It’s always sunny in Seattle.  Just don’t tell the locals.

Rain or shine, the people of Seattle are always finding ways of enjoying themselves! From winter hiking to massive book clubs to craft coffee tastings; Seattle just does things differently.

Besides, even if the sun is actually not shining in Seattle, it’s still beautiful in its own way.

How many towns can match Seattle’s lushness, modernity, trendiness, and epic mountain views? This city simply has so much going for it and it’s not even done growing yet!

This Seattle travel guide is here to convince you that this city should be on the top of your list of must-see places in the United States. Over the course of it, we’re going to discuss the food, the parks, the museums, and even Seattle’s boutique neighborhoods.

seattle travel guide sunrise skyline
The Emerald City at sunset.

Why Visit Seattle?

Seattle is one of those places you shouldn’t skip while visiting the USA. The lush, coastal greenery, progressive people, and incredible mountain views make this PNW metro one of the coolest cities in the country, hands down.

Pike Place Market
Pike Place Market is a can’t-miss attraction.

Parks, unique monuments, delicious fusion food, and plenty of hiking opportunities await travelers who make the effort to visit.

Moody weather is often settled over the city, but every summer, long stretches of magical, sun-filled days descend upon the PNW and make it feel like one of the best places in the country. Located alongside Lake Washington, there’s always something to do in Seattle.

What Are The Major Attractions In Seattle?

olympic sculpture seattle travel guide
You’ll quickly see why the famous Space Needle tops this list!

Seattle has plenty of ways to get off the beaten path, but there are some attractions that you just shouldn’t miss, no matter what you prefer.

These are some of the best places to visit in Seattle that are worth visiting while in The Emerald City:

  1. Space Needle
  2. Pike Place Market
  3. Seattle Center
  4. Fremont
  5. Pioneer Square

How Long Should You Spend in Seattle?

You can definitely get a feel for Seattle with a 3-day itinerary. This will ensure you see the top sights the city has to offer, and perhaps an offbeat sight or two.

If you have more time on your hands, a 5-day travel plan would ensure you’d get to squeeze in a few fantastic Seattle day trips while you’re in town.

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What is this forgotten essential of the backpacker-life? SPOILERS! Guess you’ll just have to click the button to find out. 😉

Find Out What It Is!

A Sample 3-Day Itinerary for Seattle

The following is a sample 3-day Seattle itinerary. Most of the top destinations mentioned in this Seattle travel guide are covered in this section.

Day 1: Downtown and Waterfront

Day 1 in Seattle
1.Pike Place Market, 2.Gum Wall, 3.Seattle Art Museum, 4.Central Library, 5.Freeway Park, 6.Great Wheel, 7.Pier 55, 8.Pioneer Square, 9.Columbia Center

Let’s start out in one of the most visited places in Seattle: Pike Place Market. This market has gained a lot of attention over the years for its size and importance to local purveyors. As touristy as it is, Pike Place Market really is ground zero for everything culinary in Seattle.

Let’s make for the Seattle Waterfront next. Along the way, stop by the iconic Gum Wall, which recently got a scrubbing and the Seattle Art Museum.

Slightly off the beaten path are two of the more unique sites in Seattle: the Central Library and Freeway Park. Both are designed in ultra-modern fashion and make for great photographic settings.

Arriving at the Waterfront, see both the Great Wheel, and Pier 55. Wander a bit around here before moving on.

We end our day at Seattle’s most magnetic public space, Pioneer Square. Most everyone ends up visiting this central area either to people watch, shop, or take part in the Underground tours. Your real nightcap will be at the Columbia Center which offers one of the best viewing platforms in the city.

Day 2: Belltown and Seattle Center

Day 2 in Seattle
1.5 Point Cafe, 2.Seattle Spheres, 3.Seattle Center, 4.Kerry Park

Let’s pick up the 2nd day of our Seattle travel guide at the north end of Pike Place Market in Belltown. Belltown is the poster child for Seattle’s rampant urban renewal – this was once a seedy neighborhood filled with artist’s haunts and squats but is now one of the trendiest parts of the city.

