Seattle Introduction Walking Tour, Seattle

Seattle Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Seattle

Overlooking the Puget Sound's Elliott Bay on the West Coast of the United States, the city port of Seattle is renowned for its surrounding waters, mountains, evergreen forests, and thousands of acres of parkland. The largest metropolitan area in today's Washington State had been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 4,000 years prior to the European pioneers. The first European to set foot on this land was George Vancouver, in May 1792, during his expedition for the Royal Navy to chart the Pacific Northwest.

The settlement was named "Seattle" in 1852, in honor of Chief Si'ahl (anglicized as "Seattle") of the local Duwamish and Suquamish tribes. Seattle was incorporated initially as a town, in 1865, and then as a city, in 1869. The corporate seal of the city carries the date "1869" and a likeness of Chief Si'ahl in left profile. That same year, Seattle acquired the epithet of the "Queen City", a designation officially changed to "Emerald City" in 1982.

Logging was Seattle's first major industry. By the late 19th century, it had become a commercial and shipbuilding center as a gateway to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush. Pike Place Market, a popular local market and tourist destination, dates back to that era. Opened in 1907, this is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers' markets in the country.

A shipbuilding boom in the early part of the 20th century became massive during World War I, making Seattle somewhat of a company town. It was mildly prosperous during the 1920s but was particularly hard hit by the Great Depression. Still, throughout that period, a number of local museums were established, including the Seattle Art Museum, opened in 1933.

The city regained prosperity after World War II partially due to the local Boeing company, which established Seattle as a center for aircraft manufacturing. Seattle celebrated its restored affluence with a bid to host the 1962 World's Fair, for which the iconic futuristic-looking Space Needle was built. The Seattle Aquarium, on the downtown waterfront, was opened in 1977.

Starting from the 1980s onwards, the Seattle area has evolved into a technology center with companies like Microsoft and Amazon becoming established here.

Seattle also has a significant musical history. It had nurtured the early careers of Ray Charles and Quincy Jones, and is the birthplace of the rock legend Jimi Hendrix, bands like Nirvana and Foo Fighters, and the alternative rock movement grunge. You can learn about this and more at the local Museum of Pop Culture, a psychedelic structure clad in shades of aluminum and stainless steel.

Another key landmark on the city's skyline, as of 2012, has been the Seattle Great Wheel, one of the largest Ferris wheels in the U.S.

For a more detailed acquaintance with Seattle's amazing mix of indoor and outdoor attractions, take this self-guided introductory walk.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from iTunes App Store or Google Play to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Seattle Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Seattle Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Seattle (See other walking tours in Seattle)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sky View Observatory / Columbia Center
  • Seattle Central Library
  • Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
  • Seattle Great Wheel
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Pike Place Market
  • Space Needle
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass
  • Museum of Pop Culture / Sci-Fi Museum and Hall of Fame
Sky View Observatory / Columbia Center

1) Sky View Observatory / Columbia Center (must see)

The tallest building in Downtown Seattle and the state of Washington, Columbia Center is a worthwhile destination for high-rise and skyscraper enthusiasts, and/or visitors eager to take in panoramic views of the city and its surroundings from the observation deck. No time-slot needed – just ride up the express elevator and get off at the 73rd floor!

Martin Selig, the Center's developer, said of the building, "...the Space Needle told people where Seattle was, the Columbia Center tells people that Seattle has arrived." Indeed, from this privileged viewpoint, not only can you look down to and see way over the Space Needle, but the lookout space is clean and surprisingly not crowded, inviting visitors to stay for as long as they want. There's also a bar/cafe up there so you can sit and enjoy a nice drink, or even walk around with it.

Why You Should Visit:
Cheaper and taller than the Space Needle, with the Sky View Observatory on the 73rd floor providing a 360-degree panoramic view of Downtown Seattle and surrounding areas. Stunning views include: Mt. Baker, Bellevue, the Cascade Mountains, Mt. Rainier, Elliot Bay, the Olympic Mountains, the Space Needle and, of course, the City of Seattle.

