What Is Seattle Known For?

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The largest and most economically active city in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is a fascinating American travel destination renowned for its stunning natural beauty, world-class cultural attractions and thriving neighbourhoods which have produced some of the world’s biggest musicians and business leaders.

Just a two-hour drive from Vancouver over in Canada’s British Columbia province, Seattle is the beating heart of the United States’ Northwest corner and is where companies such as Boeing, Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft took off, and where the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain began their pursuit to change and define music genres during the latter stages of the 20th century. Few places in the United States offer travellers such a diverse and exciting mix of things, people, places and flavours to discover as Seattle, the crown jewel of the Pacific Northwest which is perfectly nicknamed the Emerald City.

What Is Seattle Known For

Top Tours

1- The Space Needle

Space Needle
The Space Needle is what Seattle is most known for.

The iconic Space Needle instantly became the signature landmark of the Emerald City when it was finally completed in 1962, firmly establishing Seattle’s reputation both nationally and internationally as a world-class city and the Pacific Northwest’s premier innovation, economic and cultural hub.

Soaring into the skies some 605 feet (184 m) above downtown Seattle, the Space Needle was designed for the 1962 World’s Fair and has an observation deck, an open-air viewing platform and a full-service restaurant treating patrons to incredible 360-degree views of Seattle and the Puget Sound.

The Space Needle was instrumental in attracting more than 2.3 million visitors to the Emerald City over the course of the 1962 World’s Fair and continues to be the most popular attraction in Seattle today. Skip the lines and book your tickets here.


2- Pike Place Market

Famous Pike Place Market Sign In Seattle
Pike Place Market is what Seattle is best known for.

Perched along the shores of Elliott Bay overlooking the waters of the Puget Sound is Pike Place Market, the Emerald City’s original farmer’s market and a busy retail hub over weekends when Seattle residents and local farmers and artisans meet to buy and sell fresh foods and homemade delicacies.

Founded way in 1907, Pike Place Market is among the oldest continuously operating public markets in the nation and has been a Seattle staple for decades, attracting hundreds of locals and small businesses every day looking to sell their products to in-the-know Seattleites.

Easily one of the best attractions in the city and a true Seattle landmark in every sense of the word, Pike Place Market operates seven days a week and is open year-round except for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only two days that Pike Place Market is closed. Join a market tour to discover hidden delights.

3- The Birthplace Of Starbucks

The first Starbucks is what Seattle is famous for.

Seattle is a city renowned for its coffee culture, and arguably the biggest influence behind the Emerald City’s fascination with caffeinated beverages is Starbucks, a global coffee empire founded right here in Seattle in 1971.

Starbucks took what was then a developing coffee culture in Seattle and took it global, with the company operating more than 35,000 cafes in over 80 countries, making Starbucks the largest coffeehouse chain in the world.

Established by Zev Siegl, Jerry Baldwin and Gordon Bowker in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Starbucks is as synonymous with the Emerald City today as the Space Needle and Microsoft.

The very first brick-and-mortar Starbucks at Pike Place Market still going strong as both one of Seattle’s most popular coffee cafes and as a tourist attraction for Starbucks fans.

4- The Emerald City

Seattle Downtown Skyline With Mount Rainier Color
The Emerald City is what Seattle is known as.

Along the shores of the Puget Sound surrounded by miles of picturesque Pacific Northwest evergreen forests, it’s no surprise that Seattle’s official nickname is the “Emerald City”, a term embraced wholeheartedly by Seattle-ites proud to call this stunning part of the United States home.

As great as the nickname is at capturing the natural beauty of Seattle’s surroundings, it also shares a unique connection to the fictional capital city of the Land of Oz in author L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” novel, which was also called The Emerald City.

Officially adopted as Seattle’s nickname in 1982, the Emerald City is a picture-perfect year-round travel destination for fans of the great outdoors, with captivating shades of green on full display even during the harshest Seattle winters.

A great way to explore is on a bike tour with a local.

5- Fortune 500 Companies

One of Seattle’s biggest claims to fame is the many Fortune 500 companies founded and headquartered in and around the city, with global titans such as Amazon, Boeing and Microsoft just a few of the many familiar brands operating out of the Emerald City.

