Essential Travel Guide to Seattle [Updated]

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Seattle is a lovely city, surrounded by the beautiful Elliot Bay and Lake Union, with gorgeous mountains towering in the background. As a city, Seattle isn’t overwhelmingly large, or too complicated to tackle in a weekend, but it still has a big city feel and all of the services and excitement you expect.

We’ve put together this essential travel guide to Seattle to help you quickly plan an outstanding Seattle trip, whether you’re going for a weekend, or a week. In this Seattle travel guide, you’ll find the best hotels, things to do in Seattle, restaurants to enjoy, breweries, and more.

✿ Skip directly to the infographic guide.

Seattle skyline

If you love being near the water, you’ll love visiting Seattle. The natural beauty is astounding, and if you are lucky enough to visit on a nice summer day with blue sky, you’ll never want to leave.

» Looking for more Seattle inspiration? Check out guide to 30 Fun Things to Do in Seattle and our overview of Pike Place Market.

Quick. Check these necessities off your prep list!

  • Travel insurance: Roam Right has reliable coverage at a reasonable price. You can search for the insurance you need on their website, and filing claims is easy.
  • The right luggage can make or break your trip. These hard-sided suitcases come in 2 sizes, with spinner wheels and TSA-approved lock.
  • Renting a car? The Rentalcars.com app lets you search and compare offers. Don’t forget to check if you need an International Drivers License.

Check out these top instagrammable spots in Seattle to soak up all the beauty.

Seattle is a large cosmopolitan city, covering around 90 square miles. The city incorporates many smaller communities and historical neighborhoods, like Ballard, Belltown, Capitol Hill, Pike Place Market, Fremont, Greenlake, Pioneer Square, Queen Anne, SoDo and University districts.

While the downtown core is where much of the activity happens for tourists, each of these neighborhoods contains unique and varied attractions. So you’ll want to plan activities in all areas of the city in order to see it all.

When to Visit & Weather Considerations

The Seattle area is known for rain. If you trust the movies, it’s always raining in Seattle. But that’s a bit unfair because the city’s annual rainfall averages less than 40 inches. It’s not a lot. Typically, it will mist or light rain for a bit of the day and then clear up to blue skies in the evening.

Most of the time, the weather in Seattle is a mixed bag. But in the summer, from July through September, it is glorious! Temperatures are hottest during the months of July and August, peaking at around 77°F, only sometimes getting up into the 80s.

If you can visit in the summer, you’ll get the best weather, but the prices will be high. Hotels in the city center can become excessive and it will be cheaper to stay just outside the city on the light rail line.

January is the coldest month, when temperatures during the daytime average 46°F, and it rarely ever snows.

Seattle Ferry System
Seattle Ferry System

What To Do In Seattle

Seattle is an excellent vacation destination, thanks to its notable landmarks and monuments, museums and art galleries, parklands, and recreational activities.

Top attractions include the Boeing Factory, Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, Fisherman’s Terminal, the Smith Tower Observation Deck, and the Seattle Center – which is both a cultural center and popular amusement park constructed for city’s World Fair, which was held in 1962.

Seattle is perhaps best known for its eye-catching Space Needle, which towers around 490 feet high and offers spectacular views.

Popular parklands in the Seattle area include Discovery Park, Freeway Park, Green Lake Park and the Washington Park Arboretum.

On a nice day in Seattle, you can see the sunny sparkling off the water and it draws everyone out to enjoy the plethora of outdoor activities, from kayaking on Lake Union to enjoying a picnic at Gasworks Park or taking a long walk along Elliot Bay at Myrtle Edwards Park.

Another of our favorite things to do in Seattle is exploring the waterfront andpike Pike Place Market, a 9-acre permanent farmers market that’s been around since 1907. You can grab a drink at the original Starbucks location, watch the cheese curds being made at Beecher’s, grab a bouquet of flowers from the stalls, or just wander around taking it all in.

If you want to get outside of Seattle, check out these things to do in the Puget Sound, that are all within day-trip range of Seattle. You can go wine tasting in Woodinville within 30 minutes of Seattle to taste all that great Washington wine.

Carkeek Park in Seattle
Carkeek Park in Seattle (photo CC2.0)

Tours & Day Trips in Seattle

If you want to participate in any tours, it’s always a good idea to pre-book for popular tours. They sell out fast. Here are our favorites:

Top Attractions in Seattle

  • Pike Place Market
  • Space Needle
  • Seattle Center
  • Seattle Art Museum
  • Museum of Pop Culture
  • Seattle Aquarium on the Waterfront
  • Ballard Locks
  • Fremont Troll
  • Gasworks Park & South Lake Union
  • The Great Wheel
The Great Wheel
The Great Wheel

What To Eat In Seattle

That’s not all! Seattle is known for it’s breweries, it’s great restaurants, and lots of food options.

Seattle takes its coffee very seriously and is famous for being the origin of Starbucks, with the first store still in operation at Pike Place Market.

If you’re in the Pike Place Market area, don’t miss a stop at Beecher’s for some of the best local cheese and Rachel’s Ginger Beer for a quick refreshment. Grab a bowl of chowder at Pike Place Chowder. For dinner, make a reservation at The Pink Door or Matt’s in the Market.

If you’re looking for a glass of wine and a break from walking, The Tasting Room is your spot.

The International District is another great place to eat. You’ll find all kinds of Asian cuisines, from Chinese to Vietnamese.

Transportation

One of the most popular ways to travel around the city is on the Metro Transit Buses, which are cheaper outside of peak hours. Renting a car is the easiest transport option so you can get around easily without waiting on buses, but parking can be difficult in the city center.

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport is just a 15 minute ride from the city center. You can take the light rail from the airport directly into the city in about 45 minutes. Or rent a car from the airport and begin your journey.

Pike Place Market in Seattle
Pike Place Market in Seattle

Where to Stay in Seattle

Seattle is the type of city where you need a car to get around if you’re planning to get out of the downtown area at all. If you’re just going to be exploring downtown, you can really easily take the light rail from the airport to anywhere in downtown, and you won’t need a car.

We still highly recommend staying downtown, no matter how you choose to explore the city. Just beware that parking can cost as much as $30-40 a night at area hotels. Here are our recommended Seattle hotels.

  • Crowne Plaza Downtown – this is a nice, affordable luxury hotel that is right in the middle of the action. Very walkable. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor |check prices on Booking.com
  • Hotel Vintage – for a more boutique hotel feel, check out this place. It offers a free wine happy hour every day. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor | check prices on Booking.com
  • Seattle Westin – also in a very good location in downtown, this hotel is lovely inside and there are dozens of restaurant at its base. ⇒ Read reviews on Trip Advisor | check prices on Booking.com

Save time and money with the Seattle CityPass

Essential Travel Guide to Seattle

Updated for 2021

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Seattle space needle
Essential Travel Guide to Seattle [Updated]

4 thoughts on “Essential Travel Guide to Seattle [Updated]

  1. Pingback: 10 Unique Things to Do in the Pacific Northwest | Savored Journeys

  2. Pingback: Guide to Seattle's Pike Place Market + Hotels Near Pike Place Market | Savored Journeys

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