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Seattle Downtown

Downtown Seattle is a bit of an anomaly. Instead of being the beating heart of the city, it's a fairly quiet, functional business district between Seattle's twin hearts, Pike Place Market and Pioneer Square. What most people mean by 'downtown' is the collection of office buildings, hotels and retail shops between 2nd and 7th Avenues. It's best to visit downtown on a weekday, when throngs of people are working and shopping in the area. At night and on weekends, this part of town feels rather desolate.

Flanked to the south by Pioneer Square and to the north by Belltown, today's city center is bordered to the east by First Hill, where Seattle's pioneer elite built elaborate mansions with views of downtown and Elliott Bay. The jungle of high-rises teetering on Seattle's steep streets makes downtown look very imposing when viewed from a distance. The city seems especially daunting on the incoming ferry ride from Puget Sound or at the first glimpse of the city from 1-5. The actual core, however, is quite compact. No part of downtown is more than a brisk 20-minute walk from another, and the multiple transit options make it easy to get around.

The area is bounded by Virginia Ave and Denny Way to the north, Yesler to the south, 1-5 to the east and 2nd Ave to the west. This area contains the vast majority of the city's major 45 hotels, shopping venues and soaring business towers. It's easy to further divide this lengthy strip into two separate sections: the lively retail core to the north and the contemporary business district to the south.

Seattle's retail heaven extends from the corner of 5th Ave and Pike St two or three blocks in all directions. A block north, on 5th Ave at Pine St, is the flagship store of Nordstrom, the national clothing retailer that got its start in Seattle. Just to the west of Nordstrom is Westlake Center, the veritable pumping heart of the retail district.

Across Pine St, a pedestrian plaza called Westlake Park is a popular people-watching haven and a great place to plop down on a bench and eat lunch or sip coffee on sunny days. Skateboarders and bike messengers careen through crowds of trench-coat-clad professionals and shoppers teetering under the weight of their bags. Buskers pipe out songs, entrepreneurs hawk T-shirts, and preachers bellow fire and brimstone. Don't miss artist Robert Maki's water sculpture, which you can walk through without getting wet.

The entire retail area seems to be in a perpetual state of demolition and reconstruction. As the area's older hotels and redbrick warehouses fall to the wrecking ball, new shopping and parking structures go up in a feverish attempt to sustain the growing number of consumers who throng to this area to ogle and buy.

Seattle's modern business district is south of the retail core, along 3rd, 4th and 5th Ave. Rather dull modern office towers dominate this area; however, some of the older art deco and terra-cotta-fronted buildings are worth taking a look at.

If you're trying to keep track of the street names in downtown Seattle, here's a handy mnemonic device: from Yesler Way up to Stewart, the streets proceed in alphabetic pairs - Jefferson and James, Cherry and Columbia, Marion and Madison, Spring and Seneca, University and Union, Pike and Pine. The tool for remembering the order is the old saw, learned by Seattle schoolchildren for years, that Jesus Christ Made Seattle Under Protest.
It's also worth remembering that Seattle has some very steep streets, a consideration for both drivers and pedestrians. In fact, if you're going to spend a significant chunk of time downtown, leave the car at home or parked in one of the outlying neighborhoods. Abrupt uphill's, one-way streets and expensive parking make driving downtown a little hectic, especially when you consider that all buses in the downtown core are free.
Seattle Marriott Waterfront
located in the heart of the downtown waterfront district.
Alexis Hotel Seattle
luxury hotel located in the heart of
downtown Seattle
Seattle Fairmont Hotel
well deserves its reputation as Seattle's Grand Dame hotel
Seattle Grand Hyatt
nestled conveniently in the heart of downtown
Edgewater Hotel Seattle
Seattle’s only waterfront hotel
W Seattle Hotel
W Seattle is all about service and amenities.
Sorrento Hotel Seattle Overlooking the downtown Seattle skyline
Seattle Sheraton Hotel
The best of Seattle is found just outside our front doors
Seattle Westin Hotel
The ideal urban retreat, just steps away from the Washington State Convention Center