A lot of factors combine to make Seattle among the leading tech hubs in the world, with the city’s scenic surroundings, great amenities, excellent education centres and business-friendly laws and regulations all major draws for entrepreneurs and existing companies to set up shop in Seattle.

Many of Seattle’s residents are employed in the Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the city, with Seattle’s economy and culture practically tied to the hip with the city’s large tech and manufacturing corporations.

6- The Puget Sound

Paddleboarding At Sunset On Puget Sound
Puget Sound is what Seattle Washington is known for.

The Puget Sound is a vast and intricate network of basins and waterways in the state of Washington’s northwest corner which spans a length of more than 100 miles (160 km) between Deception Pass and Olympia.

The signature backdrop to cities such as Seattle and Tacoma, the Puget Sound connects Seattle to the Pacific Ocean and is a vital ecological area for the local trout, salmon and char fish species, as well as marine mammals such as seals and orcas.

More than just Seattle’s pretty backdrop, the Puget Sound is one of the Emerald City’s most famous features and is a hub for outdoor recreation, shipping and cruises, and the biggest reason why Seattle is as big and prosperous as it is today.

7- Boeing Factory

The Boeing Everett Factory, better known simply as the Boeing factory, is the massive aircraft assembly plant used to construct and test aircraft before they’re shipped off and delivered to airlines across the world.

Situated in the independent city of Everett some 28 miles (45 km) north of downtown Seattle, the Boeing factory was purposely built in 1967 to construct Boeing 747s and is famous for its sheer size, with the facility’s main assembly plant recognised as the world’s largest building by volume.

The factory has remained in operation even after production of the Boeing 747 ended and now plays a leading role in assembling Boeing’s 767, 777 and 787 models.

More than just an aircraft manufacturing centre, the Boeing factory offers visitors an 80-minute-long guided tour of the enormous facility to take in the mind-boggling size of the factory’s main building as well as behind-the-scenes sneak peeks of putting together some of the largest and most advanced aircraft in the world.

8- The Museum Of Pop Culture

One of the most captivating and eye-opening venues in Seattle is the Museum of Pop Culture, a world-class institution dedicated to collecting and exhibiting pop culture through a variety of mediums such as music, films, events and video games.

This unique non-profit centre was established in 2000 as the Experience Music Project by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen before undergoing a rebranding in 2016 that has seen the MoPOP develop into one of the leading cultural landmarks on the West Coast.

With a Frank Gehry-designed exterior that’s as unique as its immersive exhibits, the museum is among the most popular places to visit in the Emerald City and is home to everything from Nirvana and Jimi Hendrix artefacts to sculptures made entirely from guitars. Reserve your entry tickets here.

9- Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier From Lake Washington, Seattle
Mount Rainier is what Seattle is known for.

One of the most captivating natural features of the Pacific Northwest is Mount Rainier, a soaring 14,410-foot-tall (4,392 m) snowcapped volcano situated less than 60 miles (97 km) from downtown Seattle.

The signature attraction inside the Mount Rainier National Park, the iconic American peak is the tallest in the State of Washington as well as the tallest in the Cascade Mountain Range, and is visible from Seattle on clear days.

A great day-trip destination for outdoor adrenaline junkies and a captivating Seattle backdrop that’s as iconic as the Space Needle, Mount Rainier is a National Register of Historic Places-listed landmark that’s arguably more synonymous with the Emerald City than perhaps any other feature.

10- Grunge Music

Born in Seattle and the surrounding suburbs and cities of northwest Washington, grunge music is a form of alternative rock mixed with heavy metal and punk rock elements which emerged from the Emerald City during the 1980s.

Regarded as a metal-punk hybrid, the genre was popularized during the ’80s and ’90s thanks to a local Washington band called Nirvana, who took this Seattle sound global with hits such as “Nevermind” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

The genre fell out of favour during the mid-to-late 1990s following the death of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain and the breakup of several prominent grunge bands, yet the genre is recognised as a major influence on later music genres such as post-grunge and modern rock.

