The First-Timer’s Guide to Seattle

Seattle is a wonderful city filled with so many cool things to see and do. We spent four days in Seattle and felt it wasn’t enough! We visited in spring, just in time to see the blossoming trees and feel the warm sunshine.

Here’s my travel guide for first-time visitors with personal recommendations on the best things to do in each of Seattle’s most popular neighborhoods.

The First-Timer’s Guide to Seattle (By Neighborhood)

Queen Anne

We started our Seattle adventure with a spectacular view of downtown from Kerry Park in Queen Anne. After snapping a few pictures of the Space Needle, we sat down on the bench to enjoy the sunshine – the weather was gorgeous!

Queen Anne is a residential area with beautiful old houses and colorful trees. If you go to Kerry Park, make sure you wander around the area, you’ll find photo opportunities at every corner.

For lunch, we headed to Queen Anne Avenue North, where there’s a couple of eateries. We were too excited to keep exploring so we opted for a quick bite at a casual Middle Eastern joint called The Golden Olive. The falafel salad was delicious!

While you’re in the area, you may want to continue walking towards Seattle Center, home to the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. We decided to skip the museums but we still enjoyed sitting in the park while getting close up views of the Space Needle.


For stunning views from high above, head to Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor at Columbia Center – I think it’s one of the must-see places in Seattle! You can get 360-degree views of the city and if you’re lucky with the weather you’ll be able to see Mt Rainier in all its glory. The entrance ticket allows you to return during sunset for more pictures so overall I think it’s a better deal than the Space Needle Observatory.

If you’re in search of nightlife hotspots, First Ave and Second Ave in Downtown offers a line up of bars, pubs and live music houses.

The First-Timer's Guide to Seattle


The Seattle Waterfront is a picturesque area along the shores of Elliot Bay. The highlight here is the Seattle Great Wheel, which makes a great background for photos.

From Pier 52, you can hop on a ferry to Bainbridge Island for lunch/dinner and a stroll around this charming town. Though relatively small, there’s plenty of wine tasting and gourmet restaurants to choose from.

The First-Timer's Guide to Seattle

Pike Place Market

No visit is really complete without a stop by Pike Place Market! Get a shot near the iconic the Public Market Center neon sign, buy some tulips from any of the multiple flower stands, and if hungry, grab a snack at Piroshky Piroshky, a Russian style bakery situated in the outside area of the market.

If you’re a Starbucks fan (and even if you’re not), you may want to stop by the original Starbucks coffee shop. During the day, you’ll see a huge line up so if you want to save time, go back towards the evening – there’ll be way fewer people.

Another famous spot near Pike Place Market is Gum Wall. The amount of gum on the walls will shock you. Apparently it was named one of the top 5 germiest tourist attractions in 2009 – you’ve been warned!

The First-Timer's Guide to Seattle

Pioneer Square

We loved Pioneer Square for its brick walls and artsy vibes. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in Seattle and definitely has a European flair.

Fancy some shopping? Some of my favorite stores here were E. Smith Mercantile and Fireworks Gallery. If you’re looking for the perfect gift or souvenir from independent designers, look no further. Arundel Books, which is also next door, is a super cute shop as well.

Pioneer Square Seattle

Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is one of the most vibrant and happening neighborhoods in Seattle. A historical hub for the LGBTQ community, it houses lots of interesting boutiques and restaurants that are concentrated on Pike/Pine corridor and Broadway Ave.

For a wholesome brunch, head to Oddfellows Cafe – you can expect cool interior and quality food. The French Toast I ordered was quite memorable.

After brunch, pop by Elliot Bay Book Company right next door – a cozy bookshop for literature lovers.

We had a good dinner at Stateside, a casual-chic joint that serves Vietnamese favorites with a twist. If you are feeling like Japanese food, Momiji looked like a very cool place too.

Capitol Hill is where you can find a flagship Starbucks Reserve store. This place is a perfect destination for coffee lovers – you can see them roast coffee, you can purchase goodies and of course, try one of their premium blends in a fancy setting. Oh, and did I mention they also serve wine?!

Ballard & Fremont

If you’re in Seattle on a Sunday, don’t miss the Ballard Farmers Market. We grabbed a coffee to go at Caffe Umbria near the entrance and then started to eat our way through gourmet stalls selling the most scrumptious bites. Judging by the number of locals in these markets, I’d say a visit to this market is probably one of the few non-touristy things to do in Seattle.

Fully satisfied and jolly, we headed towards Fremont to Gas Works Park Marina. Formerly the Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant, it is now a public park with stunning views of the skyline. Definitely one of the best photography spots in Seattle.

The First-Timer's Guide to SeattleGas Works Marina in Seattle

Things to Do Near Seattle

If your schedule allows it, I would totally encourage you to go to the Greater Seattle area and explore the outdoors.

Olympic National Park

2 hours away from Downtown Seattle is Olympic National Park, a lush forest with beautiful lakes and majestic mountains. We remained in the surroundings of near Staircase and pretty much had all the place to ourselves. I assume in summer it would be much more popular. For your return back you can opt to take the highway or the ferry from Bain Bridge. We did the latter and had fun getting into the ferry inside our car. Definitely not your usual commute!

Mount Rainier

We couldn’t make it to Mount Rainier on this trip, but I think it would make a total treat to hike around this iconic mountain – one of the most beautiful in the world.

Bainbridge Island

For great views of the city and some fresh air, I totally recommend heading to Bainbridge Island. The town is cute and fun to walk around. There is a marina and a few hiking trails.

Where to Stay in Seattle

We booked an Airbnb (no longer listed, unfortunately) in a quiet residential area close to Little Saigon (15min Uber ride to Downtown).

This Airbnb could be a great alternative! It has glowing 5-star reviews. Located near Greenwood Avenue, the bedroom features a private entrance and a cute garden.

Fancy staying at a hotel instead? Below are some budget options (under $100/night):

Travelodge by Wyndham Seattle By The Space Needle | Easy access to downtown, breakfast included. Rooms start at $70 USD/night. Read reviews and book here

Ballard Inn | Located in the heart of Old Ballard. Rooms start at $79 USD/night. Read reviews and book here

  • Find all Seattle Hotels here

Which of these Seattle attractions intrigued you the most? I’d love to hear from you. Get in touch with me via the comment section below or Instagram!


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