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The Perfect One Day in Seattle Itinerary | Things to Do in Seattle in One Day

Spending one day in Seattle and looking for all the best things to do…and eat?

Trying to see Seattle in one day is an ambitious feat, but it is definitely possible! While I think that Seattle is best experienced over at least two days, I’ve found that my recent visits have been for a day here and there on the way to other destinations – sometimes to other places in Washington (like Leavenworth), or even before an Alaska cruise

Seattle has always been one of my favorite cities, and I’ve visited countless times over the last decade! I’ve gotten to know the city, and have found some amazing spots. I tried to include a mix of the most popular things to do, along with some personal favorites that are lesser-known in this one day in Seattle itinerary.

Even when exploring Seattle in a day, you’ll get to explore some of the city’s top tourist spots (such as Pike Place Market), as well as some of its most photogenic places, the most breathtaking viewpoints, even eat some of the best food!

Keep on reading for the perfect one day in Seattle itinerary!

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Is one day in Seattle enough?

While there is plenty more to see and do than can be covered in a single day, spending a day in Seattle will give you enough time to see its highlights, and to get a feel for the city.

This 1 day in Seattle itinerary covers some of the top attractions that are a must for first-timers, as well as some of my favorite spots in the city. You won’t get to see it all, but you’ll still get to experience the best of the city and (hopefully) will leave you wanting more!

This is a fast-paced itinerary, cramming in all of the highlights so you can see the best of Seattle in a day. So grab a coffee, get some energy, and be prepared! 

Spending a day in Seattle before or after a cruise?

Seattle is a popular port for Alaska cruise departures, so you may be looking to see how you can explore the city before or after your cruise. 

If this is you, I recommend splitting this Seattle itinerary in half. The first part of this itinerary (though the Seattle Center) is centered around downtown Seattle, and can easily be done in a half day of exploration.

Weather in Seattle

Seattle has a famous reputation for being rainy , gloomy, and overcast. While there is some truth to that – the city only sees 150 sunny days a year – it doesn’t actually rain ALL the time.

Yes, there are a lot of overcast days, and yes, it does rain – but it’s usually that drizzly, it’s kinda raining but it’s really not sort of rain rather than torrential downpours all the time. The city actually only experiences about 90 days of measurable precipitation in a year. 

The weather in Seattle actually reminds me of the weather in the Sunset of San Francisco (often foggy and misty, but not really rainy), rather than Ketchikan, Alaska (aka the rainiest place in the US). 

That said, outside of the summer, you should be prepared for it to be a little bit wet. It shouldn’t cut into your exploration – but having water-resistant outerwear and/or shoes will help quite a bit!

Obviously, it is much more preferable to spend your one day in Seattle during one of the 150 days of sunshine, and you’ll find the best chance of that in the summer, specifically July and August. This is also the most popular time to visit Seattle, so expect crowds (and higher airfare and accommodation costs).

Temperatures hover in the 70s, but can be warmer (remember the great heat wave of 2021?). Many of the places in the city do not have air conditioning, so keep that in mind.

Shoulder season is an excellent time to visit Seattle, and beautiful as well – the cherry blossoms bloom in the city in the spring, and the foliage transforms to vibrant colors in the fall. I’ve found that May and September are excellent times to visit – the temperatures are still relatively warm, but the city isn’t as crowded as in the summer.

Winter is the least ideal time to spend 1 day in Seattle, as it tends to be rainy and the days are much shorter. However, you will avoid the crowds and  likely score lots of flights and accommodation deals. 

Arriving in Seattle

This Seattle itinerary assumes that you are already in the city when you begin your day (which starts relatively early!). However, if you find yourself needing to get to the city, it is a breeze!

If you are arriving in Seattle via air, you will likely fly into Seattle Tacoma International Airport (SEA), also known as Sea-Tac, and connecting to the city is super easy via the Link Light rail. Trains run every 10-15 minutes and it takes 30-40 minutes to get downtown, depending on where you need to go.

The Link makes seven stops in the city – SoDo, Chinatown/International District, Pioneer Square, University Street, Westlake, Capitol Hill, the University of Washington, and the University District. For the sake of this itinerary, you will get off at Westlake. A one-way fare costs $3.

