Seattle: Sparkling Jewel of the Pacific Northwest
The Emerald City offers so much more than spectacular natural beauty, lively entertainment, funky neighborhoods, delicious food and drink, world-renowned architecture, eclectic museums and art galleries, and some big names in business. As if that wasn’t enough.
From the airport, take the 38-minute light rail trip downtown. In town, rent a bicycle, or continue to use light rail. All stations now feature permanent public art.
Exquisite natural beauty
Seattle is replete with high-rise buildings and concrete highways, but it hangs on a hill with Puget Sound to the west and Lake Washington to the east. Across the Sound are the Olympic Mountains, to the east are the Cascades, and to the south is Mt. Rainier, rising 14,411 feet (4,392 meters). It’s hard to find a Seattle view that’s not photo worthy.
The Olmsted brothers, who designed New York’s Central Park, also helped plan Seattle, with 489 parks and 120 miles of trails. So many parks, so little time.
Guides highlight Kerry Park, Discovery Park, Gas Works Park, and the expansive Washington Park Arboretum and Volunteer Park, but Golden Gardens Park is a favorite with locals, especially in warm weather. Stop at Un Bien for a sandwich to eat while you people watch. The picnic area and beach are popular, but less known are the extensive trails on the slopes east of the railroad tracks.
On the waterfront
Downtown Seattle is home to the Seattle Aquarium, the Great Wheel, the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPop) and Pike Place Market, one of the oldest public markets in the country. There, fishmongers throw fish to willing customers, and roving musicians, restaurants, bars, shops, and bakeries share the multi-level space with 100 farm stands and local artisans.
Seattle’s quirky personality is really felt in its unique neighborhoods, each with its own vibe.
Capitol Hill is young and culturally hip. It’s the epicenter of coffee culture, and home to the Grunge movement. Rainbow crosswalks advertise the area’s inclusivity, and The Electric Lady Studio Guitar, memorializing Seattle’s own Jimi Hendrix, attests to the area’s music scene. Volunteer Park, the Conservatory, and the Seattle Asian Art Museum are here, along with mouth-watering food choices and microbreweries like Elysian Brewing or Optimism Brewing Company. The Canon Whiskey and Bitters Emporium has attained cult status as a mecca for spirit lovers with one of the largest whiskey selections in the Western Hemisphere.
The Elliot Bay Book Company ranks among the nation’s finest bookstores, with more than 150,000 titles and Seattle’s first bookstore café. A couple blocks away, you can sample ice cream at Molly Moon or try the vegan ice cream at Frankie & Jo’s. Around the corner, Chophouse Row features small eateries, bars and shops tucked away in a pedestrian alley.
Up Broadway is Espresso Vivace, credited as the birthplace of artisanal coffee culture and latte art. Entertainment venues are scattered throughout the city, but the iconic Crocodile in Belltown is a Seattle institution, hosting bands like Nirvana, Yoko Ono, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., Lizzo, and Billie Eilish in its 30-year history. The venue lost its lease early in 2021, but reopened Dec. 1 a few blocks away with 30,000 square feet of food, drink, arts, and entertainment.
A Nordic touch
The Ballard neighborhood, founded as a Scandinavian fishing and railroad town, is nestled between Shilshole Bay and Salmon Bay. It features more breweries than any neighborhood in the Northwest, a Nordic Museum and The Fisherman’s Terminal, home to hundreds of fishing boats that ply the waters of Alaska. Visit the coffee shop at Shilshole Bay Marina and watch the boats come in under the watchful eye of the Leif Erikson statue.
A must-visit is the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, the busiest in the nation, and the fish ladder, a subterranean room where visitors can watch salmon swimming up the 21-step ladder to their spawning grounds. In late spring-early summer, a nearby great blue heron rookery flutters to life with more than 70 nests.
The Fremont neighborhood is known for the 18-foot stone Fremont Troll under the Aurora Avenue Bridge. He clutches a VW bug, as though snatched from the roadway. Nearby is a 16-foot, cast bronze sculpture of Vladimir Lenin created by Emil Venkov over 10 years. Around the corner is the Fremont Rocket. In 1991, business leaders acquired a circa-1950 Cold War rocket and installed it into urban mythology. The 53-foot rocket, built from military surplus, sits atop a building and bears the Fremont crest and motto, De Libertas Quirkas (Freedom to be Peculiar.)
The International District is a cornucopia of Asian restaurants – Vietnamese, Thai, Korean, Taiwanese, Japanese and Chinese. Stop for a bubble tea while you wander or grab some dim sum at Ping’s Dumpling House, a local favorite.
Grab your city guide to explore the main attractions of this gem, but don’t be afraid the explore on your own. Seattle is chock full of surprises.
Finnair flies to Seattle from Helsinki three times a week starting June 1.