The smell of roasted coffee beans and fresh fish ride a gentle ocean breeze that sweeps through a mass of eager market shoppers. A band of men in different hats play a jazzy tune that seems to mirror the spirit of Pike Place Market on this crisp October morning.
I came to see the real Seattle; a moody, melting pot of art, food, and culture. There is no question the city maintains a relaxed vibe, while also boasting a population of open-minded and forward-thinking locals that are proud to call the Emerald City home. One of the most interesting aspects about Seattle to me is the balance between this millennial paradise of hipsters and a strong homage to the roots of local culture and business. This charming mix of old and new makes for a truly unique experience, that will make you want to pick up and move here after just a few hours of visiting.
There are countless places to see and explore in Seattle, but the true staple of the city lies within the public market dating back to the early 1900’s. This bustling market brings together local farmers and artisans offering all sorts specialty foods, fresh fish and produce, and one-of-a-kind handmade goods.
There are so many areas to explore, it’s almost impossible to cover everything in one day. However, there are a few well-known hot spots you may want to make a point to visit, such as Beechers Handmade Cheese and the notorious Gum Wall.
Beechers is both delicious and entertaining, as you can actually watch the cheese being made through their large glass windows. I would recommend trying their “World Famous” mac & cheese, which they are most known for, and which includes their award-winning flagship cheese.
Many are aware that Starbucks began in Seattle, but if you want to visit the original store, you can actually find it within the market. The space is EXTREMELY small and has no seating available so it’s more for a grab-and-go type of experience. The line is always incredibly long, so I would recommend stopping for pictures and then visiting the much larger location right around the corner which offers a faster line and tons of seating.
Piroshky Piroshky is not only fun to say, but also offers delicious Russian piroshkies that can be savory or sweet. They have been around since 1992 and their line is always long, but moves quickly. The selection is huge, so I would recommend getting at least a couple different ones to try. They can warm them for you as well, which I highly recommend!
The food and beverage options can be blissfully overwhelming, but the market also boasts an enormous array of specialty shops with some of the most uniquely beautiful items found anywhere in the city. Many of these stores stock locally made items for everything from your kitchen to car, which make for great gifts and souvenirs.
In the midst of exploring, you might find yourself lucky enough to stumble upon a little hidden gem in the heart of the market. In all my prior research, I never came across any information on this area, which made it even more magical to find.
The patio opens into an incredible urban garden, complete with all sorts of beautiful plant life and a lovely view of the harbor and Great Wheel. The space is filled with charming accents, like chalkboards and photo booth props making this a fun and whimsical spot to gather with friends or share in a romantic lunch overlooking the water.
Once you’ve had your fill of food and shopping, follow the strong and fruity aromas to the Gum Wall to make your contribution to the city. The collection began as a stop-off point before entering the Market Theater (where gum was not permitted) and soon evolved into the wildly popular tourist attraction it is today. Similar to the lock bridge that once captured hearts in France, the Gum Wall is a cool way to leave your mark on the city. The sheer amount of gum is astonishing, especially considering the walls are power-washed every once in a while, and patrons proceed to fill the space back up with hundreds of chewed gum pieces almost instantly.
The places and attributes I mentioned here barely scratch the surface of what the market has to offer, so if you ever have the opportunity to visit Seattle, I encourage you to explore it yourself and discover and share your own favorite aspects!