Uber and Lyft both operate in Seattle, and there are cars readily available at Sea-Tac. Fares usually run $35-45 into downtown Seattle, but can be much higher during rush hour (someone just told me they paid over $70 recently – yikes!).

If coming via train, you will arrive at the King Street Station, across the street from the Chinatown/International District Link Station. You can hop on the Link, take an Uber/Lyft (or even walk) to the first stop on your Seattle itinerary.

How to get around during your 1 day in Seattle

On foot: Getting around downtown Seattle (and also Lower Queen Anne and Capitol Hill) on foot is super easy, and the first half of this itinerary is concentrated in this area. I’ll cover other options to get you to some of the stops in the second half of the itinerary (specifically to Fremont and Gas Works Park, then to Capitol Hill).

One thing to note is that Seattle is a pretty hilly city – I thought this sounded ridiculous when I was living in San Francisco, because well, San Francisco is VERY hilly. However, now that I’ve moved back to Southern California and don’t encounter hills on a daily basis, I now see why they call it hilly – I’ve been finding myself huffing and puffing while walking around!

Driving: While having your own car can be efficient in getting between places not immediately downtown, and for setting your own schedule and pace for the day, traffic and limited parking are definitely an issue in Seattle, especially downtown. The one time we had a rental car while exploring the city was also the trip in which I experienced the most headaches.

If you will have a car (which makes sense if you’re figuring spending a little bit of time in Seattle before heading on to other destinations in Washington), try to park it in one spot while you’re exploring downtown, and then you can drive it to the other stops on this itinerary.

Public transportation: Seattle has a relatively extensive and well-connected public transportation system, which will get you to most points of interest in the city.

For the sake of this itinerary, you will likely be utilizing King County Metro buses or the Link light rail trains. Fares run $2.25-$3.50, depending on distance traveled and time of day, but if you plan to rely heavily on transit during your Seattle day trip, then consider getting a one-day transit pass, which is $8.

You can pay for fares on board, or using the Transit GO app, which allows you to pay with your phone. 

One other option is to take the monorail from Westlake Center (Pike Place Market) to the Seattle Center (Space Needle). A one-way adult ticket is $3 – this is not included in the transit day pass.

Rideshare: Both Uber and Lyft operate in Seattle, and cars are usually plentiful and easy to find. This costs more than taking public transportation, but is much more efficient.

Taking an Uber/Lyft from downtown Seattle to Fremont/Ballard will usually run $15-20, but takes under 15 minutes. If your budget allows it, I recommend this option since your time is limited when you are trying to see Seattle in a day – every minute counts! If traveling in a group, it is not too bad when you split the fare amongst your party.

What to bring on your Seattle day trip

  • As I mentioned earlier, Seattle has the reputation for being rainy. While most of the time, that just means it’s kinda misty and drizzly, sometimes it does pour. To be prepared, I’d pack a lightweight, packable, water-resistant jacket that you can roll up and keep in your bag! This is the one I have.
  • The summer months are warm and sunny, with breezy evenings, so I would suggest carrying a cute cardigan like this or this…a denim jacket is a good choice as well!
  • Winters are definitely chilly and rainy, so I recommend bringing a puffy down jacket. I have this one and love it so much – it’s warm, lightweight, packable, and water-resistant.
  • And, speaking of the rain – an umbrella is a must at all times, except in the summer! Be prepared with a collapsible travel umbrella like this one!
  • You will want to wear comfortable shoes during your one day in Seattle, as you will probably be walking a lot! The city is actually more hilly than you would think it is, so you will definitely want a pair of comfortable shoes. Allbirds makes my favorite travel shoes, and Rothy’s makes super cute but comfortable flats as well.
  • In the winter, you’ll want boots that keep you warm and dry, because again, rain (and sometimes even snow). These boots are my favorite winter shoes!
  • You’ll want to stay connected as you explore Seattle (and document all your memories!) and this power bank will help ensure that your phone never runs out of juice! I never leave home without mine, and it is a MUST on every single trip that I take – both in the US and internationally! If you’re from abroad, you may also need a power adapter to charge your devices – I always travel with this one.
  • Seattle is a pretty green city, and makes a conscious effort to reduce the use of single-use plastic. Plus, the tap water is actually pretty good. Bring a reusable water bottle and fill it throughout the day to stay hydrated.

