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  • lake-washingon-Seattle - Lake Washington hosts boating and water fun during the summer months in Seattle, Washington. 
  • cascade-skyline-Seattle - A  cruise ship waits at the Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal, with the Cascade Mountains seen to the west of the Seattle skyline and Elliott Bay.
  • longshot-pike-place-Seattle - The Pike Place Market area is a great place for people watching any afternoon. 
  • view-kerry-park-Seattle - A nighttime view of the Seattle skyline. 
  • Norwegian-Pearl-Aerial-Seattle - Get a great view of Seattle, one of the U.S. West Coast's most beautiful cities, from Norwegian Pearl.
  • emp-museum-Seattle - The EMP Museum and Space Needle share space on the Seattle Center grounds.
  • flowers-pike-place-Seattle - Sunny summer days can be well spent exploring the many treasures of Pike Place Market. 
  • kayak-lake-union-Seattle - Kayakers enjoy a sunny day on the waters of Lake Union. 
  • gasworks-park-Seattle - Gasworks Park is the perfect location for a picnic, boat watching and a relaxing afternoon by the water. 
  • building-pike-place-Seattle - The area around Pike Place Market offers dining and shopping opportunities.
  • great-wheel-Seattle - The 175-foot-tall Seattle Great Wheel, Elliott Bay’s popular new attraction, fits right in with local restaurants and businesses on the pier. 
  • skyline-needle-Seattle - A clear view of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park. 
  • seattle-skyline.jpg - The skyline of Seattle seen during the sailaway of ms Oosterdam.
  • Seattle-Skyline.jpg - See Seattle, with Mt. Rainier looming in the distance, on a vacation to the Pacific Northwest with American Cruise Lines.
  • seattle-marina.jpg - A pretty marina in Seattle's Elliott Bay.
  • Celebrity-Infinity-Seattle - Celebrity Infinity sails out of Seattle Harbor with Mt. Rainier in the background.

Seattle travel guide: What to do & see

our guide

The vibe

Once known as a West Coast town with less than ideal weather, Seattle has exploded into a bustling powerhouse on the Pacific Rim. The city of Pearl Jam and Frasier Crane has undergone quite a transformation over the last couple of decades. Starbucks and Microsoft have headquarters in the region, bringing jobs and prosperity with them. 

The city itself is full of greenery. It's a perfect town for a walk, as long as it's not raining. Seattle also boasts of one of the more recognizable symbols in the world, the Space Needle, and the view from the top is simply breathtaking. Whether you're visiting the local art museum, drinking its famous coffee or walking around Pike Place Market, there are plenty of activities to entrance visitors of what has been nicknamed as the "Emerald City," whether you're taking in Seattle on its own or visiting as a jumping-off point for an Alaska cruise.

Cruise ships that call on Seattle

Top reasons to go

  • The Space Needle. This iconic landmark defines the city, and features not only a restaurant but breathtaking views.
  • Pike Place Market. This original Famer's Market is best known for its fishmongers tossing fish in the air and catching them.
  • The Seattle Art Museum. This collection offers art from all over the world, as well as beautiful architecture.

Created by an Amazon employee, this 3 1/2-minute drone video — shot with a Phantom 2 and GoPro camera — shows up-close footage of visitors to the Space Needle. Fun fact: the FAA bans model aircrafts above 400 feet and the observation deck of the Space Needle is 520 feet high.

Things to do & see in Seattle

Guided tour

A great way to introduce yourself to Seattle is by taking an organized tour. A bus tour, run by Gray Line Tour (800-426-7532), whisks you around the city in half a day. Longer day tours are also available. You can also choose to view the city by boat, if you're not already tired of sailing. Argosy Cruises (Pier 55, 206-623-1445) offers short tours of every major body of water that surrounds Seattle.

Space Needle/Seattle Center

Of course, any visit to Seattle has to include a stop at the 607-foot tall Space Needle (400 Broad St., 800-937-9582). Whether you go to the SkyCity Restaurant or just to the observation deck, the view from the top is simply priceless. While you're in the Seattle Center, be sure to visit the Pacific Science Center (206-443-2001). There's an IMAX theater and a planetarium inside. Near the University of Washington is the Museum of History and Industry (2700 24th Ave. E., 206-324-1126 ).

Downtown Seattle

This location offers plenty of fun activities. Don't miss the prodigious Seattle Art Museum (100 University St., 206-654-3100). Artwork from all over the world is showcased here, and some might argue that even the building itself is a work of art. Meanwhile, the Seattle Aquarium (Pier 59, 206-386-4300) is home to thousands of fish, seals and otters.

Shopping

The area around Pike Place Market offers dining and shopping opportunities.
Howard Frisk  / Visit SeattleThe area around Pike Place Market offers dining and shopping opportunities.

Pike Place Market (First Avenue at Pike Street, 206-682-7453) is the best place to shop in Seattle. The market has a little of everything, and the eclectic ambience makes for a delightful experience, with fresh seafood, fine wine and more.

