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.
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…
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.
For Your First Time: Pioneer Square, Capitol Hill, Belltown
For a Younger Crowd: Capitol Hill, Ballard
For Families: West Seattle, Green Lake & Wallingford, Fremont
For Nightlife: Capitol Hill, Ballard
For Seeing all the Sights: Pioneer Square, Belltown
Most LGBTQ Friendly: Capitol Hill
For Foodies: Capitol Hill, Ballard, Fremont
For a Local Experience: Green Lake & Wallingford, Queen Anne
Other article contents
Overview of Seattle Neighborhoods
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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 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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Budget/Social Hostel: Green Tortoise Hostel Seattle – Steps away from Pike Place Market, this hostel has a social atmosphere and a good breakfast.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
High-End/Luxury Hotel: Fairmont Olympic Hotel – The best Seattle has to offer. Perfect for the business traveler or a weekend splurge.
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
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.
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…
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.
Are you planning a trip to Washington?
We’ve had the privilege of calling Washington state “home” for a while and we have tons of resources to help you plan your trip. Start with our Washington homepage and be sure to check out the articles below. Leave us a comment if you have any more questions!
Check out all the fun Things to Do in Seattle
- These are the best day trips from Seattle
And all the top places to see in Washington State (our favorite US state!).
Read this if you’re going to Olympic National Park!
And while you’re in Washington, check out the cutest little town in the state: Leavenworth (we lived there for 8 months and have all the local secrets!).
Save this article on Pinterest for later!
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 (11) on “Where to Stay in Seattle: Neighborhood Guide & Tips”
This has got to be the most comprehensive, thorough, easy to navigate Seattle travel guide. If the city doesn’t recognize the two of you as Ambassador’s, I don’t know what else would qualify. Absolutely incredible information. Thank you so much. I hope you’ve visited all the areas we hope to hit in the next few years. Have you been to Maine? Thank you again – The Clarke’s
I found this article really helpful. Seattle is one of those cities I’ve been wanting to visit and haven’t had the chance to. I will be using this in the future.
Great post. I lived in Seattle for two summers, so didn’t need to stay anywhere. But I can attest that your info is great. Personally, I love Ballard as an area. And the city is incredible, it’s a definite must visit.
Seattle looks like such an awesome city! I definitely need to get there, so I pinned this for the future!
I love this city and you made me add it higher on my bucket list!
Such an amazing list! I’ve only been to Seattle once and definitely did not explore enough! I’ll be back and using this guide to help!
REALLY great neighborhood guide! I have been to Seattle a few times & this guide covers it all… there was a ton of stuff in here that I learned. Also, I was glad to see that the Troll made an appearance!
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.
I love Seattle! I’ve visited a few times and haven’t done everything quite yet. I do like Capitol Hill though.
I visit Seattle all the time but I don’t really stay far from the center of the city. I need to try some of these neighborhoods instead next time
This is very thorough and I had no idea there are so many things to do in the neighborhood of Seattle.