Preferably, visit on a clear day when you can see long distances. If you get your hand stamped during a daytime visit, you can come back at night for free and see Seattle all lit up.

Opening Hours:
[Spring: Apr 1–May 1] Daily: 12–8pm (Mar 8-31); 11am–8pm;
[Summer: May 2–Sep 7] Mon-Wed: 12–10pm; Thu-Sun: 10am–10pm;
[Fall: Sep 8–Oct 2] Daily: 11am–8pm;
[Winter: Oct 3–Mar 31] Daily: 11am–7pm
Seattle Central Library

2) Seattle Central Library

The Flagship library of the Seattle Public Library system presents a new and innovative architectural face to the world, looking as if it has floating platforms enclosed by a glass outer layer. The intention of the design was to celebrate the relevance of books in modern times. User-friendly and well designed for the digital age, this library is fluent in today's info-service needs while showcasing print in all its splendor.

Having opened its doors in May 2004, the building was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and can hold over a million books. The library has separate children's collections, a staff floor, an auditorium, a unique book spiral (that saves space but runs on continuously), a reading room, meeting platform, mixing chamber and a parking space.

Public computers/Internet are available, although the free service is high in demand and you will most likely need to reserve said time in advance. WiFi is also available throughout the building.

Why You Should Visit:
The architecture is world-class and there is a generous amount of space dedicated to reading either just in chairs or sitting at desks. Totally worth the visit just to experience even if you're not a fan of architecture or a library person.

Be sure to work your way up to the highest viewing point for a great selfie (if you're not scared of heights). There's a gift shop there as well with some cute things in it. The 4th 'Red' floor, which is very red indeed, is definitely worth seeing, too.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10am-8pm; Fri-Sat: 10am-6pm; Sun: 12-6pm; free admission
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

3) Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Architect Robert Venturi, winner of the prestigious Pritzker Prize, was credited with making the wry observation that "less is a bore". You can judge for yourself if you agree by visiting the museum he co-designed with his wife Denise Scott Brown. Commonly known as SAM, this downtown building is just one of the Seattle Art Museum's three sites; the other two being the Seattle Asian Art Museum and the Olympic Sculpture Park.

The exterior of SAM is clad with limestone, terracotta, marble, and granite, featuring a Hammering Man that hammers four times a minute from 7am to 10pm (he rests his arm each evening). Inside, the grand staircase and galleries also uphold Venturi's belief that "civic architecture should be popular; it should be liked by a range of people. It should not be esoteric."

Galleries in the museum are devoted to collections that include Japanese art, African art, and Pacific Northwest tribal art, plus special exhibitions from around the world. A major expansion completed in 2007 saw the gallery space increase by 70%, enabling SAM to attract large, high-profile exhibitions and to add a very good restaurant and wonderful store.

Why You Should Visit:
Calming and relaxing gallery with a very nice permanent collection. Selections from heavy hitters while dedicating ample space to Pacific Northwest-style art and culture – including a great introduction to Alaskan art and totems.
The museum is particularly strong on modern art: both non-representational and representational. Strong, too, in 3D works. Add to this the very good museum shops, amongst which a gallery where local artists exhibit and the works are for sale.

Don't miss the sculpture in front, the Hammering Man that hammers four times a minute from 7am to 10pm. He rests his arm each evening, and all day on Labor Day.

Opening Hours:
Wed, Fri-Sun: 10am–5pm; Thu: 10am–9pm
Seattle Great Wheel

4) Seattle Great Wheel (must see)

Walking along Seattle's waterfront, past all the restaurants, you'll notice the Great Wheel at the end of Pier 57, just steps from Pike Place Market and the Seattle Aquarium. Built in 2012 at a cost of $20 million, it weighs 170,000-pounds, and at 175 feet is the tallest Ferris wheel on the West Coast; also, the only one of this design to be built over water. With 42 climate-controlled gondolas, one of which is so-called "VIP" (red leather seats and glass floor – special reservation only), it is worth doing once for some great all-round views.

