Seattle neighbourhoods are diverse and characterful and, thanks to the city’s busy cruise terminals and proximity to stupendous national parks, they’re becoming ever more popular with tourists. Having taken dozens of business and leisure trips to the Emerald City over the years, I’ve become familiar with neighbourhoods away from Downtown, how they are changing as a result of the influx of wealth, and how each of them contributes to such an exciting city.
Home to Frasier, this wealthy and historic neighbourhood, named after the Queen Anne mansions found here, has some of the best views of the city, particularly from Kerry Park. At the top of the hill on which it’s situated there’s a cute high street with upscale coffee bars and organic food retailers. Yep, it’s that sort of place. On the other side of the hill large houses overlook the Union Canal.
It’s a 40-minute walk from Pike Place Market to Kerry Park, via Belltown. Directions here.
Take bus #2 from Downtown. Details here.
If you don’t like to confirm to societal norms you’re gonna love Capitol Hill. Here are coffee shops with live music, LGTBQ+-friendly bars and clubs, many microbreweries, and more than a few tattoo parlours. Named in the hope that Washington’s capital would be located here (it’s actually Olympia), this neighbourhood often hosts festivals and protests, and has some gorgeous old houses .
A steep walk 35-minute up from Pike Place Market. Directions here.
Capitol Hill’s Link light rail connects the neighbourhood to Downtown (Westlake) and Tacoma Airport. Details here.
South Lake Union
The engine of Seattle’s recent growth, South Lake Union is an Amazon neighbourhood. Locals have long been priced out of the area and it’s now home to wealthy tech workers and shiny new buildings. Thankfully visitors can still access Lake Union and kayak, lounge at the water’s edge, watch float planes take off and land, or visit the excellent Steamer Virginia V and Museum of History and Industry.
An easy 25-minute walk to Lake Union Park from Pike Place Market. Directions here.
Oh-so-trendy Ballard sits towards the city’s northern edge and is where to come if you like small live music venues. The Duwamish favoured this area for the salmon fishing, as did later Scandinavian settlers. My favourite thing to do here is visit the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks where you can watch, for free, salmon swimming to spawning areas, as well as large vessels passing along the Washington Ship Canal.
I’ve walked from Downtown to Ballard. It’s a long way – about 2 hours from Pike Place Market to the locks, albeit via lovely Queen Anne.
Bus 29 will take you all the way from Downtown to the locks (stop NW 54th St & 30th Ave NW). Details here.
Fremont used to be where locals could find affordable accommodation, until Amazon…well, you know the rest. This neighbourhood does, however, retain heaps of character, evidenced in its immense troll, quirky street art and Summer Solstice Parade & Pageant. If you must do one thing in Seattle, then do a tour of the Theo chocolate factory, and try ALL the samples. Yum.
Wander along the edge of Lake Union, or through the lovely Queen Anne environs. It’s about an hour from Pike Place Market. Directions here.
Ah Bellevue. Shiny, shiny Bellevue. As suggested by the name, you can get some beautiful views from this neighbourhood (particularly from Chism Beach Park), which is across Lake Washington from Downtown. Home to perfect malls, upmarket eateries and corporate skyscrapers, Bellevue is a great place to find good value accommodation and top-notch cuisine.
Your most efficient bus route to Downtown is #550. Just don’t be tempted to walk…it’s too far.
In 2023 you’ll be able to ride the Link light rail allll the way from Downtown (Westlake) and Tacoma Airport to Bellevue. Details here.
Recently renovated Belltown is on the edge of both Downtown and Puget Sound. It has some really lovely bars, plenty of great dining options and a thriving nightlife. You’ll find boutique accommodation here, as well as the 9 acre Olympic Sculpture Park. I love the old red brick warehouses and walking along Centennial Park, where trains travel to Canada and California. You’ll probably pass through Belltown on your way to the Space Needle.
An easy and lovely 15-minute stroll along the waterfront from Pike Place Market to the sculpture park. See directions.
Take bus 29 to Downtown, Ballard locks or Queen Anne from 1st Ave & Broad St.
And now for something slightly different. West Seattle feels far removed from the frenzy of Pike Place Market, and has perhaps one of the best beaches in the area; Alki Beach. From this wealthy neighbourhood you can enjoy relaxed beachside dining, as well as views of the city, Puget Sound, and the grand Olympic Mountains. Alki Point is believed to be where the Denny party first settled, and the Log House Museum is bursting with Seattle history.
A note about the Duwamish
Before all these neighbourhoods grew out from the Denny party’s initial settlement at Alki Point, the areas they now occupy were inhabited by Native Americans for at least 4,000 years. In fact, Seattle is named after the tribe’s leader, Chief Si’ahl. The Duwamish Tribe is not recognised by the US government, due to the government not honouring the Point Elliott Treaty, although a May 2022 appeal hopes to change that.
Duwamish members are involved in United Indians of All Tribes, and I strongly encourage you to visit their cultural centre in gorgeous Discovery Park, as well as their gift shops (one of which is in SeaTac Airport). The Duwamish Longhouse and Cultural Center also makes for a fascinating visit, and is located just southeast of West Seattle – take bus 21 from Downtown and then walk 20 minutes.