As US cities go, there’s very little to attract the international traveler to Seattle. Bar a love for Grey’s Anatomy, this Washington city never came under my radar, until I moved to Vancouver and consulted a map. With the knowledge that it was less than a three-hour drive and a short stop at US customs away, it seemed impertinent not to visit. Thus, ignoring the pang of pain that only comes with seeing how weak the Canadian dollar is against USD, we set off for the weekend.
We were women on a budget, with roughly just 36 hours at our disposal, but it was enough to fit in as much as you need to see to get a feel of the city.
Pike Place Market
The fact that the first ever Starbucks counts as one of Seattle’s greatest attractions probably tells you all you need to know about this city. Tourists literally queue for the guts of an hour just to get a coffee there. I lack that kind of commitment, so instead I took a poorly focused picture and walked away to seek a caffeine fix elsewhere.
However, the ‘historical’ landmark is located in the heart of Pike Place Market, overlooking Elliot Bay. Anyone at all familiar with Seattle will know this as one of the oldest operating farmers’ markets in the United States. It even makes a brief appearance in Sleepless in Seattle, kind of. This market is cute as a button and you could easily spend a full day there, feeding yourself on the free food samples being handed out by vendors, with entertainment provided by the various buskers dotted around the area. Pike Place is also home to the very gross, yet extremely Instagram-worthy Gum Wall. Literally a brick wall covered in used chewing gum, it’s as colourful as it is disgusting.
Some history: A series of unfortunate events on June 6th, 1889 saw a large chunk of Downtown Seattle burn to the ground in what’s known as the Great Seattle Fire. As the city was prone to flooding and all sorts of fun toilet and sewage-related issues, it was decided that the area of Pioneer Square would be rebuilt one-to-two stories higher than before, in the hope that poo flowing through the streets would thus become a thing of the past. As a result, the downtown area is now home to a network of underground passages which the good people at Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour are exploiting for monetary gain. Should you find yourself with time to kill, the funny tour guides and entertaining history makes the $19 of your hard-earned money worth parting with.
For perfect views of the city, the most obvious choice might lead you to drop $22 to travel to the top of Space Needle. However, there is a much prettier, and cheaper (i.e. free) alternative: Kerry Park. The name ‘Park’ is generous here, as really it’s just a strip of an observation point with a tiny patch of grass. However it has the best skyline view of Seattle, which includes the iconic needle, allowing for better photos. Located in the Queen Anne area of the city, it does require some uphill walking to get there, but this only serves as exercise for the calves and fresh air for the mind. Or so we kept telling ourselves as we dragged our weary, hungover bodies on the excursion.
The EMP Museum (read: Experience Music Project Museum) is a pop culture enthusiast/nerd/Indie kid/hypster’s paradise. It includes exhibitions celebrating Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana, who are attributed with putting Seattle and the Pacific North West on the map in terms of the music scene at the latter part of the 20th century. Add to this a a series of other exhibits, including Hello Kitty, it’s undoubtedly the most random and colour-filled museum I’ve visited in recent memory.
Eating & Boozing
Capitol Hill is Seattle’s one-stop nightlife shop. While we found the city to be eerily quiet and devoid of people during the day, it came to life here at night.
There’s no shortage of bars and clubs in the area, however tourists beware: Washington has strict ID laws, and anyone from outside the state is expected to have their passport with them. Being of sound mind and judgement, most of us had left our passports back at the hotel in favour of our less vital age cards or drivers licences, and we were turned away from a few bars as a result. Although our Irish charm did eventually gain us entry into where we hadn’t even realised we wanted to go: The Comet, which played some of the best, cheesiest 90’s tunes you could ever hope to hear.
Should you find yourself in the Pacific North West for an extended period, then certainly, Seattle is worth the visit. While there’s plenty to see, and we could definitely have filled our time had we chosen to stay longer, the 36 hours we spent there proved to be more than enough to see the best it had to offer. However, to my friends across the water, I wouldn’t be placing it high up on your list of priorities in terms of U.S. cities to see.