The Perfect One Day in Seattle Itinerary

8am Start your day with coffee or breakfast

You’ll have a busy day today, so you’ll want to get some caffeine or a hearty breakfast to fuel you up for all the things to do in Seattle in one day! 

I’m giving you two options here to kick off your one day in Seattle itinerary, depending on if you’re a breakfast person or not (I usually am not), but if you’re feeling ambitious, you can do both if you get an earlier start.

Option 1: Coffee in Capitol Hill

Seattle is a city known for its coffee, so caffeine fiends should definitely try one of the city’s best brews to get their day started (after all, you’re going to need a lot of energy when trying to see Seattle in one day!).

You’ll find some of the best coffee in Seattle in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, including my all-time favorite – Espresso Vivace! They are one of the OGs of coffee in Seattle, specifically espresso, and they make one of the best lattes you’ll find anywhere. 

The espresso here is so smooth, and has almost a caramel taste (which makes sense because they roast their beans to pull out their caramelized sugars). I make a stop every time I’m in town, and it’s the perfect way to start the day!

Another option in Capitol Hill is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. Seattle is the birthplace of Starbucks, but I suggest coming here instead of the “original” location in Pike Place, which isn’t worth waiting in the long line for (spoiler alert – it’s also actually not the first Starbucks). 

The Reserve Roastery totally elevates the Starbucks experience (I’ve heard people refer to it as the “Disneyland of Starbucks), and they have specialty drinks, exclusive beans, and flights that you won’t find elsewhere. They have some pastries and light bites too, if you want some breakfast.

(If you don’t make it to Capitol Hill in the morning, don’t worry, your day will end back here.)

Option 2: Breakfast in Belltown

If you want to grab a bite to eat before you explore Seattle in 1 day, head to Belltown. You’ll not only find some delicious food, but be close to the first stops on this 1 day in Seattle itinerary.

I have two suggestions for you here – the first is Biscuit Bitch, which as the name implies, has delicious biscuits and a whole lot of attitude. It’s one of the most popular breakfast spots in the city, and usually has a long line out the door. 

Coming at 8am means you’ll be here at opening, so the wait for your food should not be too bad. You can also place your order online while on the way there to be more efficient.

Somehow, I find myself ending up here every time I’m in Seattle – you can’t go wrong with any of the Bitchwiches here (I usually go with the sausage). The biscuits are super flaky, buttery, and delicious. I am also obsessed with the cheesy garlic grits here – so good!

There are a few sidewalk tables here, but you can also get it to go and eat it at Olympic Sculpture Park, the next stop on this itinerary.

Another option for breakfast is Macrina Bakery, which has some incredible pastries and breads. You’ll find some delicious muffins, scones, coffee cakes, and more here. The orange currant scone and the morning roll here are some of my faves!

For something more substantial, Macrina also has a breakfast menu, offering breakfast sandwiches, quiches, and more. This is the best option for a more sit-down option, as the cafe has seating inside.

9am: Olympic Sculpture Park

Start your day at Olympic Sculpture Park. The nine-acre park is owned and operated by the Seattle Art Museum, which converted an industrial area into a green space filled with art.

It’s a favorite of both locals and tourists, who love it for the combination of open green space, vibrant public art, and gorgeous waterfront views.

There are both visiting and permanent installations featured in the park. You’ll also get a sense of the natural beauty of the area – you’ll find breathtaking views of Puget Sound, and the surrounding mountains –  which is the perfect backdrop for the unique art here. It’s also got an awesome view of the Space Needle!

This is one of my favorite places in the city, and one of the best places to get some fresh air and go for a walk – the perfect way to start your day!

I recommend starting at the entrance at Western Ave., near Broad St., and then making your way down the hill. This will put you in the perfect position to continue on your 1 day in Seattle itinerary.

