Seattle, also called the Emerald City, was named after a Duwamish Indian leader named Sealth, after European colonizers arrived. Before European colonizers arrived in the 1850s, the area was populated by Coast Salish peoples, like the Suquamish and Duwamish Tribes, and their ancestors still live there today, amongst people from all over the world. Surrounded by the Cascade Mountains, the Olympic Mountains, Puget Sound, Elliott Bay, and Lake Washington, Seattle is one of the most beautiful and diverse cities in the United States, and it is full of fun and unique things to eat, see, and do. Here are my favorite things to experience in the Emerald City, outlined in this Seattle Luxury Travel Guide.
How to Get to Seattle
We flew into Seattle-Tacoma airport (called SeaTac), which had a direct flight from Detroit, and connects to just about every major city in the world. From there, we simply rented a car and went on our way to exploring this gorgeous city.
When to Visit Seattle
Seattle always has nice weather. The city doesn’t get much snow in the winter, and the temperatures rarely drop below freezing. They experience beautiful autumns as the leaves change colors, but the city remains green all year long due to the fact that the majority of trees in the region are evergreen trees. Summers in Seattle are warm without being too hot, and beaches or mountains are just a short drive away from the city, for those looking to cool off. There’s never a bad time to visit Seattle, especially when you have this Seattle luxury travel guide!
Traveling Around Seattle
Getting around Seattle is quite convenient. The downtown is very walkable, and rides via ride share apps like Uber and Lyft are never more than a few moments away. If you plan to travel to multiple different neighborhoods, I would recommend renting a car, especially if you plan to head to one of the nearby national parks.
What to Do In and Around Seattle
One of the main reasons that we had been looking forward to visiting Seattle for so long is that there is SO much to see and do within the city, and just a short drive away from it. You can Google just about anything you can think of ” _____ + Seattle”, and you’re sure to find it in the city. I could make an entire post with hundreds of things to keep a person occupied from the moment they wake up until they reluctantly head home, exhausted from a long day of exploring new things, but for now I’ll stick to my few favorite things we did during our time in the city.
Enjoy a concert at the Seattle Symphony
Listen to a live orchestra play classical music in a classic orchestral setting. See their schedule of events here.
Ride to the Top of the Space Needle
There used to be a restaurant at the top of the Space Needle, called SkyCity, but evidently it closed in 2017. The SpaceNeedle itself, which opened in 1962 was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, and from the top of its observation deck, visitors can enjoy incredible views of Seattle, Puget Sound, the surrounding mountain ranges, and Elliott Bay.
See Chihuly Garden and Glass
Located next to the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass is part museum, part botanic garden, both featuring the glass work of artist Dale Chihuly, who was born in nearby Tacoma, Washington.
Ride the Seattle Great Wheel
It’s a giant Ferris wheel located near the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle and the edge of the waters of Puget Sound – neat!
Take a ferry to nearby Brainbridge Island for the day
We didn’t get the chance to do this while in town, but taking the area’s ferries to surrounding islands is a quintessential part of the Seattle experience!
Visit Pike Place Market
This bustling market is perhaps one of the most famous places in all of Seattle. Filled everyday from dawn until dusk with freshly caught seafood caught and brought in before the sunrises, locally crafted gifts and foods, and rows upon row of dahlias and other seasonal flowers from growers in the surrounding areas like Skagit Valley, in every color imaginable. Even if you don’t feel like shopping, it’s certainly worth a walk through.
Visit Volunteer Park Conservatory & The Asian Art Museum
This part, botanical garden, and art museum complex are beautiful and worth a visit to the area in their own right. My husband and I can’t wait to visit the Asian Art Museum once it reopens. We want to take a tour guided in Japanese so we can practice our language skills while learning about the diverse and mesmerizing variety of Asian cultural expression across Asia and even variations within each nation, emphasizing similarities.
Walk through the Seattle Art Museum (SAM)
This art museum has a rotating, highly-curated theme every few months. Check out what’s on at the museum, here.
Walk through the Seattle Japanese Garden
This is perhaps the most tranquil area in all of Seattle. This beautiful example of a traditional Japanese garden was built to celebrate Japanese heritage in Seattle, and here guests can experience the changing of the seasons, traditional garden architecture and landscaping, as well as Japanese tea ceremonies which are held several times each year.
Fine Dining & Delicious Spots in Seattle
Aerlume serves up some of the finest, most inventive seafood in all of Seattle. Stop in for dinner or a nightcap, and ask to sit outside in order to watch the sunset over Puget Sound for an unforgettable dining experience.
This elevated Italian restaurant and wine room offers guests handmade and hand cut Italian pastas, and other Italian classics, with a modern, Pacific Northwest twist. Experience their tasting menu and drink parings for a tour of the senses unlike any other.
Aqua by El Gaucho
Voted one of the best places to eat in Seattle, and currently one of the highest ranked restaurants in the city, Aqua by El Gaucho is another excellent place to celebrate the seafood and local flavors of the Pacific Northwest, in a bright, airy setting.
