I hear all the time about visitors only spending 24 hours in Seattle. As one of the best cities (in my opinion) in the country, it’s hard to pack enough into a single day. Still, there are plenty of ways to spend 24 hours in Seattle that give you a taste of the PNW.
While it can be intimidating to capture so much of the city in a short time, you have me here to help. My 24 hours in Seattle guide helps you plan your visit from morning to night, maximizing your time in the Emerald City. With plenty of food, coffee, and drink recommendations along the way, it’s easy to make the most of your 24 hours here.
No matter your budget, there’s plenty on this list that’s right for you. The best part is you can do a little or as much as you’d like, and you can keep your budget low or high depending on your situation. Ready to dive in? Let’s explore!
Is 24 Hours in Seattle Enough Time?
To begin, is 24 hours in Seattle enough time? In short, no. It’s not enough time to see it “all.” The beauty of this city is mainly in it’s smaller, quirky neighborhoods, and you won’t have enough time for all that if you’re only here a short while. That being said, 24 hours in Seattle is enough time to see the highlights and discover the magic of the city.
The good news is most of the touristy spots are concentrated in a small area. This means you can easily see the highlights like these in a single day:
- Pike Place Market
- Seattle Center
- Space Needle
- The Pier
While you might have time to sneak in a few more things, it’s important to focus on what’s most important to you. Remember, you can always visit again in the future with more time to do the things that you might not have time for right now. Depending on how much time you need to spend at each of the touristy things above, you might be able to do more or less exploring. It’s okay to change your mind throughout the day and go with the flow!
Where to Stay for One Day in Seattle
Before we dive into the 24 hours in Seattle itinerary, let’s talk about where to stay. If you’re not staying in the city, jump ahead to the next section.
Otherwise, I’d highly recommend staying downtown or nearby. Downtown proper will have you closer to Pike Place, while a spot like Belltown will be close to the water and the Space Needle. Alternatively, South Lake Union is a great central spot that feels a bit less touristy.
While downtown hotels will cost a bit more, it’s worth being close to the touristy things you need to do. Here are some of my personal recommendations for places to stay in these areas:
Do I Need a Car to Get Around Seattle?
Similarly, I would actually recommend not bringing a car to Seattle for a 24 hour stay. This is because parking can be expensive and complicated, and it’s not usually worth it if you don’t plan to drive outside of the city.
You can get a day pass for the Seattle public transportation (light rail, bus, etc.) for around $10, and this is actually a pretty easy-to-use system.
Most importantly, you can walk most places. Even if the weather is bad and you choose to Uber/Lyft, this still will likely be similar in cost or cheaper to paying for hotel parking and a rental car. If you do choose to bring a car, I’d highly recommend booking parking in advance using the Spot Hero app.
24 Hours in Seattle Itinerary
Alright, it’s time to get into what to do in 24 hours in Seattle. This single-day itinerary highlights all the must-see things in Seattle as well as some of my personal favorites. As the biggest city in Washington, there’s no way to fit it all into a single trip, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of your day.
Morning in Seattle
To start of your morning, head over to Pike Place Market bright and early. Open since 1907, this is the oldest farmers market in the United States, and also one of the best places to grab breakfast.
While you can go to Pike Place throughout any time of day, the best time is in the morning before the crowds get there. If possible, arrive before 9am. This is a multi-level complex home to over 500 stalls and restaurants, and you’ll also spot the infamous fish throwers!
If you can, book a food tour of Pike Place in advance. I recommend this chef-led tour through Airbnb. I liked it so much I booked it twice! With the tour, you get a lot of great samples, history, and more without worrying about long lines.
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Though it’s hard to pick, here are some of my favorite places to grab food at Pike Place:
- Piroshky Piroshky: This infamous baker has served Russian pastries and sweets for years.
- Biscuit Bitch: It’s all about southern comfort food here, even it’s a bit raunchy.
- Joe Chocolate Coffee: Skip the “first” Starbucks and grab a latte or hot chocolate here instead!
- Pike Place Chowder: If you’re looking for typical PNW chowder, this is the place! To beat the line, order online.
- Ellenos Yogurt: This greek yogurt isn’t like what you’ll get in the grocery store. It’s decadent and amazing!
