5 scenic strolls in Seattle
Enjoy the beauty and history of Seattle on these five walks that take you through downtown Seattle; the Chinatown International District; Pioneer Square; Pike Place Market; Olympic Sculpture Park and Myrtle Edwards Park.
Special to The Seattle Times
ake a walk in Seattle’s downtown core and adjoining neighborhoods to get a good look at the city’s architecture, public art and history.
Most of the five walks described here cover about two miles and take about two hours. Or combine several of them for a longer exploration or stop in museums along the way.
So put on your walking shoes and get out and enjoy the Emerald City.
KEN LAMBERT / The Seattle Times, 2009
Using Westlake Center as a starting and ending point, see the city’s core by walking south on Fourth Avenue, returning on Fifth Avenue, and making a short loop west to First and Second avenues.
Walk southward for several blocks from Westlake and turn downhill on University Street to Benaroya Hall’s Hill Climb Terrace (Benaroya Hall is the block-square home of the Seattle Symphony on University Street between Third and Second avenues). Take a free tour inside the hall (seattlesymphony.org/benaroya/tour). Outside on the Hill Climb Terrace, outdoor speakers provide background music on the stair-steps, as well as in The Garden of Remembrance, which stretches along the Second Avenue side of Benaroya Hall. The Garden of Remembrance is an outdoor memorial to Washington state residents killed in service since World War II.
A block west, watch the kinetic outdoor sculpture Hammering Man at the Seattle Art Museum (University Street and First Avenue). Look up at the architectural remnants of Seattle’s 1895 Burke Building incorporated into the outdoor space of the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building on Second Avenue between Marion and Madison streets.
Head uphill on Madison Street to the architecturally daring Seattle’s Central Library (1000 Fourth Ave.), 11 stories of glass and steel. On the way to the library is a whimsical painted steel sculpture, the Seattle Tulip, at Third Avenue, and the Fountain of Wisdom, a graceful bronze fountain, at Fourth Avenue.
It’s worth going inside the library’s soaring, light-bathed spaces, and you can take a free cellphone tour (bit.ly/x5Gq8I). Exit the library to Fifth Avenue and walk three blocks south along Fifth to Washington’s tallest building, the dark monolithic 76-story Columbia Center (701 Fifth Ave.). It’s the turnaround point for this walk, but on a clear day take the time to head up to its Floor 73 Sky View Observatory (skyviewobservatory.com for hours, admission charges).
Wandering back northward along Fifth Avenue, stroll through the ornate lobby of the Fairmont Olympic Hotel, which fills the city block bordered by Seneca and University streets and Fourth and Fifth avenues. Built in 1924, the elegant hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Get back on Fifth Avenue and take the stairway under the ornate marquee of the nearby 5th Avenue Theatre (1308 Fifth Ave.) to an underground concourse where historic photos are displayed on the walls.
Emerge from the tunnel’s west hallway into the Rainier Tower Building, then walk north along Fifth Avenue back to Westlake Center.
Refuel: Lots of places eat or sip along the way, or midway at Benaroya Hall, on the Second Avenue side, is a Starbucks with seating available in the Garden of Remembrance plaza.
Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times
Chinatown International District
Beginning and ending at the International District/Chinatown transit station on Fifth Avenue South, take a circular route following South Jackson Street, Sixth Avenue South, South Main Street, Maynard Avenue South, South Weller Street and South King Street.
This area has been the launching point for generations of immigrants from Asia, and still is packed with Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese shops, restaurants, bakeries — and history.
The vintage Panama Hotel (605½ S. Main St.) was a key player in the popular historical novel “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” about the lives and internment of Seattle Japanese-Americans during World War II. To get there from the Metro station, walk east for a block on South Jackson Street, then north on Sixth Avenue South, to South Main Street.
A few steps beyond the hotel, across South Main Street, follow the shaded stairways and footpaths through the tapestry of garden plots in the Danny Woo International District Community Garden and up to Kobe Terrace Park, for a view over the neighborhood.
Walk back down through the garden, cross South Main Street, and head south on Maynard Avenue South past a sculpture by the late George Tsutakawa at South Jackson Street, to Hing Hay Park . The park, at the corner of South King Street, is a popular gathering spot with an ornate pavilion.
Continue on Maynard Avenue South past the Seattle Pinball Museum (508 Maynard Ave. S., http://on.fb.me/IGSgdt for hours, cost to play on vintage machines). Go west on Weller Street to Sixth Avenue South. Along the way, you’ll be tempted by noodle houses, dim sum restaurants and bakeries.
Return to the transit station via Sixth Avenue South and South King Street, passing by the traditional decorative Chinatown Gate . (For more history of the neighborhood area, detour off this route to the Wing Luke Museum, wingluke.org, at 719 S. King St.)
Refuel: Get a drink or snack at the Panama Hotel Tea and Coffee House, 607 S. Main St., panamahotel.net
Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times
This walk can easily be combined with the Chinatown International District walk. Take a somewhat “U” shaped route from the International District/Chinatown transit station on Fifth Avenue South to the Pioneer Square transit station on Third Avenue. The route follows South Jackson Street, First Avenue South, Yesler Way, Second Avenue and Cherry Street.