Whether you're looking out onto the Puget Sound and Olympic mountains or admiring the changing downtown landscape and the harbor, you'll get about 3 or 4 spins (or approximately 15 minutes) to take it all in. Even in case you're not a fan of heights, this one is among the least 'scary' wheels. The ride is gentle and comfortable and, unless it's peak season, you can often have a cabin for yourself.

Why You Should Visit:
Great activity to enjoy, rain or shine! You can enjoy a beverage while riding, alongside the beautiful views and a moment of calm in the middle of the busy city.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Thu: 11am–10pm; Fri: 11am–12am; Sat: 10am–12am; Sun: 10am–10pm
Seattle Aquarium

5) Seattle Aquarium (must see)

A family-friendly attraction on Pier 59, the Seattle Aquarium features 200 varieties of fish native to Puget Sound. There are also environments simulating the region's rocky reefs, sandy sea floor, eelgrass beds, and tide pools. A working fish ladder illustrates the salmon life cycle and other exhibits show the paths that water travels on its way to Puget Sound.

Vividly striped lionfish, lethal electric eels, chameleon-like flatfish, octopus, dogfish, and salmon dart by, side by side with irresistibly entertaining seals and otters. The twice-daily oceanic tides flood Puget Sound and mix with fresh water from rainfall to nurture "an unequaled estuarine haven for plants, animals, and humans," as one of the educational captions says.

Among other things, the Aquarium includes a three-story great hall with educational kiosks and conservation exhibits, a man-made coral reef, and two large exhibit pools that include touch zones, though the main attraction here is the enormous 120,000-US-gallon (450,000 l) tank filled with fish, sea anemones, and other marine life. Dive shows take place several times a day and the divers are able to converse with visitors explaining the types of fish in the exhibit tanks in detail.

The building's location is great – right on the waterfront with plenty of seafood restaurants and bars located close by.

Why You Should Visit:
Relatively small aquarium compared to others in the US; however, the focus is on local marine life and it is well presented. You can touch sea stars, cucumbers, coral – with luck you can see the staff feeding the stars, anemones, sharks, etc. Definitely welcoming to everyone of all ages, with lots of hands-on activities for kids and informative/friendly staff.

Use the map provided because you could miss a section without knowing it and it would be a loss not to see the entire aquarium. Use, also, the elevators in the public parking across the street to get up the hill to Pike Place Market.

Opening Hours:
[Aquarium] Daily: 9:30am–5pm (last entry: 5pm)
[Gift shop] Daily: 10am–6pm
[Café] Daily: 9:30am–4pm
Pike Place Market

6) Pike Place Market (must see)

A number of interlinking buildings on several floors, all with knockout views of Puget Sound, form the spectacular Pike Place Market. Seattle's anchor and primary visitor destination began in 1907 with half a dozen farmers bringing produce to the city, to space that was set aside for a commercial market in response to a public demand for lower prices. Over the years, the number of farmers has varied from a high of several hundred in the 1930s to a low of 30 in 1976. Developers wanted to demolish the market, but locals got the issue placed on the ballot and voted overwhelmingly to retain it.

Since then, the number of visiting farmers has stabilized at around 100, but even though it's the country's oldest continuously operated public market, PPM has today become more famous for its other attractions – including charming, eccentric, and individually owned stalls, and buskers or amateur musicians who create a festive atmosphere for visitors.

Under the main arcade (on the water side of Pike Place), you will find a labyrinth of corners, corridors, shops, stalls, and stairs. Magic tricks, old posters, talking birds, books, funky clothes… are but a few of the thousands of items for sale. No chain stores or franchises are allowed, so everyone's an individualist, and there's no shortage of interesting characters.

Why You Should Visit:
One of Seattle's highlights – includes beautiful views of the harbor from various market venues, great authentic local restaurants and shops, colorful produce and food stands, and even great bakeries.

