Seattle is home to excellent shopping all over the city, including downtown, in Fremont, the International District, Pike Place or the University District. Downtown Seattle shopping is a square of several blocks with large names such as Urban Outfitters, Nordstrom and Gap. Downtown is also the location of Westlake Center Plaza and Pacific Place, both large malls with various shops and eateries. Pioneer Square isn’t just the location of the original Starbucks—it also has some of Seattle’s best shopping. The International District, just south of Pioneer Square, features about eight blocks of prime shopping with roots from all over Asia. When weary from shopping, the ID has many delicious restaurants to choose from. Pike Place Market is Seattle’s famous waterfront shopping area that features local produce, fresh fish and an abundance of incredible restaurants.
Downtown Seattle Shopping
Epicenter: Seneca and 4th Ave., Seattle WA
Seattle’s downtown shopping district is a compact square of several blocks with brand names like Urban Outfitters, Gap and Nordstorm. Fashion boutiques like Betsy Johnson and Isadora’s Antique Clothing dot the urban landscape and offer Seattle shoppers more eclectic options. Downtown Seattle shopping can feel like Fifth Avenue, especially as you stroll by fashion stars like Banana Republic or Nike occupying their own buildings. Westlake Center Plaza, a nearby mall, features local and international home designers as well as a top floor food consortium. If the Seattle rain catches you, shoppers can duck into Pacific Place and shop at Ann Taylor and J. Crew or catch an afternoon flick on the top floor movie theatre. Seattle shoppers tired of schlepping around their shopping bags can unwind at the many fine high-end spas and salons or duck in for a latte at Nordstrom Cafe.
First Hill Shopping
Epicenter: Madison and Boren Ave., Seattle WA
First Hill, also dubbed “Pill Hill,” is located atop the downtown center and is an intensive but brief hike from Pioneer Square. Although not a main tourist stop for Seattle visitors, the Hill boasts St. James Cathedral where a mosaic tile floor is on view and the Frye Art Museum, with free admission and representational art, is just a block away. On Madison Avenue, Seattle shoppers can take a lunch break at Pizza Orgasmica or a coffee break at one of three Starbucks located on the same corner. It is easy to understand why because Starbucks caters to the doctors and residents of Pill Hill’s medical community.
Fremont Shopping District
This compact Seattle shopping block attracts MWS (moms with strollers) taking in the sunshine through the Sunday Fremont Market browsing for a bargain at the retro and vintage stores while weekday worker bees shop-hop during their lunchbreak looking for atomic age martini glasses. This is also a haven for fashionistas who hate the snob factor of downtown Seattle boutiques but can find big-name designers without the attitude.
International District Shopping
Epicenter: Maynard Ave. & Weller St., Seattle WA
Seattle’s International District transports Seattle visitors to the tastes and sights of Asia. The “ID,” as locals call it, is a colorful consortium of restaurants, shops and cafes of a dozen different ethnic varieties. Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander are just some of the international nationalities represented in this shopping expanse of eight-city blocks just south of Pioneer Square. Visitors walking through this diverse Seattle shopping and food district will find a fortune cookie factory, bustling dim sum restaurants (Top Gun is Seattle.com’s favorite), herbal pharmacies and Kinokuniya, an international bookstore that houses top-notch Asian cookbooks. Visitors in need of additional background about Seattle’s International District can visit The Wing Luke Asian Museum, which depicts the neighborhood’s history in pictures and artifacts. Seattle shoppers cannot miss Uwajimaya, a sprawling Asian food and products court with miles of seafood, fresh vegetables and specialty candies.
Pike Place Market Shopping
Epicenter: Pike Place and 1st Ave., Seattle WA
Seattle’s waterfront Pike Place Market is one of the most colorful and energetic shopping districts in the Pacific Northwest. Serious Seattle shoppers should consider world-famous Pike’s Place Fish Market a priority on their Seattle shopping list. The highlight is Pike Place Market’s “flying fish,” when fish merchants throw cuts of fish to each other across their stand to the delight of awestruck onlookers. A cobblestone street, lined with vendors selling handmade arts and crafts, a dazzling array of multicolored fresh flowers and photographs of scenic Seattle landscapes, winds through the Pike Place Market. For lunch, Seattle shoppers need not look far as vendors sell fresh sandwiches and hot piroshkis along the way. Seattle tourists and locals alike take advantage of Pike Place Market’s waterfront park, where they can sit and take in the Elliott Bay view.