9:45 Walk through the Seattle Waterfront

After exploring the Olympic Sculpture Park, head down Alaskan Way, which will take you through the Seattle waterfront area and its piers. While yes, it is super touristy (it’s kinda like Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, in a way), you can’t argue that there are some beautiful views here, so it’s worth walking through.

 If you have time, stop by Pier 66 which has one of the best and most iconic views in the city (yet hardly anyone knows that this viewpoint is here!). You can also see the Seattle Great Wheel here, which is one of the tallest ferris wheels on the west coast (it used to be the tallest, until the High Roller in Las Vegas). 

Eventually make your way back up the hill to end up at Pike Place Market, your next stop!

10am: Pike Place Market

Pike Place is *THE* most famous tourist attraction in Seattle and no, no itinerary is complete without making a stop at it – it’s one of the top things to do in Seattle in one day!

Many people suggest coming to Pike Place first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds, but I personally think that mid-morning is better. Yes, you’ll encounter more people this way, but you’ll see all of the vendors open at this time, and you can sample all the food (you’ll start hitting lunchtime soon), AKA the best part!

Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continually operating farmers markets in the United States, and is an absolute foodie paradise (it’s kinda like La Boqueria in Barcelona)! You’ll find hundreds of merchants selling everything from produce, fresh seafood, meat, spices, pastries, fresh cut flowers, specialty foods, and much more.

Since you are limited on time (you are trying to see Seattle in a day, after all!), I recommend taking this chef-led food tour to get the most of your experience. The tour makes stops at 10 top vendors in the market, where you can sample the offerings at each. You’ll get to try some of the most popular spots, as well as some hidden gems that you’d never discover on your own!

Otherwise, you can wander the stalls in the market and try to discover your own favorites, taking in all of the sights, sounds, and smells. I especially love seeing all the fresh cut flowers on sale here – they never fail to put me in a good mood!

Two things that Pike Place is famous for but not worth it when trying to see Seattle in 1 day: the first is the “original” Starbucks (hint: it’s actually not the original, it’s just the oldest continually operating location), which always has a gigantic line but is basically like any other Starbucks. 

The second is the Pike Place Fish Market, which is famous for throwing fish every time one is purchased. While I happened to pass by when it was going on and it was fun to see, it’s not worth waiting around for, especially when limited on time (you can be waiting for a really long time!).

Some of my favorite places to eat at Pike Place Market (perfect for a quick lunch!):

  • Beecher’s Handmade Cheeses: You are coming for the mac and cheese – it’s sooo creamy and delicious. The cheese curds are amazing as well. You can also see the cheesemongers at work here, which is cool!
  • Piroshky, Piroshky: A piroshky is a Russian pastry stuffed with a variety of fillings, both sweet and savory. I love the smoked salmon for savory, and the cinnamon for sweet. There’s usually a line – if you don’t want to wait, there’s also a nearby location on Fourth Avenue.
  • Pike Place Chowder: Nothing like a bowl of chowder on a typical Seattle gloomy day. Pike Place Chowder has an impressive variety of chowder – everything from the classic (New England, Manhattan), to the unusual (i.e. lime and coconut). You can even order a sampler if you can’t decide! It gets packed here, so get in line 10-15 minutes before they open at 11, so you don’t have to wait.
  • Mee Sum Pastry: This stand has lots of dim sum specialties to go. They are known for their BBQ pork hom bow, which has char siu pork wrapped in a sweet bun. I liked their curry one as well.
  • Daily Dozen Doughnuts: The freshly made mini doughnuts here are absolutely adducting!
  • Rachel’s Ginger Beer: You’ll find dozens of varieties of ginger beer here (the blood orange is my favorite!), which you can also order as a cocktail (try the mules!) or even a boozy float.
  • Ellenos Greek Yogurt: Greek yogurt like you’ve never had before. The yogurt here is super creamy and decadent, and basically like a dessert! They have some amazing flavors – my favorite is the lemon curd.La Panier Bakery: I always have to get a macaron or pastry at this French bakery. They have cakes, breads, and sandwiches as well. 
  • Maiz: I haven’t tried it yet, but I hear it’s amazing! They specialize in Mexican street food made with corn – so think tacos, gorditas, sopes, and tamales. 
  • Oriental Mart: Another one that’s on my to-try list. It’s an unassuming mini mart, but is said to have some AMAZING Filipino food, which helped it earn an award from the James Beard Foundation.