A must-see is the kiosk famous for “fish throwing” to a willing customer. This area can get crowded, but just be patient and you'll get your picture/video. The kiosk is right next to a medium-size statue called Rachel the Pig, which makes for a good photo opportunity, too. Bathrooms are available in different areas, just make sure you follow the sign.

Merchant Hours:
Mon-Thu: 10am–6pm; Fri-Sun: 10am–6:30pm
Restaurants: 6am–1:30am; varies
Space Needle

7) Space Needle (must see)

Only one World's Fair was the setting for an Elvis Presley movie ("It Happened at the World's Fair") and that was the one held in Seattle in 1962. However, most Seattle residents are proudest of the fair's most tangible legacy: the internationally recognized Space Needle. Built in 1962, the 605ft (184-meter) structure was a marvel of design and engineering that cost $4.5 million. The centerpiece of the fair, the flying-saucer shape was chosen from many designs.

With a restaurant 500 ft above ground and an observation deck just above, the Space Needle offers some of the city's best views: to the east are Lake Union, the immensely larger Lake Washington and the distant Cascade Range; westward, Elliott Bay opens into Puget Sound in front of the Olympic Mountains; and southeast is the snowcapped peak of Mount Rainier, 60 miles (100km) away. The revolving restaurant, SkyCity, provides a 360-degree view. As diners enjoy tasty – if expensive – Northwest cuisine, the restaurant completes a rotation every 47 minutes with the aid of a 1.5 horsepower motor.

One floor up, the Observation Deck level has free-to-use telescopes on the outside deck, and a variety of graphic displays inside to help visitors orient themselves. Also inside is a coffee counter and bar to help warm up in cold weather.

Back on the ground, directly east of the Space Needle is the Seattle Center's Sculpture Garden, which has four distinctive artworks by different artists. Perhaps the best known of the four is Olympic Iliad, a huge red-and-orange sculpture made of gigantic industrial tubes, designed by Alexander Lieberman.

Why You Should Visit:
The new renovations have you in awe right off the elevator. Lots of glass and lots of view, and you also get to go to the lower section to stand on the revolving floor and look down (which is very cool). Other than that, the virtual reality bungee jumping experience at the base is free (yes, even if you don't have a ticket!).

Try to get your tickets and your reservations for the café a few days in advance – especially if visiting on a weekend. Note that if you eat at the (rather expensive) restaurant, you can go to the viewing tower free of charge, but if you do it in reverse the deal is called off. Note also that you're *not* required to print out the tickets when purchasing them online – just open the email you receive after the purchase, click the link to view tickets and then present them for scanning.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–8pm
Chihuly Garden and Glass

8) Chihuly Garden and Glass (must see)

For an aesthetic escape, slip into the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum between the Space Needle and the Seattle Center Armory. Chronicling the work and inspiration behind legendary glass artist Dale Chihuly, the museum includes eight galleries, a magnificent 4,500-sq-ft (418-sq-meter) "glasshouse" holding a 100 ft (30-meter) sculpture (one of the artist's largest suspended works), a multi-use theater and lecture space, and a stunning garden featuring colorful installations, glass-making demos, and major works that integrate with a dynamic Northwest landscape comprising native plants.

Chihuly, who was born and raised in Tacoma, WA, took active part in designing the exhibition as well as the quirky Collections Café, where you will find the artist's personal collections on display – everything from ceramic dolls to vintage radios/cameras to masks to antique shaving brushes. Indeed, so many of Chihuly's personal touches are contained in the exhibition space that you can almost feel his presence in every room.

Why You Should Visit:
Each part of this museum is gorgeous – a remarkable tribute to Chihuly's creativity. There are no walls or fences to shield off the art from visitors, letting them get as up-close and personal as they would wish (without touching, of course). Chihuly is just a mastermind at his art, and the garden is clever in how the works copy/complement natural shapes.

Since this exhibit doesn't take too long, try getting tickets at or after 4pm if possible, as they are significantly discounted.

