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Without a doubt, Seattle is the cultural hub of the Pacific Northwest.
The hills of Seattle are alive with the sound of music, the sights of art and nature, and the smell of freshly roasted coffee. The recognizable skyline is etched in the minds of millions, with the Space Needle as its defining centerpiece.
This is where the likes of Starbucks and Amazon started as small ideas, where grunge music was born, and where when it rains, it pours.
Seattle is a gem of a city, and there are plenty of thriving neighborhoods within its border, each with their own unique atmospheres and their own unique experienced to discover. If you’re looking to figure out where to stay in Seattle, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find the best neighborhoods to stay in Seattle for your next vacation, along with suggestions on what kind of travelers may appreciate them the most.
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Capitol Hill: The Best Neighborhood for Couples and Culture
Featuring hundreds of street-level retail coffee shops and eateries, as well as a dusk ’til dawn nightlife scene, Capitol Hill is the place to find fun entertainment any hour of the day. This vibrant community is on a steep hill just northwest of downtown.
Capitol Hill is known as the birthplace of the 1990s grunge music scene, but the atmosphere has continued to evolve. It’s now home to a variety of alternative music scenes from folk to trance and everything in between. Likewise, there’s a robust art community you can experience by visiting one of the neighborhood’s signature galleries, or by keeping an eye out while wandering – murals abound.
The neighborhood also has a fantastic sense of inclusion and acceptance for a variety of mainstream and far-flung views, likely stemming from its grunge-era activism and the decades-in-the-making progressive LGBTQ+ community. You’ll find rainbow crosswalks, pride flags, and anarchy insignias; this was also the sight of the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest police-free zone that grew from the Black Lives Matter demonstrations of summer 2020.
There are a number of unique and prominent institutions and landmarks in Capitol Hill focused on diversity. Your trip is what you make of it. From Cal Anderson Park and the Seattle Asian Art Museum to the AIDS Memorial Pathway and historic gay bars, there is a wealth of culture to absorb in this multi-layered neighborhood.
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Fremont: The Best Neighborhood for Influencers and Foodies
Fremont stands out for its grand public art displays and eclectic mix of dining options. The area is a few steps north of downtown Seattle in the shadow of the city’s skyscrapers, but it’s home to exceptional views of the city skyline. In Seattle, it’s the self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe.”
You’ll find murals and monuments down nearly every street. Notable pieces you’ll be inclined to take a selfie with are the Fremont Troll and the Fremont Rocket, both of which help make this a top choice for where to stay in Seattle if you’re always updating the ‘gram. There are a number of popular annual events in the area, such as the Summer Solstice Parade & Pageant (which has become infamous for its nude Solstice Cyclists) and Troll-a-ween, the birthday party for the well-loved troll.
As far as the foodie scene is concerned, well, the only limitation is your willingness to try something new. There are plenty of fine dining options and great street food, but there are a number of oddball venues in the mix, too, which make for a fun break from the norm. (Cat lovers should definitely swing by the Seattle Meowtropolitan Cafe.)
Related Read: 9 Awesomely Free Things to Do in Seattle, Washington
Queen Anne: The Best Neighborhood for Families
Riddled with historic mansions and featuring the city’s iconic Space Needle, the sky is most certainly the limit in Queen Anne. You could rent an entire mansion or stately guest house, though there are more affordable options in the neighborhood as well, of course.
The bustling Seattle Center draws in crowds to its many attractions and events. A collection of performance venues and art galleries make this a lively destination throughout the year, while the Armory, Chihuly Garden and Glass, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center provide enough entertainment for more than a few days.
Likewise, there are a number of renowned museums in the neighborhood. The Museum of Pop Culture has its roots in rock n’ roll, but has expanded over the years to focus on pop culture across various disciplines and decades. The Pacific Science Center is the spot for spectacular laser light shows and planetarium stargazing, and the Seattle Children’s Museum is packed with child-sized interactive exhibits.
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University District: The Best Neighborhood for Students
Whether you’re a prospective student, a returning alumnus, or a visiting professor or researcher, there’s no place better to stay than the University District. Also colloquially known as the “U District”, this neighborhood encircles the University of Washington and includes many walkable streets lined with historic homes.
