Seattle Introduction Walking Tour, Seattle

Seattle Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Seattle

Overlooking Puget Sound's Elliott Bay on the West Coast of the United States, the port city 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 the 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, it 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, which 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 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 Museum of Pop Culture, a psychedelic structure clad in shades of aluminum and stainless steel.

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

For a more detailed acquaintance with Seattle's fantastic mix of indoor and outdoor attractions, take this self-guided introductory walk.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store 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: 10
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.3 Km or 2.7 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sky View Observatory at Columbia Center
  • Seattle Central Library
  • Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
  • Seattle Great Wheel
  • Seattle Aquarium
  • Pike Place Market
  • Olympic Sculpture Park
  • Space Needle
  • Chihuly Garden and Glass
  • Museum of Pop Culture
Sky View Observatory at Columbia Center

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

Sky View Observatory at Columbia Center is a premier observation deck in downtown Seattle. Situated on the 73rd floor of the Columbia Center, which is the tallest building in the city and the Pacific Northwest, the observatory offers visitors stunning panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The Sky View Observatory provides a unique vantage point to take in the beauty of Seattle and its surroundings. From the observatory's height of 902 feet, visitors can enjoy breathtaking 360-degree views that stretch from the downtown skyline to the Puget Sound, and on clear days, even as far as the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges.

Upon entering the observatory, visitors are greeted with a spacious and modern interior, designed to enhance the viewing experience. Floor-to-ceiling windows in the North East and North West Corners of the Observatory allow for unobstructed vistas and ample natural light. Interactive exhibits and informational displays are scattered throughout, providing insights into the history, geography, and notable landmarks of the region.

The observatory also features a café where visitors can enjoy refreshments and snacks while marveling at the surrounding scenery. The café provides a comfortable and relaxing setting to complement the overall experience.

The Sky View Observatory is open year-round, allowing visitors to enjoy the view in every season. The changing colors of the fall foliage, the snow-capped mountains in winter, the blossoming cherry trees in spring, and the vibrant summer sunsets all add to the beauty and diversity of the experience.

Why You Should Visit:
The ideal first stop on your visit to the Emerald City. Here you can map out your entire Pacific Northwest experience: riding the Great Wheel, shopping in Pike Place Market, hiking the Cascades, ferrying to Bainbridge Island, cruising Elliott Bay, and exploring the San Juan Islands.

Tickets must be purchased beforehand or at the Box Office located in the Atrium, floor 1 of the Columbia Center.
Seattle Central Library

2) Seattle Central Library

The main branch of Seattle Central Library is a prominent architectural landmark. Located in downtown Seattle, the building was designed by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and opened its doors to the public on May 23, 2004.

The library building spans 11 stories and its design is characterized by a modern and innovative approach that combines functionality, aesthetics, and a sense of openness.

One of the defining features of the Seattle Central Library is its unique exterior façade. The building showcases a striking, irregular geometric structure with a glass and steel skin. The various angles, curves, and sharp edges create a visually captivating appearance, making it instantly recognizable. The exterior design reflects the library's commitment to embracing the future while paying homage to the rich architectural history of the city.

Upon entering the library, visitors are greeted by a grand, light-filled atrium known as the "Living Room." This expansive space serves as a central gathering area and provides access to various library services and facilities. The interior design focuses on maximizing natural light, with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer panoramic views of the cityscape. The open floor plan, combined with the extensive use of glass, creates a sense of transparency, promoting a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.

In addition to its extensive collection, the library offers a variety of innovative spaces and amenities. These include designated areas for children and teens, computer labs, meeting rooms, study pods, and quiet reading areas.

The Seattle Central Library stands as a testament to the power of architecture in shaping a community. Its bold and forward-thinking design has garnered critical acclaim and numerous awards.

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.
Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

3) Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Architect Robert Venturi, a 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 7 am to 10 pm. 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.
Seattle Great Wheel

4) Seattle Great Wheel (must see)

The Seattle Great Wheel is a prominent Ferris wheel located on Pier 57 in downtown Seattle, Washington. Since its opening in 2012, it has become one of the city's most recognizable attractions and a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike.

