run. To cool down in the hot summer sun, you can take a dip in Green Lake. There’s also a wading pool for the kids at the park.
Admire bay views and art at Olympic Sculpture Park
A brainchild of the Seattle Art Museum, Olympic Sculpture Park is a vibrant waterfront public park on Elliot Bay. The 9-acre park offers a two-fold feast for the eyes. You’ll relish the sight of large-scale contemporary sculptures while enjoying beautiful views over Puget Sound.
Undoubtedly, the highlight is the opportunity to walk through its remarkable outdoor gallery. Olympic Sculpture Park features about 20 quirky sculptures from popular local artists.
There’s no fee to enter Olympic Sculpture Park. In the evening, the park is the perfect spot to watch a sunset over Puget Sound. Savor a quiet moment on a bench overlooking the water.
Soak up at the sun at Alki Beach in West Seattle
Although outside the city center, one of the most famous places to see in Seattle is Alki Beach. Located in West Seattle, the sandy beach on Puget Sound appeared in the 1990s movie “Sleepless in Seattle.” Alki Beach offers an excellent escape from the buzz of the city.
Two and a half miles long, Alki Beach is the perfect place to spend a lazy day soaking up the sun or playing volleyball. Alki Beach has a rich history behind it, too. It was the landing spot for Seattle’s first European settlers in 1851.
Soak up the sea views with a walk along the seawall at Alki Beach Park. When the hunger pangs set in, sample fish & chips at the renowned Alki Spud. Located across the road from Alki Beach Park, the eatery started operations in 1935. It’s one of Washington State’s most famous seafood chains.
For a more upmarket alternative, check out Salty’s on Alki Beach. At the popular seafood eatery, you’ll enjoy a meal to amazing views of the Seattle skyline and Puget Sound.
History buffs won’t want to miss out on a visit to the Alki Point Lighthouse. The historic attraction has lit the sea channel into King County since 1913. In the summer, you hop onto one of the free weekend tours of the lighthouse.
Scope out colorful marine life at Seattle Aquarium
Need ideas for after your visit to Pike Place Market? Just half a mile away lies the Seattle Aquarium. Located in Waterfront Park, Seattle Aquarium is one of the best family-friendly attractions in Seattle.
For a glimpse of life under the sea, the colorful marine life at the Seattle Aquarium makes for tranquil viewing. The “Window on Washington Waters” feature is a stunning display of sea creatures from the surrounding area.
Wander around Waterfront Park
Exiting the aquarium you’ll find yourself in Waterfront Park. Located on Elliot Bay, Waterfront Park is a popular hotspot for Seattlites to catch a breather on the water. Waterfront Park offers visitors enchanting sea views, cafes, and food trucks.
Take a walk along the boardwalk, soaking in views of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound.
Take a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel
While visiting Waterfront Park, save time for a spin on the Seattle Great Wheel. Perched on Pier 57, the 175-foot-tall Ferris wheel is one of the coolest things to see in Seattle.
If you’re in search of an adrenaline rush, take a ride in one of the wheel’s gondolas. On the Seattle Great Wheel, you’ll marvel at unbeatable views of Seattle.
Hit the waters of Lake Union
If kayaking and sailing are your jam, head for the shores of Lake Union. Located just north of downtown Seattle, Lake Union is a great place for watersports. With its calm waters, paddleboarding is particularly popular. You can also rent a rowboat, pedal boat, or sailboat to explore the pretty lake.
Another gem to savor in the neighborhood is Lake Union Park. Take a leisurely stroll through the park. Stop for a cup of coffee to take in the peaceful surroundings.
For a historical interlude, step into the Museum of History & Industry. The museum is located in Lake Union Park. At the Museum of History & Industry, you’ll learn the impacts of different time periods on the history of the Seattle region.
Step back into Seattle’s early history at Pioneer Square
Want to uncover Seattle’s historical roots? Explore the city’s past at Pioneer Square. Dating back to the late 18th-century, the neighborhood is the oldest in the city. It hints back at Seattle’s history as a pioneering Pacific Northwest outpost.
Walking around Pioneer Square, you’ll spot some of the city’s most stunning architecture. The 1880s-era Romanesque Revival buildings are bound to catch your eye.
To experience the area at its best, book yourself onto an Underground Walking Tour. The tour traverses the city’s hidden subterranean structures, dating back to before the Great Fire of 1889. The nearby Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park is similarly intriguing for history buffs.
Chow down in the Chinatown-International District
Located south of Pioneer Square is the historic Chinatown-International District. As one of the city’s oldest areas, the neighborhood is rich in history. But, for many visitors, the main draw is the district’s tantalizing culinary delights.
The Chinatown-International District comprises three historic Asian communities: Chinatown, Japantown, and Little Saigon. On its streets, you’ll drool over Asian favorites like dim sum, sushi, and banh mi.
To learn about the life of the city’s early immigrants, pay a visit to the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American. The museum is a rich source of information about the art, history, and culture of the Pacific Northwest’s Asian settlers.
Looking for a little excitement in the area? Pop into the Seattle Pinball Museum. Steps away from Hing Hay Park, the museum gives gamers unlimited plays on its wide selection of classic & modern pinball machines.
Take a Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island
Need to escape the city? Hop onto a Washington State Ferry to Bainbridge Island. Just 35 minutes away, the island is one of the best Seattle day trips. It’s the perfect place to experience Washington State’s small-town seaside charms.
