Where to Stay in Seattle: Neighborhood Guide & Tips

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Seattle is a perfect hub for both PNW adventuring and delving into an excellent foodie & music scene. So where is the best place to stay in Seattle, you ask? The answer depends on your travel style. We’ll walk you through the best neighborhoods — from those with quirky hipster vibes to the best places for experiencing the nightlife. 

Where to Stay in Seattle | Belltown Pikes Place Farmers Market Seattle

With easy access to epic mountain adventures as well as a world-class food and music scene, there is no shortage of fun things to do in Seattle. We love this exciting PNW city and find new things to do on each visit.

We used to live in Washington State, just a couple of hours from Seattle, and we found ourselves staying in new neighborhoods during each visit to kind of “compare” them. Each Seattle neighborhood has a distinctly different vibe and has unique draws, so depending on your travel style and the purpose of your trip, the best area can vary.

In this article, we’re describing some of Seattle’s best neighborhoods, things to do in the area, and even offer a some suggestions of great places to stay for each budget.

So let’s get to planning your trip and finding the best place to stay in Seattle, tailored to you!

Best places to stay in Seattle for…

Cute street in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle!

Cute street in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle!

If you’re looking for quick answers, here are our suggestions on where to stay in Seattle for different scenarios. If you want more info and the lowdown on each neighborhood, click on the ‘hood to jump to that section of the article, or just keep reading.

Other article contents

Overview of Seattle Neighborhoods

Seattle Neighborhoods Overview Map

Seattle has a large metro area which is made somewhat more complicated to navigate due to all of the surrounding waterways. While there are plenty more neighborhoods that make up this port city, we’ve broken down this article into sections describing the best neighborhoods we’d recommend for tourists.

You can see a general outline of each neighborhood highlighted with different colors on the map above.If you know which area you’re interested in, click on the links below to jump to a specific ’hood or just keep on reading!

  • Ballard: Trendy spot for foodies and hipsters with plenty of breweries

  • Green Lake & Wallingford: A local feel surrounding a lake with a walking path

  • Fremont: Quirky, laidback vibe with lots of cool cafes, coffee shops, and boutiques

  • Queen Anne: Upper Queen Anne is the quieter historic neighborhood, and lower Queen Anne is more lively with bars and the Space Needle

  • Belltown: Situated right downtown, close to Pikes Place Market

  • Capitol Hill: LGTBQ epicenter, a lively neighborhood good for partying and brunching

  • Pioneer Square: Close to lots of major attractions, a good spot to base yourself if you don’t have a car

  • West Seattle: Laidback area near the water with a beach town feel

Getting Around Seattle

Cheery Blossoms in Seattle

Seattle is a large metro area with many neighborhoods to explore, not to mention all the epic mountain and ocean adventures that lie just outside the city!

Here are the best ways to get around in Seattle:

Getting to and from the airport:

If you look at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (also known as Sea-Tac) on a map, you’ll notice it is quite a ways outside of the downtown Seattle area. In rush hour traffic, this trip can be a bit of a hassle by car or taxi. That’s why the easiest way to get to and from the Seattle airport is by Link Light Rail.

The Link light rail travels between UW Station and Angle Lake Station, making 14 stops along the way, including downtown Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport. Trains depart every 6-10 minutes and a one-way ticket costs just $2.25 – $2.50 depending on your destination.

From baggage claim: Follow the signs for Link light rail. Go up one floor and head to the skybridge at the north end of the terminal. Then go left through the parking garage and you’ll run into the light rail station. For those that need it, a free electric shuttle service operates continuously between the light rail station and the airport’s main terminal. 

Rental Car

If you base yourself smack dab downtown (Belltown, Pioneer Square or some parts of Capitol Hill), you could get away without having a car. That said, if you want to explore more neighborhoods or even take a day trip to the Olympic Peninsula (highly recommended!) a car is kind of a must. Seattle is pretty spread out, so having your own transportation makes it much easier to see all the sights.