Pioneer Square in downtown features a variety of offbeat shops. If you're looking for antiques, Singer Galleries (411 West Galer St., 206-285-0394) has everything from antique porcelain and glass to oil paintings and rugs. Seattle is a city that appreciates the outdoors, and no shop understands that better than REI (222 Yale Ave. N., 206/223-1944). Although the store has become a chain, this flagship location offers shoppers a break... with climbing the sixty-five-foot wall inside.

Nightlife

After hours, Seattle has plenty of options. Theatre buffs will delight at the Seattle Repertory Theater (Bagley Wright Theater, Seattle Center, 155 Mercer St., 206-443-2222). Seattle was the birthplace of the grunge rock movement, and you can find local bands at The Crocodile Café (2200 Second Ave., 206-441-5611) aspiring for Pearl Jam levels of fame. If you'd rather dance the night away, try Fenix Underground (109 S. Washington St., 206-405-4323) in Pioneer Square. If you're just looking for a good place to knock down a couple of cold ones, try the Pyramid Alehouse (1201 First Ave. S., 206-682-3377).

Best bets for dining

Seattle has evolved into a diverse city, and its tastes have evolved as well. There are a variety of international restaurants that have sprung up all over the city, each with an excellent menu and festive atmosphere. One of the most popular cafes in Seattle is Cafe Campagne (1600 Post Alley, 206-728-2233), located in Pike Place Market. 

Central Saloon (207 First Ave. S., 206-622-0209) is a great place to go for some authentic barbecue. For a steak, you'll be hard pressed to top F.X. McRory's (419 Occidental Ave. S., 206-623-4800), and for a great view of Elliot Bay, stop by Anthony's Bell Street Diner and Pier 66 (2201 Alaskan Way, 206-448-6688, ). Seattle also has a growing Asian community, so be sure to swing by a local mom-and-pop restaurant.

Cruiseable friend and marketing executive Joanna Lord, a longtime Seattle resident, recommends Black Bottle "for its amazing wine selection and tapas menu" and Pink Door "for its eclectic style and the back patio overlooking the water."

The 175-foot-tall Seattle Great Wheel, Elliott Bay’s popular new attraction, fits right in with local restaurants and businesses on the pier.
Howard Frisk  / Visit SeattleThe 175-foot-tall Seattle Great Wheel, Elliott Bay’s popular new attraction, fits right in with local restaurants and businesses on the pier.

Best time to go

Summer offers the best weather in Seattle; however, it is also the busiest tourist season. Fall, between September and November, offers lingering summer weather without the overwhelming tourism. Spring can offer some warmer weather, but it can also be rainy, so pack accordingly.

Fun facts

  • Seattle is the most literate city in the United States. It has the most bookstores and libraries per capita, and the most library card holders to check them out.
  • Seattle might be the only city that can claim to be built on top of another city. After the Great Fire of 1889, citizens raised the street level and started over. You can tour parts of old Seattle in the city’s Underground Tour.
  • More people bike to work in Seattle than in any other city in the United States. 

When you arrive

Docking information

Seattle is the main departure city for cruise ships heading toward Alaska or western Canada's fjords. Cruise ships to Seattle may be docked at one of two terminals in the Port of Seattle.

  • Bell Street Pier Cruise Terminal at Pier 66, 2225 Alaskan Way S, near the middle of Seattle's downtown waterfront, serves as home port for Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises. Bus, taxi and shuttle connections are available for transfer of passengers and luggage. For travelers with connecting flights, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is less than 15 miles away.
  • Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Pier 91, 2001 W Garfield St., at the north end of Seattle's downtown waterfront, serves as home port to Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises. Other cruise lines may also use this terminal if the vessel is too large to use the Pier 66 terminal.

Getting around

Taxis are readily available in the city streets of Seattle. You can catch them at designated street stands, at hotels and tourist areas, or flag them down on the street. Buses (206-553-3000, Kings County Transit) provide free transportation in the downtown area during the day. The monorail (206-533-3000, Seattle Monorail) runs from the Westlake Center to the Seattle Center, a two mile route, four times an hour, and is a great way to connect from Sound Transit's Link Light Rail to the Space Needle, Pacific Science Center and more. 

Need to know

Store hours: Stores in Seattle are open typically from 9 am to 9 pm in most urban areas.

Tipping:  A 15% tip on the restaurant/taxi bill is customary. Sometimes a tip is automatically added to your bill; check your credit card slip before adding additional tip.

Safety: Seattle is typically a safe city, but has the same concerns as any big city. It is best not to accept offers from strangers, and to be aware of your surroundings.

Your take

Have you visited Seattle? What was the highlight for you? Have any tips for newcomers? Would love to see your photos and hear about your experience.

Help improve this article! See anything wrong? What did we overlook? Be a co-creator!

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Overheard

“In the summer, Madison Park Beach, just a few miles from downtown on the western shore of Lake Washington, offers some of the city's best people-watching. Get there early to sip an iced Americano and nibble a pastry from nearby Madison Park Bakery.”

Porthole magazine

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