Most people know the capital of Washington State from Starbucks, the TV show Grey’s Anatomy, or the rom-com Sleepless in Seattle. However, the city in the Pacific Northwest has way more to offer than relationship drama and coffee – Seattle is a hidden gem and called the Emerald City for a reason. (Ok, this might also be because of the abundance of lush and green forests in the area.) To prove it, join me for a day full of scenic sights, flying fish, and lots of customizable coffee.
1. Pioneer Square
Our tour begins at Pioneer Square, the historic center of the city. Here, in the birthplace of Seattle, the first settlers put down roots in 1852. In the middle of the square stands an iron pergola that was built in 1909 as a cable car stop. Next to it, the Tlingit Indian Totem Pole reminds visitors of the complicated relationship between American Indians and European Americans. The streets around Pioneer Square are famous for their Renaissance-style buildings, the numerous art galleries, vintage boutiques, and cafés. If you’re a history buff, immerse in the city’s history at the nearby Klondike Gold Rush Museum to learn why the gold rush in the 1890s attracted so many people and made Seattle the metropolis it is today.
2. Waterfall Garden Park
The next stop is Waterfall Garden Park – a 22-foot man-made waterfall in the courtyard of the former UPS headquarters. The park is perfect to relax and let your mind wander: If you close your eyes, the 23,000 liters of water that are pumped through the waterfall make you think you’re surrounded by nothing but nature.
3. Columbia Tower
To get a bird’s eye view of the Emerald City, head over to Columbia Tower’s Sky View Observatory and enjoy the 360-degree panorama from the 73rd floor. Don’t forget to take a few pictures to brag that you were nearly 1000 feet above Seattle ground and stood on the tallest public viewing area west of the Mississippi. To get some much-needed caffeine, without giving up the scenery, of course, visit the Starbucks café on the 40th floor. Cheers!
4. Gum Wall
Snap an #EFMoment or two while passing the Seattle Public Library – a true architectural masterpiece – and the Seattle Great Wheel, a Ferris wheel on the waterfront. Don’t put your camera away because you’ll definitely want to show everyone at home one of the city’s most famous attractions, the Gum Wall. This is exactly what you expect: A wall filled with thousands of chewed chewing gums. It’s a little gross, and to be honest, I didn’t dare to stick my gum in the middle of everyone else’s gum, spit, and slobber. But that’s all part of the experience and the reason why the gum art sticks in people’s memories.
5. Pike Place Market
Only a few steps from the Gum Wall is Pike Market Place, the city’s oldest farmers market. Since 1907, this has been the place for all things fresh and farmy – from veggies to fruit, spices, and fresh fish. It’s the perfect location to grab lunch while watching the fishmongers yell orders and throw the fish before they wrap them for the customers. For some light post-lunch exercise, stroll through the market’s countless booths and stores and visit Rachel, a 250 kg bronze pig, mascot, and piggy bank that raises money for the Market Foundation.
6. Original Starbucks Coffee shop
Theoretically, we’ve already had a Starbucks stop, but the original Starbucks coffee shop right across Pike Place Market is a must. Here, at 1912 Pike Place, is where the story of the world’s largest coffee shop chain began in 1971. The first Starbucks also kept a lot of its original design (including the first, brown logo), so it’s basically coffee-fueled time travel.
7. Through Post Alley to the monorail
Well-hydrated and with coffee in hand, we’ll make our way through narrow Post Alley with all its cute little stores before we continue onto Pine Street until we reach Westlake Center, where we board the monorail. One mile and two minutes later, the monorail, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, is a convenient and fun way to travel from downtown Seattle to Seattle Center. If you’re up for some shopping, make sure you stop by Pacific Place, just across Westlake Center: On 31,000 square meters, you can find everything your little shopping heart desires and your wallet can handle.
8. Chihuly Garden and Glass
Once you arrive at Seattle Center, get your camera ready and visit Chihuly Garden and Glass, right next to the Space Needle. The exhibition opened in 2012 and colorfully showcases Dale Chihuly’s incredible glass sculptures: There are eight galleries, a garden filled with glass flowers, and the exhibit’s centerpiece, the 40-foot tall and 4,5000 square feet big Glasshouse, decorated with a 100-foot sculpture that reminds visitors of a flower garland.
If you’re into contemporary pop culture, check out the EPM Museum of Modern Art, right across from Chihuly Garden and Glass. The museum was designed by Frank O. Gehry and covers all things pop culture – from music to film, literature, and video games and also includes rare artifacts, such as handwritten lyrics, instruments, and photographs from Seattle’s own Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix.
9. Space Needle
We started the day with a breathtaking view, and we’ll end our Tour de Seattle with a beautiful scenery – this time atop the 520-feet tall Space Needle, one of the city’s most famous landmarks. If you’re lucky, you’ll see snow-capped Mount Rainier, an active volcano and the highest mountain in Washington State. Catch a glimpse of Lake Union, the ferries of Elliott Bay, and – if you chose the time of your visit wisely – a spectacular and Instagram-worthy sunset. #EFMoment
10. Tilikum Place
We’ll make the last stop an inspiring one: Not far from the Space Needle, you’ll find Tilikum Place, a small but important square: In its center, there’s a life-size statue of Chief Seattle, chief of the Duwamish and Suquamish tribes, who – according to legend – worked on building relationships with white settlers and gave the city its name.