Check out the Gum Wall

Before you leave Pike Place Market for the next stop on this one day in Seattle itinerary, you absolutely must make a stop at the gum wall! Yes, it’s kinda gross, but it’s also kinda cool (and makes the perfect backdrop for photos!) and I can’t resist stopping by every time I’m here. 

It’s one of two of its kind (the other gum wall is in San Luis Obispo, CA), and the second germiest attraction in the world (any guesses what #1 is? Hint: You kiss it and it’s in Ireland). 

It’s a bit tricky to find – Before you leave Pike Place, be sure you stop by to check out the gum wall in Post Alley. It is a little bit tricky to find – go down the ramp that’s to the left of the main entrance, and look for the Market Theater sign. Once you get to the bottom of the ramp, go left into Post Alley. If you get lost, ask anyone who works there and they’ll direct you to the right place.

So how did all of this gum end up here? It actually kinda happened on accident – people waiting in line at the theater just started sticking their gum to the wall. No matter how many times they tried to clean it off, it just kept happening, so they just left it be.

It was cleaned for the first time in 2016, when over 2000 pounds (!!!) of gum was power blasted off the wall. You wouldn’t know that it was ever cleaned though – there’s tons of gum back on it already!

Whether you find it gross on cool (or both!), it’s a fun place to snap some photos! If you want some gum to use as a prop (or stick on the wall – which I can’t bring myself to do), you can get some at Ghost Alley Espresso.

Afterwards, hop on the monorail from Westlake Center, just a few blocks away (or just walk a mile), towards Seattle Center. 

1pm: Seattle Center

Located in the Queen Anne neighborhood, the Seattle Center is an arts, cultural, and entertainment center, home to some of the city’s top museums, theaters, and attractions, including the iconic Space Needle.

You can literally spend all day exploring all of the attractions at the Seattle Center (especially if you love museums), but since you are looking for things to see in Seattle in one day, I suggest you pick one spot to visit, two max (if you are really efficient!).

Here are some picks of what to see at the Seattle Center:

Option 1: Chihuly Garden and Glass

One of my all-time favorite places in Seattle – this is my first pick for your Seattle one day itinerary. 

You may already be familiar with Dale Chihuly – his work is displayed at many museums and galleries all over the world, including the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. If not, well, you’re in for a treat because his works are absolutely stunning!

Chihuly grew up in neighboring Tacoma, and still resides in the area today. Chihuly Garden & Glass has eight galleries, a glasshouse, and a garden featuring some of his most significant works. 

You’ll ooh and aah over Chihuly’s magnificent works as you make your way through the galleries – it really is one of the most beautiful places in Seattle. 

However, the highlight here is the stunning glasshouse, the centerpiece of which is an expansive 100-foot sculpture of cascading red, orange, and yellow florals. It is inspired by Chihuly’s love for conservatories. 

I always love seeing how the glass flowers change depending on how the glass hits them. Plus, you’ll find a cool perspective of the Space Needle here, being perfectly framed by the flowers.

This should be a relatively quick stop (under an hour), so if you also want to check out the Space Needle you can try to squeeze it in. The best way to do this is to book a combination ticket (or even a Seattle CityPass, if you’re planning to spend more time in the city), which includes admission to both attractions, and will allow you to skip the line (a must when trying to see Seattle in one day).

Which brings us to…

Option 2: Space Needle

Yes, the Space Needle is touristy AF – it’s one of the most visited attractions in Seattle. However, it’s perhaps the city’s most famous landmark, and visiting is one of those iconic experiences that is definitely worth considering on your one day in Seattle itinerary.

Built as part of the 1962 World’s Fair, the Space Needle symbolizes humanity’s aspirations for the Space Age. At 605 feet tall, it is one of the tallest structures in the city (it used to be the tallest until the Columbia Center came along), and definitely the most iconic symbol of Seattle.

