Downtown Seattle is hard to pin down. At once, it is thoroughly modern, stylish, and cutting-edge, but even as mega-corporations perform their not-so-subtle takeover of the area during the day, there are unlimited opportunities for exploration and adventure at night. One thing is palpable -- the neighborhood is fast-paced, ever-changing, and energizing to all who visit.
In its infancy, Seattle centered around Pioneer Square, but after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, the city’s main business hub moved Downtown. The 1960’s brought on a wave of skyscrapers made of stone and brick (per the new fire codes), which shaped the Seattle skyline. The most iconic buildings include the 76-floor Columbia Tower, historic Smith Tower, and of course, the Space Needle. Today, the Downtown neighborhood is composed of the retail core, Pike Place Market, Denny Triangle, Pioneer Square on the east, Belltown on the west, the International District, and South Lake Union. Each functions as its own micro-city, with attitudes and flavors all their own.
This neighborhood is the perfect intersection between commerce and culture.
Commerce is alive and well in the heart of Seattle. Amazon, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and Facebook all headquarter here. In addition to the hometown giants, the area also hosts many small to medium-sized businesses, and coworking spaces such as WeWork, Thinkspace, and the Riveter have also taken up residence here. During the day, expect to see long lines of business people slipping out to grab lunch at their favorite food truck or eatery. This neighborhood is always innovating, especially as the main tech players expand into more and more real estate. In fact, at 65 cranes, Seattle has taken the nation’s number one spot for number of tower cranes for the third year in a row. If you can bear the traffic and the noise, it is exciting to see the city transforming before your eyes week to week.
If it seems like pedestrians are walking in a hurry, it’s probably because they’re catching their dinner reservations.
Locals tend to stay away from the obvious tourist traps, but that’s only because there’s so much else to explore. We highly recommend visiting Cinque Terre Restorante on Westlake Avenue for a modern take on cuisine from Italy’s Riviera regions. You can’t go wrong with Prosciutto con Burrata as a shared plate, and their infamous squid ink pasta or grilled Mediterranean octopus as the main. Oh, and don’t forget the wine! Parking can be scarce, but with a walk score of 99, a perfect transit score of 100, and a bike score of 76, many opt to leave the car at home anyway.
Fans of art and theater, rejoice! Downtown Seattle is rich with cultural experiences to be had.
You’re sure to find something delightful every night of the week. The Seattle Art Museum, colloquially known as the SAM, has brought many legendary exhibits to Seattleites since its opening in 1933, from Van Gogh in 1959 to Yves Saint Laurent in 2016. For fans of science fiction and contemporary culture, the Museum of Pop Culture is considered a shrine to music, style, and entertainment. The MoPOP has featured a wide variety of exhibits, from “Marvel: Universe of Superheroes” to “Bowie by Mick Rock”, which featured prints and footage from Ziggy Stardust’s own personal photographer. If you would rather sit back and enjoy, here you can find the Seattle Symphony and the Pacific Northwest Ballet, which is said to have the highest attendance rate per capita in the United States. The 5th Avenue Theatre produces iconic musical theater productions while the Seattle Repertory Theatre is the largest nonprofit resident theatre in the PNW. For those seeking a more casual experience, the neighborhood abounds with speakeasies, jazz clubs, and concert venues on nearly every street. Pioneer Square hosts a monthly “First Thursday” Art Walk, where Seattleites can stroll through an entire block of eclectic, experimental art exhibits of all kinds. We recommend the Center on Contemporary Art and the Foster/White Gallery.
For those who get inspired by change, you’ll love downtown Seattle’s growth trajectory.
This neighborhood is amazing as-is, but you’ll love the potential of this space. As part of a multi-year project, the Alaskan Way Viaduct removal will make way for a new community space, Pier 62. The renovated pier will provide stunning views of Elliott Bay, the Olympics, and the Seattle skyline, and host community events, concerts, and public art commissions from local artists. It is also expected to feature a floating dock, to give Seattleites access to the water we love so much. Keep an eye on this space!