Swing by some of the neighborhood staples like the 5-Point Cafe, and the futuristic new addition the Seattle Spheres.

Let’s move on to the Seattle Center where we’ll find many of the city’s most iconic points of interest. The Seattle Center was originally developed to host the 1962 World’s Fair and many of the landmarks here, like the Space Needle and Monorail, were built as exhibitions.

One could easily spend the entire day wandering around and visiting these attractions, but, alas, we must continue.

We’re going to finish the day by making the steep-ish walk up to Kerry Park. We’ll be passing through one of Seattle’s most affluent neighborhoods, Queen Anne Hill, and will spot many opulent homes. If the weather is clear when we arrive at Kerry Park, you’ll have astounding views of Seattle’s skyline and the mighty Mt. Rainier in the distance.

Day 3: Capitol Hill, University, and Fremont

Day 3 in Seattle
1.Lake Union, 2.MOHAI, 3.Volunteer Park, 4.University of Washington, 5.Blue Moon Tavern, 6.Fremont Troll, 7.Gas Works Park

We start today on the shores of South Lake Union. Here, we’ll find lots of rowers and captains hitting the water, as well as the MOHAI.

The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) is dedicated to the history and founding of Seattle and has a fairly comprehensive collection of items, from First Nation artifacts to neon Rainier Beer signs.

From Lake Union, head east to the Capitol Hill neighborhood, which was once touted as the counterculture hub of the city. While the district is a bit watered-down these days, having been “discovered” long ago, it’s still interesting to walk through.

Turning north, we make for Volunteer Park, which hosts the Asian Art Museum, Seattle Conservatory, and the grave of Bruce Lee. There’s also a water tower in the park that affords some pretty sweet views of the city.

Beyond Volunteer and across the Portage Bay are the University and Fremont districts.

The University neighborhood is home to the gorgeous University of Washington, which has a number of centers that tourists can visit, like the Mary Gates Hall, Henry Art Gallery, and Meany Hall. Take a break at one of the most unique places in Seattle, the Blue Moon Tavern.

Fremont is kind of the new hangout for alternative types although it’s quickly getting swept up in gentrification. The two most notable attractions here are the Fremont Troll and Gas Works Park. Both are fine examples of Seattle’s quirky nature.

Spending More Time in Seattle?

Got more time on your hands? The Emerald City has a lot more to offer than just its top attractions. Check out some of these lesser-known activities when backpacking Seattle:

seattle travel guide boardwalk
  • See Mt. Rainier: Seattle is located very close to one of the most iconic mountains in the country–and there are plenty of hikes around it! You can get up and close and personal with this giant on a day trip from Seattle.
  • Spend a Day in Discovery Park: An ideal summer day in Seattle would involve a swim and a picnic in this fantastic park.
  • Visit the Starbucks Headquarters: Starbucks was founded in Seattle after all! Here you can see how this incredibly popular coffee brand is made and taste some too!
  • Check out Olympic Sculpture Park: This award-winning park on the Seattle waterfront features 9 acres of outdoor sculptures.
  • Explore the Museum of Pop Culture: Locally known as the MoPOP, this unique museum showcases iconic moments in TV, rock ‘n’ roll, science fiction, and more.
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Top 10 Seattle Things to Do

There’s plenty to see in this city, but let’s narrow it down a bit to start. Here are the absolute best things to do in Seattle:

1. Visit the Museum of Flight

The Museum of Flight is one of the most impressive collections of aircraft in the world. The experience of walking through such a massive space is awesome enough but to fit so many aircraft in here is really amazing.

2. Browse in Pike Place Market

pike place market during the afternoon seattle travel guide
Allow yourself to eat everything just for a day.

It’s pretty touristy but Pike Place Market is still a must-see place in Seattle. Drop by here to sample wares from all sorts of local vendors and to catch a street performance in the meanwhile.

3. See the hidden side of Seattle

There are tons of unique things to do in Seattle from visiting the singing Sound Garden to seeing local art in Canton Alley. In particular, the southern districts of SODO, Georgetown, and Beacon Hill hide some of the best-kept secrets in Seattle, like the Living Computers Museum, Kubota Park, and Seward Park.