Charlotte Restaurant & Lounge
Located inside of Lotte Hotel Seattle, Charlotte Restaurant & Lounge is one of Seattle’s newest fine dining experiences. Under the guidance of Executive Chef Alexander La Motte, who has previously helped restaurants attain Michelin Stars, we were served a gorgeous meal featuring fresh, locally sourced ingredients, all expertly plated in an aesthetically perfect manner, not a single micro green out of place.
This French fine dining experience includes French cuisine classics served with an elevated, modern twist, like poached egg dishes, caramelized sea scallops, Poulet Rôti, Soupe De Célerie-Racine, and many others. One of Seattle’s quintessential fine dining experiences.
This delightful seafood restaurant is located near Pike Place Market and has some of the freshest sushi we’ve ever eaten, anywhere in the world. It tasted like what we had along the sea in Japan!
Eden Hill Restaurant
This New American restaurant has some of the most expertly plated dishes in the city. Their tasting menu, offering a range of seasonal (read: ever-changing) dishes takes diners on a culinary journey that makes stops at nearly every one of the culinary world’s most challenging techniques. You can truly experience a new world of decadent flavors at Eden Hill Restaurant.
General Porpoise Donuts
Located in the Capital Hill neighborhood, General Porpoise Donuts is Seattle’s favorite donut shop. They’re filled with seasonally available, handcrafted James, jellies, custards, creams, and they also serve coffee as well as espresso.
Located on the ground floor of Four Seasons Hotel Seattle and named after Washington’s state bird, Goldfinch Tavern is reminiscent of watering holes of old, with a fresh, modern, Pacific Northwest twist. We enjoyed both dinner by the infinity pool via Goldfinch Tavern, as well as a beautiful brunch at therein dining room before heading back home to Michigan, and both meals were an absolute delight.
This farm to table fine dining establishment whips up a variety of vegan, vegetarian, and sustainably sourced, plant-based meals with refined and elegant plating.
The London Plane
Part botanical florist studio, part restaurant, this space is any instagrammer’s dream!
Sawyer is a rustic coastal eatery that creates new American dishes in a renovated former sawmill, that was named a James Beard semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant in America (The United States). With floor to ceiling windows that let in a tremendous amount of light, a watery color scheme, and a variety of sharable dishes or small plate tapas style meals, and an extensive drink menu, Sawyer was an instant favorite for us, out of all of the places we diner while in Seattle.
Shaker + Spear
This restaurant was recommended to us by nearly everyone we asked in Seattle. Open for brunch and dinner, Shaker + Spear uses fresh, local, seasonally available ingredients to capture the flavors, colors, and textures of the Pacific Northwest.
Starbucks Reserve Roastery
This immersive coffee experience celebrates the history and passion for roasting that has made Starbucks an international phenomenon. See coffee beans freshly roasted by the crafters employed here, try one of a kind, experimental drinks that haven’t hit other Starbucks yet, and enjoy a selection of small bites from pastries and pizzas to tapas from around the world.
Chef Shiro Kashiba, often referred to as “Sushi Sensei of Seattle”, opened Seattle’s very first sushi bar in the 1970s. Now on his 3rd fine dining restaurant, he displays awe-inspiring precision and expertise in each dish that he crafts at Sushi Kashiba, Seattle’s finest sushi restaurant. Since 2019, he has been the official Goodwill Ambassador of Japanese Cuisine, as appointed by the Japanese Government, and he has been cooking for celebrities, royalty, and politicians alike for decades, which further demonstrates his incredible knowledge of Japanese fine dining.
The Nest Rooftop Bar & Restaurant
Located inside of the Thompson Hotel, this rooftop bar offers visitors sweeping views of the city, small plate snacks, and a wide selection of premium liquors, spirits, and handcrafted cocktails.
Umi Sake House
Umi Sake House is one of Seattle’s finest Japanese eateries. Their plating is fun, their ingredients are freshly caught each day right before the restaurant opens, and each roll is crafted with loving expertise.
We didn’t get a chance to eat here during our visit, but we were told by several people that there is no better (or cuter) place to slurp fresh oysters in all of Seattle. Have you ever tried this place?
Luxury Hotels in Seattle
Seattle has 2, 5-star hotels, and 42, 4-star hotels, which means there are plenty of great places to stay in the city, without even diving into rental houses and Airbnb options. Below are my favorite places to stay in the Emerald City, organized alphabetically. Click on each hotel’s name to be taken directly to an in-depth review of the rooms, service, amenities, views, proximity to other points of interest, and much more, to help you decide which hotel is the perfect fit for you and your travel needs.
Four Seasons Seattle
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle has the city’s only heated infinity pool, meaning whatever time of year you visit, you’ll be able to take a dip overlooking one of the most beautiful views in the world, Puget Sound, and the surrounding mountains. The hotel staff are exceptional, the rooms are relaxed, yet sophisticated, and the food at Goldfinch Tavern on the hotel’s ground floor, is delightful no matter one’s diet; even my gluten-free pescatarian diet was easily satisfied by their extensive list of suitable options. We didn’t have a single complaint at this hotel.
