Seattle lies between the Puget Sound (an inlet of the Pacific Ocean) and Lake Washington, approximately 100 miles south of the U.S. - Canadian border. Seattle was named for Chief Seattle, a Native American who led the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes in the 19th Century, and was instrumental in orchestrating the peaceful acceptance of white settlers in what had previously been Native American territory.

Sprawled across seven hills, Seattle covers a total area of 367 sq km, no less than 41% of which is comprised of water. It is unsurprising that Seattle is frequently associated with water: in addition to the fact that the city has over 150 bridges to allow its residents to make their way over Lake Washington, Bitter Lake, Green Lake, Haller Lake and numerous other streams and waterways, Seattlelites frequently find themselves at the butt of the nation's jokes on account of their city's frequent rainfall. In truth, Seattle is not quite as wet as it is reputed to be. Shielded by the Olympic Mountains, Seattle receives an average of only(!) 37 inches of rain per year: less than Chicago, Houston, New York and even Miami. The difference is that this 37 inches falls as a seemingly interminable drizzle, rather than in intermittent downpours.

However, whilst visitors to "the rainy city" would be well advised to purchase a sturdy umbrella, they will find little time to become preoccupied by the weather. Most will find that the city's official nickname, The Emerald City, is far more successful at encapsulating what Seattle has to offer than its more colloquial nickname.


The Space Needle is Seattle's most iconic image. Built to commemorate the Century 21 Exposition in 1962, the Space Needle stands at 184 metres tall. The highlight of a visit to the Space Needle is undoubtedly the spectacular view of the city and Olympic mountains one can enjoy from the observation deck, although a visit to the Space Needle's own restaurant must follow closely behind. Be prepared for significant queues if you would prefer to take an elevator to the observation deck than face the stairs!

Music fans will be delighted by the Experience Music Project – a music history museum founded by co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen. The museum is home to more than 80 000 items of rock memorabilia, including the electric guitars of Bob Dylan and Kurt Cobain. The Experience Music Project is a must for die-hard rock fans and casual visitors alike.

Other highlights include: the Museum of Flight, one of the largest aviation museums in the world; the Seattle Aquarium on Pier 49 on the Waterfront, which exists to raise awareness about marine conservation and the Woodland Park Zoo, home to almost 300 species of animals. Art lovers can indulge their passion at numerous galleries and exhibitions; most notably the Henry Art Gallery, which holds an impressive collection of contemporary art and photography exhibitions and the Frye Art Museum.

The charms of the Puget Sound area are not restricted to Seattle alone. The Mount Rainier and Olympic National Parks can be reached within a couple of hours by car and provide visits with fresh air, stunning views and opportunities for hiking, cycling and even skiing. Mount St Helens, which erupted dramatically in 1980 and continues to enthrall geologists, can be reached within four hours. If you are more at home at sea than in the great outdoors, boat excursions to the San Juan islands, which lie where the Straits of San Juan de Fuca and Georgia meet the Puget Sound are readily available.


Pike Place Market provides an eclectic mix of shops and a buzzing atmosphere. Whether you are seeking fruit and vegetables, fine coffee or an original antique, Pike Place Market is the right place to begin. The market can be found in the downtown area and overlooks Elliot Bay. Founded in 1907, the market is listed on America's National Register of Historic Places. Once you have shopped until you drop, try heading over to Starbucks for a change of pace. Whilst a cup of coffee in a Starbucks might seem unremarkable at a time when there appears to be one on every corner, the branch in Pike Place Market is worth a visit, for it has been there since Starbucks was founded in Seattle in the 1970s. Pacific Place and Pioneer Square are also essential stops for shopping enthusiasts.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Whatever you look for in an evening's entertainment, Seattle should not disappoint. The Bagley Wright Theatre, the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet cater well for those seeking a sophisticated evening. Seattle also boasts a number of fine restaurants serving everything from seafood to traditional Mexican cuisine. If you would prefer to grab a hot-dog whilst enjoying the atmosphere at a sporting event, tickets to see the Mariners baseball team in Safeco field and the Supersonics basketball team at the Seattle Centre's Key Arena can be purchased easily through Ticket Master (206-628-0888). Seattle also boasts a number of bars and live music venues and is particularly famous for its coffee houses.

Tourist Information

Tourist Information Centre7th Ave and Pike Street206-461-5840 and provide reliable up-to-date information about events taking place in the city.


Seattle lies a mere 20-30 minute drive away from a major international airport. Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) Airport is the gate through which most visitors enter Seattle and is well linked to the city by public transportation. The official website of Seattle advises that those who wish to reach the city by car ought to head towards the airport exit on North Exit Way, take the WA-518 East ramp and merge on to the WA-518 East. From here, take the I-5 North Exit, merge onto the I-5 North and drive north for approximately 10 miles. Exits 165 for downtown Seattle and 167 for Seattle Centre and the Space Needle are clearly marked.

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