The town itself is a pleasant spot to stroll around. Not far from the ferry terminal, you can peruse the Bainbridge Island Art Museum and Bainbridge Island Historical Museum.
To enjoy the island to its fullest, venture to its northern peninsula to visit the Bloedel Reserve. The 150-acre nature reserve delights visitors with its landscaped gardens and lush forests. Slide over to its historic manor house to enjoy spectacular views over Puget Sound.
Peer at downtown from above at the Columbia Center
Didn’t get enough of Seattle from above? See the city from a different angle at the Columbia Center. Soaring up 933 feet, the massive Columbia Center is the highest building in Washington State. And it’s got the views to match!
Zip up to the tower’s 73rd-floor Sky View Observatory. Located 902 feet above ground, Sky View Observatory is 382 feet higher than the deck at the Space Needle. Not only are the views higher, but admission to this less-popular observation deck is also cheaper.
Marvel at the architecture of the Seattle Central Library
After checking out the Columbia Center, find a few minutes to explore the nearby Seattle Central Library. Designed by famed architect Rem Koolhaas, the unique glass & steel structure is the city’s sleekest modern building.
Even if you’re not entranced by the Seattle Central Library’s 1.5 million books, its aesthetics are bound to impress.
Catch a Mariners game at T-Mobile Park
Sports fans visiting Seattle should spend an evening watching a baseball game at T-Mobile Park. Home to the MLB’s Seattle Mariners, T-Mobile Park teems with energy when its team is cranking home runs out of the park.
If football or soccer is more your jam, head across the street to Lumin Field. The massive 67,000-seat stadium is home to NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sounders soccer team.
Marvel at the Washington Park Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens
Located on the shores of Lake Washington, Washington Park Arboretum UW Botanic Gardens is one of Seattle’s finest green spaces. At a massive 230 acres, there’s plenty to see as you wander around Washington Park Arboretum. It’s a favorite spot for viewing cherry blossoms in spring.
Take to the park’s trails to stroll among its rare Pacific Coast trees. Along its lakefront boardwalk, you’ll enjoy a gentle breeze over beautiful Lake Washington. At 33.8 square miles, Lake Washington is the second-largest natural lake in Washington State.
While visiting Washington Park Arboretum, carve out time to visit the Seattle Japanese Garden. Although small, the beautiful 3.5-acre garden brings the beautiful flora of Japan to the Pacific Northwest. It’s considered one of the most authentic Japanese-style gardens in the United States.
The Washington Park Arboretum is a 15- to 20-minute drive from downtown.
Wander around Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill
Located on the north end of the hip Capitol Hill neighborhood, Volunteer Park is one of the city’s top chill-out spots. At 48 acres, Volunteer Park is much smaller than nearby Washington Park. Still, the park charms with a wide array of cool attractions, suited to all types of travelers.
Start your visit at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Dating back to 1912, the Victorian greenhouse was modeled after London’s Crystal Palace. The Volunteer Park Conservatory divides into five habitats: bromeliads, ferns, palms, seasonal, and succulents. Between the houses lie tens of thousands of different plant species.
Also worth a gander on your Volunteer Park visit is the Asian Art Museum. Set in a 1933 landmark Art Deco building, the museum holds a large collection of Asian art & artifacts. The works span several historical periods and all ends of the continent.
If you’re into action movies and martial arts, set aside time to visit Lake View Cemetery. Connected to the park’s north end, the cemetery is the final resting place of Bruce Lee. Although raised in Hong Kong, the famed film star spent several years studying and teaching martial arts in the city.
Roam around Discovery Park
Need proof that Seattle lives up to its “Emerald City” nickname? Look no further than Discovery Park. Perched upon Magnolia Bluff overlooking Puget Sound, the 534-acre park is the city’s largest public green space.
Discovery Park is coveted for its beaches, sand dunes, bluffs, and forests. To sneak the most out of your visit, traipse along the Discovery Park Loop Trail. The 2.8-mile hiking trail whisks past the park’s main sights, connecting to other paths along the way.
Catch a Puget Sound breeze at Golden Gardens Park
Although not as expansive as Discovery Park, Golden Gardens Park is loaded with plenty of its own charms. Located in Ballard, the 87-acre park offers one of the city’s most beautiful shorelines. On a clear day, the views across Puget Sound to the Olympic Mountains are spectacular.
The main draw at Golden Gardens Park is its sandy beaches. In summer, it’s a great place to enjoy a picnic and watersports outside the city center. Time your visit with the sunset to see the park at its most magical.
Where to stay in Seattle for sightseeing
For sightseeing, the best areas to stay in Seattle lie in & around Downtown. Besides the central business district, Belltown and Pioneer Square are home to some of the city’s best hotels. Get your search started with these top choices:
Located in the CBD, The Paramount Hotel is a great choice that won’t drain your travel budget. Rooms are spacious & stylish. It’s a short 10-minute walk from Pike Place.
Among the city’s top mid-range hotels, Hyatt Regency is located between Belltown and Downtown. Staying here, you’ll be minutes from great shopping and many of the city’s top points of interest. You’ll love the hotel’s modern room design and city views.
Located in the heart of downtown, W Seattle is one of the top Seattle luxury hotels. The 4.5-star hotel’s contemporary style is striking. Enjoy a night cap at the on-site restaurant & bar, in the shadow of the hotel’s eye-catching 3-story fireplace.