If you do decide to go to the Space Needle, I highly recommend purchasing your ticket in advance and pre-booking a time slot to avoid the long queues that you will often find here (ain’t no one got time for lines when you only have one day in Seattle!). If you also want to visit the Chihuly Garden and Glass (mentioned above), you can also buy a combination ticket, or use a Seattle CityPass (if you plan to be in the city for longer – this option also gives you the option to come back at night).

An elevator will bring you up to the top in seconds, and you’ll be able to see panoramic views of downtown Seattle, Puget Sound, the Cascades, and the Olympic Mountains. It is especially worth going up to the top on a super clear day, when you can see Mt. Rainier peeking out – always a majestic sight!

The observation decks of the Space Needle underwent a complete renovation in 2018, which added some new upgrades to the experience. The most notable of these is the Loupe, a rotating glass floor where you can see the city under your feet (kinda like the Skydeck in Chicago, but rotating)! 

An upper level observation deck was added as well, with open-air glass walls, giving visitors floor-to-ceiling views and glass benches to sit on. 

Option 3: MoPOP

The third option at the Seattle Center is MoPOP, or the Museum of Pop Culture. Formerly known as the Experience Music Project (EMP), this is an ideal attraction if you are a museum person, or a pop culture enthusiast. 

Do note that it will take a few hours to make your way through all the exhibits here, so if you choose MoPOP, you won’t have time to check out any of the other attractions I mention above.

MoPOP is an interactive museum with plenty of hands-on exhibits about music, movies, video games – really, anything and everything pertaining to pop culture. There are exhibits about everything from indie video games, tattoos, and even iconic Seattle musicians, such as Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix. There’s also a really interesting sci-fi and horror wing as well.

Be sure to check out the Timpin Guitar Sculpture, which is the centerpiece of the museum and is made up of over 500 musical instruments that tower up multiple stories. You can even hear music being played by the sculpture with a pair of headphones!

Whether you choose to visit MoPOP or not, if you have time, I suggest at least checking out the outside of the museum. The building was designed by Frank Gehry (who also designed the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles), and is covered in thousands of panels that change color depending on the light and the angle that they are viewed at.

Afterwards, walk (or take the 1, 2, or 13 bus) to your next stop.

4pm: Kerry Park

Located in North Queen Anne, Kerry Park has one of the best and most iconic views in the city, making it a must on your Seattle one day itinerary.

You’ve probably seen this view – with the Space Needle standing perfectly in front of the downtown Seattle skyline – on postcards, and even on the opening credits of Grey’s Anatomy. Well, if you’ve ever wondered where that was taken from – this is the spot!

It is especially epic on a clear day, when you’ll be lucky enough to see Mt. Rainier peeking out behind the skyline. It really is a magical sight! Even if you don’t, it’s still an incredible view.

After admiring the view from Kerry Park, hop in an Uber/Lyft or the 32 bus to head towards Fremont, the next stop on this one day in Seattle itinerary.

5pm: Fremont Troll

Fremont is the quirky, bohemian neighborhood of Seattle, known for its free spirit and unique, independent businesses. It once used to be its own city, until it was annexed into the city of Seattle.

The neighborhood is also known for its public art, the most famous of which is the Fremont Troll, which resides under the Aurora Bridge. The giant 18-foot troll, which also holds a VW Bug in its hand, was inspired by the trolls of Scandinavian folklore.

It was originally created as part of a competition held in 1990 to help revitalize the area under the bridge. It has become one of the city’s quirkiest and most beloved landmarks during then. 

Snapping a photo here is one of the top things to see in Seattle in one day, and worth a quick stop. Afterwards, walk or take the 31 or 32 bus towards Gas Works Park, the next stop in this1 day in Seattle itinerary.

6pm: Gas Works Park

Situated on the north shore of Lake Union, Gas Works Park is one of the most unique and fascinating green spaces in the city, and a must even when seeing Seattle in a day.

