By Kathryn Foley
Seattle is one of the most culture rich cities in the States, and even on one of its famously rainy days you’ll never be short of things to do, delicious things to eat and freshly brewed coffee to sip. But what if you only have 24 hours in the city? We’ve distilled the city’s endless possibilities for good times into just one day so you can enjoy a taste of what the Emerald City has to offer. Your feet may be weary by the end, but luckily for you, you're in the most heavily caffeinated city in America. So grab an umbrella and get ready for what will possibly be the best day of your life, and certainly the best day you’ve ever had in Seattle.
Time waits for no one, and with just one day in the Emerald City you’ll want to start bright and early. You’ll begin your day in the Chinatown International District’s most historic landmark, the Panama Hotel and Tea House for a steaming pot of tea or your first caffeine hit of the day. The Panama Hotel was once the heart of Seattle’s Japantown district, which became somewhere for the community to hide their personal belongings during the war. With its walls covered with newspapers detailing Japanese-American history and a unique windows in the floor of the cafe revealing a basement where abandoned belongings still sit untouched, starting your day here will offer a glimpse into the neighbourhood’s history. Choose a variety of oolong, sencha or green tea from the glass jars arranged on the bar and soak up the history.
But don’t linger too long, you’ll want to see the historic Chinatown Gate before the crowds arrive. Pass under the red dragons guarding this huge archway, the gateway to the neighbourhood, and explore the diverse streets which are packed eateries, shops and cultural gems reflecting the city’s Asian-American roots. Peruse traditional herbal medicine shops and small grocery stores selling authentic ingredients from across the globe - the area is more than Chinatown, it truly is international - and make sure you don’t miss Japanese supermarket Uwajimaya. Browse the aisles and food hall overflowing with Japanese sweets and snacks, bento boxes, manga, books and groceries but try to resist buying too much! Next stop, a late breakfast.
Whispers abound that Jade Garden serves the best dim sum in Seattle, so that’s exactly where you’ll be headed for your first meal of the day. In classic Cantonese style, dim sum is served from trolleys which weave their way around the loud, no-frills dining room. At weekends brunch queues can be as long as 40 minutes, but get there before 10.30am and you’ll be whisked right to a table. Feast on authentic dim sum; fluffy clouds of char sui bao (stuffed bbq pork buns), ready to burst xiao long bao (soup dumplings), sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaf and traditional shrimp dumplings will be making the rounds.
A fifteen minute’s stroll away is Pioneer Square, the oldest neighbourhood in the city. Wander through its storied streets for a glimpse into Seattle’s past; this area started life in 1852 and is packed with fragments of the city’s history like the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, the Waterfall Garden Park and the Tlingit Indian Totem Pole. Continue a few blocks west and you’ll reach the waterfront. This stretch of Elliot Bay is packed with tourist attractions, but it’s nonetheless a great way to soak up the waterfront atmosphere, tick off some bucket list sights from your list and enjoy breathtaking views over the Puget Sound. Walk north for twenty minutes; your lunch stop awaits.
Pike Place Market is a hub for the city’s culinary talent, and a microcosm of the what Pacific Northwest cuisine has to offer. Yes, you will be overwhelmed by all of the incredible foods on offer. Yes, you may feel like crying when you realise that even if you spent your full 24 hours inside the market, it would never be enough time to try everything. But there’s no time to waste on heartbreak. Spend a few hours eating and browsing your way around the market, which is the oldest continuously operating market in the States, and salmon flying through the air. The latter will make sense once you reach Pike Place Fish Market, where fishmongers joyfully fling fish around, although only once someone has made a purchase. Feast on freshly caught oysters and Dungeness crab or pick up bites from across the globe from the hundreds of artisanal food stores who have made their home here.
Next up, Capitol Hill. But first, coffee. Stop off for a pick me up at one of the city’s trendiest coffee shops, La Marzocco. If you’re feeling energetic, it’s a half an hour walk away from the market, or you can hop on the D Line bus at 3rd Ave and Virginia street. Part shrine to coffee, part immersive museum, part showroom and yes, part cafe, this flawless space pays homage to all things coffee, specifically La Marzocco coffee. With its name coming from the godfather of Italian espresso machines who have been helping craft incredible coffee for almost 100 years, it’s no surprise that this is where world class roasters come to show off their knowledge and skills. Learn your coffee history as you sip an espresso in their Italian style showroom and nibble on flaky pastries as you peruse the displays of coffee machines running from the 20’s to the present day.
To reach Capitol Hill, hop back on the bus (this time the Line 8 from Queen Anne Ave N) and enjoy the fifteen minute ride across town. This neighbourhood is the city’s vibrant pocket of alternative culture, where a revolutionary spirit and somewhat hipster vibes meet a diverse melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Wander through the area to browse quirky boutiques or vintage stores, or head to Volunteer Park. If the Seattle drizzle makes its way across the Sound (and even if it doesn’t), duck inside the Asian Art Museum which is housed inside a beautiful Art Deco building and see works spanning whole continent and across the centuries.
Editor's note: the Asian Art Musuem is temporarily closed for refurbishment until 2019.
Not only is Capitol Hill the city’s proud LGBTQ capital, it also happens to be Seattle’s foodie capital. Known for its innovative fusion cuisine and a bar and restaurant scene which is constantly on the move, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is choosing where in the world you want to take your tastebuds. You’ll find the most well travelled menu at Nue, where you can feast on plates whose flavours hail from Trinidad to Vietnam and everywhere in between. Or if you’re in the mood for Mexican, try Mezcaleria Oaxaca and discover the nuances of regional Oaxacan cuisine as you flit between plates of ceviche, molotes and street style tacos.
Hold off on dessert and head to Pie Bar, a cocktail bar which specialises in, well, pies. Make it your last stop of the night and enjoy a banana cream pie or a hearty slice of fruit crumble along with a butterscotch schnapps, amaretto or hazelnut liqueur based cocktail to indulge your sweet tooth. And if all that coffee has left with you with enough energy to keep going (we know you stopped off for at least one more somewhere along the way), Capitol Hill is the perfect place to bar hop and boogie the rest of your night away. With bars and walk-up windows staying open well after dark, you won’t be short of speakeasies to stumble upon and tasty midnight snacks to enjoy before you head home.
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