4. Go to a sports match

Seattle sports fans are notoriously passionate. Who else could love a team like the Mariners for as long as these people have? (Griffey – you were a king.) Attend a local game for a chance to a very different side of Seattlites. Just be careful around those Seahawks and Sounders fans.

century link stadium seattle travel guide
Photo: ArtBrom (Flickr)

5. Attend a music show or festival

No Seattle travel guide would be complete without suggesting that you attend a live music show. Seattle has one of the most repsected musical cultures in the entire nation and you can see just about everything here from punk to hip-hop to trance to jungle.

6. Learn about Asian communities

From the many gardens, cultural icons, and centers like the Wing Luke Museum, Seattle has one of the most significant Asian diasporas in the world.

Aside from contributing greatly to the local prosperity, the Asian community provides some of the best places to eat in Seattle as well. Chinatown and the dim sum restaurants are not be missed.

asian pavilion seattle travel guide

7. Visit the Fremont Troll

It’s no longer one of the best-kept secrets of Seattle, but the Fremont Troll is still one of the most admired landmarks in the city. Besides, what kind of chance would a colossal statue have, anyway?

8. Catch some views at a park

Seattle is one of the most beautiful cities in the world because of its parks. Spending an afternoon in one of the city’s many green spaces, like Discovery, Kerry, and Jose Rizal, is a great use of your time and you’re sure to get lots of great photos.

Of course, all of these are totally free as well, which make them a great way of doing Seattle on the cheap.

gas park seattle travel guide

9. Get in where you fit in

The best way to explore the many neighborhoods of Seattle is on foot. Spread throughout this city are dozens of little cultural microcosms and each has its own flair and flavor.

While the town is certainly not as diverse as the likes of Los Angeles and Chicago, it still manages to be dynamic and interesting enough.

10. Take the ferry

Seattle is one of many communities in Puget Sound. Spread throughout this maritime region are dozen of little quaint communities. Use the local ferry and take a day trip from Seattle to the likes of Bainbridge Island, West Seattle’s Alki Beach, and more.

seattle travel guide sunset
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My missus travels with all her clothes in ziplock bags: don’t be like my missus. UP YOUR PACKING GAME!

Packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise its volume too so you can pack MORE.

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Where to Stay in Seattle (on a Budget)

Seattle is not lacking in accommodation! Spread throughout this city is a whole assortment of hotels, hostels, apartments, and other alternative means that are sure to keep you snug as a bug in a rug for the night.

seattle travel guide neighborhood guide
This city sure isn’t lacking in admirable architecture.

I’ll gloss over staying in hotels in Seattle because, if you’ve read any of my articles, you’ll know that I am generally unenthusiastic about these. Most are too expensive, too drab, and too impersonal to be worth attention and there are usually better options elsewhere. Seattle VRBO listings are worth checking out if you want something a little different.

Airbnb is usually my go-to choice when it comes to where to stay in Seattle because they are usually cheaper, more interesting, and far more charming than any hotel. Over the years, I’ve seen some pretty interesting Airbnb options in Seattle, apartments in Seattle are certainly no slouch when it comes to eccentricity.

For those looking to visit Seattle on the cheap, hostels will be your best bet. Granted, American hostels can be a little weird sometimes but, in this city at least, this may be a positive note. Most of Seattle’s hostels are of good quality and are located in the best neighborhoods of Seattle.

If you really, really want to save money, then consider staying at an urban campground. Most of the campgrounds are a bit outside of Seattle, so you’ll probably need a rental car to reach the city or the nearest public transport. Be sure to bring your own tent!

The Best Places to Stay in Seattle

If you’re wondering where to stay in Seattle, get some accommodation inspo from these great listings:

FIRST TIME IN SEATTLE
Queen Anne, Seattle
FIRST TIME IN SEATTLE

Queen Anne

Queen Anne is a haven for sightseers and culture vultures. This centrally located neighbourhood is home to Seattle’s most iconic landmarks and attractions and one of the best places to stay in Seattle for first-timers.

