How to Spend the Perfect 24 Hours in Seattle

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Our guide to spending one day in the Pacific Northwest’s Emerald City.

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If you’re not familiar with this Pacific Northwest city, you probably know Seattle for a few things: a really cool music scene, that super-skinny Space Needle, and the “Public Market Center” sign from the iconic Pike Place Market. All of those things certainly make our list of things to do in Seattle, but we’re also going to pack in local hotspots and more of this city’s eclectic culture. Like: oysters, local bites, more oysters, great museums, some beautiful green space, and one bombshell of a waterfront hotel.

You’ll get plenty of walking in, so pack good shoes, but also take note of the city’s transportation system, the Monorail that runs between downtown Seattle and the Seattle Center (home to many attractions that you’ll likely want to check out). Here are our favorite things to do in Seattle, neatly scheduled into a 24-hour itinerary.

Neon Coffee sign near Pike Place Public Market Center, Seattle, WA, USA
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9:00 a.m.: First thing’s first: food. We’re going to situate you close to Pike Place Market, so that you can get in there on the early side, and take you to a spot that’s quite a Seattle institution. Sit for breakfast and coffee at the Athenian Seafood Restaurant and BarSleepless in Seattle fans will recognize this haunt from the movie. Enjoy views of the Puget Sound and the Great Wheel as you try some delicious, locally sourced dishes, like dungeness crab benedict or the market seafood scramble. If you’re not quite ready for a sit-down meal, grab coffee right on Pike Street at Storyville Coffee and a pastry at Piroshky Piroshky Bakery, a Polish bakery that’s been a Pike Place institution since the early ‘90s.

Fruit and veg market stall in Pike Place Market, Seattle, USA
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10 a.m.: After breakfast and some piping-hot Seattle coffee, zip over to Pike Place Market. Because Pike Place Market is known to get extremely crowded, we recommend going before noon to beat the rush. Stay long enough to snap a few photos, maybe buy a snack for later at Beecher’s Handmade Cheese—another iconic Pike Place storefront— and soak up the cool vibes of this historic farmers market that’s been around since 1907, connecting local farmers with Seattle citizens.

11 a.m.: Take a stroll through Olympic Sculpture Park, an incredible part of the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), that is open and free to the public 365 days a year. Located right along the waterfront of Elliot Bay, the nine-acre sculpture park is the city’s largest green space, and home to a wonderful Z-shaped walking path. You’ll have plenty of wonderful photo opportunities, and may even consider biking along the waterfront for optimal views of both the park and the Sound beyond. If you want to check out the other SAM locations, you can head downtown to the Seattle Art Museum (at 1st Ave and Union Street) or over to Volunteer Park for the Asian Art Museum.

USA, Washington State, Seattle, Olympic Sculpture Park, View Of Eagle By Alexander Calder, Olympic Mountains
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12 p.m.: After strolling through the sculpture park, head into the heart of Japantown for a delicious sushi lunch at a local favorite that’s been serving up traditional, family-style Japanese cuisine for over 100 years: Maneki. You’ll feast on sushi within the walls of a historic restaurant that was established in 1904—and you’ll quickly discover the food at Maneki is just as delicious as the history of this restaurant is rich.

1:30 p.m.: Time for a little trip up to Ballard, a delightfully buzzing neighborhood, best reached by car from Maneki. Here you can check out the Nordic Heritage Museum, for a taste of the neighborhood’s Scandinavian roots, and stroll through the beautiful Golden Gardens Park where you can hike to sweeping views of the Sound and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

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Panoramic view across skyline of Seattle, the iconic spire of the Space Needle and the crowded skyscrapers of downtown brightly illuminated against the blue dusk sky, Washington, USA
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4 p.m.: After you get your fill of fun and photos in Ballard, head to Seattle Center, about a 15-minute drive. Seattle Center brings poignant city history and famous Pacific Northwest attractions into one 74-acre gathering space. A center for the arts and civic engagement, at the Seattle Center, you can visit the famous Space Needle, discover the history of the 1962 World’s Fair, see the Pacific Science Center, and check out tons of museums and park spaces.

6:30 p.m.: Finally, it’s time for the oysters. Right across from the Seattle Center, enjoy dinner at Taylor Shellfish Farms (the Queen Anne location) for a true “tide to table” meal. This family operation began farming shellfish in the Puget Sound in 1890, and prides itself on serving some of the best sustainably sourced seafood in the Pacific Northwest. Freshly shucked oysters on the half are just the start of it: you can feast on local seafood chowder, dungeness crab, steamed clams and mussels, and a whole lot more from the surrounding salty waters.

Bosnian Rainbows perform on stage at the Crocodile in Seattle, Washington
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8:30 p.m.: Head back to Belltown to hit up one of the best music venue neighborhoods in the state. Grab a drink and see who’s playing at The Crocodile, a storied music club known since 1991 for hosting the crème de la crème of rock bands—like R.E.M. and Nirvana. If you’re not up for a concert, Belltown is still a great place to hang out after dinner. Close to downtown, exuding the fun yet laid back culture Seattle is known for, Belltown has great bars. Stop in to Navy Strength, an eclectic Tiki Bar, or Mr. Darcy’s an intimate wine and cocktail bar with an impressive array of bottles and innovative cocktails.

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Exterior of the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
Courtesy Four Seasons

Where to Stay

After dinner, drinks, and tunes, check into your hotel, which happens to be right by Pike Place Market: the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle, an American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts property. Make sure to book a room at the hotel in advance so that you can reserve a water-facing room right along the piers. You’ll wake up to sweeping views of the sparkling Elliot Bay, and might even see a seal swimming below.

Alternatively, book a room at the newly open Lotte Hotel Seattle. The hotel began welcoming guests in September 2020 and is recognizable from its gorgeous, stained-glass facade in downtown Seattle. The building itself features historic beaux-arts architecture and a private cocktail lounge for guests. And the downtown Seattle location puts it right near the Space Needle, Seattle Art Museum, and Pioneer Square, among other attractions.

For an Amex Card Member favorite hotel, check into American Express Fine Hotel & Resorts property, Fairmont Olympic Hotel. The Renaissance-inspired building is not far from Pike Place Market and has an on-site oyster bar appropriately called “Shuckers.” You’ll have 450 guest rooms to choose from here, but we’d recommend one of their polished executive suites.