Ah, Seattle’s Pike Place Market. One of my favorite places to satisfy a bit of wanderlust. You can visit Greece, Italy, China, Alaska, France and Russia within a few cobblestone blocks of living history.
Just recently a friend who will be visiting Seattle for the first time asked me for my recommendations on the Emerald City. Of course, ‘the market’ was on my must-visit list.
While living in Belltown, about a mile from the market, my husband and I had plenty of opportunities to stroll and savor. I’ll share our favorite way to do the market, although there is really no wrong way to do it, and there are a million variations.
First, a general disclaimer about the market.
It’s the longest continually operating farmer’s market in the U.S., going strong since 1907. As such, modern concepts like lots of clean public restrooms (not to mention ample parking) don’t really exist. There are a few restrooms within the market, but they are tough to find, and often disgusting and/or scary. If you have kids, this is especially important to note. Most people will buy something small at a local business that has a restroom. And don’t expect to walk right into the porcelain palace, either—most require a code or a key.
Here’s how to ready yourself for a trip to the market:
- Have an empty stomach. You’ll want to eat all.the.things.
- Grab some cash. Most vendors take credit cards, but a few, like the flower vendors, only accept cash. And you need that $10 bouquet of tulips, do you not?
- Be prepared to crowd control your kids—hand holding, stroller, baby carrier—whatever works.
- Expect to get a little lost. The exact location of many shops and restaurants can be difficult to pinpoint. In fact, many shops wind underneath the main market arcade, and cool bars are tucked away in alleys, unbeknownst to many. It can’t hurt to ask someone without a selfie stick or a market vendor where the heck you are.
- Get your game face on. It’s go time!
Your trip begins
Walk if you can, or park in the City Target garage on 2nd and Union, and then walk one block west toward Puget Sound to 1st Avenue. This garage is safe, well located, and reasonably priced for an hour or two of touring. Don’t try to park illegally: you will get ticketed and towed.
If you need some caffeine to fuel your jaunt, take a few steps west from the parking garage to Caffe Ladro at 108 Union. They have the absolute best chai tea lattes, in both sweet and spicy varieties. Decisions, decisions.
Deliciousness abounds, and you’re within a block of your starting point.
Try some delectable sushi at Japonessa on the corner of 1st and Union. For something a little different, order the pulpo carpaccio—octopus ceviche, essentially. They have a great happy hour from opening until 6:30 p.m. throughout the restaurant, and also later in the bar.
Across the street you will find the Four Seasons Hotel. Their outdoor plaza has a lovely waterfront view (good photo op!) and you can also take the staircase there directly down to the waterfront. Be sure to grab some sea salt caramels at Fran’s Chocolates at street level.
Walk up the hill on 1st Avenue (due north) toward Pike Street. I like the progression of traveling north through the market. If I turned myself around, I probably wouldn’t be able to find anything again J.
Near First & Pike News (on, you guessed it: 1st and Pike), you can drop into Delaurenti’s specialty food and wine shop. Great fodder for a gourmet picnic or a bottle of local wine. Just remember that whatever you buy you must carry with you, and you’ve only just begun.
Keep following the corridor from the news stand and a few stalls down, your nose will guide you to Daily Dozen Doughnut Company. Hot. Fresh. Mini doughnuts. Need I say more? Well, maybe a few words more. I suggest the mixed bag so you can sample the cinnamon and sugar, plain, chocolate with sprinkles, and powdered sugar donuts (the latter being exceptionally messy). Cash only. The line goes fast and is totally worth it, any time of day.
If your motto is ‘two for tea’, check out the MarketSpice tea shop, kitty corner to Daily Dozen. They sell all manner of loose leaf and bagged tea. The Cinnamon-Orange is a super potent, spicy and sweet tea that would convert even a loyal coffee drinker.
Just around the corner, now going north on Pike, you’ll see (and smell) the flying fish at Pike Place Fish Market. Take a gander, no purchase necessary. You can even have fresh Alaskan salmon shipped home.
Across the well-worn street from the fish guys is the most incredible Greek yogurt you will ever have: Ellenos Real Greek Yogurt. Holy hell, I am telling you, if I had to give up ice cream and replace it with this Greek yogurt for the rest of my days, I would totally do it. Super rich and flavored with fresh local fruits. Just yum.
Now you are at a crossroads. Which side of the market will you traverse first? The covered/indoor side on the west offers dining, stunning views, seafood, flowers, artisan made gifts and clothing, and more. The outdoor/ east side of the street is mostly grab and go food oriented. You honestly can’t go wrong with either.
Eat your heart out
Here are a few of my most beloved eateries in the market. Tough to do in one trip, so plan a return visit.
- Sunny Honey Company at 89 Pike Street. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love nothing more than to suck on a Blackberry Blossom honey straw. For real.
- Mee Sum Pastry at 1526 Pike Place. The veggie or pork hombow (steamed buns) are to die for.
- The Confectional at 1530 Pike Place. Wait for it…mini cheesecake…and chocolate dipped cheesecake on a stick!
- Beecher’s Handmade Cheese at 1600 Pike Place. It’s a treat to watch cheese being made while you wait to gobble your Mariachi Mac and Cheese.
- Le Panier Very French Bakery at 1902 Pike Place. Get your macaron and croissant fix here.
- Piroshky Piroshky Bakery at 1908 Pike Place. You haven’t lived until you’ve enjoyed both a savory and a sweet piroshky.
Did you run out of cash sampling all of these edible delights? Never fear. There is a Chase ATM at the corner of 1st and Pike at the southern starting point of the market, near where everyone locks their bikes, as well as a Wells Fargo ATM across the street from the fish guys. There is another Chase ATM at 1918 Pike Place near the Lisa Harris Gallery. I believe this one is inside the shopping area. Keep your eyes peeled, and you will find the cash.
The tourist trap
So, you may have heard of a little coffee company called Starbucks. Started here, at the market. No biggie. Yes, the original Starbucks at 1912 Pike Street is on the itineraries of many, and thus it is a tourist trap. If you must see it with your own eyes, do only this: listen to the street musicians for a few minutes (tip them!), snap a photo of yourself in front of the coffee shop, and then get out of the way.
It’s a super tiny store, the line is always bananas, and there is nowhere to sit inside. Plus Seattle has the most Starbucks per capita in the country, with a store for every 4,000 people. You can just check out one of the other 103 stores in the city and you will not die. I promise.
Insider tip: the coolest Starbucks of all is on the 40th floor of the Columbia Tower at 701 5th Avenue. Coffee and a view (or an extreme fear of heights)!
The wrap up
Now that you are extremely bloated, highly caffeinated, need to pee, and loaded down with local artisan goods, it’s time to make your way home or back to your hotel. If you are too tired to walk back, there is no shame in cabbing or Uber-ing it. Or you could work off some of those goodies that I made you scarf down. Up to you.
Let’s hear from you
Locals: what are your market faves? Newbies and visitors: is there anything else you would like to know about touring Seattle? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading.