A weekend in Seattle | A Travel Diary
Ever since moving to California, we knew that we would take this as a chance to drive this number even higher, aka visiting as many states and places in America as possible. One of the cities we anticipated the most was Seattle. What I did not know before our visit, though, is that Seattle did not only spawn Amazon and Boeing but the world’s most famous coffee house chain, aka Starbucks. Frankly, the States are not exactly covered in glory when it comes to good coffee, especially if you ask us spoiled Europeans… which is why I was beyond excited when I learned that Seattle, indeed, is known as “the coffee city of the US”.
At times when we were still working and living in Germany, we would use up most of our vacation days to travel to the US. I always insisted on one annual trip to California and one to New York, but we usually tried to combine the journey with a destination we hadn’t traveled to before. That’s how we built up an impressive collection of eight US states while living on a different continent.
Ever since moving to California, we knew that we would take this as a chance to drive this number even higher, aka visiting as many states and places in America as possible. One of the cities we anticipated the most was Seattle. Washington’s largest city became widely popular in Germany at the latest with movies like “Sleepless in Seattle” and TV shows such as Grey’s Anatomy playing there.
What I did not know before our visit, though, is that Seattle did not only spawn Amazon and Boeing but the world’s most famous coffee house chain, aka Starbucks. Frankly, the States are not exactly covered in glory when it comes to good coffee, especially if you ask us spoiled Europeans… which is why I was beyond excited when I learned that Seattle, indeed, is known as “the coffee city of the US”.
A Weekend in Seattle – A Travel Diary
Living in California does come with advantages (as distance to other states is not as big); however, we have significantly fewer vacation days to spend on traveling. That’s why we could afford to go to Seattle over a weekend. I have to say though, that the length of our trip (two days, two nights) was perfect for exploring the city, and there is only so much coffee you can drink anyway, right? We could walk pretty much the entire city center, see the Space Needle from various points, visit the Pike Market, and check out the most fabulous coffee spots. We did not spend any time going shopping (which I would always do in a time before Covid!), as Seattle, unfortunately, had taken its toll with the pandemic, similar to New York or San Francisco. Many big department stores were closed (looking at you, Macy’s), others were barricaded for protection against vandalism, and almost all of them had a bulk of homeless people in front of them. It’s unfortunate what the pandemic has done to all these once so buzzing cities.
In any way, we still had so much fun exploring the city that showed itself in the most beautiful fall colors, with maple trees in stunning red, orange, and bright yellow.
When we first came to the US, we were shocked about the prices a usual hotel asks for. There are either motels that come with very basic equipment and most of the time no breakfast, abs they still ask for a hundred bucks a night. Then there are upscale (boutique) hotels that sometimes offer great deals but usually come at their price, too. Except for business hotels, which are decent but not very exciting, there is not really anything in between. We ended up staying in one of the latter, the Hyatt Regency Seattle, which was located in a perfect neighborhood, with a sophisticated, streamlined interior and came with everything we needed but was not unique by any means. If I ever go back to Seattle, I have my eye on the Hotel Theodore right across the street, a more eclectic, thoughtful interior, with an excellent barista coffee shop in the lobby: Made Coffee.
What TO SEE IN SEATTLE
The Lonely Planet describes Seattle as a “United States of Neighborhoods”, and it truly has many different facets and areas that we all tried to discover.
“A family consisting of affectionate but sometimes errant members. There’s the aloof, elegant one (Queen Anne), the social butterfly (Capitol Hill), the artistic, bearded one (Fremont), the effortlessly cool one (Ballard), the grizzled old patriarch (Pioneer Square), the precocious adolescent still carving out its identity (South Lake Union) and the one who lives out of town (West Seattle). You’ll never fully understand Seattle until you’ve spent a bit of time with them all.” – Lonely Planet
With our hotel located in the city center, aka Belltown, it was pretty convenient to walk everywhere and explore every significant neighborhood, including Queen Anne, which, in all honesty though, was quite a hike, as it is located on the hills of Seattle. While Belltown is filled with buzzy dining options and hip and upright bars (scroll down to see which one we liked the most) and known for its legendary music scene, and Capitol Hill reminded me a lot of a creative, hip design district with its many furniture stores, Mexican food places, and vintage boutiques, I personally adored the Seattle Center where our hotel was located in most. Lots of skyrises with big names like Amazon made the city center look shiny, posh, and very modern, and I enjoyed strolling through the little streets around the Urban Triangle Park and seeing eye-catching luminous The Spheres shining at night. If you have the time, you should also make the walk up to Lake Union. We spent probably an hour at their part in Capitol Hill and watched the seaplane taking off and regularly landing while getting some Vitamin D from the impressive fall sun. From there, it’s an easy walk to Westlake and (admittedly less easy) Queen Anne, two more laid-back and upscale neighborhoods with assessable anchor streets with small boutiques and coffee shops.
We did not visit SODO, Seattle Industrial District, even though it supposedly echoes New York’s famous Soho District. It did, however, remind us of the district we live in San Francisco, and since it hasn’t been gentrified that much, with some of the SoDo warehouse buildings remaining in their original use, we thought we could check out that another time.
No Seattle visit without a rise up to the impressive Space Needle that dominates the city’s skyline? Well, we thought otherwise and rather spare the sweeping $32.50 to $37.50 to go up the Needle but rather look out for it from the various viewpoints and lookouts that are all over the city, e.g., the Kerry Park in Queen Anne (that is a must-visit for fans of Grey’s Anatomy anyway) or from the Capitol Hill.
I did mention The Spheres already, which reminded me of the striking conservatories Flower Dome and Cloud Forest in Singapore, although Amazon sponsors the spheric cubes in Seattle.
The Pike Place Market is Seattle’s original farmers market and the center of locally sourced, artisan and specialty foods. Although it is a tourist sight and even during the pandemic pretty busy, I did enjoy strolling through the market, getting inspired by local crafts and trade, and even had one of the most delicious coffees in here. There are fantastic flower shops that create bouquets in every stunning color, and for a second, I wished to live in Seattle and go here on a regular basis. We bought a package of lemon-black-pepper-flavored handmade linguine that we already cooked at home and found delicccc! I can highly recommend visiting the Pike Place Market and supporting the local farmers and producers.
In Pike Place, you will also find the first, and Original Starbucks established in 1971 (even though it sneakily changed its address slightly since then). However, the store has kept its early appearance and is subject to design guidelines and historical significance.
For Grey’s Anatomy Fans: I was amazed when I saw the Meridith Grey House highlighted on the Seattle Google Map when strolling through the city. Not sure whether the inhabitants of the house were quite as amazed, but at least they waved at me when I took a picture of the outside of the cute impressive family house. I always had the impression that the place was relatively sedate. Still, in all honestly, albeit rather old, this house is not only located in an upscale neighborhood, but it also must have the best views of the Seattle skyline and the Space Needle, as the Kerry Park is right around the blog. Hence, the fancy pictures you get to see in the series can’t be photoshopped (which I, for some reason, always thought…). You go, Elis Grey!
WHERE to EAT in Seattle
Since we arrived late afternoon on a Friday, we immediately went for a little stroll on the hunt for a dinner place. Luckily, we found everything we could have wished for with the Barolo Ristorante, a swanky Italian fare that served not only excellent Negronis but also super delicious pasta. We came back on our last day before heading to the airport, and it turns out that they have a happy hour going on every day from 4 to 7 pm, which I can highly recommend, as you get their incredible rigatoni al sugo di carne for 50% off.
On the second day, we basically ate our way through the city, with some random Mexican Restaurant in Capitol Hill serving our main meal/lunch/dinner of the day. I cannot remember the place, though, and it’s nothing fancy that I couldn’t end this post without mentioning. It was alright and it had a good Margeria Happy Hour, if I remember right.
For breakfast, we found the Mr. West Cafe Bar in Downtown, located right next to our hotel, very indulging, as their seasoned avocado toast was very delicious, and the coffee deserves the second entry in this post. We also broke the fast at Evoke Espresso in South Lake Union.