ON A BUDGET
Belltown, Seattle
ON A BUDGET

Belltown

Surprisingly, Belltown is also our recommendation for where to stay if you’re balling on a budget. Tucked between the vintage shops and chic coffee houses are a good selection of backpacker hostels and affordable boutique hotels.

NIGHTLIFE
Pioneer Square, Seattle
NIGHTLIFE

Pioneer Square

South of downtown Seattle’s central business district is Pioneer Square. The oldest neighbourhoods in the city, Pioneer Square seamlessly combines contemporary life with Seattle’s rich history and is the best area to stay in Seattle for party animals.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Capitol Hill, Seattle
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is far and away the coolest neighbourhood and best area to stay in Seattle. Located north of Downtown, this central district boasts a diverse, young and friendly atmosphere. It’s where you can find incredible shopping and very fun nights out.

FOR FAMILIES
Downtown/Waterfront, Seattle
FOR FAMILIES

Waterfront

The Downtown/Waterfront District is the heart, soul and centre of Seattle. It is where you’ll find world-renowned landmarks, including Pike Place Market, and is our recommendation for where to stay for families.

Seattle Travel Costs

Seattle is no longer that sleepy little logger town – it is now a bustling, active, and increasingly expensive metropolis and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. It is still possible to do Seattle cheaply but you’re going to need some pretty nifty moves, ninja…

Luckily, you have us, your friendly neighborhood Broke Backpacker! We are constantly looking for ways to save while traveling and, over the years, have gotten pretty good at it.

Granted, we certainly won’t be traveling to the Emerald City on a shoestring budget, like we usually do, but I certainly have a few Seattle travel tips up my sleeve to make things easier for you.

Seattle is not the prohibitively expensive destination that the likes of San Francisco and New York are. Visiting Seattle can still be cheap but only if you follow our advice.

A lower daily budget for Seattle would be around $60-80. This will get you a dorm bed, grocery money, bus tickets, and some extra spending money to enjoy the city.

Deciding on where to stay in Seattle can be tricky. Hostels in Seattle are kind of expensive, so if you’re traveling in a group then definitely use Airbnb. Those with a car can use campgrounds outside of the city but they’ll have a long commute ahead of themselves.

Dining, as you’d expect, is pretty costly in the central districts of Seattle. Thankfully, there are still little diners and dive bars around the city that offer decent wares for a good price, and, honestly, even mediocre drink and food in Seattle is better than what half the USA provides.

A Daily Budget in Seattle

Below is a breakdown of a daily budget in Seattle including the average costs of each expense:

Seattle City Guide Daily Budget
ExpenseBroke BackpackerFrugal TravelerCreature of Comfort
Accommodation$0-$35$35-$200$200+
Transport$0-$10$10-$25$25+
Food$15-$20$20-$40$40+
Nightlife$0-$25$25-$40$40+
Activities$0-$20$20-$40$40+
Total Per Day$15-$110$110-$345$345+

A Few Free Things to Do in Seattle

If you’re looking to save some extra cash, then try doing one of these free things in Seattle while visiting!

seattle travel guide museums
  • Festivals – There’s always an event going down in Seattle and many of them are free! Be sure to check out the Festival series of cultural celebrations at the Seattle Center: Winterfest, the Parade of Boats at Ballard Locks, Movies on the Mural, and the Folklife Festival.
  • Sailing – Every Sunday morning, the Center for Wooden Boats organizes free sailing tours on Lake Union! Get here early as skippers are limited and boats fill up quickly.
  • Museums – There are lots of museums around Seattle that offer free admission! The Frye Art Museum is free every day of the week. Those interested in glass artwork should download the STQRY app, which takes users on a free audio tour of the works of Dale Chihuly in the Tacoma Arts District.
  • Works in Progress – Every first and third Monday of the month, there is a large open-mic night at the Hugo House. Here, people share their prose and poetry, but fair warning – some submissions may be naughty or NSFW 😉
  • Art Walks – Several Seattle neighborhoods allocate one day a month to allow public access to local art galleries. Each neighborhood does this on a different day. For example, Capitol Hill art walks are on the second Thursday, Georgetown’s are on the second Saturday, and Tacoma’s are first/third Thursday. Participating in one of these events is definitely one of the best things to do in Seattle in the summer.
  • Silent Reading Party – Every first Wednesday, the Sorrento Hotel turns its elegant Fireside Room into a giant reading space. Attendees lounge on fine leather couches and are soothed into a state of relaxation by ambient live music. Pick up a book from our Seattle reading list and join in.