There are plenty of places to rent a car around the city, but if you are flying into Sea-Tac, you’ll likely want to pick up a rental car right after you land. Seattle Airport has an off-site Rental Car Facility that connects to the airport via a free shuttle. (We’ve taken this guy a few times and it’s super convenient and comes every 15 minutes or so.)

The last time we visited Seattle, we had just flown into the US from overseas, so we rented a car through RentalCars.com. We compared a few sites, but they had the best deals by far for the dates we were searching. We paid around $30 per day for a standard sedan, which is all you need in Seattle (unless you’re visiting in the wintertime and plan to do some exploring in the Cascades, in which case we’d recommend 4-wheel-drive!).

Tip: Make sure your hotel or Airbnb has parking (hopefully free parking!) because spaces get pretty tight in Seattle. 

Uber or Lyft

If you don’t want to drive yourself and deal with parking, ride share apps are the next best thing. Especially if you plan to have a few beverages out in the city. Don’t risk driving, instead, order an Uber or Lyft to get you where you need to go. Downtown Seattle decently sized but you can get to and from most places pretty quickly.

Metro

Seattle is very well connected city when it comes to public transportation. They have buses, light rail trains, street cars, and monorails throughout the city.

A typical one-way fare is between $2.25 to $3 depending on how far you go. 
There are apps to find a route and time schedules (like the Trip Planner App from King County), but we prefer to use Google Maps to plan out our trips. 

Bicycle Rental

Getting Around Seattle | Jump Bike Share

Seattle has a bike share program called JUMP. They offer electric-assist bicycles which still require users to pedal, but make Seattle’s many hills a bit more manageable. To get started with your bike rental, simply download the app and follow the instructions for reserving a bike.

Keep in mind: You are legally required to wear a helmet when biking in Seattle, so be sure to come prepared.


Ballard

Ballard Farmers Market | Photo credit:MyBallard.com

Ballard Farmers Market | Photo credit: MyBallard.com

This trendy waterfront neighborhood attracts both foodies and hipsters alike, but it wasn’t always this way. Ballard has gained popularity in recent years as property prices in downtown have skyrocketed, pushing young people and businesses a bit farther out. Still close to downtown, this neighborhood has blossomed into an area that has its own unique heartbeat.

Find quirky boutiques, thrift stores, bookshops, and plenty of restaurants and breweries centered around historic Ballard Avenue. There is also a vibrant nightlife and live music scene with plenty of bars and breweries.

Fun Fact: Ballard is on its way to becoming the first carbon neutral community in the US.

Highlights of Ballard

  • Ballard Avenue: The main street in this neighborhood is lined with tons of shops, restaurants and bars to explore.

  • Ballard Farmers Market: Open on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. year round, this neighborhood staple is well worth checking out if you’re visiting on a weekend.

  • Second Saturday Art Walk: If you happen to be visiting Seattle on the second Saturday of the month, be sure to check out the art walk!

  • Golden Gardens: A dog-friendly park and beach on the west coast that is a great place for a picnic, exploring tide pools, and catching the sunset.

    • Hint: Bonfires are allowed here in approved fire pits.

  • Ballard Lochs: Watch ships pass through the nation’s busiest lochs as you settle in for a picnic in this popular spot.

  • The best restaurants & cafes include: Biscuit & Bean, The Walrus & The Carpenter, Copine, Garcia, Ballard Pizza Co. & Bitterroot BBQ.

  • The best breweries include: Stoup Brewing, Trailbend Taproom, Reuben’s Brews, & Lucky Envelope Brewing Co.

  • Live Music: Ballard is known for some great live music venues like Egan’s Jam House, The Stepping Stone, Ballard Kiss Cafe, Sunset Tavern, and The Tractor Tavern.

Best Ballard Stays

Where to Stay in Ballard Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Private Ballard Backyard Cottage: This is an Airbnb Plus verified property is nestled in the historic Ballard neighborhood. The light and modern 1-bedroom cottage has a fully stocked kitchen and allows for for self-check in. Check Availability here.

