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World’s Coolest Cities: Seattle

Seattle is a rainy, coffee-drenched seaport of coolness. The northernmost major city in America (not including Alaska of course) and the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, it is a Mecca for fans of the grunge music scene that originated here in the 1990s. It is the fabled home of trippy hippie cult author Tom Robbins, whose psychedelic novels contain pages and pages of prose comparing the wet northwest landscape surrounding this part of the world to the beauty of a faded Chinese silk tapestry.

Seattle is a great place for music lovers, as they can spend the day immersed in the history of modern rock and roll at the Experience Music Project, and then enjoy an evening of live music at the many venues and clubs throughout this hip city. Art lovers will enjoy the Seattle Art Museum and the impressive outdoor sculpture park, and there are also many small fringe galleries to be found.

A trip to Seattle is like a good cup of coffee, it has a distinct and earthy taste that is sophisticated and laid back at the same time, and it will really wake up your mind!

Climate: Oceanic West Coast (mild and very rainy in the winter, and sunny in the summer)

Population: 617, 334

Currency: American Dollar

Language: English

The Fish at Pike Place Market
The Fish at Pike Place Market

Something Fishy: Pike Place Market

Have you ever seen a bunch of grown men singing and chanting as they throw fish back and forth to each other? It is all part of the atmosphere at the world famous Pike Place Fish Market, a historic open air market dating back to the 1930s. After the marketplace had a brush with bankruptcy in 1986, an employee suggested that just selling fish wasn’t enough, and that the customers needed to be entertained as well. He introduced the games and performances that give new meaning to the term “flying fish” and the fishmonger’s silly antics have made the market one of the most popular tourist attractions in Seattle. The Pike Place Market reels in nearly 10,000 visitors per day.

While you are at the Pike Place Market, you can check out the very first Starbucks Coffee shop. The largest coffeehouse company in the world started right here in Seattle, way back in 1971. This store retains its original look, which is very different from the sleek and modern look of the other Starbucks shops you may be used to. After walking around the shops of the market, you can relax here with a great cup of coffee.

The Experience Music Project
The Experience Music Project

Experience Music Project

You can’t miss this museum, just look for the huge shimmering metal mutation that looks like an alien spacecraft that has crash landed. Designed by out-there architect Frank Gehry, this totally bizarre museum is dedicated to history of popular music and science fiction. The EMP is named after the band of native Seattleite Jimi Hendrix, and features mostly rock memorabilia and crazy techno-intense multimedia experiences. The Sound Lab and On Stage exhibits allow visitors to interact with the music, and you can learn all you ever needed to know about the history of music in Seattle, including the epic Grunge Era (when wearing plaid was actually cool). Check out the huge sculpture made entirely out of guitars and other musical instruments. If you are a music lover, science fiction geek, or both, you will be like a kid in a toy store at the EMP.

Under The Streets of Seattle
Under The Streets of Seattle

The City Beneath the City

The trendy music scene isn’t the only thing that is ‘underground’ in Seattle. The first buildings in Seattle in the 1800s were made of wood, and most of them were destroyed by a massive fire in 1889. The city leaders decided to take the opportunity to regrade the streets a couple of stories higher than the original ones. This served to solve the problem of flooding that they were struggling with because most of Seattle was built on filled-in tidelands. The new streets were now at the second levels of the older buildings, and the old streets became narrow underground passageways that soon were shut down for fear of the pneumonic plague in 1907. These forgotten corridors became dens of illegal activities, such as gambling halls and opium dens and hideaways for the homeless.

A small portion of the Seattle Underground City has been restored and can be viewed on a guided tour. The dark and sinister history of this subterranean city is full of quirky characters and fascinating tales. Definitely wear good shoes if you are going on a Seattle Underground Tour, as the walkways down there are anything but smooth and you will have to descend plenty of stairs.

The Amazing Space Needle!
The Amazing Space Needle!

Dining with the Stars

For a really memorable Seattle meal, why not eat 500 feet in the air atop one of the most recognizable landmarks of the skyline? The Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair and features an observation deck with fantastic views of Seattle and the Olympic and Cascade mountain ranges, Mount Rainier, Elliot Bay, Mount Baker, and the nearby islands.

The Sky City restaurant at the top slowly rotates 360 degrees, so during the course of an evening meal you will get to look at the entire city. The elevator operators at the Space Needle have a cheeky sense of humour as well, when I was there I was making small talk with one and I asked him how he enjoyed his job. He said, “Oh you know, it has its ups and downs.”

Olympic Sculpture Park
Olympic Sculpture Park

Olympic Sculpture Park

The Seattle Art Museum has transformed a huge 9 acre former industrial site overlooking the water into a funky urban outdoor sculpture gallery. This open space for art is a fantastic location for a leisurely stroll down the waterfront or a picnic in the grass. The path takes you past large scale works of art by big names such as Alexander Calder, Claes Oldenburg, and Richard Serra. Some are surreal, some are monumental, and some are just plain weird, such as the enormous typewriter eraser.

Go Check Out Seattle for Yourself!

If you think Seattle sounds cool, you’re absolutely right. It’s one of the Coolest Cities in the
World and you should definitely go visit it and find out why. I’m sure you will have a great time,
and when you do let us know what your favourite part was!

Some Helpful Guidebooks for Seattle

Here are a few recommendations for further reading about this great city:

Lonely Planet Seattle City GuideWallpaper City Guide SeattleFrommer’s Seattle 2011

About Kelly Dunning

A Canadian freelance writer with a love of art, culture, literature and adventure, Kelly loves exploring foreign lands and expressing her experiences through the power of the written word.


  1. I really appreciate this article because I’m always thinking about new places to visit in the U.S.A. I currently live on the East Coast so sometimes I tend to overlook the West and it’s nice to have a reminder of all the awesome things waiting over there. I had no idea about the Olympic Sculpture Park or the Experience Music Project.

    I’m adding Seattle to my must-see list 🙂

  2. We visited Seattle after my grandmother, who at the time worked for the Forest Service, was transferred to Washington to assist with the aftermath of the Mount St Helens eruption. We decided to tour the state before my grandmother headed back to her home state of Virginia. I have to say, of all the cities I have been to, at that is a lot, Seattle is my favorite. We toured the state in an RV and were parked in a campground outside of the city and just happened to get lucky, because it rained at night, but was nice during the day for our trips into the city. I really enjoyed the sculpture park and Pike’s Place Market is like nothing you can find anywhere else in the states. I have to add though that if you are going to Seattle you absolutely have to do a tour of the Olympic National Forest also. Old growth forest and hip cool city must balance your energy or something new agey like that. 🙂

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