The Great Wheel stands at an impressive height of 175 feet, making it one of the tallest Ferris wheels on the West Coast of the United States. It features 42 fully enclosed gondolas, each capable of accommodating up to eight passengers. The gondolas are equipped with large windows, providing breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding cityscape, Elliott Bay, and the majestic Olympic Mountains in the distance.

Riding the Seattle Great Wheel offers visitors a unique and memorable experience. As the wheel ascends, riders are treated to stunning vistas of the Seattle skyline, including landmarks such as the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the downtown waterfront. The captivating views extend both during the day and at night when the city lights create a magical ambiance.

The Great Wheel operates year-round, allowing visitors to enjoy the ride in any season. Whether it's basking in the warm summer sun or taking in the crisp winter air, the wheel offers an enchanting perspective on the beauty of Seattle. Additionally, special events such as fireworks displays or holiday-themed lighting add to the excitement and make each visit even more memorable.

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.
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 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. But the main attraction here is, undoubtedly, the enormous 120,000-gallon 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.
Pike Place Market

6) Pike Place Market (must see)

Pike Place Market is a historic public market located in Seattle. Established in 1907, it holds the distinction of being one of the oldest continuously operating public farmers' markets in the United States. The market's rich history is intertwined with the growth and development of the city itself.

The origins of Pike Place Market can be traced back to the early 1900s when Seattle's rapid population growth led to increased demand for fresh produce and agricultural products. At the time, local farmers were struggling to sell their goods due to the presence of middlemen who drove down prices and made it difficult for farmers to make a living. In response to this, a group of determined citizens and advocates for farmers' rights formed the Pike Place Market Association to establish a public market that would connect farmers directly with consumers.

On August 17, 1907, Pike Place Market officially opened its doors to the public on a site near the waterfront, stretching from Pike Street to Virginia Street. The market quickly became a vibrant hub of activity, with farmers setting up stalls to sell their produce, and shoppers flocking to the market to enjoy fresh, high-quality goods. The market's motto, "Meet the Producer," reflected its commitment to fostering a direct connection between farmers and consumers, a concept that remains central to Pike Place Market's ethos to this day.

Over the years, Pike Place Market weathered various challenges, including the Great Depression and the threat of demolition in the 1960s due to urban renewal plans. However, a grassroots campaign led by citizens, activists, and preservationists successfully saved the market from destruction. In 1971, Pike Place Market was added to the National Register of Historic Places, solidifying its status as a cherished cultural and historical landmark.

Today, Pike Place Market is a bustling and diverse marketplace that encompasses several buildings. It features an extensive array of vendors, including farmers, fishermen, butchers, artisans, craftspeople, and specialty food producers. Visitors can explore the market's labyrinthine alleys and corridors, discovering a vibrant tapestry of sights, sounds, and flavors. From the famous fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market who famously toss fish to entertain customers to the craft stalls selling unique handmade goods, the market offers an immersive and authentic experience.

In addition to its bustling marketplace, Pike Place Market is also home to a variety of eateries, independent shops, and small businesses. The market is renowned for its diverse culinary offerings, including fresh seafood, locally roasted coffee, international cuisines, and artisanal treats. It has become a destination not only for shopping but also for dining, entertainment, and community gatherings.

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. 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
Olympic Sculpture Park

7) Olympic Sculpture Park

The Olympic Sculpture Park is a magnificent outdoor art museum located in Seattle. Situated on the waterfront, the park offers a unique blend of art, nature, and breathtaking views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. It is a public park and a free cultural destination that showcases a diverse collection of contemporary sculptures in a stunning natural setting.

The park spans nine acres and features a variety of sculpture installations created by renowned artists from around the world. Visitors can explore the park's meandering pathways, encountering sculptures that captivate the imagination and inspire contemplation. The artworks range from large-scale abstract pieces to figurative sculptures, offering a diverse and thought-provoking collection.