Opening Hours:
Sun-Thu: 10am–7pm; Fri, Sat: 10am–8pm
Museum of Pop Culture / Sci-Fi Museum and Hall of Fame

9) Museum of Pop Culture / Sci-Fi Museum and Hall of Fame (must see)

The Museum of Pop Culture or MoPOP (previously called EMP Museum) is a nonprofit museum dedicated to contemporary popular culture. It was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000 as the Experience Music Project. Since that time, MoPOP has organized dozens of exhibits, 17 of which have toured across the US and internationally.

At first, the EMP Museum did not succeed financially and the Sci-Fi Museum & Hall of Fame was established in 2004. Although the latter as a permanent collection was de-installed in March 2011, a new exhibit named Icons of Science Fiction took its place in 2012, at which time the new Hall of Fame display was unveiled. Nominations are submitted by the public but the selections are made by "award-winning science fiction authors, artists, editors, publishers, and film professionals."

A 140,000-sq-ft (13,000 m2) building, designed by Frank O. Gehry, MoPOP houses several galleries and the Sky Church, which features a Barco C7 black package LED screen, one of the largest indoor LED screens in the world. Exhibits cover pop culture, from the art of fantasy, horror cinema, and video games to science fiction literature and costumes from screen and stage. Fans of Seattle musicians Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix will also want to browse through the largest collections in the world of artifacts, hand-written lyrics, personal instruments, and original photos celebrating their music and history.

With interactive activities included in galleries like Sound Lab and On Stage, visitors can explore hands-on the tools of rock and roll through instruments, and perform music before a virtual audience. Furthermore, they can experience IF VI WAS IX, a guitar sculpture consisting of more than 500 musical instruments and 30 computers that makes for a great photo op!

Why You Should Visit:
A good idea for a museum, and the design and architecture are also worthy of notice.

Either get a CityPass (available inside) or a combo ticket to the Space Needle and Chihuly's Garden and Glass exhibit to bring the price down. If you're short on time, dare to ask when buying ticket/s if there's a way to reenter the following day.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–5pm (Sep 3–May 23); 10am–7pm (May 24–Sep 2)

Walking Tours in Seattle, Washington

Create Your Own Walk in Seattle

Create Your Own Walk in Seattle

Creating your own self-guided walk in Seattle is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Seattle Architecture Walking Tour

Seattle Architecture Walking Tour

Downtown Seattle has many features typical of American cities – towering skyscrapers abuzz with commerce, upscale shopping and dining, splendid theaters – but is also unexpectedly pleasant with hills, outdoor sculptures, and peek-a-boo views of Elliot Bay's sparkling water.

Follow this self-guided walk for a rundown of Seattle's most striking downtown buildings – starting with...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.1 Km or 1.3 Miles
Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour

Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour

At the height of its counterculture days, Fremont renamed itself 'The People's Republic of Fremont' and later gave itself the moniker 'Center of the Universe'. As if to prove the point, there's a signpost showing the distances from Fremont to far-flung places around the globe.

The famous neighborhood is home to some of Seattle's most beloved and controversial...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Pioneer Square District Walking Tour

Pioneer Square District Walking Tour

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Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 0.8 Km or 0.5 Miles
Historical Religious Buildings Tour

Historical Religious Buildings Tour

Seattle's religious buildings play a very important role in the city's social life. Besides their religious functions, the buildings are an important part of the city's architectural and artistic heritage. This walking tour will lead you to some of the most beautiful religious buildings in Seattle.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.5 Km or 2.2 Miles
Seattle Center Walking Tour

Seattle Center Walking Tour

Just north of Downtown you will find the ever-popular Seattle Center – a 74-acre (30-hectare) park and arts and entertainment center. Developed for the 1962 Century 21 Exposition (World's Fair), it contains many Seattle landmarks, including the Space Needle, the Pacific Science Center, the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum, and the highly interactive Museum of Pop Culture. It is also the...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles

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