Top Travel Tips – Seattle On A Budget

It’s easy to spend without thinking, and even easier to go broke. If you want to visit Seattle on a budget, then you’ll have to be strict with your spending habits.

For your benefit, I’ve created a list of tips that will help limit expenses. Follow the words of advice in this Seattle travel guide, and you’ll that the city can be affordable.

paddle board seattle travel guide
  1. Shop at Asian markets – These markets are primarily aimed at local Asian communities who need special ingredients for their cooking. You can find more than just exotic delicacies at these markets though and many of the usual ingredients – i.e. veggies, meats, carbs – are dirt cheap actually!
  2. Buy a special pass If you’re planning on seeing a lot of the city, then you may want to invest a City Pass. This card will allow free entry into many entering a lot of Seattle’s must-see places and will even give you special rates for public transport.
  3. Pre-fade and head to dive bars – If you’re going to go out for a wild night, be sure to get buzzed first at home. Buying liquor at a local shop is always cheaper than paying for full-price booze at the bars. Once you’ve hit the streets, head first to the local dives – they always have the best deals in town.
  4. Cook at home as often as possible – One of the most proven ways of saving money for backpackers; buying your own groceries and cooking at home will save you heaps of cash.
  5. Take advantage of happy hour – Happy hour is everyone’s favorite time of day! From around 4-6 pm and sometimes late, lots of bars and restaurants have special drink/food prices. If you must eat out, try and go to during this time.
  6. Use a water bottle – Save money by investing in a good water bottle and then drink from the tap. Seattle’s water is delicious and totally fine to drink.

Why You Should Travel to Seattle with a Water Bottle

Plastic is everywhere, and yes that includes Seattle. So do your part and keep the Big Blue beautiful

You aren’t going to save the world overnight, but you might as well be part of the solution and not the problem. When you travel to some of the world’s most remote places, you come to realize the full extent of the plastic problem. And I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveler.

Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water from the supermarkets either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead and never waste a cent nor a turtle’s life again.

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Best Time To Visit Seattle

Seattle is a part of the Pacific Northwest – a region that has a very distinctive and somewhat notorious climate. Most people imagine Seattle and the PNW to be constantly grey and rainy.

While this feels somewhat the case at times, Seattle is not always doom and gloom. The summers in Seattle are downright gorgeous and there are very few places that can compete with it during this time.

Honestly, it does rain a lot in Seattle, like near constantly for about 4-5 months during the winter.  This weather does have a serious effect on people’s mood if they’re from sunnier places, and many take this for granted when they move here or visit for a long period of time.

If you need the sun, you may want to avoid Seattle from November-March.

weather in seattle travel guide
The Space Needle on a far more pleasant day.

It’s important to point out the nature of rain in Seattle. The city doesn’t receive precipitation in the form of downpours. Instead, rain in Seattle is more of a constant drizzle or misting, which explains why locals always wear raincoats and don’t bother with umbrellas.

The nearby Cascade Mountains receive a shit ton of snow in the winter and there are a lot of great places to go skiing/snowboarding. Check out Mt. Baker or Snoqualmie Pass for winter activities near Seattle.

Contrary to popular belief, Seattle is actually stunning in the summer. From June-September, there are very few overcast days and rain is very sporadic.

With long, languid days, pleasant temperatures, and a plethora of outdoor adventures, I can think of no better time to visit Seattle than summer.

Summer is a very busy time for Seattle. Locals are out and about getting their kicks in before the dreary winters return. During this time, tourism is at its yearly peak. Prices will be higher during this time and congestion may be a problem.

