Many glacier-gazers heading up to Alaska on a cruise will stop in Seattle either before or after their sailing (or, sometimes both). Situated on Puget Sound and with views of the water and the surrounding islands, this city is known as much for its rugged natural surroundings as its moody weather.
A stop here is always worthwhile, even if you have just a few hours to have lunch or explore the nooks and crannies in Pike Place Market. In fact, for a short stop, we recommend that you relegate your wandering to just one or two adjacent neighborhoods. Seattle sprawls across 84 square miles, and many of them filled with steep hills. Save your sanity — and your feet — by planning ahead.
If you can only visit only one major attraction in Seattle, it should be Pike Place Market. Steeped in turn-of-the-century charm and with enough to keep you busy (and well-fed), it’s one of those tourist attractions that lives up to the hype. Listen to the famous fishmongers shout about the daily catch, admire the endless rows of blooms in the flower market, indulge your radical side at the subversive Left Bank Books, and — our personal favorite — stop at Daily Dozen Donut Company for miniature donuts prepared fresh while you wait.
For an elegant, unstuffy meal without having to venture far, the restaurants associated with the Inn at the Market — a true boutique hotel — are a good place to start. Bacco serves breakfast all day, while Campagne offers unpretentious French café fare all day and night. There’s also a Korean gastropub with such comforting fare as bulgogi sliders, deep-fried oysters, and pork belly kimchi fried rice on the menu. An acclaimed sushi restaurant, Sushi Kashiba, rounds out the offerings.
Just beyond the market on the edge of the Belltown neighborhood is where you’ll find the Thompson Seattle. The brand’s signature sense of minimalist cool pervades the glass-and-steel structure and its new ground-floor restaurant, Conversation, which has flavorful, globally inspired cuisine on the menu alongside suggestions to get the chatter flowing at your table. (Ours included, “Name three celebrities you’d want to meet.”) The foraged mushrooms with pecan chutney were a highlight, as was our dessert — a series of tiny French pastries exquisitely arranged in a glass jewelry box. Be sure to stop by The Nest, the hotel’s rooftop bar, which overlooks Pike Place Market. It's a wonderful place to relax on a warm afternoon or evening.
If you’d like to venture out to the city’s signature attraction, the Space Needle, you’ll need to walk about 20 minutes or take a quick five-minute taxi or ride share. It was fully redesigned and renovated in 2018 and now has much more glass and better, less obstructed views. There’s even a revolving glass floor. Note that the Space Needle’s restaurant was closed as part of the renovation and has yet to reopen. In the immediate vicinity, you’ll also find Chihuly Garden and Glass, a “glasshouse” display of the artist’s work, and the Museum of Pop Culture, which is known as much for its collection of Kurt Cobain’s guitars — some of them reassembled from splinters — as its over-the-top architecture by Frank Gehry.