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Seattle travel guide, tours & things to do

Only got a couple of days to get to know a new city? Our Big Five City Guides can help. We break each destination down into culture, history, dining, shopping and relaxation must-sees and dos. Barry Johnson checks in from Seattle in the USA...
Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide: Visit the original Starbucks cafe.

Corporate giants Microsoft, Starbucks, Amazon and Boeing have changed our lives through innovation.

Many of their ideas came to fruition in and around Seattle. Since its growth spurt in the 1960s, this seaport city in the Pacific Northwest of America has been a hotspot for lovers of technology, live music, coffee, beer, seafood and the great outdoors. While Wall Street shook with stock market crashes during the GFC, Seattle didn’t miss a beat as its diverse talent base kept the city moving forward.

With endless evergreen forests, snow-capped mountain peaks, and the crashing Pacific Ocean all within easy reach, it’s not difficult to fall for the Emerald City.

Enjoy this Seattle travel guide.

Purchase a Seattle City Pass (including Space Needle Entry)

Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide

Seattle for history lovers

Seattle’s streets are layered with history — both above and below ground.

Join a Beneath the Streets tour of the historic passageways underneath Pioneer Square. Along the way, you’ll learn about the first inhabitants — the Coast Salish Peoples — and the Klondike Gold Rush.

Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide: Step back in time beneath the streets in Pioneer Square.

Continue exploring from the bow of an Argosy Cruise vessel en route to Blake Island’s Tillicum Village. Listen to Native American legends as you venture into a cedar longhouse, smoky with the aroma of freshly caught fish roasting over an alder fire for your buffet lunch.

The history lesson continues at Lake View Cemetery. Bruce Lee, the iconic martial arts movie star, died suddenly at age 32 and rests here at Lake View, alongside his son Brandon — who also died tragically young while filming The Crow. After visiting their memorials, pass by the Civil War section for an insight into this nation-defining conflict.

Top cultural experiences in Seattle

The city’s natural landscapes are part of a Seattleite’s identity, magically reflected in the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit.

The glasshouse and galleries use the captivating qualities of glass to create a dazzling garden, blossoming with rainbows of sculptured colour and light. This is absolutely one of the top things to see and do in Seattle and shouldn’t be missed.

Purchase Tickets to Chihuly Garden and Glass

Technological advancement is also part of the Seattle psyche. Boeing — one of Seattle’s alumni — presents a fleet of majestic flying machines at The Museum of Flight, including the supersonic Concorde, a former Air Force One Presidential plane and a number of space craft. It’s also possible to tour the Boeing Factory.

Purchase Tickets to The Museum of Flight

Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide: Museum of Flight. Image: Bigstock

Driverless cars and package-delivery drones emphasise the dramatic growth of technology. Step back into the monochrome days of personal computing at the Living Computer Museum. Created by Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen, it hums with the 1970s ancestors of today’s tablets and laptops.

Seattle holds a prominent place in American popular culture and the jazz and grunge music scenes thrive. The EMP Museum examines the phenomenon of all things pop culture, treating fans with original props and memorabilia. Current exhibition highlights include giant Hello Kittys, the Terminator’s exoskeleton, Jim Hendrix’s passport and the fender stratocaster strummed and smashed by Nirvana.

Great places to eat in Seattle

A seaport city equals fresh seafood and Seattle’s Pike Place has become one of America’s most famous fish markets since the first catch arrived over 50 years ago.

Stay for a lunch of clam chowder or Dungeness crab cakes, shrimp salad or Alaskan smoked salmon.

Book a Pike Place Market Food Walking Tour

Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide: Pike Place. Image: Bigstock

If your time is short, sample nine of Seattle’s favourite cuisines with Seattle Bites Food Tours. You’ll relish the mix of international flavours that satisfy local appetites. Chomp on German gourmet sausages, Nutella crepes, Mexican tacos and wood-smoked BBQ brisket, between sips of spiced berry lassi.

Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide: Try a traditional hot dog during your stay. Image: Bigstock

Celebrate your introduction to the Northwest’s finest with dinner at Nell’s Restaurant. From the European and American infused menu, savour the mussel and cherry tomato risotto, and tombo tuna with lobster mushroom vinaigrette before lingering over a dessert of Fuji apple crisp and cinnamon ice cream.

As the global home of Starbucks, Seattle’s love affair with coffee is well documented. Whether you would or wouldn’t dream of stepping into a Starbucks back home, a visit to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery & Tasting Room provides an interesting insight into the operation of this global behemoth.

Where to shop in Seattle

Escape the hustle and bustle in Pike Place at sublime Indi Chocolate.

Indulge your skin with chocolate lotions, soaps and balms or sip and bite your way to bliss with chai tea, cacao pods and dark chocolate with ginger. Indi Chocolate is open seven days a week.

Tired of keyrings, mugs and novelty t-shirts? Archie McPhee believes in ‘less talk, more monkey’. Channel your inner chimp with a Dr Spock hairpiece, an existential colouring book or ‘handerpants’ gloves.

Enjoy literature chosen by locals at the Elliott Bay Book Company. The savvy staff are loaded with recommendations that span all genres.

Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide. Image courtesy of Elliott Bay Book Company

Ways to relax in Seattle

Schedule some holiday daydreaming time beneath the oak and maple trees in beautiful Discovery Park.

Stroll the miles of beach, forest, and cliff-side trails as your eyes are drawn to the cool waters of Puget Sound and the hues of the Olympic mountain range soaring into the clouds.

Seattle travel guide
Seattle travel guide: Catch a Seattle Mariners match. Image courtesy of Seattle Times

While Australians tuck into meat pies at Twenty20 cricket matches, Seattle does hot dogs as the Seattle Mariners hit home runs at Safeco Field Baseball Stadium. Dive for baseballs sailing into the stands. If you catch one, it’s yours!

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Do you have any tips to add to our Seattle travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

About the writer

Barry Johnson is a freelance writer living in Sydney, but with a trail of Aussie souvenirs scattered throughout previous homes in Europe, America, Asia and the Middle East. Barry believes travelling is an adventure where the highlights push you on to the next trip and the lowlights can be laughed at with hindsight. Without a passport, he’d have missed getting lost in the Californian forest a week after the Blair Witch Project went viral, building a giant Buddha on a Cambodian mountain, camel racing in an Egyptian desert and teaching English to Peruvian children as they taught him Quechuan — the language of the Incas.


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