Visiting Seattle? Our Insider’s Guide to the Pike Place Market

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Raise your hand if you you’d rather stay home than entertain the thought of wading through a sea of tourists at any given tourist attraction, ever. Good! Us too! In fairness, we do want to mention that Seattle is bursting with so many interesting tourist attractions that it would be a shame if first timers chose not to explore at least ONE of them during their visit to the Pacific Northwest.  There are so many great sites to see in Seattle that it can also feel overwhelming trying to decide which activities to fit into your trip, and which to avoid.

Let us ease your mind by pointing out our very favorite tourist attraction, the Pike Place Market, and how you can get the most out of your visit. If you visit just one tourist attraction during your stay in Seattle, make it this one:

The Pike Place Market is perhaps the most iconic Seattle destination of them all, aside from the Space Needle. In our opinion, it’s a true gem. You’ve seen it on TV shows (admit it: you watched Frasier like the rest of us...) and in beloved rom-com movies. It’s full of great restaurants, local vendors, and the famous fish throwers. Yes, that’s right. Fish throwers, as seen in the video below:

The market is a local treasure. Many Seattleites who work downtown stop at Pike Place during the week to pick up vegetables for dinner or insanely-affordable, gorgeous bouquets of flowers on their way home at night. If you catch the market at the right time, you can see the authenticity in it. It’s a little quirky, a lot charming, and has grown to be synonymous with Seattle.  Here are some tips on how to navigate the market like a pro.

Arrive early. Or late. In order to maintain your sanity, avoid visiting the market in the middle of the day. We love taking a stroll there in the morning before 9:30AM when the vendors are still setting up shop and the air still smells like the ocean. For those of you who like to take photos, we recommend visiting at dusk when the neon signs that are sprinkled throughout the market are aglow. Be aware, however, that shops start closing up at 5 pm - don’t wait too long to grab your flowers or vegetables or you’ll miss out on all of the flavor of the market at its peak! At dusk, the market can be downright romantic.

The closer you get to noon, the more tourists there will be surrounding you, making you wish you weren’t there. Click here to check the Pike Place Market’s hours.

Also noteworthy: June is when cruise ships begin docking in Elliott Bay, spilling thousands of tourists out into the streets of downtown Seattle, and consequently, Pike Place Market. Be aware of this if you’re visiting during those months, and make an extra effort to visit at off-times.

Eat everything in sight. This tip sounds like a joke, but it’s not really! One could easily come to the market hungry and leave completely full just from food samples alone. The friendly fruit stand vendors will inevitably offer you fresh slices of a delicious locally grown pear or apple; just say yes. It will taste fantastic. As a rule, challenge yourself to say yes to as many free samples as you can. Treat yourself to your favorite sample to eat as a snack during the rest of your stay.

Here are some of our favorite places to eat while you’re visiting the market:

  • Daily Dozen Donut Company: Start your morning at the market with some mini donuts. Trust us. The donut stand is located in the main arcade by the magazine stand near the market entrance.
  • Mr. D’s Greek Delicacies: Truly yummy Greek cuisine. We can’t get enough of the lamb gyros. Since Mr. D’s is a counter/stand without a seated dining space, take your food up to the North end of the market where you’ll find Victor Steinbrueck Park with picnic tables and a view of the Puget Sound. Heavenly.
  • Pike Place Chowder: Located in the adorable Post Alley just behind Mr. D’s, they have a delicious variety of classic chowders and salads.
  • The Crumpet Shop: A Seattle institution, this place is awesome. Sweet or savory, your choice; one of our favorites is the tomato-pesto-sharp cheddar. Served like an open-faced sandwich, just eat it with a knife and fork.
  • The Pike Brewing Company: Tucked down in the rabbit warren of shops on the Market’s south end, this cozy little brewpub is one of Seattle’s finest. Home of my favorite, Scotch Kilt Lifter Ruby Ale (and dozens of other beers, many brewed on site) and serving up killer nachos, this place is a must for beer lovers.
  • Matt’s in the Market: A really nice place for a sit down lunch. Located on the second story of the historic building at the corner of the main entrance (kitty corner from Rachel, the Market’s bronze pig mascot), the space’s huge arched windows offer a sweeping view of the ferries on the Sound and the iconic Pike Place Market sign. It’s a charming bistro with excellent food. Get the lamb burger. It can get a little busy with downtown workers at lunchtime, but it’s easy to make reservations!
  • Check out our Seattle Travel Guide for more information on some more of our favorites, including the Can Can and the Alibi Room.

Bring an extra shopping bag. Chances are, if you let yourself browse all of the great shops and vendors in the market, you won’t leave empty-handed. Pack an extra travel-sized grocery bag (fabric or otherwise) for all of the gifts you’ll have purchased. This is especially important due to Seattle’s new plastic bag law, which prohibits Seattle retailers from providing customers with single-use plastic bags.  We like these BAGGU Reusable Shopping Bags because they fold up and fit into your purse super easily.

Skip the Starbucks. The Market is also home to the very first Starbucks ever. Contrary to popular belief, the original Starbucks is NOT -we repeat- NOT on the main corner at the start of the market. The original Starbucks is actually mid-way through the Market, across the street from the Main Arcade. But we digress...

We’re not going to encourage you to go there for a coffee because the line is always waaaay too long. You didn’t come all the way to Seattle to wait with 30 other tourists for the same drink you get in your hometown every day. If you get in that line, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Take time to watch the street performers. But here’s the good stuff: The really interesting things are happening right OUTSIDE of the original Starbucks, where musicians and other random buskers entertain the crowds who are not waiting for coffee.  We’re always surprised at the amount of talent of the performers all over the Market. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch one of our favorites, A Moment In Time, performing a great gospel song. Stop and watch. They are delightful.

Walk in the street. Sometimes walking slowly while in a new place makes sense. How else are you going to stop and smell the roses? But if you’re like us, after your first time through the market, the turtle-slow swarms of tourists might start to get you down. Don’t worry, there’s a fix for that!

Here’s a trick: Don’t walk on the sidewalk. This works especially well if you’re wanting to get from one end of the market to another relatively quickly. Hop down to the cobblestone road that separates the Main Arcade building from the Sanitary market & Corner Store. Feel that? That’s the sensation of air, space, and freedom around you, as opposed to rubbing elbows with all of those tourists with bulky backpacks, snapping away with their iPad cameras - ugh. Now you’re navigating the market like a local.

Don’t miss these Market secrets. Finally, don’t forget to take a stroll down Post Alley, which is a charming pedestrian street which intersects Pine & Stewart between Pike and First Ave.. Also, if you find yourself curious about where the stairs in the Main Arcade building may take you, follow your curiosity... They may lead you to even more shops below the market’s main level.  The lower levels add a bit of mystery to the place; you never know what you're going to find next!

Seattleites: We want you to chime in! What’s your favorite part about the Pike Place Market?// <![CDATA[</p> <p>// ]]</p></div>