6 Seattle-Area Neighborhoods You Need to KnowBy Pam Mandel
Seattleites are fiercely loyal to their home neighborhoods. The city’s steep hills and defining water features divide Seattle geographically, while personality adds another level to the contest around which neighborhood is best.
To be fair, each neighborhood has a distinct and unique vibe: historic, professional or funky. Meanwhile, expanding neighborhoods outside the city’s boundaries can’t be bothered with this argument; they’re too busy developing their own character.
Meet a select handful of Seattle city neighborhoods — and a few outer ‘hoods giving them a run for their money.
Pioneer Square lies at the south end of downtown; the brick buildings are some of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture in the United States. Belltown marks the north end, and here, low-rise buildings are turning into high-rise condos seemingly in the blink of an eye.
Pike Place Market is a vibrant presence in this northwest metropolis with a skyline marked by snow-capped peaks, towering evergreens and construction cranes. Here’s a tip: As you enter the market, look up. The mural over the entryway is a tribute to the market’s history; take a minute to acknowledge the people who once worked the market and how it’s changed over time.
Just to your left, you’ll see Rachel, the giant brass pig. Rub her snout for luck and then head north to the newest section of the market, past the Hmong flower stands, piles of gorgeously arranged produce, and a changing lineup of street musicians, for million-dollar views over the Puget Sound.
Queen Anne starts near the Space Needle, that futuristic folly built to celebrate the world’s fair. The Space Needle completed renovation in summer 2018, and now you can take in the views while standing on the new rotating glass floor (not for those afraid of heights).
Once you’re done with the views, visit Chihuly Garden and Glass, a glorious museum devoted to the local artist’s work. At the Armory, you’ll find free cultural events showcasing the city’s diversity and a food court that’s a microcosm of Seattle’s restaurant scene. (The fried chicken sandwich at Skillet is a total winner.)
The city tilts uphill just north of the Needle, and at the top of the hill you’ll find a walkable district with appealing little shops, mixed-use buildings and elegant turn-of-the-century homes.
Mail your postcards from Queen Anne Dispatch, a postal services shop that that is also a boutique selling clothing and accessories. Then fill your belly at Bounty Kitchen with crunchy bright salad bowls or all-day brunch. It’s never too late in the day for a dish of veggie hash.
The troll hunched under the Aurora bridge is a testament to Seattle’s center of weird. To understand Fremont, consider this: In addition to the troll, the neighborhood has a Google campus, a statue of Lenin and a naked bicyclists parade. It’s … complicated, but it’s also really fun.
Fremont is home to arguably the city’s best coffee, Milstead & Co. (fighting words in this caffeine-fueled utopia). With dozens of great bars, Fremont is a perfect night out. Start at the divey yet classic Pacific Inn and then wander, wrapping up at The Barrel Thief, a wine bar/whiskey library with some 300 spirits on the menu.
The neighborhood’s easy access to the Burke-Gilman Trail means this is an ideal spot to take advantage of one of Seattle’s bike-share programs. Do that before you hit the bars.
The high-rises across Lake Washington show just how much Seattle’s sister city, Bellevue, has grown. Downtown Bellevue is a mix of high-tech companies, swank apartment buildings and older street-level businesses. Bellevue is synonymous with “the mall” for many area residents, and with good reason: It’s where you’ll find The Bellevue Collection, a network of shopping centers with luxury brands like Gucci and Louis Vuitton, but also more wallet-friendly options.
All this shopping is hungry work, and if you like Asian or Indian food, you are in luck. Bellevue has so many options, you can select your food by region. Don’t miss Din Tai Fung, a Taiwanese soup dumpling and noodle house. It’s a popular lunch spot for Bellevue’s tech workers, but the line moves fast, and it’s worth the short wait.
You’ll find top-notch Indian places tucked into Bellevue’s strip malls; there’s nothing fancy about Bhojan Express, but their South Indian dosa arrives at your table fresh off the grill.
The Western wear shop in Redmond has been in business for more than 35 years — and it’s only a few blocks away from the Microsoft campus. Hoffman’s Bakery is another old-school Redmond business, a short walk from the city’s brand new public plaza.
Redmond’s traffic has caused some growing pains, but an excellent network of walking and biking trails and an express bus into downtown Seattle make it easy to get around. Redmond’s Marymoor Park, a sprawling playground for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages and abilities, has a climbing wall, a velodrome, miles of trails and the best off-leash dog park in the region.
When they’re touring, Cirque du Soliel pitches their elaborate tents in the park, and the outdoor concert series draws international headliners. Don’t be fooled by Redmond’s suburban newish exterior — there’s a lot to like, and you’ll miss it if you rush through.
A stone’s throw from SeaTac airport, Burien has benefited from Seattle’s booming economy. Folks who who opt to live outside of the city proper are choosing Burien, and great businesses are following.
Burien’s downtown (the neighborhood around 152nd Street) is revitalizing as a result, making the once-sleepy business district lively again. The Electric Train Shop still sells tiny trees to toy train enthusiasts, while a few doors down, Burien Press, a super-hip café, steams up turmeric lattes.
Bakery Nouveau is a block away on 153rd (get the twice-baked almond croissant). And a block or so in the other direction, there’s Smarty Pants Garage, a biker-style bar that looks tough but is very welcoming and serves a solid breakfast on weekends — and well-made cocktails every day.
Burien feels like a Seattle neighborhood that’s managed to hold onto its indie character in spite of the region’s tech boom; that’s a big part of its appeal. Plus, it’s minutes from the airport, so it’s perfectly located for grabbing a meal before you get your flight out of SeaTac.