Why go now?
Seattle’s mix of grunge culture, lo-fi living and Pacific North West charm is balanced today by its thriving tech scene which ensures there are always new hotels, bars and restaurants to divert visitors. The city centre is being opened up with a tunnel that will eventually replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct (1), reducing traffic and creating greener spaces and cleaner air. Virgin launched direct flights there from London Heathrow last year, which makes getting there even simpler.
Get your bearings
Seattle has an odd setting, scrunched into a finger of land running north to south with Lake Washington to the East and the Puget Sound to the West. The city centre is compact and walkable but the suburbs stretch 10 miles south to Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) Airport (2) (portseattle.org).
The main tourist information centre (3) (visitseattle.org/visitor-information/visitors-center) is at Upper Pike Street Lobby of the Washington State Convention Center in Downtown Seattle; open 9am-5pm daily.
Take a view
Ride the famous 1960s Monorail (seattlemonorail.com) from the Downtown Station at Westlake Center (4) up to Seattle Center (5). The Seattle Center was the site of a World’s Fair in 1962 and is manna for vintage junkies, with all sorts of cool retro architecture from the Mad Men era. The first thing you’ll want to do is take a photo of the Space Needle (6) (spaceneedle.com), Seattle’s bona fide icon. It graced the titles of TV sitcom Frasier and is the symbol of the city. From the top you can get a great view across town (assuming it’s not foggy, which it often is). Open 9am-9.30pm Friday to Sunday, 9am-10.30pm on Saturdays.
The Space Needle offer 360-degree views (Getty Images)
Take a hike
Imagine yourself describing a curve running from north-west to south-east and you can take in a lot of Seattle’s highlights in one easy morning walk. Venture off down 4th and you’ll soon be strolling through historic Belltown (7). After about eight blocks, on the corner of 4th and Virginia, you’ll find the famous Sub Pop Records (8) (subpop.com), which defined Seattle in the 1990s as one of the most important cities in the world for rock music. This is where grunge was born, and Sub Pop was the label that released records by bands like Nirvana (incidentally there’s also now a Sub Pop shop at Sea-Tac Airport for cool last-minute souvenirs on the way home). Continue down 4th and turn right on Seneca to see an eccentric Seattle attraction –…