Where to Stay in Ballard Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Private Entrance Queen Suite in Ballard Downtown: This Superhost Airbnb property is located in downtown Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. The guest suite features a queen bed, private bathroom and outdoor terrace. Check Availability here.

Hotel Ballard in Seattle | Image source: Booking

Luxury Stay: Hotel Ballard – Situated in a brand new building in historic Ballard with views of the bay, this is the perfect hotel for a couple who enjoys a more luxurious stay. The hotel features a rooftop terrace, swimming pool and onsite restaurant and bar. 24-hour concierge service is offered.

Pro Tip: We have loads of info on how to book Airbnbs, including red flags to watch out for when booking and a bonus coupon code for first-time users.

Green Lake & Wallingford

Where to Stay in Seattle | Green Lake neighborhood

Technically two separate neighborhoods surrounding the lake and Woodland Park, staying in this area will make you feel like a local. These quiet neighborhoods have lots of small shops and parks around the lake and is just a short drive from downtown.

Highlights of Green Lake & Wallingford

  • Green Lake: …Duh! The 2.8-mile trail around the lake is popular with the locals and makes the perfect way to enjoy a nice day.

  • Woodland Park Zoo: Home to a vast array of species and a great place for family fun.

  • 45th Stop N Shop: Don’t let the convenience store facade fool you, there is a restaurant in the back serving up poke bowls and sushi burritos with freshest seafood.

  • Open Books: A Poem Emporium: One of only four poetry bookstores in the entire country.

Best Green Lake & Wallingford Stays

Airbnb in Wallingford, Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Tranquil Secluded Studio Steps from Woodland Park: This tiny house has a great location just south of Woodland Park. Check yourself in and out and enjoy being in a quiet neighborhood. This is where we stayed on our most recent trip to Seattle, and it was a good location and staying in a tiny house was kind of fun! Check Availability here.

Airbnb Tiny House in Green Lake Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Tiny House Backyard Bungalow Next to Green Lake: This cozy backyard bungalow is just steps from Green Lake and the restaurants and bars in the neighborhood. At a low nightly rate this place is perfect for a couple traveling on a budget who want a residential feel. Check Availability Here.

Fremont

Where to Stay in Seattle | Fremont Troll

This is one of our favorite neighborhoods in Seattle to explore. It has a quirky, laidback vibe and there are lots of cool cafes, coffee shops, and boutiques scattered throughout the neighborhood that you can easily walk around. Not to mention the amazing waterfront views!

Highlights of Fremont

  • The Fremont Troll: A quirky art installation that lives beneath the George Washington Memorial Bridge.

  • Gasworks Park: Located on the north shore of Lake Union, this park is the site of the former Seattle Gas Light Company plant.

  • Fremont Brewing Company: One of Seattle’s essential breweries gets it’s namesake from the neighborhood.

  • Fremont Sunday Flea Market: If you happen to be in Seattle on a Sunday, try to make it to this market where you’ll find nearly 200 vendors selling antiques, collectibles and other goods.

  • The best restaurants & cafes include: Uneeda Burger, Fremont Bowl, Le Coin, The Masonry, Manolin, Kamonegi, Schilling Cider House & Simply Deserts.

Best Fremont Stays

Loft Airbnb in Fremont Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Room at the Hotel Hotel in Fremont: Walk to shops, cafes and restaurants from your hotel suite in the heart of the Fremont neighborhood. Check Availability Here.

Emerald House Airbnb in Fremont Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Emerald House Fremont: This inviting little 2-bedroom place is perfect for a family traveling to Seattle who want accommodation in the walkable Fremont neighborhood. The remodeled 1900’s abode features a fully stocked kitchen, in home laundry and an outdoor seating area. Check Availability Here.