Gas Works Park stands on the site of what used to be a former coal gasification plant for the Seattle Gas Light Company, which provided power to the city for over 50 years. After the plant was closed, the space was converted into a public park, and the remains still stand here today. It is the sole remaining coal gasification plant in the United States.

Seeing the ruins of the plant is fascinating, and gives an industrial contrast to the greenery of the park. However, you really are coming to Gas Works Park for the views!

You’ll get a unique view of the Seattle skyline, spread out in a horizontal fashion against Lake Union. The best views are from the top of the hill.

This is also one of the most popular parks in Seattle for a picnic, and you’ll see many locals laying out on a blanket on a sunny day. It is one of the best sunset spots in the city to watch the sunset as well.

After exploring Gas Works Park, hop in an Uber/Lyft or take the bus to head towards Capitol Hill to close out this 1 day in Seattle itinerary.

7:30pm Dinner + Drinks in Capitol Hill

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the last stop of your Seattle one day itinerary! You will end the night with dinner and drinks in one of my favorite Seattle neighborhoods.

Capitol Hill has a cool, hipster vibe, with many acclaimed restaurants, as well as some of the top craft cocktail bars in the city. It’s one of my favorite places in the city to have a meal and go for a drink!

If you are a coffee person and didn’t get coffee here in the morning, it’s well worth checking out the Starbucks Reserve Roastery here (they are open until 10). Not only do they have specialty drinks and flights that you can’t find elsewhere, they do cocktails here as well (including an espresso martini flight!).

If you love discovering cool bookstores on your travels, definitely do not miss the Elliott Bay Book Company, one of the best bookstores in the city. They have a well curated selection of books by Pacific Northwest authors, as well as an amazing cookbook section.

Where to eat in Capitol Hill

All this exploring in Seattle in a day must have made you hungry, so here are some suggestions on where to grab dinner: 

  • Tavolata: One of my favorite places to eat in Seattle, and some of the best pasta I’ve had outside of Italy! The papperdelle and rigatoni are my favorites, both cooked perfectly al dente and with the most delicious sauces. SO GOOD.
  •  Taylor Shellfish: Oyster fan? Then you’re going to love this spot! Known as one of the best oyster purveyors in the Pacific Northwest, you’ll find an excellent selection of half-shell oysters here, along with other seafood dishes.
  • Kizuki: A bowl of ramen hits the spot, especially on a cold day. The garlic shoyu tonkotsu broth here is SO GOOD. They have a selection of izakaya plates as well.
  • Oddfellows: I love the cozy hipster vibe of this restaurant. You’ll find American comfort food on the menu here, all made using locally sourced ingredients.
  • Kedai Makan: You’ll find delicious Malaysian street food here. Try the nasi goreng (basically a Malaysian fried rice), which has the perfect kick to it.
  • Pie Bar: It’s a bar…with pie! You’ll walk in and get a whiff of butter and you know you’re in for a treat. I usually come for dessert and a drink (try the strawberry rhubarb!), but if you want dinner, their pot pies are delicious as well.
  • Rhein Haus: This traditional biergarten has delicious German specialties, with a selection of German beers to help wash it all down. The atmosphere is super fun and lively as well!

Where to drink in Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill is the best place to grab a drink, with hip cocktail bars, local breweries, and more. Here are some spots to check out:

  • Canon: Known as one of the best whiskey bars in the country, Canon has received countless accolades. The cocktails here are super creative and well-made – you can’t go wrong with any of them!
  • Needle & Thread: I haven’t actually gone here yet, but I’ve been trying for YEARS. It’s a super secret speakeasy. The only ways to get in is to either make a reservation (which are hard to snag), or try to see if you can get in by calling on the payphone located at the entrance next to Tavern Law. A friend of mine finally went and said the drinks are amazing!
  • Tavern Law: If you can’t get into Needle & Thread, you should definitely still grab a cocktail at Tavern Law. The drinks are solid and well-made here – they have a great selection of whiskey as well.
  • Capitol Hill Cider: This is known as one of the best cider bars in the country! They specialize in craft ciders from Washington, but have a very well curated selection of modern ciders from around the world.
  • Starbucks Reserve Roastery: No, seriously. They have cocktails and even espresso martini flights (and open until 10).