What to Pack for Seattle

Here are a few things you shouldn’t leave off your Seattle travel packing list:

Product
Description
Traipse the CIty in Style!
Osprey Daylite Plus
Traipse the CIty in Style!

Osprey Daylite Plus

Any city slicker needs a SLICK daypack. In general, you can never go wrong with an Osprey pack, but with its array of awesome organisation, durable materials, and a comfy build, the Daylite Plus will make your urban jaunts buttery smooth.

Drink from ANYWHERE
Grayls Geopress Water Bottle
Drink from ANYWHERE

Grayl Geopress Filtered Bottle

Save $$$, save the planet, and save yourself the headache (or tummy ache). Instead of sticking to bottled plastic, buy a Grayl Geopress, drink water no matter the source, and be happy knowing the turtles and fishies thank you (and so do we!). 🙂

Pics or It Didn’t Happen 😉
Pics or It Didn’t Happen 😉

OCLU Action Camera

Wait, it’s cheaper than a GoPro and… better than a GoPro? The OCLU action cam is the cam for budget backpackers that want to immortalise all their wildest adventures – including that time you dropped it off a Himalayan mountain – WITHOUT breaking the bank.

Harness the Sun!
Solgaard Solarbank
Harness the Sun!

Solgaard Solarbank

Resourceful travellers know how to find power outlets anywhere on the road; smart travellers just pack a solar power bank instead. With 4-5 phone cycles per charge and the ability to top up literally anywhere the sun is shining, there’s no reason to ever get lost again!

Don’t Annoy Your Dormies
Don’t Annoy Your Dormies

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

ALL travellers need a headtorch – no exceptions! Even in the hostel dorm, this beauty can save you in a real pinch. If you haven’t got in on the headtorch game, DO. I promise you: you’ll never look back. Or at least if you do, you’ll be able to see what you’re looking at.

Staying Safe in Seattle

Is Seattle safe? At the end of the day, Seattle is a large American city and so suffers from a lot of the same problems that many of its contemporaries do. Violent crime is certainly much lower in Seattle compared to some places in California but is not unheard of.

seattle travel guide safety

Most crime in Seattle is petty or what I call “non-confrontational” i.e. perpetrations that occur without your awareness. Pickpocketing and, in particular, carjackings are the overwhelming forms of offenses here and these can easily be avoided.

Don’t flash expensive accessories or cash in crowded places. Never, ever, ever leave anything in your car – even spare change – as that’s a sure way of getting a window broken and your car rifled through.

Avoid lingering in the City Center at very late hours. Practice these habits, in addition to the usual cautions of travel, and you’ll be just fine when visiting Seattle.

Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll in Seattle

Seattle is known for its progressive nature, and that means you get to enjoy legal marijuana from any of the city’s many dispensaries. That doesn’t mean you can light up on the street though–public consumption does remain illegal.

green weed buds on a hand seattle travel guide
If you have never been into a pot shop, let me tell you. You will be like a kid on Christmas morning.

Alcohol is widely available at any restaurant or bar but, like weed, is only available to those 21 and up. If you plan to partake in any other drug tourism activities while in Seattle, do be careful. While MDMA, cocaine, LSD and more are widely available, they’re all illegal and thus often laced.

Fentanyl poisoning is common, and virtually anything could contain it. Be safe and smart if you plan to party in the city, test it, even if you THINK you know where it’s coming from.

Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting Seattle

Traveling without insurance would be risky so do consider getting good backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure.

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How to Get Into and Around Seattle

Sea-Tac International Airport is the largest in the region and is well-serviced by many foreign airlines and routes. The airport itself is pretty busy and, to many people’s frustration, a bit tedious to navigate.

Sea-Tac is connected to the city via the Link. Travel time 45 minutes to the city center and tickets cost $2.75.

Seattle is quite literally the end of the road in a lot of ways. Being the northernmost major city in the Lower 48, Seattle is often the ultimate destination on a West Coast road trip or a long haul up I-5.

It is not extremely well connected with the rest of the USA but that’s just because it’s so far removed.

wing of an airplane in the clouds traveling to seattle
Grab your plane tickets and off you go!

