An unmatched city with natural beauty, iconic landmarks, and a unique urban vibe, Seattle is the ideal destination for an extended vacation. No matter your travel style, Seattle holds an impeccable charm that attracts backpackers, couples, and families alike. Learn how to plan your upcoming visit to the Pacific Northwest by discovering Seattle’s hidden gems and can’t-miss attractions.

Arriving in Seattle

Seattle is serviced by Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which is located about 14 miles south of downtown Seattle via I-5. More than 117,000 passengers travel through Sea-Tac each day, many of whom enjoy the convenience of nonstop flights both domestically and internationally. Travelers flying into Seattle will want to consider using the Link Light Rail for quick service to downtown and area hotels. If you’re taking a cruise from Seattle, it takes about 45 minutes to get from the airport to the cruise terminals, so be sure to plan ahead.

Original Starbucks
The original Starbucks, established in 1971.

Grab Breakfast and a Coffee

If there is one thing Seattle is known for, it’s the thriving coffee industry. You never have to go far to find a neighborhood café or specialty roaster, which means you can always be confident you’re getting the best cup of joe!

One of the city’s newcomers is the Royal Drummer Café. Aside from the go-to espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, and mochas, the Royal Drummer also boasts a tempting seasonal showcase. Try the Bellflower drinking chocolate with house-crafted marshmallow or a warming turmeric ginger latte with your choice of milk. The café always offers fresh coconut bread, croissants, and breakfast bars, along with a simple menu consisting of steel-cut oatmeal, quiche, breakfast sandwiches, and toast.

Cat lovers will want to visit Meowtropolitan, Seattle’s first cat café. While the cat lounge doesn’t open until 11 a.m. and requires an appointment, the coffee room serves adorable drinks like “catpuccino” and “meowca.” The baristas use only locally-roasted Herkimer coffee, and there’s a nice selection of teas that you can order hot or iced. It’s a memorable experience you don’t want to miss!

Another newcomer to Seattle’s competitive coffee scene is Craftworks Coffee in Lower Queen Anne, which launched with the aim of being the city’s “ultimate coffee bar.” Craftworks Coffee features a rotating menu from regional microroasters, including their own Nitro Cold Brew Coffee on tap.

One of the best things about the Craftworks Coffee concept is the educational experience. You’re encouraged to learn more about the product and the process, so even if you’re not a regular coffee drinker, the baristas can help you find the perfect cup to start your day.

If you need help getting around Seattle your first morning, download the OneBusAway app with real-time transit info or the WSDOT app with traffic updates. The Seattle app from GPSMYCITY even offers self-guided walking tours to help you explore the city on foot without getting lost.

Head Downtown

The best way to experience Seattle is to head downtown and wander around. If you’re not staying in a downtown accommodation, see if your hotel offers a shuttle to the nearest Link Light Rail Station. Trains run every 7.5 to 15 minutes with downtown stops consisting of International District/Chinatown, Pioneer Square, University Street, and Westlake.

Once in downtown, be sure to explore Pike Place Market. This internationally recognized farmers market encompasses 9 acres of the city’s historic district and attracts 10 million visitors each year. The Market opened in 1907, which makes it one of the oldest continuously operated farmers markets in the country. Discover more than craftspeople, farmers, commercial businesses, and street performers. The sheer size of Pike Place Market can be overwhelming, so set aside plenty of time to stroll amongst the tables and chat with the locals.

You’ll also want to explore Seattle’s Waterfront. Despite the Waterfront’s overpriced restaurants and kitschy tourist shops, the view of the Olympic Mountains across Elliot Bay is unforgettable. The wide sidewalk adjacent to the waterfront is perfect for a morning stroll, plus it takes you right into Olympic Sculpture Park.

Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle.

Stop for Lunch

Exploring Seattle will work up an appetite, so make it a point to slow down and relax for the midday meal.

No Anchor in the historic Belltown neighborhood is a great option for anyone looking for more than the typical lunch café or bistro. A world-class beer bar, No Anchor curates the world’s most standout beer, cocktails, and spirits, but its restaurant is equally unique. Using only local, sustainable produce, No Anchor serves up smoked trout spread, glazed lamb sweetbreads, pan-roasted cauliflower, and fried hen-of-the-woods mushrooms with tempura. You can even splurge on a 10-course meal to sample the entire menu!

Sadly, Seattle lacks in upscale Indian cuisine, which has made Nirmal’s a welcome addition to the local dining scene. For lunch, try a tandoori meat or vegetarian platter with an assortment of food. You can also try a sumptuous five-course meal or order a la carte. Just be sure to leave room for kulfi, the traditional Indian ice cream with cardamom!

Tour the Art Museums

In a city just as renowned for art as it is for coffee, visiting Seattle’s art museums is a must! SAM, the Seattle Art Museum, maintains three major art facilities: the main museum downtown, Olympic Sculpture Park, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), although the latter is currently closed for renovation and won’t reopen until 2019.

The Seattle Art Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday and costs $24.95 for general adult admission. Current exhibits include Art and Life Along the Northwest Coast, Views From Venice, Spencer Finch: The Western Mystery, Big Picture: Art After 1945, and many more. The permanent collection consists of pieces from Ancient America, Africa, Asia, the Mediterranean, and even Aboriginal Australia.

The SAM Shop is also a wonderful place to find uncommon gifts and souvenirs to mark your trip. You’ll find original artwork, jewelry, art books, and home décor inside the gallery shop, which is located on the first floor between University and Union streets.

