How to Spend 12 Hours Eating and Seeing the Sites in Seattle

Make the most of your time in the Emerald City

Dusk settles on the city of Seattle and creates for a beautiful view of this enchanting city.

Make the most of your time in the Emerald City

If you’ve never been to the Emerald City, put it on your list. Seattle is a beautiful city with plenty to see, do, and eat. And if you’ve just got a few hours in the so-called Jewel of the Pacific, then you’re in luck: All of Seattle’s top tourist attractions are all clustered near each other. Use this itinerary to soak up as much of the city as you can in just 12 hours.

8:30 a.m. Rise and shine. Chances are you’re staying downtown near Pike’s Place Market, and you’ll want to indulge in one of Seattle’s most famous offerings: coffee. I’d suggest heading to Café Fonte for a cup. Order espresso or black coffee—it’s all good. I’d also suggest ordering the cured salmon gravlax benedict. Smoked salmon is a must-try in the Pacific Northwest, and this in-house creation is particularly tasty.

Photo Credit: Facebook/Café Fonte

9:30 a.m. If you’re staying downtown, hop on the monorail (it’s fun!) at the Westlake Mall and make your way to Seattle’s most iconic landmark: The Space Needle. By getting there early in the morning, you’ll (hopefully) beat the long lines to get to the top. Snap your photos and move on.

10 a.m. My two other favorite museums in the Seattle Center—the public space where the Space Needle is located—are the Experience Music Project and the Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum. Start with the Chihuly Museum, but be warned: you’ll quickly fall in lovewith Washington artist Dale Chihuly’s whimsical glass creations. Be sure to snap a shot of the Space Needle from the green house. It’s a picture worth capturing. Once you’re finished at Chihuly, celebrate music and enjoy the kick-ass Nirvana exhibit at the Experience Music Project. At the very top of this spot, you’ll also find recording spaces and equipment so you can unleash your inner Mick Jagger.

Noon. If you’re in need of a snack, head to the nearby Armory for some tasty eats.  Vendors like Seattle Fudge, Blue Water Taco Grill and The Confenctional (try the red velvet cheesecake) are on hand serving up their goods.  If you’d like a larger meal, Collections Café at Chihuly Gardens and Glass is delicious.

1 p.m. Make your way back to Seattle’s other famous landmark: Pike Place Market. It really lives up to its reputation. Here you’ll find plenty of food and drink vendors peddling their wares. Watch as fish are thrown at the Pike Place Fish Market. Head to Beecher’s to see cheese being made, and be sure to sample The Flagship cheese, too. It’s worth checking out the very first Starbucks while you’re there.

Photo Credit: Michael Righi

4 p.m.  After all that eating, it’s time for some walking.  First, indulge in the famed Fran’s Chocolates signature salted caramels. Your mouth will be watering for days after you’ve eaten them. Afterwards, I’d suggest checking out the quirky gum wall or heading to the nearby Seattle Art Museum. It’s a good-sized museum—meaning you won’t get too tired from walking around here—and a nice way to refresh for the evening. From there, it’s just a short walk to historic Pioneer Square. Just for fun, browse the Utilikilt store or sample java from the notable Cherry Street Coffee Company. If you want to go up high again, head to the Spice Needle’s predecessor, the historic Smith Tower or walk up a very steep hill (Seattle is one hilly city) to the tallest building in Seattle, the Columbia Tower. I personally think the best views of the city are from here. If you’d like to see the view by just paying for coffee instead of shelling out for admission, you can even buy a coffee at the world’s highest Starbucks here.

Photo Credit: Fran's Chocolate

6 p.m. It’s dinner time. Walk back to Pike Place or consider heading to Tom Douglas’ Serious Pie for a fresh and tasty pizza (seriously).

8:30 p.m. No trip to Seattle would be complete without some time on the waterfront. End your night by wandering around the scenic waterfront and consider taking a spin on the Great Wheel. Watch as the ferries go by as the Puget Sound glitters, check out downtown Seattle from above and take it all in before you say goodbye.


Teresa K. Tobat is a travel writer and editor based out the Washington, D.C. area. Follow her tweets @ttobat88.