Chelsea Station Inn Fremont Seattle | Image source: Booking

Mid-range Hotel: Chelsea Station Inn – This quaint bed & breakfast offers comfortable accommodation in the heart of Fremont. The Inn includes an outdoor terrace with jacuzzi tub and serves breakfast every morning for guests.

Queen Anne

Where to Stay in Seattle | Queen Anne neighborhood; Kerry Park Viewpoint

This neighborhood has two distinctly different sections; Lower Queen Anne is more lively, with bars and the Seattle Center (where you can find the Space Needle, among other attractions). Upper Queen Anne on the other hand, is quieter and has historic houses and shopping streets with quirky boutiques.

Highlights of Queen Anne

  • Kerry Park: For the best views of the city, Space Needle and Mt. Rainier.

  • Space Needle: The iconic building and integral piece of the Seattle skyline.

  • Rooftop Brew Co: Just across the Ballard Bridge, you’ll find this legendary brewery with a cozy year-round outdoor patio.

  • Museum of Pop Culture (MPOP): This over-the-top building takes you on a journey through the history of music and movies that have shaped our culture.

  • Chihuly Garden and Glass: A museum and sculpture garden celebrating renowned artist Dale Chihuly’s works.

Best Queen Anne Stays

Modern Kerry Park Apartment in Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Comfy Convenient Kerry Park Apartment: This modern apartment in upper Queen Anne near Kerry Park is the perfect stay for a couple looking for a residential feel. The apartment has a full kitchen and washer/drier. Plus a pull out couch bed if you have little ones traveling with you. Check Availability Here.

Needle view City Center Apartment in Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Needle View City Center Apartment: This cute condo in Lower Queen Anne neighborhood has a large outdoor terrace with views of the Space Needle and Olympic mountain range. The studio has an open floor plan with floor to ceiling windows for plenty of natural light. Check Availability Here.

Belltown

Where to Stay in Seattle | Belltown neighborhood; Pikes Place Farmers Market

Just north of the center of downtown, this lively and well-situated neighborhood is very close to Pikes Place Market and other major tourist attractions. You’ll want to stay here if you like that downtown financial center vibe and want to be close to many attractions.

Highlights of Belltown

  • Pike’s Place Public Market: A visit to Seattle would be incomplete without stepping foot in this town icon.

  • Post Alley Bubble Gum Wall: One of the most famous (and accessible!) Instagram spots in Seattle, and right around the corner from Pike’s Place.

  • The Original Starbucks: Fans of the mega-chain can pay homage to it’s roots in the Belltown neighborhood.

  • The Pink Door: This intimate venue has a spectacular view of Seattle, is known for excellent Italian-American food and has an eclectic mix of nightly entertainment.

  • Olympic Sculpture Park: A waterfront sculpture garden featuring renowned works and beautiful views.

Best Belltown Stays

Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle | Image source: Booking

Budget/Social Hostel: Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle – Steps away from Pike Place Market, this hostel has a social atmosphere and a good breakfast.

Moore Hotel Seattle | Image source: Booking

Budget Hotel: Moore Hotel – Just steps from the iconic Pike’s Place Market, this hotel is perfectly situated for lots of sightseeing. The in-house restaurant, bar and cafe also makes for convenient early-morning coffee runs and night caps.

Inn at the Market Seattle Boutique Hotel | Image source: Booking

Mid-range Hotel: Inn at the Market – Overlook Pike Place Market from the rooftop bar atop this boutique hotel. Views of Elliott Bay and the city aren’t the only perks however, this beautifully decorated modern hotel is perfectly located near some of Seattle’s best attractions.

Capitol Hill

Ba Bar, an amazing choice for upscale Vietnamese food and fun cocktails (they have a good happy hour too!). This is just one of the many cool restaurants in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, making this a perfect pick for a foodie vacay!

Ba Bar, an amazing choice for upscale Vietnamese food and fun cocktails (they have a good happy hour too!). This is just one of the many cool restaurants in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, making this a perfect pick for a foodie vacay!