The compact Pioneer Square area is where Seattle began to flourish in the late 1800s; it’s rich in history and has some of Seattle’s oldest buildings.
Walking west on South Jackson Street, pause to see the restored-to-elegance interiors of the nearby 1911 Union Station (now the Sound Transit Headquarters, open 6 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Friday) and the 1909 King Street Station (the Amtrak train station), a block west.
The 1889 Cadillac Hotel Building (South Jackson Street and Second Avenue South), two blocks west of the train station, houses exhibits and displays in the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park (nps.gov/klse/index.htm). Seattle was the jumping-off point for 19th-century gold miners heading north to the Yukon’s Klondike.
Stroll north from the Cadillac Building to the little street-corner Waterfall Garden park (South Main Street and near Second Avenue South) which marks the birthplace of UPS — the United Parcel Service — in 1907. It’s a mini-oasis of water and greenery.
Cut diagonally west across Occidental Park, past Native American totem poles and a monument to fallen firefighters . Walk north on First Avenue South, past vintage brick buildings that line the street and now house galleries, shops and eateries to Pioneer Square (100 Yesler Way). This small triangular plaza with its iconic totem pole and iron pergola mark the location of Seattle’s first settlement.
Walk eastward to Smith Tower — built in 1914 and once the tallest building on the West Coast — at Yesler Way and Second Avenue. Its 35th floor Observation Deck and ornate Chinese Room are open to the public (smithtower.com).
Head north on Second Avenue, then uphill on Cherry Street to The Arctic Club Hotel (at the northeast corner of Cherry Street and Third Avenue). The building once was a home to a club founded by gold miners returning from the Yukon. Stroll through its lobby for a flavor of the past. The Pioneer Square transit station, the walk’s endpoint, is across Cherry Street from the hotel on Third Avenue.
Refuel: Merchant’s Café and Saloon, 109 Yesler Way, opened here in 1890 (merchantscafeandsaloon.com).
Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times
Pike Place Market
Beginning at Pike Place Market, this walk winds through one of the longest continuously operating public markets in the U.S. Pike Place Market is now one of Seattle’s top attractions. This walk is shorter than the others, but you could easily spend several hours roaming the market complex.
Pike Place Market opened in 1907 and retains its old-fashioned charm. Its Main Arcade, which opens onto the cobbled Pike Place, is packed with stalls offering flowers, fish, meat and vegetables, plus specialty foods, crafts and artwork. Beneath are the “Down Under” floors packed with shops.
Walk amid the crowds that gather around Rachel, the market’s life-size bronze piggy bank and mascot. The crowds are even thicker by the nearby Pike Place Fish Company stall, home of the “flying fish” — the stall’s fishmongers toss salmon to each other as they make sales.
One of Seattle’s quirkiest tourist attractions, The Gum Wall, is nearby (1428 Post Alley). Yes, it’s a brick wall, now Technicolor and sticky, where people stick wads of gum.
Stroll to the north end of the market, either through the Main Arcade or along the cobblestone Pike Place or the narrow, pedestrian-friendly Post Alley. Take detours into other market buildings and the pedestrian alleys behind them. (And see all the tourists at one of the first Starbucks, the 1970s-era shop at 1912 Pike Place.)
Cross the street to Victor Steinbrueck Park (2001 Western Ave.) at the market’s north end, with a big view of the city and Elliott Bay, the turnaround point on this route.
Refuel: Athenian Seafood Restaurant and Bar, in the market’s Main Arcade. It opened in 1909; some tables have lovely waterfront views. athenianinn.com
Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times
Olympic Sculpture Park, Myrtle Edwards Park
Start at the Olympic Sculpture Park, stroll amid the massive outdoor sculptures, then continue along the pedestrian waterfront path in adjoining Myrtle Edwards Park with lovely views of the city, harbor, Olympic Mountains and Mount Rainier. Then turn around and retrace your steps.
What was once a derelict industrial area has been turned into the Olympic Sculpture Park, a nine-acre hillside of green lawns, winding paths and outdoor artwork, including Alexander Calder’s “The Eagle,” a dramatic steel sculpture painted bright red, and a dozen other large-scale artworks.
Walkers can relax on red chairs that dot park pathways, and admire the art and the views.
The sculpture garden links to the Elliott Bay Trail (with walking and biking segments) on the narrow, waterfront Myrtle Edwards Park. Pause at pocket beaches lined with driftwood along the 1.25-mile route. There are a few picnic tables, a rose garden and a 32-foot totem pole in the park, but the views are the big draw. Turn around at the towering white grain elevator and retrace your steps.
Refuel: Uptown Espresso, Pier 70, at the base of the sculpture park where the waterfront trail starts. velvetfoam.com
Find more sightseeing attractions, including must-see museums, holiday entertainment ideas, dining picks and more in our Seattle Guide.