I-5 is a vital western highway and connects Washington to Oregon – traveling from Portland to Seattle takes approximately 3.5 hours – and then down to Southern California. There are several other interstate highways that lead to Idaho, but these run through Eastern Washington, which has to be one of the most boring regions on the West Coast.

The Canadian border is actually very close to Seattle (2 hours) and one could easily visit Vancouver and Seattle into a single trip.

Mainliner buses ply the major highways frequently every day. Greyhound is still the largest bus company in the region although BoltBus is probably the best overall.

One of my favorite ways of visiting Seattle is via train. Amtrak has two routes that run through Seattle – the Coast Starlight and Cascades; both offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Granted, long-distance train travel is always more expensive in the USA, but the experience is much more positive than the bus.

Getting Around Seattle

Seattle is a lot bigger than many initially anticipate, and getting around the city can be a slightly difficult affair. The problem is that, for a city of its size, Seattle doesn’t have the most effective public transport.

inside of a public bus seattle travel guide
Seattle’s public buses are in pretty good condition, which definitely can’t be said about the entire country.

There is a commuter rail called the Seattle Light Link but it only has one line which connects the University District to Seatac via Downtown. Aside from leaving/returning to the airport, you probably won’t use the Link very much.

Buses are the most ubiquitous form of public transport in Seattle and these are, admittedly, pretty good. There is a massive bus network in the city and you can get just about anywhere using one.

Many popular bus routes have their own lane as well, which helps to dodge traffic during rush hour. Tickets cost $2.75.

The outer regions of Seattle suffer less from congestion and should be easy to figure out at any time of the day. You may want to rely more upon rideshares, like Uber or Lyft, or even carshares, like Car2Go, while visiting the neighborhoods of Beacon Hill, Georgetown, and Fremont, as they’ll be more convenient than the buses.

Seattle is a bike-friendly city and has installed a lot of commuter lanes over the last few years. Biking could be a good way to get around the city if you don’t mind frequent hills, rain, and cold weather.

If you’re planning a trip to Seattle’s surrounding coastal communities in the Puget Sound, like Bainbridge Island, then you’ll most likely end up taking a ferry.

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Working and Volunteering in Seattle

Like most places in the US, working in Seattle is going to be almost impossible if you’re not a US citizen or permanent resident. You would otherwise need a work visa, which is notoriously difficult to obtain. It’s certainly possible to live the digital nomad life in Seattle, though it will be pricey to spend a significant amount of time in this city.

Good news: Volunteering in Seattle IS possible, though I highly recommend you go through a reputable company like Worldpackers.

Worldpackers connects travelers with meaningful volunteer experiences all over the world in exchange for room and board! It’s transparent and review-based, so you’ll know exactly what you’re getting into before you arrive.

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Nightlife in Seattle

As befitting a city of its size and prosperity, Seattle has a vibrant and active nightlife that is hands down the best in the Pacific Northwest. Although it may not be able to topple the likes of New York City, San Francisco, or Chicago, Seattle can still compete.

There are a ton of things to do at night in Seattle that cater to all types of people. In the course of one night, you could grab a craft beer in SODO, drink fancy cocktails in Belltown, and then cut up the dancefloor at Capitol Hill.

Unlike chronically laidback and undermotivated Portland down south, Seattle actually has a really good club and electronic scene, the likes of which attract some very prolific DJs.

More than just techno though, Seattle offers all kinds of live music options, that run the gamut from acoustic to hip-hop to jam bands. Start at local legends like Neumos, The Crocodile, and Nectar Lounge for the best music in Seattle.

Seattle after dark be like.

The most well-known places to party in Seattle are Downtown, Belltown, and Capitol Hill.

Being the most central location, the Downtown/Belltown area is where most of the tourists and out-of-towners go, but you’ll find plenty of young professionals here as well.

Capitol Hill is no longer the hidden gem it used to be, but it still manages to hold onto to its quirkiness and offer a wide range of eccentric bars.

There are plenty more spots to drink outside of these established neighborhoods. As Georgetown and SODO continue to develop, their nightlife scenes grow as well.