The LGBTQ epicenter of Seattle and a great place for both partying and brunching. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Capitol Hill is often referred to as “Seattle’s coolest neighborhood”.

We certainly loved staying in this neighborhood during one of our first trips to Seattle!

Highlights of Capitol Hill

  • Cal Anderson Park: A beautiful park with plenty of outdoor space, a reflecting pool and oversized chess board.

  • Volunteer Park Conservatory: A lovely escape for one of Seattle’s notoriously rainy days with all sorts of plants from around the world.

    • Tip: Grab a coffee & pastry or quiche at the super cute Volunteer Park Cafe & Marketplace!

  • Chophouse Row: A shopping area home to several boutiques with locally made artisan goods.

  • The best restaurants & cafes include: Oddfellows Cafe + Bar (yummy brunch!), Ba Bar (excellent, high-end Vietnamese!), Katsu Burger, The Wandering Goose, Tacos Chukis, and Julia’s on Broadway.

  • Coffee & Ice Cream: Starbucks Reserve Roastery, and Salt & Straw (Portland-based ice creamery with insanely good flavors!).

  • The best bars include: Rhein Haus (German beer hall with bocce ball!), Liberty, The Pine Box, Needle & Thread (speakeasy inside Tavern Law), Sun Liquor, Captain Black’s, and The Stumbling Monk.

Best Capitol Hill Stays

Where to Stay in Capitol Hill Seattle: Airbnb New Capitol Hill Studio w/ Free Parking & AC | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Vintage Cap Hill Hideaway: Perfectly located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and just minutes from downtown, this newly renovated studio apartment has an adorable vintage charm. Check Availability here.

11th Ave Inn Bed and Breakfast Seattle | Image source: Booking

Mid-Range/Couple Stay: 11th Avenue Inn Bed and Breakfast – Lovely B&B in a great location on Capitol Hill. Uniquely decorated with antique furniture, there is a cozy at-home feel to this place.

Quirky Airbnb Loft in Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Minerva Inn Saffron Suite: This highly reviewed suite at the Minerva Inn is a great place to spend a getaway in the central Capitol Hill neighborhood. The suite includes all the amenities such as a mini fridge and Kurig machine for those who need a caffeine fix first thing in the morning.Check Availability here.

Where to Stay in Capitol Hill Seattle: Airbnb Sophisticated Studio in Capitol Hill | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Sophisticated Studio with Breathtaking Views of Seattle: This one bedroom apartment is an Airbnb Plus property in the heart of the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. Amenities include a fully-stocked kitchen, in-home laundry, and a self check-in keypad on the door. Check Availability here.

Pioneer Square

Pioneer Square Downtown Seattle rainy day

Close to lots of major attractions, this is the birthplace of Seattle and is a good spot to base yourself if you don’t have a car.

That said, in our opinions, this neighborhood has less character than many of the others on this list. It is busy during the day with people on their way to work and sightseeing, but we prefer the evenings in other neighborhoods.

Highlights of Pioneer Square

  • Seattle Pinball Museum: Possibly the most interactive museum in Seattle – full of pinball machines of course.

  • Waterfall Garden Park: A 22-foot artificial waterfall in a little hidden oasis and a nice escape from the concrete jungle that surrounds it.

  • Pioneer Square Art Walk: Not so much a place as an activity, this tour will introduce you to the city’s art community based in Pioneer Square.

  • Sports Stadiums: This is the closet neighborhood (of the ones we are recommending) to CenturyLink Field – home of the Seahawks (football) and Sounders (soccer) – and T-Mobile Park – home to the Mariners baseball team.

Best Pioneer Square Stays

Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Historic Merchants Apartment: Perfectly located in the Pioneer Square neighborhood in the center of downtown, this historic studio apartment is a perfect place for travelers on a budget. Check Availability here.

Exposed Brick Airbnb in Pioneer Square Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Romantic Downtown Pioneer Square Loft: This beautiful studio apartment with exposed brick walls and giant windows comes with fantastic reviews. It’s in a perfect location in Pioneer Square. You’ll be able to walk everywhere! Check Availability here.