11- Seafood

Fresh Crab At Pikes Place Fish Market, Seattle, Washington
What seafood is Seattle known for? Dungeness crabs tops the list.

Given Seattle’s scenic location along the shores of the Puget Sound, it’s perhaps no surprise that the Emerald City is a renowned culinary destination when it comes to seafood, with tons of fresh fish and shellfish menu options to choose from in restaurants all over this Pacific Northwest city.

Caught daily in the waters of the Puget Sound, salmon has become the signature dish of Seattle, with the city regarded by many as arguably the best city in the United States for digging into a serving of grilled salmon or buying it fresh in public markets such as Pike Place.

No matter which seafood option you’re craving, the Emerald City’s myriad of cosy seafood joints and world-class restaurants are guaranteed to delight the tastebuds of any seafood connoisseur visiting the largest city in the Pacific Northwest.

12- Museum Of Flight

Home to one of the largest air and space collections in the nation, the Museum of Flight in Tukwila is a must-visit Washington attraction for aviation geeks or just anyone interested in learning more about the history of flight.

This state-of-the-art facility was established in 1965 by the Pacific Northwest Aviation Historical Foundation and moved into its current home in 1987, where it has grown into one of Seattle’s most popular attractions with more than 500,000 people stopping by the museum every year.

Located at the King County International Airport about 9 miles (14 km) south of downtown Seattle, the museum’s star exhibits include the first flight-worthy Boeing 747, a replica of the Lockheed Model 10-E Electra flown by Amelia Earhart and the Caproni Ca.20 prototype fighter plane from World War I.

13- Jimi Hendrix And Kurt Cobain

Born Johnny Allen Hendrix on 27 November 1942 in Seattle, Jimi Hendrix was an iconic American singer, songwriter and guitarist who is widely considered to be the greatest and most influential electric guitarist of all time.

Despite the pinnacle of his music career spanning just 4 years from 1967 until his untimely death in 1970, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer managed several incredible musical feats during his short stint at the pinnacle of his craft, including headlining at the 1969 Woodstock Festival and reaching number one on US charts with his 1968 hit “Electric Ladyland”.

Born in the small Washington city of Aberdeen on February 20, 1967, during the height of Hendrix’s career, Kurt Cobain is a fellow former Seattle musical icon who, along with his band Nirvana, helped put grunge music firmly on the international stage.

Cobain, much like Hendrix, had a relatively short musical career before his passing in 1994 but not before giving the world alternative rock classics such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “All Apologies” and “Something In The Way”.

14- Capitol Hill

Northeast of downtown Seattle, the Emerald City’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood is the hub of the city’s nightlife and entertainment scenes, with a range of bars, theatres and coffeehouses dotted throughout this densely populated Seattle district.

Capitol Hill got its start way back during the early 1900s when it was first called Broadway Hill, before being renamed Capitol Hill by property developer James A. Moore both as an homage to his wife’s home neighbourhood in Denver and to entice the Washington State Capitol to move to the Emerald City from Olympia.

Today, the area is alive with a counterculture element and a series of stunningly preserved historic mansions, with tons of interesting attractions and venues to discover teeming with life and excitement representing the very best Seattle has to offer.

15- The Seattle Gum Wall

The Gum Wall In Seattle, WA
The Seattle Gum Wall is what is Seattle is also known for.

The Seattle Gum Wall is arguably the Emerald City’s strangest landmark, consisting of a 50-foot-long (15 m), 15-foot-tall (4.6 m) wall that’s completely covered in chewed-up gum left by visitors.

The Gum Wall can be found underneath Pike Place Market along Post Alley at the Market Theater and was created around 1991 following theatre patrons sticking pennies to the wall with gum.

By 1999 the wall was an established tourist attraction in Seattle and is among the most visited attractions near Seattle’s popular Pike Place Market, prompting scores of creative types to leave their mark on the city in a unique and interesting way.

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Mark Westwood
Mark Westwood is a Seattle-based writer who writes for various online blogs and travel websites. In 2017, he went on a 12-month road trip across the USA visiting many iconic landmarks and small towns along the way. Having explored over 20 countries, his favourite places to date are along the west coast of the USA but he is happiest anywhere where there are mountains and ocean.