Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, Seattle is a city that’s hard not to quickly fall for. The coastal location means plenty of fresh-out-of-the-ocean seafood, not to mention exceptional coffee in every neighborhood. There is also a rich cultural scene that promises never a dull moment. Seattle may have its fair share of rainy days, but there’s plenty to do indoors that will allow you to experience the city to its fullest. Three days is a good amount of time to have an introduction to the city and not feel rushed. Here is a Seattle 3-day itinerary that is filled with well-known and lesser-known sights.
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When is the best time to go to Seattle?
Summer in the Pacific Northwest is perfection, with mild temperatures and the occasional heatwave. The rainy weather is also at a minimum. Autumn is also a nice time to visit, with vibrant fall foliage and cooler temperatures. In the winter, it’s quite rainy and freezing, and there is even the occasional snowfall.
Getting around Seattle
Seattle has a light rail that provides access to Seattle International Airport and the downtown area. It’s not as extensive as other nearby cities like Portland, but there’s also an extensive bus system that you can take all around the city. You don’t really need a car, and can always use ride share programs and public transportation to get everywhere without the hassle of having to worry about parking. There are also inexpensive Washington State ferries that you can hop on to take to nearby islands like Bainbridge.
Pike Place Market
Yes, this spot is quite touristy, but it’s also an essential part of Seattle’s waterfront and should not be missed. There’s a lot to see within the actual market, as well as in the general area. Begin at the produce and seafood stands (famous for flying fish), and then make your way down into the subterranean levels of the market with specitality shops selling everything from Polish pottery to magic tricks. Across the street from the market, you can visit the first Starbucks. The food booths across the market have some delicious offerings including Piroshky Piroshky for their savory and sweet baked goods, Mee Sum Pastry for steamed buns, and Bavarian Meats for grilled meats and every Haribo gummy imaginable.
The Museum of Pop Culture
This museum is one of my favorite spots in Seattle. I love everything from the whimsical architecture by Frank Gehry to the engaging exhibits. So much thought and detail is put into each exhibit and they are all incredibly interactive. Make sure not to miss the Sky Church, a giant room with music videos projected on the wall. Last time I was there, Michael Jackson’s Thriller came on and you could feel the enthusiasm from the crowd as generations of fans watched this 80s classic together. There was even a guy busting out some of the moves at the very front of the crowd.
Nothing is more iconic Seattle then this tower, which offers great aerial views of the city, Puget Sound, and the Olympic mountain range beyond. Your ticket allows you to go to two different levels of observation decks, including a glass floor that actually rotates. There’s also a cafe to grab a cup of coffee, as well as a wine bar to get a drink 500 feet above the ground if you fancy that. The ticket may be pricy, but it’s worth it, especially if you buy it within an attraction package like City Pass.
Chihuly Garden and Glass
Worth a stop by to see the impressive glass art of Dale Chihuly, with eight exhibits, including the main glasshouse and garden. Make sure to double check that the glasshouse is open on their website when you visit, since it can close for private events. If you are planning to go to both the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden, you can get a discounted ticket for both attractions.
Olympic Sculpture Park
If you still have energy, make your way over to this park (about a 10 minute walk from the Space Needle area) that boasts scenic views of Elliot Bay and various sculptures which are owned by the Seattle Art Museum (another museum worth checking out if you’re into art). There are free tours of the park, where you can learn about the park and its art. It’s a great place to watch the sunset, especially on a clear evening.
Spend the morning walking around this beautiful neighborhood, which has an excellent farmers market on Sunday. Grab coffee and a breakfast pastry or two at Cafe Besalu. Afterward, stop by the Ballard Locks and watch the boats transition from the fresh water of Lake Union to the saltwater of Puget Sound. There is also a fish ladder where visitors can watch different types of salmon head out into fresh water throughout the year. Next to the Locks, make sure to stop at the Carl S. English Jr. Botanical Garden that serves as a peaceful getaway from the bustle of city life.
Head over to the other side of Lake Union to Fremont, a neighborhood that unabashedly embraces its eccentric character. The most famous piece of art is the giant Fremont Troll, that lives under the George Washington Memorial Bridge, and is inspired by Scandinavian folklore. Interesting fact: this art piece was part of an effort to rehabilitate the area, which had become a gathering place for drug dealers. Other art in the area includes the Statue of Lenin, brought over from Communist Czechoslovakia.
Theo Chocolate Factory
There’s nothing better than a real life chocolate factory, and this one located in Fremont is an excellent destination for chocolate fans of all ages. Take the tour, which is very informative, where you learn about the production of fair-trade chocolate, as well as tour their facilities. Best of all, there are plenty of free samples. They also have a gift shop where you can continue to sample their unique flavors and bring home some sweet souvenirs if you wish.
Gas Works Park
Located on the old site of the Seattle Gas Light Company, this park has some of the best views of the Seattle skyline across Lake Union. Find a seat on the hill, and watch as the kayakers and sea planes zigzag their way through water and sky. There is a children’s playground, as well as the remains of the gas work structures to explore.
Head out on the water for your final day, and take the ferry to Bainbridge Island, which is a quick, scenic half an hour ferry ride from Seattle. Once you get off the ferry, you’ll find yourself in the town of Winslow, where there’s a main stretch of shops and restaurants. Get lunch from Hitchcock Deli, where they make excellent classics like BLT and egg salad sandwiches. Stop by Mora Iced Creamery, for dessert, where you can choose from flavors like Swiss chocolate and lavender. Afterward, work off your meal with a leisurely bike ride (Classic Cycle is a great spot for rentals) and soak in those stunning island views.
Read next: Where To Eat In Seattle
Where to Stay in Seattle
Staying near the downtown/waterfront area is ideal for visiting Seattle, since you’ll be in walking distance to most of the major sights. Central neighborhoods include, downtown, Bellmont, Queen Anne, and South Lake Union.
Holiday Inn Express & Suites-Seattle City Center
This chain hotel is a great option for those looking for a cheaper lodging option that is centrally located. The Space Needle is an easy walk away, as well as the waterfront. The clean, spacious rooms (including suite options) are ideal for a home away from home. A hot breakfast is included.
Staypineapple at Hotel FIVE
If you want to stay in the middle of it all, this boutique Belltown hotel doesn’t get more central with the waterfront, Space Needle, and Pike Place Market all within walking distance. This quirky hotel chain makes guests feel right at home with pineapple cupcakes and bedding that feels like sleeping on a cloud. A free area shuttle is available.
This mid-range hotel in the Queen Anne neighborhood boast a prime location where main sights like the Space Needle and Museum of Pop Culture are a quick 6-minute walk away. Among the hotel’s amenities are the rooftop terrace, which boasts views of the city skyline and Elliot Bay.