Aside from the gorgeous grounds of the university, there’s also a wide selection of bars and restaurants that maintain a youthful vibe, particularly along The Ave, which is a trendy commercial stretch adjacent to the university. The neighborhood feels a bit less polished than other parts of Seattle and has plenty of casual bars and restaurants that tend to be fairly affordable (as far as cities go, anyway.)
The Henry Art Gallery and the Burke Museum are standout institutions that attract visitors from all over the city, and Meany Hall is where you’ll want to be if you’re a fan of live stage performances.
Bellevue: The Best Neighborhood for Wine and Wanderlust
Located a hop, skip, and a jump across Lake Washington, on the other side of the rest of Seattle, Bellevue is like another town entirely. And in fact, it is. Though with four main thoroughfares leading back into the heart of the Emerald City, it’s basically like another piece of the city. If you’re deciding where to stay in Seattle and love the outdoors (and wine) then Bellevue may be the best choice for you. It offers what nowhere else in Seattle truly does.
What is that, exactly? How about rolling countryside with numerous award-winning wineries and oodles of outdoor recreation opportunities? Both Bellevue and the smaller adjacent town of Woodinville are steeped in wine culture. The area is the perfect place to drink it all in as you tour the dozens of wineries and tasting rooms, conveniently just 10 minutes away from the rest of Seattle.
As for outdoor recreation, there are plenty of opportunities. Bellevue has more than 100 parks, and as the area is bordered by two large bodies of water (Lake Washington and Lake Sammamish), you won’t be left wanting for on-water recreation, either.
Similarly, Bellevue’s southern end butts up against the Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, loaded with amazing hiking trails of various lengths and difficulties. Couple your hike with a trip to the Cougar Mountain Zoo to create a fun-filled day for the entire family.
Related Read: 9 Best Hikes in Washington State for Epic Outdoor Adventures
Belltown: The Best Neighborhood for Urban Exploration
To some, the skyscraper-laden cityscape that lords over Seattle’s downtown area may seem like one large and complex urban community, but vast-seeming metropolis is actually several distinct districts.
Belltown sits just north of the official “Downtown Seattle,” as well as Pioneer Square, Chinatown, and most of the Waterfront District. This neighborhood is filled with high-rise condos that overlook downtown, the Puget Sound, and the bulk of the city’s famous skyline.
While any of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown will make for a great stay, Belltown has the location and vibe to make your inner-city Seattle stay a top-notch experience. It’s close enough to all of the iconic places in the city you’ll want to see, from the fish-flinging fishmongers at the Square to the Space Needle.
It’s a very walkable part of town and especially great for first-time visitors wondering where to stay in Seattle. Belltown is where you’ll have the best access to all the city has to offer.
West Seattle: The Best Neighborhood for the Beach
If you want to visit the big city during the day but prefer staying the night in the quieter suburbs, West Seattle is the place to be. This low-key neighborhood is a popular summer destination for Seattleites thanks in part to the sandy strip known as Alki Beach.
It’s a fantastic spot for swimming in the Puget Sound during the heat of the summer. Along the waterfront there’s also a lighthouse park, plentiful seafood restaurants, and other recreational opportunities like kayak tours and bike rentals.
What makes this otherwise quiet suburban neighborhood a fantastic spot for visitors are the water taxis to ferry passengers back and forth from downtown. There’s truly nothing more Seattle than a ferry ride across the Puget Sound, and this convenient form of public transport will make your stay an unforgettable experience.
Travel Tips for Visiting Seattle
- Flying in? Take the light rail directly to downtown or the University of Washington from SEA-TAC. From there, it’s easy to take public transit or grab a rideshare to where ever you’re staying.
- Seattle’s traffic is usually abysmal and the city full of hills. You’ll want to avoid driving if you can, and walking can get exhausting quickly. Get yourself an ORCA card for the best rates on public transit while you’re in the city.
- best public transit system in the US, and the ferries are a blast. Take a ferry ride during your stay, even if you don’t end up going anywhere in the process.
- Plan on seeing the most popular attractions? Snag a CityPass to save big bucks on many of the city’s most popular tourist destinations.
Related Read: The Ultimate Portland to Seattle Road Trip Itinerary
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