Seattle Skyline at Night
Seattle skyline at night (Photo credit: Unsplash)

Seattle Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • The largest city in Washington State, Seattle has a population of 620,000.
  • Built on many hills, including Queen Anne Hill, First Hill, Capitol Hill and Beacon Hill.
  • First settled in 1851, Seattle is now a thriving tech hub (Boeing and Microsoft are headquartered in nearby Redmond).
  • Nicknames: formerly the Queen City, now the Emerald City.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: U.S. Dollar (USD)
  • Spoken languages: predominantly English (many other languages are spoken).
  • Best time to visit: from May to September
  • Arriving via airport: shuttle from SeaTac airport to downtown is $15.50. A cheaper alternative is the link light rail, which gets you directly to/from the airport to the underground downtown stations for $3.00 each way (also a much faster option during rush hour, as the light rail does not have to contend with traffic). An Uber/Lyft from the airport to downtown will be about $35-40.

WHERE TO STAY

For business travelers, downtown Seattle is the best choice. Tourists will benefit from staying near the Seattle Center, close to all the attractions. The University District also offers reasonable accommodation for those who want to be in the city’s North End.

GETTING AROUND

  • The bus system is called the Metro. It is inexpensive, reliable and is very accommodating to the elderly and disabled. Be sure to pick up a schedule, available at all major bus stops.
  • You can buy a day pass for King County Metro for $8.00 that gets you unlimited rides on the Link and buses (as well as a few other forms of public transport) around the entire county for 24 hours.
  • For a unique experience, take a ride on the Monorail that runs between Seattle Center and Westlake Mall in Downtown Seattle.
  • Taxis are scarce on the street, but you can call one. While Yellow Cab is a decent option, most locals prefer to use Uber or Lyft (cheaper than a taxi, especially if you use Uber Pool or Lyft Line).

SEATTLE NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 21, last call is at 1:30 AM.
  • Hip/local scene: nightclubs and bars in Downtown Seattle and Belltown.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Visit the Space Needle, the iconic tower built for the 1962 World’s Fair. The observation deck at the top offers a stunning 360-degree view of the city. There are also a few great museums right by the Space Needle, including the Chihuly Glass Museum.
  • Columbia Tower’s observation deck is another must-see attraction – it’s the highest in the city, cheaper than the Space Needle, right in the middle of downtown (unlike the Space Needle), and as a bonus, you get to SEE the Space Needle!
  • Pike Place Market is a must-see for folksy restaurants, fresh produce, and seafood.
  • The Woodland Park Zoo is home to amazing animal exhibits – the zoo strives to closely mimic the animals’ natural habitats.
  • Snoqualmie Falls, 30 miles east of the city (toward the Cascade Mountains).

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Walk along the Waterfront near Pike Place Market.
  • Take a stroll around Green Lake in the city’s North End. When you’re done, stop for coffee, ice cream or a meal at the various nearby restaurants and cafés.
  • For an alternative experience, try walking down Broadway on Capitol Hill, home to Seattle’s gay and lesbian community.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Seattleites are crazy about their coffee. Starbucks started in Seattle, and can be found all over town. Treat yourself to some local espresso.
  • Seattleites are courteous, but generally reserved. People with an “alternative” appearance (i.e., body piercing, mohawks, etc.) are generally peaceful, but do not like to be stared at.
  • One-fifth of the city’s population is foreign born, making Seattle a very diverse city. You will hear many different languages
  • Seattle is famous for its cool temperature and frequent rainfall. Bring along a light jacket, sweater or windbreaker just in case it rains. You won’t see Seattleites carrying umbrellas – the rain is soft and drizzle-like, and a hooded jacket is often more than enough.
  • Dangerous areas: Seattle is a remarkably safe city. Parts of Downtown can be dangerous at night, and South Seattle is not an ideal place for a tourist to venture into.

RECOMMENDED SEATTLE GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days


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