After some shopping and wandering around, make your way down to the waterfront. This is the pier section of Seattle’s downtown, and it’s worth a quick visit. You’ll find lots of touristy shops, places to eat, and seafood spots. The view here is also great, and you can spot West Seattle and Bainbridge Island across the way in Elliott Bay.
If you’re traveling with kids, it might be worth stopping for a few hours at the Seattle Aquarium at Pier 59. This is a great place to see sea life up close!
Similarly, to see amazing views of the bay, try the Seattle Great Wheel. This 175-ft ferris wheel has amazing views of the Olympic Mountains and city on a clear day.
Bonus: No trip to downtown Seattle is complete without at least catching a glimpse of the infamous Gum Wall. Colorful, quirky, and a little gross, this walkway can be found if you take the stairs through Post Alley to the side of Pike Place. Lost? Ask any vendor to lead you to the gum wall!
Afternoon in Seattle
For the afternoon, I recommend making your way north to Belltown and the Seattle Center. Walking here is totally doable, but remember most of downtown Seattle is full of hills. You can catch an Uber, take the monorail from Westlake, or try your luck at a Lime Scooter.
Once you get to the Seattle Center, you’ll see the legendary Space Needle. This is the cities most well-known landmark.
Created for the 1962 World’s Fair, this is a must-see. While I’ve personally never been up, you have the option to enter (for a fee) to take in the view of the top. Again, you’ll probably only want to splurge for this on a clear day.
If you have extra time or you’re a pop culture nerd, you can’t miss the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP). This is one of my all-time favorite museums!
All about music, film, and pop culture, there are some amazing exhibits here. With stage-worn clothes from Jimi Hendrix, notes from Kurt Cobain, and memorabilia from Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, this is rock lovers dreamscape. I’m also a huge fan of the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror exhibits! If you’re lucky, a rotating exhibit will be in town as well.
Tip: If you have a Seattle CityPASS, you can skip the line and also access the Space Needle and other sites for a single cost.
From there, take a quick trip over to the International District for some unique exploring. The Seattle Chinatown-International District is a gem when it comes to finding great food in the city. You can get here by Uber, scooter, or lightrail.
Though just walking the streets here is fun in itself, now is the best time to enjoy some local favorites. Recommendations include:
Evening in Seattle
Last but not least, unwind and end your day in one of the funkiest places in Seattle. Even though you only have 24 hours in Seattle, you can’t skip out on this neighborhood. From the International District, make your way just north to Capitol Hill.
Less than a 10-minute drive, you can get here by Uber, lightrail, or even the Seattle Streetcar.
Diverse and friendly, this neighborhood is the nightlife capital of the city. You’ll find endless shopping, dining, and bars here on every corner. Stick to E Pike Street and E Pine Street to see the most action.
Whether you’re hoping to grab a bite to eat and happy hour drinks or go out for a late night of exploring, there’s something for you here every night of the week. Again, it’s hard to pick favorites, but mine are:
- Nue: Eclectic and global, this restaurant will definitely surprise you.
- Oddfellows: Gorgeously designed, there’s a reason this is a local favorite.
- Tacos Chukis: Best if you’re looking for something quick, these tacos always hit the spot.
- Unicorn: A Seattle institution, this is where Macklemore filmed his infamous “Thrift Shop” music video.
- La Dive: If you’re looking for a quaint, local-feeling wine bar, you’ve found it in La Dive.
- Linda’s Tavern: Not exactly a dive bar but also not exactly an upscale bar, this is uniquely Seattle. Be sure to check out the back patio and the boozie Mountain Dew slushies.
- Frankie & Jo‘s: Seattle is known for its delicious ice cream, and this vegan spot is no exception.
- Pie Bar: If you’ve ever wanted to order a cocktail and a slice of warm pie at once, now is your chance!
- Molly Moon’s: Finally, Molly Moon’s ice cream is a Seattle staple.
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Enjoy Your Quick Trip to Seattle!
There you have it! Here’s how you should spend 24 hours (or less) in Seattle! If you only have 24 hours in Seattle, there’s plenty you can see, do, and eat in that time. by stopping at some of these favorites above, you’re sure to have an amazing experience.