Wondering where to stay in Seattle? Tucked between Puget Sound, Lake Washington, the Cascade and Olympic Mountains, the rainy city of Seattle has a lot to offer. With a famous music scene known for growing some of America’s most notable artists, world-famous structures like the Space Needle, and a thriving arts and culture trail there’s so much to do in Seattle that it’s difficult to know where to start.
Home of the first Starbucks, a renowned university, the exceptional Pike Market, the largest gay pride festival in the country, and a flourishing food and coffee culture the city has a lot to be proud of and loves to share it. Humbly, of course, because the laid-back vibes here are second to none!
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Where to stay in Seattle [2020 Guide For First Time Visitors] - Contents
Where to stay in Seattle
Seattle is easy to get around and benefits from free public transport in central areas making it extremely convenient for visitors. A vibrant city with enough to keep a visitor busy for weeks and it’s known as the Emerald City for good reason.
A collection of neighbourhoods, no two areas offer the same experience so it’s best to base yourself somewhere fairly central and make your way around as many as possible. It’s a big place, with accommodation options for every kind of traveller, so check out or neighbourhood guide and find the best place for you.
Downtown - Central area with world-class theatre and arts
Why stay in Downtown
Seattle is known for its relaxed atmosphere - even in the downtown area, which is far more bustling than the rest of the city, you'll still get that Seattle laidback way of life. This a perfect hub for sightseeing and getting around to other parts of the city, its encircled by Capitol Hill, Pioneer Square, Queen Anne, and Elliot Bay. It also benefits from being within a fare-free travel zone for the city buses. It's an area of high rises, fantastic shopping (including the famous Pike Place Market, Seattle's top tourist destination), world-class theatre and arts, and views of the waterfront and famous Seattle skyline. You can even visit the original Starbucks. There's a wide range of accommodation here including some of the most luxurious hotels in the city.
Why avoid Downtown
It's a buzzing area which could be a bit busy for anyone looking to enjoy the relaxed Seattle life or anyone looking for the hipster scene that the city is famous for. Most of the major attractions are also in Queen Anne, so if you're not in the city for high-end shopping or theatre then this might not be the area for you. It's also one of the most expensive areas in the city.
Where to stay in Downtown
Seattle Centre - The heart of the city and great for getting around
Why stay in Seattle Centre
Just northwest of the Downtown area, whether you stay here or there you'll be able to enjoy the benefits of the other. With the famous Space Needle marking this are like a spire, you'll always be able to find your way back. With easy access to the areas encircling Downtown and the benefit of the fare-free zone, there's a lot on offer nearby/ Specific to the area you can visit the Experience Music Project museum where you can enjoy works from some of the infamous musical artists from the area like Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. You also have easy access to the Westlake Center shopping mall for all of your shopping needs. If you're looking to be dead centre of the city with easy access to everything, this is it.
Why avoid Seattle Centre
Much like Downtown, it's an expensive and busy area and also lacks some of the character of the rest of the city like the historical and hipster areas.
Where to stay in Seattle Centre
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University District - youthful, energetic area with great food
Why stay in University District
As you might guess, this is the district associated with the University of Washington and is the big uni area of the city just northeast of Downtown. It's got a youthful atmosphere that's totally different from the rest of the city and is hugely multi-cultural with an ever-changing list of events in the area (don't miss the historic Sundance Cinema), bookshops, quirky bars, stores and bohemian cafes. There's also a buzzing foodie scene in the area. There are lots of cycle paths which spread through the neighbourhood and Ravenna Park. This is a perfect area for budget travellers or anyone who enjoys vibrant, energetic areas.
Why avoid in University District
Where to stay in University District
Pioneer Square - Historical area with lots to offer
Why stay in Pioneer Square
If you're looking for a district that has a long and interesting heritage, then Pioneer Square has a lot to offer. Considered the city's first unofficial neighbourhood as it was home to some of the earliest settlers of Seattle. You can even take an underground tour of Pioneer Square and see remnants of structures from 1889 or learn about the Gold Rush at the National Historic Park. The area is well-known for its interesting architecture, being home to the grunge movement when Nirvana and Pearl Jam were getting started (the Central Saloon, Seattle's oldest bar is a great place to visit for music fans). Sports fans will enjoy visiting the CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field and there's more than enough boutique shopping, bistros, trendy bars cafes to make sure you're never looking for something to do. This is definitely an area to get to know everything that makes Seattle what it is today.
Why avoid Pioneer Square
There's a huge nightlife scene here which is known for getting a bit crazy at night which could be a positive depending on what you're looking for. While there's a lot to do Pioneer Square, it also isn't the most convenient area for visiting the major sightseeing spots of the city as it's right on the edge of the downtown area.