To see an impressive collection of 19th and 20th-century American, French, and German paintings, head to the Frye Art Museum near Capitol Hill. Unlike SAM, admission to the Frye is always free, making it a great alternative for travelers on a budget. The museum’s founding permanent collection consists of 232 paintings, but more have been added since the Frye opened its doors in 1952. To make the most of your visit, join one of the free one-hour guided tours or reserve a private tour.

Museum of Pop Culture
Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) and the Space Needle.

Shop ’til You Drop

Grab that sustainable shopping bag and go on a shopping spree in trendy, fashionable Seattle.

Foodies should check out Chinatown, which offers row upon row of Asian groceries, cookware, and gift items. Bargain hunters will adore the various outlets around town, including Seattle Premium Outlets, Centralia Outlets, and North Bend Premium Outlets.

Fashionistas should stick to the downtown shops where Tiffany & Co., Nordstrom’s flagship store, Macy’s, and other favorites are standing by. Prefer a boutique shopping experience? Stroll along Ballard Avenue Northwest for the hippest, most fashion-forward clothing around.

Belltown is a great option no matter what you’re looking for. Discover original glass works at the Seattle Glassblowing Studio & Gallery, or browse high-quality clothing at Kuhlman. Sassafras is a one-of-a-kind women’s boutique with handmade items from regional designers, while Singles Going Steady offers a funky vibe with an extensive collection of vinyl.

Enjoy a World-Class Meal

Given Seattle’s foodie scene, it should come as no surprise that award-winning eateries abound. The Whale Wins is just one of these critically-acclaimed restaurants.

A bright and airy cottage-style restaurant, The Whale Wins is the vision of James Beard Award-winning chef Renee Erickson. Since the menu changes daily, you’ll rarely eat the same thing twice, but that’s part of the restaurant’s charm. Recent dinner menus have consisted of clams with kale, cabbage, and cream, roasted halibut with castelvetrano relish, and cote de boeuf with roasted oyster mushrooms. Finish the meal with butter-roasted zucchini bread or roasted medjool dates.

Upper Bar Ferdinand in Capitol Hill’s Chophouse Row is also up for a James Beard Award in 2017. The eatery features simply prepared, dry-aged and cured meats cooked in an open fireplace along with raw, cured, or smoked seafood. Try the grilled clay-pot rice with rainbow trout.

Prefer cheap eats? The Cantonese 663 Bistro is open late and features a massive menu for takeout or delivery. Popular options include the stir-fried General Tao’s chicken, shrimp fried rice, and Kung Pao chicken. They also feature delectable rice soups, congee, curries, and sizzling hot pots.

Catch a Show

No matter when you visit Seattle, there’s always a show scheduled. Check out the Seattle Theatre’s independent guide to current and upcoming shows, including musicals, plays, and ballet. Tony-award-winning hits performed in Seattle include Fun Home, Aladdin, An American in Paris, and The Sound of Music.

High-profile comedians always find their way to Seattle’s comedy club scene. Trevor Noah, Gabriel Iglesias, Eddie Izzard, Jim Gaffigan, and even the cast of Impractical Jokers will perform at the various venues around town this year. Just be sure to book your tickets ahead of time, since shows tend to sell out!

Where to Stay in Seattle

There are countless accommodations in Seattle designed to fit any travel style. Whether you prefer a boutique hotel, luxury accommodations, a budget-friendly hostel, or a private rental, Seattle hotels answer the demand.

No matter where you’re staying, getting from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is easy. Many hotels offer a shuttle service, so consider this perk when booking your accommodation. It never hurts to ask!

There are also great public transportation links around town, including the Link Light Rail. Trains are connected to the airport’s fourth floor at the platform level. Simply follow the signs to the main terminal skybridge. The Link Light Rail runs from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 6 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. Trains arrive every six to 15 minutes depending on when you arrive. If you’re staying in downtown, travel time is approximately a half-hour from the SeaTac airport.

Rental cars, taxis, limos, Lyft, Uber, and Wingz are other transportation options that will get you to your hotel in no time.

Seattle Great Wheel
Seattle Great Wheel on Elliot Bay.

Top Hotels

For luxurious accommodations in the heart of it all, reserve a room at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel. This elegant hotel has been in business since 1924 and has stayed true to its roots, providing a traditional experience with crystal chandeliers and afternoon tea.

A more affordable option is the Moore Hotel, Seattle’s “econo-classic historic hotel.” Situated in a 1907 building in the popular Theater District, this budget accommodation is just a four-minute walk from Pike Place Market. Standard rooms, connecting rooms, and suites are available, but the cheapest option is the Euro room with a shared bathroom in the hall.

Best Hostels

Given the city’s hip, young vibe, there are plenty of Seattle hostels to choose from. Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle is centrally located across from Pike Place Market and boasts a full communal kitchen, free Wi-Fi, and both basic dorms and private rooms. You can also take advantage of the free luggage storage, bike rentals, pub crawls, and walking tours.

City Hostel Seattle is a funky option in Belltown with a focus on art. In fact, local artists have decorated the rooms with paintings, murals, and different themes, making a stay here feel like a tour through an art gallery. City Hostel Seattle even features a Work Trade program that can help you save even more during your travels!

Coolest Private Rentals

Whether you’re traveling with a large group of friends or you’re simply looking for more privacy, a private rental might be right for you. Private rentals are a smart option because you get extra amenities like a self-catering kitchen, laundry facilities, and a homier atmosphere.

Reserve a cozy flat in downtown with lofted ceilings and a private patio, or opt for a spa-like retreat with views of the water. Book a house with a large wooded backyard for the kids or an intimate townhouse for two. The private rental possibilities are endless.

Are you ready to take the trip of a lifetime? Plan and book your Seattle accommodation, transportation, attractions, and tours right here on GoDoTrip.