One of the most iconic sculptures in the park is "The Eagle," a massive, vibrant red structure created by Alexander Calder. Other notable sculptures include "Seattle Cloud Cover" by Teresita Fernández, a translucent canopy that filters natural light and offers a unique perspective on the city's skyline, and "Typewriter Eraser, Scale X" by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, a whimsical oversized sculpture resembling a giant eraser.

The Olympic Sculpture Park's design incorporates various outdoor spaces and amenities that enhance the visitor experience. It features a pedestrian-friendly Z-shaped path that guides visitors through the park and allows them to appreciate the sculptures from different angles. The park also includes a shoreline trail, a beach area, and seating areas where visitors can relax, take in the views, and reflect on the artwork.
Space Needle

8) 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, Seattle residents are proudest of the fair's most tangible legacy: the internationally recognized Space Needle.

The Space Needle is an iconic observation tower and landmark located in Seattle. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Space Needle has become a symbol of the city and a must-visit attraction for visitors from around the world. With its unique design and breathtaking views, it offers an unforgettable experience that showcases the beauty of Seattle and its surrounding landscapes.

Designed by architects John Graham, Victor Steinbrueck, and John Ridley, the Space Needle was inspired by the futuristic vision of the World's Fair. Standing at a height of 605 feet (or 184 meters), the tower features a distinctive saucer-shaped structure with a rotating restaurant and an observation deck at the top. The design is characterized by its slender profile and the iconic 100-foot (or 30-meter) wide observation deck, providing visitors with unparalleled panoramic views.

Riding the elevator to the top, visitors are greeted by the observation deck, which offers 360-degree views of the Seattle skyline, Puget Sound, Mount Rainier, and the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. On clear days, the visibility stretches for miles, allowing visitors to fully appreciate the beauty of the region. The deck features floor-to-ceiling windows that provide unobstructed vistas, as well as outdoor viewing platforms for an even closer look at the scenery.

The Space Needle also features the SkyCity restaurant, which revolves 360 degrees as guests dine, completing a full rotation in approximately 47 minutes. This unique dining experience allows visitors to enjoy a delicious meal while taking in ever-changing views of Seattle and the surrounding landscape.

The Space Needle is not only a popular tourist attraction but also an integral part of Seattle's cultural fabric. It has been featured in numerous films, television shows, and photographs, becoming an iconic symbol of the city's skyline.

Try to get your tickets and your reservation for the café a few days in advance – especially if visiting on a weekend. Note that if you eat at the restaurant, you can go to the viewing tower free of charge.
Chihuly Garden and Glass

9) Chihuly Garden and Glass (must see)

Chihuly Garden and Glass is a captivating museum and art exhibition located in Seattle. Dedicated to the stunning works of renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly, the museum offers visitors an immersive and awe-inspiring experience that celebrates the beauty and versatility of glass as an artistic medium.

Chihuly Garden and Glass is situated at the foot of the iconic Space Needle. The museum's indoor exhibition space presents a mesmerizing display of Chihuly's sculptures, installations, and intricate glass creations. The artwork explores a wide range of forms, colors, and textures, showcasing the artist's mastery of the glassblowing technique and his innovative approach to sculptural design. Visitors can marvel at the intricate details and vibrant hues of Chihuly's signature works, which often evoke natural elements like flowers, sea creatures, and organic shapes.

In addition to the indoor galleries, Chihuly Garden and Glass features an expansive outdoor garden that beautifully integrates art with nature. The garden exhibits Chihuly's sculptures against a backdrop of carefully curated plantings, creating a harmonious blend of color and form. The glass artwork interacts with the surrounding flora, water features, and natural light, creating a dynamic and ever-changing visual experience throughout the seasons.

Visitors can stroll through the garden pathways, discovering hidden nooks and unexpected displays at every turn. The juxtaposition of the delicate glass artistry against the ruggedness of nature creates a sense of wonder and exploration. The garden also features a stunning glasshouse, showcasing one of Chihuly's largest suspended installations—an extraordinary chandelier-like structure that spans the entire ceiling and is illuminated to create a breathtaking spectacle.