Where to stay in Pioneer Square
Capitol Hill - hipster capital full of creativity
Why stay in Capitol Hill
For those looking for the hipster scene that Seattle is legend for then the busy Capitol Hill area is the key area with artisanal cafes and coffee houses, arty shops and independent fashion labels, and thrift stores, and fantastic restaurants. The area is youthful, is famous for its LGBTQ crowd and has a massive music scene including some of the best nightlife in the city, regular gigs, and the Capitol Hill Block Party music festival in the Summer. There's even a Jimi Hendrix statue in the area. If you love art or creative endeavours in general then you'll find lots to do here with galleries, craft and cooking classes, and museums galore including the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Seattle Japanese Garden. You could easily spend every day in this area and no run out of interesting things to get up to.
Why avoid Capitol Hill
It's one of the most populated neighbourhoods in Seattle and is very busy as a result. Apart from the business, this means that parking is almost impossible if you're using a car and accommodation fills up very quickly. Book early and be prepared to use public transport.
Where to stay in Capitol Hill
Queen Anne - Upmarket area with iconic views
Why stay in Queen Anne Hill
A lively area full of wealthy residential buildings, Queen Anne Hill is essentially split into two parts. The lower half which contains most of the contemporary attractions visitors to Seattle are hoping to see like the Space Needle, Seattle Centre, and the Museum of Pop Culture. Conversely, the upper half is filled with historic houses, quaint streets, boutique shopping, and fine dining. You can also head to Kerry Park to catch a fantastic view of the city's iconic skyline. A great transport hub, there's easy access to the monorail and the other attractions in the city.
Why avoid Queen Anne Hill
It's primarily residential and is a bit light on cultural things to do outside of the major tall buildings. It's also quite an expensive area and suited to those who want a quieter, upmarket stay next to the sights that Seattle is famous for.
Where to stay in Queen Anne Hill
Pike Place Market - Bustling market area and Seattle's biggest attraction
Why stay in Pike Place Market
If you'd like to stay in the heart of Seattle's most visited attraction (and 33rd most visited globally) and overlook the beautiful Elliot Bay at the same time, then Pike Market is a great choice. The oldest functional farmer's market attracts over ten million visitors annually and is a vibrant and exciting place to stay. Not just fruit and vegetables, the market is full of family-owned restaurants, crafts, antiques, comic book collections, vintage clothes, antiquarian books - anything you could imagine divided over several levels. You're also close to the downtown area for other things to get up to.
Why avoid Pike Place Market
If you're not particularly interested in spending a lot of time at the market then this might not suit you, there's also a lot of foot traffic since it's so popular. There isn't a big range of accommodation close by so it's best to book early otherwise consider the nearby Downtown or Belltown area.
Where to stay in Pike Place Market
South Lake Union - Calm and techy urban neighbourhood
Why stay in South Lake Union
Seattle's innovation hub, home to many of the biggest technology companies and local businesses. It's an urban neighbourhood that's fast becoming the place to be in Seattle. Full of food trucks, cafes, local restaurants, and bars there's always something new popping up in the area. The Lake Union Park, a waterside museum is a must-visit for those wanting to know about the history of the area and The Centre for Wooden Boats offers fun sailing related activities including some dragon boat carving. This is a great area for people interested in tech or who enjoy wide open waterside spaces separate from the busier areas of the city.
Why avoid South Lake Union
Geared towards business workers, residents, and upmarket visitors this is a very different vibe from many of the more hipster areas of the city or the bustling downtown. The accommodation leans towards the higher end and so do the restaurants and bars. There's also little to do in the area in terms of tourist attractions but does offer a calmer local space for people watching.
Where to stay in South Lake Union
Belltown - trendy, upmarket area with miles of shopping
Why stay in Belltown
Nearby Pike Market, this a trendy and upmarket area is full of wine bars, boutique shopping, tree-lined streets, and cafes. A walkable area with easy access to downtown, you don't need much in the way or public transport if you're staying here. Known to be one of the coolest areas in the city, the nightlife is glamorous and the entertainment and shopping options area endless - particularly on 1st Avenue which is the main attraction in the area offering miles of retail and dining options along the waterfront area. The historic Cinerama Theatre is also very popular. It's a beautiful area which shows off the very best of Seattle.
Why avoid Belltown
The main downside to this area is that caters towards the high-end visitor so budget travellers may find it difficult to get affordable accommodation in this expensive district.
Where to stay in Belltown
Woodinville - Vineyard countryside getaway close to the city
Why stay in Woodinville
If you're not looking to stay in central Seattle and instead are looking for a totally different experience in rolling vineyards than Woodinville might be the perfect getaway. Activities in this area which is located 15 minutes north of Bellvue and half an hour northeast of central Seattle are very different to in the city and involve the areas many wine tasting rooms, hot-air balloon rides, strolling along the river trail, cycling and horseback riding. The ultimate relaxing, luxury experience which is still accessible from central Seattle. Accommodation in the area tends to be quaint and ranges from mid-range to luxury.
Why avoid Woodinville
Mainly if you want to be based near Seattle's attractions or the main city as coming in and out of Woodinville wouldn't be the most convenient place for sightseeing. Accommodation in the area books up fast, particularly in the peak summer season so book early if you'd like to stay here.