We also had some food and drinks at The Hart and the Hunter. This cute little bar/brunch place/coffee shop took over my heart even before we had arrived in Seattle and I insisted in going here. The place was buzzing with mostly groups having brunch, we did have some cocktails (it was Saturday after all) and coffee though and it was… ok! I will say I’ll have to come back and check out the brunch, but I wouldn’t be keen to have another Whiskey Sour here, tbh.
Where to drink in Seattle
I said it at the very beginning of this post, Seattle is a coffee city! And it did not disappoint, which means a lot coming from someone who considered themselves coffee addictive! You could find a delicious barista café at every corner. I most appreciated that they came in cups (which is not very popular right now during the pandemic, at least not in San Francisco). I hadn’t sat down and had a cuppa for a long while, so I made it a point to take a break now and then try another great cup.
Here are the coffee shops that I tried, tested, loved, or at least bookmarked:
Mr. West Cafe Bar – Downtown – We did also have breakfast here on the first morning. Maybe I am biased since it was my first cup in a long time, but I found their oat flat to be the best in town.
Anchorhead Coffee – Three words: Awesome.Oat.Flat. (plus great vibes)
Made Coffee – I am not sure whether I tried that one, or not, but I am sure it’s as good as every other cup I had in Seattle.
Fulcrum Roasters – Cute little corner coffee shop with amazing coffee and delicious pain au chocolat.
Evoke Espresso – Modern and minimalist coffee shop that also provides pastries and light fare. We had breakfast on the second day here and the girl working at the counter was very chatty and helpful, which was an added benefit to learn about the city.
Café Hagen – They didn’t serve coffee in a cup, not while we were visiting anyway, but the coffee was still decent, not to say excellent.
Monorail Espresso – I honestly can’t remember whether I have visited that place or not, but the rating speaks for the place and I will for sure check it out next time I visit Seattle.
I know… I had a lot of coffee in 48 hours…! Told you, I am a coffee lover! However, what I, unfortunately, cannot recommend is Caffe V… (no intention to give them any better SEO rank, lol) in Westlake, right across from Café Hagen. This place – albeit having a very good rating on Google – looked very sketchy to me at first sight and their staff proved me right, as they were pretty unfriendly and almost deterrent. I seldom give negative recommendations but this place, unfortunately, deserves it.
If you follow this blog for more than a week, you will know that my favorite beverage after a cup of coffee is an actual drink, aka Old Fashioned, Whiskey Sour, or, since nowadays, a classic Negroni. Daniel and I both enjoy checking out bespoke bars in every city that
Deep Dive – This place has made it probably of my most favorite bars in the world with its elegant atmosphere, the great knowledge of their bartenders, and its exclusivity. Tip: you should go there and put your name on the waitlist as they don’t seem to take reservations and always give you a roughly two hours time.
PennyRoyal – A European-Style bar in the Palladian Hotel serving aged spirits, with a lovely bartender that creates the drink that you could wish for. I found the cocktails excellent but a little pricey.
Barolo Ristorante – I mentioned this place before for their great food, although the Negroni actually impressed me even more. If you are ever in the city center of Seattle and don’t know where to go, try this place for sure, maybe even sit at the bar and observe how literally the entire sociality of Seattle meets here.
La Ceviste – (I told you, we ate and drank our way through the city)… a French wine bar with excellent wine and charcuterie boards. We spent a lovely, romantic evening here and I would always come back. The prices are reasonable, the staff is not only very charming and knowledgeable, but also super attentive, and the atmosphere is just quite right!
Bathtub Gin & Co. – A place that is highly recommended, not only from our hotel, as the queues in front of the entrance speak for themselves. We couldn’t bother to wait in the cold, so we checked out another bar nearby, but we will try to get in next time, that’s for sure.
The Doctor’s Office – We, unfortunately, did not make it here but we will for sure on our next visit.
You can tell that I really enjoyed Seattle and I would be back in a heartbeat. If it wasn’t for the huge list of other cities in the States that I now want to visit even more after having such a breezy weekend in Seattle. Anyway, I am sure I’ll be back, and if it’s only for a cuppa…!