Chihuly Garden and Glass offers visitors more than just visual delight. The museum provides educational insights into Chihuly's creative process, the history of glass art, and the evolution of his artistic career. Interactive exhibits, videos, and informative displays shed light on the intricate techniques and craftsmanship behind the glassblowing process, further enriching the visitor experience.

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

10) Museum of Pop Culture (must see)

The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), located in Seattle, Washington, is a captivating and dynamic institution dedicated to the exploration and celebration of popular culture.

MoPOP stands out for its striking architecture, designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry. The building's unconventional design features a mix of curving, colorful metallic panels that resemble flowing sheets of music or distorted guitars. It has become an iconic landmark in Seattle's skyline, drawing visitors with its bold and distinctive aesthetic.

The museum's mission is to engage visitors in a multi-disciplinary exploration of popular culture across various mediums, including music, film, television, video games, science fiction, and more. It offers a vast array of exhibits and interactive displays that immerse visitors in the rich tapestry of pop culture.

One of the museum's notable attractions is the Sound Lab, where visitors can experiment with musical instruments, recording equipment, and technology to create their own music. The interactive nature of the exhibit encourages visitors to engage with music and gain a deeper understanding of its cultural impact.

MoPOP also boasts an extensive collection of artifacts and memorabilia, showcasing the history and influence of popular culture icons. Visitors can explore exhibits dedicated to legendary musicians, such as Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, and Prince, examining their impact on music and society. The museum also hosts rotating exhibitions that delve into diverse aspects of pop culture, from science fiction and fantasy to horror and comics.

Beyond music, MoPOP pays homage to other forms of popular culture through its exhibitions. Visitors can delve into the world of science fiction and fantasy, exploring iconic franchises like Star Trek, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings. The museum also highlights the artistry and cultural significance of video games, featuring exhibits that delve into the evolution of gaming, influential titles, and the creative minds behind them.

The museum is also home to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame, honoring the most influential and groundbreaking contributors to the genre. Inductees include renowned authors, filmmakers, artists, and visionaries who have shaped the landscape of science fiction and fantasy.

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.

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.
Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour

Fremont Neighborhood Walking Tour

Fremont is a vibrant neighborhood in Seattle, renowned for its quirky and artistic character. Among other things, this famous district is home to some of Seattle's most beloved and controversial sculptures.

One of its most iconic landmarks is the Fremont Troll, a massive sculpture of a troll lurking underneath the Aurora Bridge.

At the height of its counterculture days, Fremont renamed...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles
Seattle Architecture Walking Tour

Seattle Architecture Walking Tour

In terms of towering skyscrapers abuzz with commerce, upscale shopping & dining, and splendid theaters, Downtown Seattle resembles many American cities. At the same time, it is also unexpectedly pleasant with hills, outdoor sculptures, and peek-a-boo views of Elliot Bay's sparkling water. Still, the diverse architectural landscape of the city is distinctive primarily for its landmark...  view more

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

Seattle Center Walking Tour

Immediately north of Downtown Seattle, you will find the ever-popular Seattle Center. Developed for the 1962 World's Fair, this 30-hectare (74-acre) park and arts & entertainment center contains numerous landmarks. It is also where Seattle's biggest festivals, concerts, film screenings, and theatrical performances are held.

At the heart of this bustling area stands the iconic...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.1 Km or 0.7 Miles
Pioneer Square District Walking Tour

Pioneer Square District Walking Tour

Pioneer Square, the district where Seattle was founded in the mid-19th century, had gone through its boom and near-bust until a period of preservation managed to save it for a new life. Today, this is the most historic part of Seattle that holds a special place in the city's yesteryear and is home to several noteworthy landmarks and attractions.

One of the most prominent sites in the area...  view more

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

Historical Religious Buildings Tour

Seattle, Washington, boasts a wealth of religious sites of various denominations – together reflecting the city's diverse spiritual heritage. Besides being purely centers of faith, these buildings are an important part of the city's historical heritage, some of them standing as architectural marvels, each with its unique story.

Trinity Parish Church, founded in 1865, is...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.1 Km or 1.9 Miles

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