Seattle is a vibrant city, bursting with history, culture, art, and unique local businesses. There is something for everyone in this ever-changing place. Read on to discover Seattle like a local — get off the tourist track and immerse yourself in the Seattle community.
A brief background: The town of Seattle was founded in 1851 by the Denny Party; a pioneer group that settled at Alki point. They weren’t the first settlers in the area, as it had been inhabited for approximately 4,000 years by native tribal communities. Even George Vancouver (a European explorer) stopped by Seattle as early as 1792! Originally, the area was going to be called New York, but the settlers ended up naming it “Seattle” after a Duwamish Indian chief who was close to the members of the Denny Party.
The city was destroyed in The Great Seattle Fire of 1889. Residents used the fire as an opportunity to rebuild their well-loved city, building on top of the rubble and ashes, using brick and steel to construct safer homes and businesses.
Seattle experienced impressive growth and an economic boom from the timber industry and the Klondike gold rush. World Wars I and II also had a big impact on Seattle, with the Boeing Company manufacturing planes for the wars, and developing into a commercial airline company which still plays a major part in the local economy.
Other Seattle claims to fame include the first gas station in the world (1907), the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix, and the home of Nirvana, the iconic ’90s grunge band. Seattle is also the most literate city in the country and the place where Starbucks, the world’s largest café franchise, was established in the 1970s.
Seattle has many monuments and historical buildings to explore to learn about its rich history. And there is a bustling and spirited local scene packed with great food, coffee, and retail shops, that can give you an intimate glimpse of the modern Seattle lifestyle. Read on to find out more about some of our favorite local hot spots.
Freeman is the brainchild of Scott and Brittany Freeman. They started their company with a sewing machine on the kitchen table of their small apartment. They grew Freeman into a bustling clothing company that is known for high-quality products, designed and produced locally.
If you love ethical products that are made in the USA, visit their brick-and-mortar store at 713 Broadway E. Seattle. You won’t be disappointed! www.freemanseattle.com
Have you got a yearning for a delicate doughy delight? Get your fix at General Porpoise! This highly specialized doughnut shop serves them filled with handmade curds, custards, creams, and jams. If you want a cup of joe with your mouth-watering doughnut, you can also check out their specialized coffee, which is available in drip, pour over, cold brew, and espresso formats.
I loved the combination of a doughnut and a glass from their well-curated Champagne list. Get away from the hustle and bustle and treat yourself to a fantastic break! General Porpoise has locations in the Amazon Spheres, on Capitol Hill, and in Pioneer Square, with more to come in the near future. www.gpdoughnuts.com
Chihuly Garden & Glass
Chihuly Garden and Glass, an exhibit in the Seattle Center, showcases the work of Dale Chihuly (who previously worked at the Venini glass factory in Venice). Exhibitions include eight galleries, a stunning glasshouse installation, and a breathtaking garden filled with sculptures. Located right next to the Space Needle, this just cannot be missed. We found that the art shows best around sunset. It’s a great place for photo ops for your Instagram feed. www.chihulygardenandglass.com
The Suzzallo Library is perhaps the most iconic building on the University of Washington’s beautiful campus. The architects, Charles H. Bebb and Carl F. Gould, created this stunning Collegiate Gothic style building in 1923. It’s as close to a Hogwarts experience as you can get this far from Britain. www.lib.washington.edu
A contemporary and high-end bar in Capitol Hill, Artusi is well known for its specialized cocktails and light fare. It sits snugly adjacent to its famous cousin restaurant Spinasse. Drop in for happy hour and move over to Spinasse as the evening progresses. www.artusibar.com
Seattle Central Library
The modern and stunning Seattle Central Library, designed by famed architect Rem Koolhaas, was completed in 2004. In 2007 the library was voted #108 on the American Institute of Architects list of favorite US structures. Located at 1000 Fourth Avenue, this building is as beautiful inside as it is on the outside. www.spl.org
If you are an avid coffee lover, look no further! Caffé Umbria is a Seattle based artisan coffee roaster with strong Italian roots. The expert baristas and roasters at Caffé Umbria know everything there is to know about coffee. They also sell amazing products such as a cupping room collection of coffee beans and a delicious coffee liqueur! Pop into one of their locations in Pioneer Square, Westlake, and Ballard to see where the magic happens. Bearleader has followed Caffe Umbria’s growth for many years and they are our favorite coffee brand, hands down. Stop in for a taste. We think after a drink you’ll be a convert too! www.caffeumbria.com
Union Station was constructed in 1910 when trains ruled the nation’s transit system. It closed in 1971 and the building lay dormant for almost 30 years. After a major renovation, it now serves as the headquarters of the local transit authority, Sound Transit. This treasure of history and architecture cannot be missed! www.soundtransit.org
Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park is packed full of sculptures from renowned artists like Alexander Calder, Luis Bourgeois, Richard Serra, and Jaume Piensa. Bike or stroll through this award-winning green space in downtown Seattle and get your daily dose of sunshine, art and exercise all at once! The nine-acre sculpture museum, part of the Seattle Art Museum, is free and open year round. In addition to the sculptures, it features native flora, a beautiful beach, and breathtaking views of Elliot Bay and Puget Sound. www.seattleartmuseum.org
This Capitol Hill apothecary is unique, offering a diverse array of products for the home, body and kitchen. Sugar Pill is owned by homeopath Karyn Schwartz, who brings together the old and new worlds in a vintage setting, offering innovative and contemporary products. Visit the store and browse Karyn’s inspiring and exclusive selection for your health, and gifts for friends at home. www.sugarpillseattle.com
Rachels Ginger Beer
Well-known for crafting high quality and locally produced beverages, Rachel’s Ginger Beer is a community staple. Sourcing their produce from local Seattle farms, you can’t leave Seattle without trying their classic ginger beer. If ginger isn’t your thing, they have a range of seasonal drinks to whet anyone’s appetite. Visit the flagship store at 1530 Post Alley, or check them out at local farmers’ markets! www.rachelsgingerbeer.com
Glasswing is a designer-led clothing store that evokes the Seattle style and ethos. Their flagship store hosts a beautiful range of clothing, furniture, home products, and plants. The back area of the store consists of a shared design office and gallery space. Check out their state-of-the-art and beautiful clothes, accessories and lifestyle objects. www.glasswingshop.com
Founded by Brandi Henderson in 2011, The Pantry is unlike anywhere else on earth! Made up of a team of talented and passionate food lovers, The Pantry offers cooking classes, dinners, and culinary camps for kids, food swaps, potluck suppers, and a cookbook club. They are all about community, good food, family, and friends. Check out their website for what’s happening during your visit. Their classes are unique, heartwarming experiences and a great opportunity to rub shoulders with some locals. www.thepantryseattle.com
These are just a few of the many interesting attractions to experience in Seattle. The “Jet City” has much to offer: music, food, culture, history, nightlife, and the natural beauty surrounding it all. To find a more extensive list of wonderful places to eat, check out our “Eat Seattle” story. And if you want to discover the rich history of Japanese Americans in Seattle’s development, read our story “Finding Japan in Seattle”.
For opening hours and directions follow the links below:
Photography and story by Daniela Stallinger
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