Oft-neglected, Beacon Hill has one of the most underrated nightlives in Seattle. Finally, Ballard, although mostly residential, is no slouch either despite being less visited.

Dining in Seattle

We all know that coffee is king in Seattle, but there’s way more to this city than just Starbucks. There is a staggering amount of good food in Seattle from fresh seafood to Asian cuisines to odd food cart fare. There’s so much variety, that choosing to go on a Seattle food tour might be the cheapest way to eat it all.

Ingredients are of the utmost importance in this city (no trend better exemplifies this than “foraging”), and few joints last long if they’re dishing out garbage food.

As a native of the Pacific Northwest, I have to say the local diet is a bit of a mystery. Yes, we have some of the freshest seafood in the country and, yes, we’re probably a little too concerned about where our food comes from.

seattle coffee works sign on a street
Seattle coffee is an experience to behold.
Photo: MarmadukePercy (WikiCommons)

There is a great quest in the PNW for what constitutes the best possible food. We reach out to all doctrines of cooking from Middle Eastern to European to Indigenous for inspiration and sometimes, dare I say, even do a better job.

No example better sums this up than the quality of Asian food in Seattle. Seattle seriously has some of the best Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and whatever that you will find outside of the continent.

People seriously go on missions to find the best dim sum in Seattle, often going mad in the process. For that matter, teriyaki – one of the most timeless “Asian” sauces, ever – was actually invented in Seattle.

There are a million places to eat in Seattle, from the many Dicks Drive-Ins to the ritziest restaurants in Pioneer Square. All of them are worth your attention because, honestly, we just give a few extra shits about what we eat here. Besides, it’s all we have in those terrible winter months.

Cheap Eats in Seattle

Here are some of the best places to fill up on a budget in Seattle:

  • Fuji Bakery: A low-budget bakery offering French-Japanese fusion. One of the best places in Seattle to eat cheap.
  • Mr Gyro’s: Serves up large and delicious platters and sandwiches filled with juicy chicken and/or lamb.
  • Tacos Chuki: Delicious and authentic Mexican food–tacos, quesadillas and burritos–at san unbeatable price.
  • Marination Ma Kai: Fantastic views of West Seattle can be had while dining on cheap, filling Hawaiian-Korean fusion.
  • Xi’An Noodles: A no frills spot for Chinese street food and noodles, with most dishes being under $10.
  • Emerald City Fish and Chips: For the best fried fish (of all kinds) in Seattle, look no further than this low-key carryout favorite.

Getting Off The Beaten Path in Seattle

forested view from a lookout ona. day trip from seattle travel guide
Offbeat views while backpacking Seattle.

Seattle’s main attractions are all definitely worth visiting. Almost anywhere you go in this city is appealing somehow! But if you want to see Seattle beyond the tourist trail, you’re going to have to get off the beaten path a bit!

Here are some worthwhile ideas:

  • O.O. Denny Park: Located in Kirkland, this stretch of forested “beach” is the perfect answer for sunny summer afternoons.
  • Heybrook Lookout: It’s about an hour and half out of Seattle but oh so worth it. The short but step hike leads to an old lookout point above a forest.
  • Waterfall Garden Park: A wonderfully quiet place in Seattle, this is where you can sit in solitude and enjoy the city in peace. The 22 foot waterfall certainly helps with that!

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    FAQs About Visiting Seattle

    Still have a few questions about Seattle? I’ve got answers! Here are a few things to know before you go:

    Final Advice Before Visiting Seattle

    We’ve now reached the end of this Seattle travel guide! I hope you feel a bit more prepared for your trip to the Emerald City. Whether you want to splurge and enjoy the finer parts of Seattle, or you’re trying to visit on a backpacker’s budget, it’s all possible here.

    While sunny days may be far and few between, when the sun shines in Seattle, really shines.The city has a thriving culinary scene that could give anywhere in the USA a run for its money, and a unique landscape very different from other cities in the country.

    Now you just need to book your accommodation and narrow down your bucket list. The magic of Seattle awaits!

    drone view of seattle space needle seattle travel guide
    THIS is why you go to Seattle.

    Updated June 2022 by Samantha Shea


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