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Seattle city guide
by Christopher Beanland December 29, 2017
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Why go now?
Seattle’s mix of grunge culture, lo-fi living and Pacific Northwest charm is balanced today by its thriving tech scene, which ensures there are always new hotels, bars and restaurants to divert visitors. The city centre is being opened up with a tunnel that will eventually replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct, reducing traffic and creating greener spaces and cleaner air.

Get your bearings
Seattle has an odd setting, scrunched into a finger of land running north to south with Lake Washington to the east and the Puget Sound to the west. The city centre is compact and walkable but the suburbs stretch 10 miles south to Seattle-Tacoma.

Take a view
Ride the famous 1960s monorail from the downtown station at Westlake Centre up to Seattle Centre. The Seattle Centre was the site of a World’s Fair in 1962 and is manna for vintage junkies, with all sorts of cool retro architecture from the Mad Men era. The first thing you’ll want to do is take a photo of the Space Needle, Seattle’s bona fide icon. It graced the titles of TV sitcom Frasier and is the symbol of the city. From the top you can get a great view across town (assuming it’s not foggy, which it often is). Open 9am-9.30pm Friday to Sunday, 9am-10.30pm on Saturdays.

Take a hike
Imagine yourself describing a curve running from north-west to south-east and you can take in a lot of Seattle’s highlights in one easy morning walk. Venture off down 4th and you’ll soon be strolling through historic Belltown. After about eight blocks, on the corner of 4th and Virginia, you’ll find the famous Sub Pop Records, which defined Seattle in the 1990s as one of the most important cities in the world for rock music. This is where grunge was born, and Sub Pop was the label that released records by bands like Nirvana (incidentally there’s also now a Sub Pop shop at Sea-Tac Airport for cool last-minute souvenirs on the way home). Continue down 4th and turn right on Seneca to see an eccentric Seattle attraction — Freeway Park.

This beautiful brutalist park spanning I-5 was designed by famed architects Lawrence Halprin and Angela Danadjieva in the 1970s. It mixes concrete with flowers and oriental water features, and is where you’ll find picnickers on warmer days. Head south-east on 6th Avenue then take a right on Madison Street; after one block you’ll come to Seattle’s grand Public Library, designed by Rem Koolhaas and opened in 2004.

Lunch on the run
Pike Place Market is more than just a food market — it’s a Seattle legend. Open since 1907, it has featured in numerous films, such as Sleepless in Seattle. There are multitudes of restaurants and places where you can pick up ingredients for a picnic. The fish is especially fresh here.

Window shopping
Follow Pike Street in a north-easterly direction for about 25 minutes and you’ll come to the cool enclave of Capitol Hill, with all kinds of interesting independent boutiques. Don’t miss Seattle favourite Nube — a kind of ethical Urban Outfitters that stocks furniture, gifts, accessories and clothes, all hand-made in the United States.

An aperitif
In Capitol Hill, Melrose Market couldn’t be any more perfect for an afternoon apero. This is the hipster answer to Pike Place Market, with distressed wood everywhere and cool joints serving wine by the glass and modern sharing plates. There are a dozen different vendors and bars inside so you’re spoilt for choice, and hopping from one to another is part of the fun.

Dine with the locals
If the name “King’s Hardware” makes you think of gruff guys in workshirts wrestling bears before breakfast then you’re actually not that far from the truth when it comes to this burger joint and bar in Seattle’s Ballard neighbourhood. There’s definitely a lot of plaid and some backwoods-themed decor. But the main event is the big, juicy burgers, washed down by cool suds from craft brewhouses.

Cultural afternoon
For an afternoon of art, Seattle Art Museum is hard to beat. A relaxing space, it always boasts a series of interesting temporary exhibitions and a permanent collection including pieces by Alexander Calder and Richard Serra.

The Independent

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