Other things to do on your one day in Seattle itinerary

If some of the options on this itinerary don’t suit your fancy, or you just find yourself with some extra time (lucky you!), consider some of these options:

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square is Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, so you’ll find the city’s history reflected here. It is full of historic brick facades, and turn-of-the-century street lamps.

One of the most popular things to do in Seattle is the Underground Tour, which takes place in Pioneer Square. The tour takes you through the underground passageways built underneath the neighborhood in 1890. These were the original streets of Seattle, and the tour tells the story of how the city came out of the swampy grounds, and how new roads were built a few feet above where they once stood.

You’ll also find two of Seattle’s most iconic skyscrapers here – the Smith Tower, which is the oldest, and the Columbia Center, which is the tallest. The observation decks at either of these buildings have some of the best views in Seattle. They both have a bar at the top too!

Ballard breweries

Ballard is home to 174 craft breweries, the most in the nation (yes, more than even Portland!), so if you’re a beer person, this is your neighborhood! 

I suggest taking a brewery tour, which will take you to the top craft breweries in the area. I always loved doing brewery tours on my travels because not only do you get to sample different beers from the most notable spots, you also end up making lots of friends!

Otherwise, you can do a self-guided tour – some top breweries to check out include Stoup, Reuben’s (recently named one of the 10 best in the US), Populuxe (named Washington’s best small brewery in 2018), Maritime Pacific Brewing Company, and Hale’s Ales.

Harbor cruise

This is a pretty touristy activity, but is a good option if you get tired and just want to relax. A sightseeing harbor cruise allows you to see Seattle from a new vantage point, and catch some amazing views of the skyline and waterfront. I always love seeing cities from the water, and Seattle is no exception!

Where to Stay in Seattle

Looking for a place to stay before or after exploring Seattle in a day? You have plenty of options!

For the sake of this itinerary, I suggest staying in downtown Seattle (near Westlake Station), or in Belltown. This will put you relatively close to the starting and ending points on this 1 day in Seattle itinerary.

Here are some recommended places to stay:

Hotel Max: This hip boutique hotel is inspired by the city’s art and music. The lobby doubles as an art gallery, and each of the room doors are adorned with rock concert photographs. There are even rooms inspired by Sub Pop Records, one of Seattle’s most iconic indie music labels.

Some of the hotel’s amenities include complimentary bike rentals, a nightly craft beer happy hour, and complimentary pour-over coffee from Caffe D’arte.

You also can’t beat the location – it’s conveniently located near all the top things to see in Seattle in one day!

Ace Hotel: Did you know that Seattle is home to the original location of this hipster hotel brand (not Portland or Palm Springs)? 

The Ace Hotel is located in the heart of Belltown, near some of the top attractions in the city, such as Pike Place Market and the Space Needle. The rooms are decorated with a hip, minimalist vibe, that just screams “hipster chic.”

You’ll find a variety of room types – everything from bunk rooms, singles with shared bathrooms to deluxe rooms and everything in between – to suit your budget.

Thompson Hotel: I actually haven’t stayed here, but have had drinks at the rooftop bar here (highly recommended!) and would love to stay here someday. You can’t beat the location of this luxury boutique hotel – it is just down the street from Pike Place.

The vibe of the property is upscale and modern, with luxury linens, state-of-the-art rain showers and soaking tubs, luxury bath products, and more.

The Moore Hotel: The best choice if you’re on a budget. The hotel is in an old building and the rooms are pretty basic, but they are clean and you can’t beat the location, just a few blocks away from Pike Place! You can choose from a room with a private bathroom, or if you’re really on a budget, book one with a shared bathroom.

Have you been to Seattle? What would you do when trying to see Seattle in a day?

More Washington guides you may enjoy:
The Perfect 2 Days in Seattle Itinerary
Most Instagrammable Places in Seattle
The Ultimate Seattle Bucket List
The 15 Best Views in Seattle
Where to Eat + Drink in Seattle
Leavenworth, WA in Winter: The Ultimate Guide

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