Grand Hyatt Seattle
We stayed inside the decadent Emerald Suite, and found the sprawling floor plan, with no less than 3 closets, a marble soaking tub & rain shower, floor to ceiling windows featuring button operated black-out curtains, views of Puget Sound and downtown Seattle, and the service to all be phenomenal.
Lotte Hotel Seattle
One of my favorite hotel stays to date, Lotte Hotel Seattle is the city’s newest 5-Star hotel, and Lotte Hotel’s third hotel in the United States. Visit the hotel’s spa, Le Spa de l’hôtel Lotte, for a deeply relaxing spa service featuring Biologique Recherche products (or an entire spa day), dine with views of Puget Sound at Charlotte Restaurant & Lounge, with Executive Chef Alexander La Motte at the helm, and stay in the city’s most opulent and lavish hotel suite, Lotte Hotel Seattle’s Presidential Suite, for a truly unforgettable adventure, emblematic of this Korean luxury hotel’s brand.
Staying Safe in Seattle
We never once felt unsafe in Seattle. Like any big city, have a plan of where you will go, stay in well-lit and populated areas at night, and walk with a purpose. Keep all valuables tucked away either in interior pockets, or the boot of your car, and walk without headphones in so you can pay attention to what’s around you. These are all things I would do no matter where I go, and I don’t think Seattle has any special considerations that any other city would not, so simply use common sense and you will have an excellent time when visiting one of my favorite cities in the world.
Day Trips & Weekend Trips from Seattle
There are so many excellent day trips and weekend trips from Seattle. We really hope we can spend more time in the area so we can explore them all for ourselves, but in the meantime, here is a list of places we’d love to see on our next trip to the Seattle Area.
35 minutes from Seattle via Ferry
This island is accessible from Seattle via a 35 minute ferry ride, which you can easily spy in the distance if you have a view of Puget Sound – they’re the green and white ferries zipping back and forth across the bay! Walk, ride a bike, or simply explore the quaint downtown area filled with locally made food and works of art.
117.2 Miles from Seattle
This Bavarian style town is one of the most unique and picturesque cities in all of Washington. The darling Germanic buildings make one feel as though they’ve stepped directly into a German fairytale, without having to ever set foot on an airplane. Famous for their giant German pretzels, handmade chocolates, wine, and European cultural festivals, there’s always something going on in Leavensworth.
Mount Ranier National Park
89.6 Miles from Seattle
Mt. Ranier, which is the highest mountain in the Cascade Mountain range, is visible from Seattle on clear days. This beautiful National Park has breathtaking views of the mountains, meadows full of wild flowers, fantastic hiking, camping, and so much more. This National Park is absolutely on my bucket list!
Mount St. Helens
184.6 Miles from Seattle
A part of the Cascade Mountain range, this mountain is most famous for its lethal 1980 eruption. Now, the area is teaming with wildlife, diverse flora, and incredible views. Really, all of Washington is so beautiful, it’s hard to believe it’s a real place!
North Cascades National Park
106.9 Miles from Seattle
Full of incredible vistas, bright blue and green lakes, glacier and snow topped peaks, and valleys filled with sylvan meadows, this is yet another incredible National Park in Washington State. I hope to one day visit them all!
Olympic National Park
110.9 Miles from Seattle
This fantastic National Park has 60 named glaciers, 4 distinct rainforests, mountains, raging rivers, incredible camping and hiking, and some of the most beautiful views in all of Washington state. Read all about it, here.
Orcas Island, WA & San Juan Island, WA
102.9 Miles from Seattle via Road & Ferry
Orcas Island is the largest of the San Juan Islands, and it’s a haven for swimmers, bikers, weekend trippers, and outdoors people looking for a challenging yet wholly enjoyable escape from city life.
Port Angeles, WA
138.4 Miles from Seattle
this bustling port town is right on the doorstep of Olympic National Park, making it the ideal place to set up camp (so to speak) when visiting the Hoh Rainforest or Olympic National Park.
180.2 Miles from Seattle
Portland is one of the United State’s most eco-friendly cities, and is famous across the nation for their microbreweries, public gardens, and for being a “hippie haven”, which if you’re like me, makes me want to book a trip their immediately and relish in yoga classes, outdoor volunteering opportunities, locally grown organic foods, and so much more.
Skagit Valley, WA
56 Miles from Seattle
Best known for their massive annual tulip festival held each spring, (although very beautiful, it’s not quite as large as the Tulip Time Festival here in Michigan) Skagit Valley is one of the largest growers of organic produce in the nation, and has beautiful landscapes all year long. If you love nature, organic produce, or farmers markets, do yourself a favor and check out Skagit Valley!
141 Miles from Seattle (requires a passport to enter Canada)
One of Canada’s largest cities, Vancouver is home to one of Canada’s liveliest art scenes, and is one of the most diverse cities in North America. As such, there’s no better place to visit to enjoy authentic food from around the world, plus there’s incredible hiking, biking, and it’s one of North America’s most walkable cities, meaning that once you’re there, it’s very easy (and eco-friendly) to get around town.
I hope this travel guide helps you plan a fantastic visit to one of my favorite cities in the world, Seattle!