Pioneer Square Shopping
Epicenter: Yesler and 1st Ave., Seattle WA
Seattle shoppers walking through Pioneer Square will find a coffee landmark: the first Starbucks to open its doors and usher in a new way an entire generation drinks coffee. The Pioneer Square shopping district has an eclectic choice of shops that include: imported rugs and tapestries, safari masks, antique benches and rare books. Visitors can grab a bite to eat at the pizza stands and Italian trattorias surrounding Pioneer Square. Walking through this historic Seattle district, Seattle shoppers see beautifully restored Richardsonian Revival buildings that house various art galleries. Art Walk, held the first Thursday of every month, is well-worth attending as visitors stroll through open art galleries throughout the evening.
Queen Anne Shopping
Epicenter: Queen Anne and West Dravus, Seattle WA
Queen Anne, a trendy but cozy Seattle neighborhood on a hilltop, has a predominately young female population that is hip, stylish and professional. The neighborhood is populated with supper clubs, gritty coffeehouses and retro seafood restaurants like Ototo Sushi. For shopping, unique jewelry shops like Rhinestone Rosie and home accessory stores like The Homing Instinct characerize Queen Anne shopping. Seattle visitors will observe that Queen Anne residents take great pride in their Victorian homes because this comfy and lively neighborhood has one of the best postcard-perfect Seattle skyline views.
queen anne hotels
University District Shopping
Epicenter: University Way NE & NE 45th St., Seattle WA
The University District caters to a youthful, collegiate crowd by offering the best cheap eats and shops in a small and laid back Seattle neighborhood. Visitors can take advantage of the variety of shopping at Seattle’s University Village, a central mix of upscale shops, chain stores and independent boutiques offering bargain deals for Seattle tourists and students alike. On a rainy day, the University District is the perfect place to catch a flick with theater options like the Neptune, Varsity or Seven Gables. The University of Washington’s campus setting and colors are reminiscent of an Ivy-league college and a great place to catch a glimpse of Seattle student life: professors and students hurriedly trekking across campus to class or lounging on the campus’ placid greens. Before leaving the U-district, Seattle visitors can grab a Northwest brew at the Blue Moon Tavern, a literary hangout for poets young and old.
university district hotels
Downtown Seattle shopping is pretty much dominated by national chains, both in and out of the malls. Those with sharp eyes may find some unique boutiques, but for the most part, shopping here isn’t anything different than in most mid size American cities. That said, there is a lot of retail, from Old Navy, to Barneys and Kenneth Cole all grouped together in an easily walked area.
The shopping district is right in the heart of downtown, just a few blocks from most of the big hotels. It consists of two designated malls and a couple shared use buildings, like Rainer Square and the City Centre building, which hold offices as well as shops. The heart of the area is Westlake Park which is on 4th Avenue between Pike Street and Pine Street. The larger shopping district runs from North to South, between Stewart Street and University Street, and from East to West, from Seventh Avenue to Forth Avenue.
Everyone saw images of Seattle’s NikeTown store at Sixth and Pike with its windows smashed in during the WTO meetings in 1999. That was not an example of everyday Seattle. Still, Westlake Park is one of the cities most popular venue’s for protest and all types of political speech. The water fountain is beautiful when turned on, and the city sets up a Christmas carousel here for kids. Many of the gatherings here, however, will have a political edge. Don’t expect to see WTO recreated though. Most protests and demonstrations in Seattle have an orderly edge, and very rarely do we see our police force in riot gear. In fact, the odds that most shoppers and tourists will be inconvenienced by, or even notice anything happening in the park are pretty much zero.
Pacific Place: Sixth Ave and Pine St.
This is Seattle’s newest, and most upscale shopping center. Here you will find all of the 90’s dot com standards; Williams Sonoma, Restoration Hardware, the Pottery Barn, and Tiffany’s, to name a few. There is also a multiplex theater, and quite a few above normal mall standard eateries. The mall has a light and airy feel too it, and can be pleasant place to browse around, especially on a grey day.
Nordstrom: 500 Pine St.
