There’s more to Seattle aka the ‘Emerald City’ than big tech, rain and the world’s best latte. The birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and Chris Cornell, as well as the original American fresh-roasted coffee bean, this Pacific Northwest city is home to a sleuth of sights. But even with just 24 hours in Seattle, you can get a taste of its culture, nature and fantastic food and drink scene. Just follow our guide on what to do with 24 hours in Seattle. Clue: it’s not sleeping.
Coffee culture at Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is a highlight on any Seattle itinerary. Situated in the city’s downtown area, this 500-stall-strong complex of cafes, restaurants and bars is internationally esteemed for its fish throwing (yes, really) and is home to some of the city’s best food and drink. Coffee purists will most likely baulk at the idea of starting the day with a Starbucks, but Seattle is where the worldwide empire began, so where better to get your first caffeine fix than from the chain’s very first shop directly opposite the market. From there we recommend joining Piroshky Piroshky’s constant queue to grab one of its delicious handmade savoury pastries. In addition to top-notch snacks, the market features plenty of cool shops if you’re up for a bit of morning retail therapy.
Feel the sea breeze at Seattle Waterfront
Nearby, where the city meets the shoreline, you’ll find Seattle Waterfront. By the end of 2024, this 20-acre park will include six playgrounds, a two-way bike path, large-scale art installations, gardens, a beach, event spaces and an elevated walkway connecting the waterfront with Pike Place Market. Today, the whole area centres on a collection of lively piers filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and gondolas overlooking Puget Sound. Take a ride on its whimsical Ferris wheel (wrap up, it gets chilly at the top) and soak in views of the mystical Olympic Mountains.
Image by Zoe Fiji
Clam Chowder by the Shore
Sightseeing is hungry work, especially when the Olympic Sculpture Park and Seattle Aquarium are on the agenda. At Ivar's, an iconic seafood spot and local landmark on Seattle’s historic waterfront, you’ll feel wonderfully satiated after plates of fish and chips and clam chowder. Plus, there’s no better place to feel like Frasier Crane of Frasier or Grey’s Anatomy’s Derek Shepherd than on Pier 54, watching ferries glide across the Sound.
A Birdseye view of the city
You can’t spend 24 hours in Seattle without checking out the city’s most iconic landmark. Located Uptown, the towering Space Needle is Seattle’s number one attraction. A quick ride to the top (41 seconds to be exact) and you’ll find yourself 520ft high gazing at 360-degree panoramas of the city and the surrounding mountains. If you’re peckish head to the Sky City restaurant, which serves a range of hot and cold drinks – not to mention excellent food – as well as The Loupe, the world’s first revolving glass floor observation deck. Visiting on a rainy day? Check out the Seattle Center instead. Home to an excellent collection of art, history, maritime and special interest museums, including the Pacific Science Center, Seattle Children’s Museum and Chihuly Garden & Glass, our top pick has to be the Museum of Pop Culture. Head here for your fill of music history and some immersive pop culture experiences.
Moments of calm in Downtown
Time to zip downtown on the Seattle Center Monorail (you can’t miss it - the track runs right through the museum). Not just a fun mode of transport, the monorail is also one of the city’s major points of interest. The mile-long trip only takes about two minutes, but the bird’s eye views are unforgettable. Back in Downtown, you have a host of sightseeing options. Check out the Seattle Art Museum, whose 35 galleries span everything from ancient Egypt to modern American art, or, make a beeline for the Seattle Central Library. Perhaps the city’s most offbeat tourist attraction, this 11-storey metal and glass structure is striking both inside and out. Before the sun sets, head to Amazon Spheres. Known locally as just ‘The Spheres’, this indoor rainforest provides a peaceful retreat from the busy city streets. There are more than 40,000 plants from every corner of the globe, making it a must-visit if you’re a budding botanist or not.
Shuck some oysters or head to lively Chinatown
Tourists and locals alike wax lyrical about Seattle’s exceptional foodie scene. Restaurants typically source local and organic ingredients, making the dishes equally healthy and delicious. This is especially true when it comes to Seattle’s seafood. Home to some of the best waters for oysters to grow (which explains their popularity), it’s no wonder people describe Seattle’s seafood scene in mouth-watering detail. If fish isn’t your thing, head on over to the city’s Chinatown-International District for steaming bowls of pho or the alleged best dim sum in town at Harbor City Restaurant.
Seattle after dark in Belltown
Thanks to a spot of gentrification, the once down-and-out neighbourhood of Belltown is now jam-packed with trendy restaurants, hip coffee houses, cool boutique shops and craft breweries. Art aficionados will love spotting street art and checking out local galleries in the area, while night owls will enjoy getting to know some of Seattle’s legendary music venues such as The Crocodile, where Nirvana performed in their early days. Enjoy a couple of wines at speakeasy Bathtub Gin & Co. and sip on craft cocktails at swanky Roquette where you can get a last lingering look at the Emerald City before your bed finally beckons.
Header image by Zoe Fiji