It took centuries for most cities to become the thriving centres they are today. Some cities, despite their potential and glorious past, have succumbed to unlucky historic contingencies or wrong policy-making. A few others have managed to develop into important cities in a short time, and swimmingly re-invented themselves no matter what fate and men had set aside for them. Undoubtedly, Seattle is to be considered an example of the latter.
The prosperity of what is now the largest city of the state of Washington (careful: not the capital) has, let’s say, followed the up-and-down trend of its hilly location. Officially founded in 1851, Seattle owes its first, sudden boom to the lumber industry, and its second, even more dramatic, to the Klondike Gold Rush. By the 1920s Seattle had established itself as an important seaport and industrial centre, but soon afterwards the Great Depression struck the States, and particularly the city itself . WWII infused its economy with new strength, later boosted by the Boeing company (which had its headquarters here). But not for long: the city suffered from a major crisis in the late 60s/early 70s and many of its citizens left. Things started to improve by the early 80s, when a number of tech companies began to settle their headquarters and offices in and around the city.
So what about nowadays? Despite the crisis, the successful mix of technology and service sector has made Seattle’s economy one of the strongest and most versatile in the United States. Its fast development has not been to the detriment of the surrounding environment – to the contrary, Seattle is well-known to be the smartest American city in terms of governmental policies and green economy. The place were Starbucks was founded and Amazon.com’s headquarter is based is, as Hafida points out, “a blend of down-to-earth neighborhoods, cosmopolitan amenities and breathtaking natural beauty”.
What is there to do, see and try in this exciting city on the Pacific Northwest Coast? Here’s a 48 hour itinerary that will lead you through its streets and parks. As a local, of course.
Day 1: 09:00 – 13:00
When waking up in America and thinking about what could satisfy your sweet tooth the most.. what would you go for? Personally, my choice would fall on a slice of pie or a doughnut. Well, maybe just both of them. High 5 Pie comes recommended by our Spotter Rachel not only for its traditional and tasty pies, but also for what they call ‘Pie Fries’ – that is, fried leftovers of dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. On the other hand, Daily Dozen Doughnut Company has a great selection of… doughnuts, DUH!
With a pastry in one hand and an american coffee in the other, walk towards the First Hill neighbourhood, where the Frye Art Museum is. One of the much appreciated cultural institutions in town, the Frye Art Museums welcomes its visitors with often changing, quality exhibitions and a cool museum shop.
Day 1: 13:00 – 19:00
When it comes to sandwiches, Seattle doesn’t lack choices. Still, HoneyHole Sandwiches is probably one of the best venues in town. The menu is huge, the interior is cool, the atmosphere is relaxed. And, most importantly, the sandwiches are impeccable. In case you’re up for more exotic flavours, you can also easily walk to Little Uncle. Since its foundation Seattle has been home to one of the biggest Asian communities in the US, and therefore it boasts quite a number of places offering great Asian food. Little Uncle offers exquisite Pad Thai – a traditional street food dish typical in Thailand – at very convenient prices. If the weather allows for it (Seattle is notorious for being one of the rainiest cities in North America – if not the whole world), you should have your food in one of the many parks and natural areas that enrich the city’s urban fabric. Among the most enjoyable is the Arboretum, part of the bigger Washington Park. Facing Union Bay, the Arboretum features wetlands right by Foster Islands, a Japanese Garden and the famous Azalea Way. At the other side of the city, the Golden Gardens Park is more of a great spot for indulging in outdoor activities, having a barbecue and spending nights with friends in front of a bonfire.
In case you decide to head to the city centre, don’t forget to visit the Pike Place Market – where you’ll also find Golden Age Collectables, one the coolest and oldest comic shops in America – and, if you’re a geo freak, the quirky Metsker Maps. Right near the market this shop offers a wide selection of any kind of map and travel guides.
Day 1: 19:00 – 23:00
Puget Sound, the inlet of the Pacific Ocean besides which Seattle lies, offers some breathtaking panoramic views. No better way to enjoy the marina than by having dinner at Maggie Bluffs, a restaurant well renowned for its burgers. In case you happen to be staying in North Seattle, Frank’s Oyster House is, as the name suggests, a winning spot for its seafood, offered in a snug and welcoming environment.
The southern portion of Capitol Hill district is quite an upcoming area of the city, featuring a number of new venues ideal for some after-dinner drinks. Spreckled and Drake and Knee High Stocking Co. are right next to each other. Both of them are casual and laid-back, but while the first one is more of a neighbourhood bar, the second one is a speakeasy-style bar crafting quality cocktails.
Day 1: 23:00 – …
Just a few block away, the ‘southern’ style Bar Sue manages to find the perfect mix of sophistication and fun to keep things casual and a bit hip. Drinks are absolutely competitively priced, and if you get a bit hungry they are ready to stuff your belly with some bacon grease-based dish. Bar Sue is also well known in town for hosting local DJs – so if you happen to be in Seattle on a Monday, don’t miss out on their Motown Mondays!
Day 2: 09:00 – 13:00
Where to admire Seattle’s distinguishing skyline while walking through nature and historic landmarks? The six-mile long Cheshiahud Lake Union Loop is a path running all around lake Union, in the centre of the city. In case you want to cover it all, stopping here and there to check out the surrounding neighbourhoods and have a bite, the walk might take up the whole day. Among the main sights, the Gasworks Park is probably the most interesting one.
Right on the north-western edge of the loop, the picturesque Cafe Turko has become quite a popular spot in the area. We suggest you sip a Turkish tea while you have your breakfast and check out the items they have for sale (from jewelry to food to small carpets).
Day 2: 13:00 – 19:00
If you still happen to be around the area for lunch, consider Silence Heart Nest. The restaurant was opened by the followers of Indian spiritual leader Sri Chinmoy, and serves vegetarian and vegan dishes in a quiet, mellow setting. At a stone’s throw from Silence Heart Nest, Ophelia’s Books couldn’t care less about the competition with Seattle-based Amazon.com and keeps selling used books at the cheapest prices ever. Tired of the book you’re reading? Here you can find items from a good selection for only $ 1! On the northern edge of lake Union, also along the loop, Westward & Little Gull is a seafood restaurant frequented by locals for its happy hours and its outdoor area, where you can chill, drink and eat while watching the sun set over Seattle.
Day 2: 19:00 – 23:00
Every city has a list of young and celebrated chefs ready to add some spice to the culinary scene. In Seattle Renee Erickson has made a name for herself. Our spotter Munya is a big fan of both her already renowned restaurants, Walrus and the Carpenter and the younger The Whale Wins. This last one, bigger in dimension than its brother, mixes European food traditions with the Northwestern one in a bright, sleek atmosphere. Further north, in a quieter portion of vibrant Ballard neighbourhood, Delancey is one of the best spots for pizza. The restaurant has its ‘waiting room’/spillover bar right next to it, called Essex. Whether you decide to have a drink while waiting to be seated at Delancey, or decide to join the crowd after dinner, Essex makes for the ideal venue for some excellent cocktails.
If you head further south you’ll find The Outlander, a brewery hosted in an old Victorian house. The joint, located in bustling Fremont, provides good music and beers in an unpretentious environment.
Day 2: 23:00 – …
Among other things, Seattle has quite a vibrant music scene going on. You can’t go wrong if you decide to spend your evening, or night, at The Sunset Tavern, a favourite of our Spotter Daniel. Cheap and low key, The Sunset Tavern is the right place to have fun as a local, and listen to some quality garage bands.