This is Nordstrom’s flagship store. Since the Bon Marche sold out to Macy’s and Fredrick and Nelson’s went under, Nordstrom (now a national chain), is Seattle’s only native department store. The 4th floor has a nice cafe, and a bridge to the Pacific Place mall. The second floor is the designer floor – fun to look around, but most women who actually want to buy clothes end up on the third level. Nordstrom went national based on it’s customer service reputation, which is still pretty outstanding, but locals flock here primarily for the shoes. In fact, when the retailer first opened in 1901, it was as a shoe store. No bargains here, but the selection is phenomenal.
Westlake Center: 400 Pine St.
Westlake Center was supplanted as a shopping destination when Pacific Place opened. For the first few years after it’s rival to the east opened it seemed to drift, and have a slightly shabby air. That has changed recently. New restaurants and shops have brought some vibrancy back to Westlake. Some stores of note here include; Talbot’s, The Children’s Place and Montblanc. The food court here on the third floor is actually much better than most, and still reasonable and quick. It is very popular with downtown office workers for lunch, so if you want an outside table during the summer, be sure to time your lunch to miss the rush. The food at Bombay Wala Indian Cuisine in particular is highly recommended.
Bon Macys: Third Avenue and Pine St.
Things are changing at the Bon. Seattle just heard that next year the venerable Bon name will disappear, and we will be left with just Macys. Another death in the world of regional retailing. Still for now, the Bon Macys is a lower priced option to Nordstrom’s, with a lot of the same inventory, and hasn’t quite gone the shopping cart route of it’s parent corporation. Yet.
Nordstrom’s Rack: 1601 Second Ave.
Though technically outside the shopping area proper at the corner of 2nd Ave and Pine, the rack has all the magic of a Filenes’s Basement, without quite the same frenzy as that Boston landmark. Like the Basement, Racks can now be found in many an outlet mall, but the original downtown store still gets a lot of the best stuff, especially when it comes to the designer wear and the shoes. Be patient, be persistent, and be prepared for long lines during the weekday work lunch hour. This is the place where you might pick up a pair of $300 shoes for $54.
Shopping District Restaurants:
Oceanaire: 1700 Seventh Ave
Who would imagine that Seattle would fall for a seafood chain restaurant out of Minneapolis? The mind reels, but it is true. Since opening in 2001, Oceanaire has been received with rave reviews in the Emerald City. Pricy even for lunch, the food here is well worth the splurge, and the portions are sized for the Midwest.
Palomino: 1420 Fifth Ave
In the City Centre building at 5th between Pike and Union.
Fun, open fire bistro kind of place, in a large space. Specializing in Mediterranean and Northwest Cuisine. Mid range prices for downtown, but a great place to relax and refuel.
Other in stops of interest in this building include Barney’s and Ann Taylor.
Dilettante’s Mocha Cafe: 1400 6th Avenue
If you like chocolate, and need revival half way through your shopping trip, don’t miss this stop, attached to the Sheraton hotel. Dilettante’s is one of Seattle’s own Chocolatiers and a must stop if chocolate is important to you. Have a Persian Express and a decadent dessert and some civilized conversation. Dilettante’s is one of the few downtown coffee spots that stays open late into the evening too, so if you need a place for dessert downtown, this is one of your best bets.
3121 E. Madison St., Suite 103
Seattle, WA 98112
Hours: m 11a-5p; tu-f 10a-7p; sa 10a-6p; su 12p-4p
1083 Bellevue Square
Phone: (425) 679-5610
1924 First Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101
Mo-Sa 11a-7p; Su 11a-5p
5000 20th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Hours: Tu-Th 11a-6p; Fr-Sa 11a-7p; Su 12p-5p
6500 Phinney Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98103
Hours: Mo-Sa 11a-7p; Su 10a-4p
720 N. 35th
Seattle, WA 98103
4612 26th Ave NE
Seattle, WA 98105
3314 E. Spring St.
Seattle, WA 98122
Hours: Wed – Sat 10-6, Sun 12-5
8315 Greenwood Ave. N
Hours: Mo-Fri 11a-7p; Sa 11a-6p; Su 11a-5p
5000 20th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
Hours: Tu-We 11a-6p; Th-Fr 11a-7p; Sa 11a-6p; Su 12p-5p
1924 First Ave.
Seattle, WA 98101
Mo-Sa 11a-7p; Su 11a-5p