Once an independent city defined by its large Scandinavian population, this neighborhood along Shilshole Bay is dotted with Victorian-era buildings, many of which are now occupied by the shops, restaurants and bars that have made this one of the trendiest parts of Seattle. Come to watch the Ballard Locks raise ships from sea level into Lake Washington, or to visit the new National Nordic Museum; stay for the shopping and nightlife, which clusters along Ballard Avenue and NW Market Street. Sift through the cowboy boots at Gold Dogs and the vinyl at Sonic Boom Records, and be sure to catch a show at the Tractor Tavern, one of the best live music venues in town.
Bordering the downtown area, Capitol Hill is Seattle's LGBTQ+ hub—witness the crosswalks painted like rainbows. It's also the city's hippest 'hood, replete with vintage shops, cocktail bars (among them Canon, one of America's best whiskey bars) and excellent ethnic restaurants. Bookworms won't want to miss the warehouse-sized Elliott Bay Book Company, while guitar geeks will want to pay homage to native son Jimi Hendrix, whose bronze likeness plays a Fender Strat on Broadway.
The city center is home to some of Seattle's best luxury hotels and many of its favorite cultural institutions: the Seattle Art Museum, with its large collections of modern, Oceanic and Native American art; the magnificent Central Library; the immensely popular Pacific Northwest Ballet; and, of course, Pike Place Market, with its famous salmon-flinging fishmongers. The neighborhood also runs right up to the waterfront, affording views of Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains beyond.
Just across Lake Union from downtown, the abutting neighborhoods of Fremont and Wallingford have something for everyone. Kids will love visiting the goofy Fremont Troll statue, the play barn at Gas Works Park (another spot that offers a stunning skyline view) and the legendary local burger-and-milkshake-spot spot Dick's Drive-In. Adults, meanwhile, will enjoy dining at award-winning restaurants and bars such as Kamonegi and Brouwer's Cafe. Fremont also hosts an excellent farmers market/street fair on Sundays.
Queen Anne/Seattle Center
This large section of the city climbs from the Seattle Center, which contains the Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture, Pacific Science Center and the eye-popping museum Chihuly Garden and Glass. A hilltop residential enclave, it is home to some of the West Coast's poshest pads. For great views, head to either Discovery Park (which overlooks the Sound) or Kerry Park (which looks back toward the city skyline). The neighborhood also offers plenty of dining and drinking options, from the city's best high-end restaurant, Canlis (whose large windows overlook Lake Union), to its best dive bar, Mecca Café.