Fairmont Olympic Hotel Seattle | Image source: Booking

High-End/Luxury Hotel: Fairmont Olympic Hotel – The best Seattle has to offer. Perfect for the business traveler or a weekend splurge.

West Seattle

Where to Stay in Seattle | West Seattle Alki Beach

Just across the harbor from downtown, West Seattle has more of a beach town vibe. Alki Beach is lined with cute coffee shops and is especially nice during the summertime. If you’re looking for a laidback stay near the water, West Seattle might be just the perfect spot.

Our opinion: While this is a good option in the summer, we’d recommend staying elsewhere in the city if you are visiting during cooler months.

Highlights of West Seattle

  • Alki Beach: With a hipster meets Jersey Shore vibe and mostly-locals crowd, this is the perfect place to relax and enjoy the sunshine.

  • Lincoln Park: A great place for a stroll near the water (keep an eye out for seals!) and views of the Olympic Mountain Range.

  • West Seattle Brewing Co: Another one of Seattle’s staple craft breweries.

  • Ampersand Cafe on Alki: One of our favorite cafes right near the beach.

Best West Seattle Stays

Alki Beach Oasis in West Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Plus Alki Beach Oasis: Just one block from Alki Beach in West Seattle, this bright and modern studio apartment features a full kitchen, in-unit laundry and private deck. Check Availability Here.

Alki Beach Townhome in West Seattle | Image source: Airbnb

Airbnb Alki Beach Townhome: Located steps from Alki Beach, this modern 2-bedroom townhome is perfect for a family stay. The beautifully decorated space has all of the amenities to make it feel like a home. Check Availability Here.

In Our Opinion…

Seattle Insider Tips | Gum Wall

While this is a tough call, and we think each of the neighborhoods listed have their draws depending on the type of trip, so we can’t completely narrow it down to just one answer here. Though, I’ll come right out and say it, Fremont is our personal favorite. That said, a different neighborhood might suit you better.

We’ve broken down our personal suggestions based on whether this is your first visit to Seattle or you’re familiar with the city.

For first-time visitors to Seattle:

we think Fremont and Capitol Hill are really great choices if it’s your first time in Seattle. They are both well-located and make it easy to reach all the top Seattle sights, yet they have a bit more character and charm (in our opinions!) and than the Belltown and Pioneer Square neighborhoods. We personally have a soft spot for Fremont, but Capitol Hill has a bit more of a lively nightlife scene, if that’s what you’re after.

Not a Seattle first-timer?

If you’ve been to Seattle before and want something a bit different, hip and trendy Ballard is a good choice as is Green Lake / Walingford. If you’re visiting in the summer months, the latter is centered around a really nice lake for walking and is quieter, whereas the former has more of a nightlife and brewery scene to check out.

And lastly, if you’re looking for a kind of “alternative” Seattle visit, West Seattle (choose an accommodation near Alki Beach) has a totally different – almost beachy – vibe and is a really fun choice in the summer. Personally, we wouldn’t choose to stay here on a winter visit, however, since most of the draw is its proximity to the beach and walking street.

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Where to Stay in Seattle | Two Wandering Soles
Where to Stay in Seattle | Two Wandering Soles

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever been to Seattle before? What was your favorite neighborhood to explore? Did we leave anything off this list that you’d recommend? Comment below and let us know!

Comments (9) on “Where to Stay in Seattle: Neighborhood Guide & Tips

  1. twotogether2018@gmail.com says:

    Seattle is an amazing city! I stayed with a family in Madrona…lovely neighbourhood…and explored parts of the city on foot. Loved the vibes of Pike Place Market and the quiet calm of Bainbridge Island. I’d love to visit Seattle again.

  2. suvarnaarora@gmail.com says:

    This is very thorough and I had no idea there are so many things to do in the neighborhood of Seattle.

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