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 what to see in 24 hours, but we’re also going to help you pack a lot of other stuff in, too. 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 picks for the perfect 24 hours in Seattle.
9:00 a.m.: First things 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 Bar—Sleepless 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.
10:00 a.m.: After breakfast and some piping-hot Seattle coffee, zip over to Pike Place Market. Yes, it’s going to be crowded, and yes, it’s always going to be crowded (the website notes the less-busy times to visit are late fall, winter, and early spring, especially before noon). Stay long enough to snap a few photos, grab a coffee and doughnut at Daily Dozen Doughnut Company, and soak up the cool vibes of this historic farmers market that’s been around since 1907, connecting local farmers with Seattle citizens.
11:00 p.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 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 or over to Volunteer Park for the Asian Art Museum.
12:00 p.m.: After strolling through the sculpture park, you’ll probably work up an appetite. Head into the heart of Japantown for a delicious sushi lunch at a Seattle institution 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 and get sweeping views of the Sound and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
4:00 p.m.: After you get your fill of fun and photos in Ballard, head to Seattle Center, about a 15-minute drive. There is a lot to do here: you can check out 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 Taylor Shellfish Farms (the Queen Anne location) for a true “tide to table” meal. This family farm operation began farming shellfish in the Puget Sound in 1890, and prides itself on providing the city with 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.
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 creme de la creme of rock bands—like R.E.M. and Nirvana.
9:30 p.m.: After dinner, drinks, and tunes, check into your hotel, which happens to be right by Pike Place Market: the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle. 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.