Downtown Seattle is the heart of the city. From its historical roots to its bustling waterfront, activities in Downtown Seattle are numerous and exciting.

If you're stopping by during your next trip wondering what to do in Downtown Seattle, use this guide to get you started. We cover everything from the most popular attractions to the activities that won't cost you a dime.

Quick Answer Guide: 12 Best Things to Do in Downtown Seattle

‌Top Things to Do in Downtown Seattle‌

‌Best Things to Do During the Day in Downtown Seattle‌

‌Best Things to Do Outdoors in Downtown Seattle‌

‌Best Things to Do at Night in Downtown Seattle‌

‌Free Things to Do in Downtown Seattle‌

Top Things to Do in Downtown Seattle

Seattle isn’t just the home of Amazon and Boeing. It offers scores of activities for everyone. If this is your first visit to Seattle, Downtown is a great place to start. Top places to visit in Downtown Seattle include some of the most popular attractions in the city, from leisurely shopping to cruising around the harbor, this area has everything you need for an awesome trip.

1. Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is considered a must do in Downtown Seattle, and for good reason. Pike Place is not your average farmers market. Spanning an entire 9 acres in the heart of Downtown, it is adored by locals and tourists alike. And, it's more than a farmers market! It's filled with eateries and boutique shops where you can find unique gifts.

Founded in 1907, Pike Place is the oldest public market operating in the U.S. and is home to hundreds of artisans, farmers, and small business owners, making it one of the best things to do in Downtown Seattle. Right across the street from Pike Place Market is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, the first Starbucks location and where the dream of coffee that spread across the nation began.

2. Space Needle

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  • Perfect For:‌ Incredible views
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  • If You Go:‌ Choose a clear day for the best view, and sign up for a timed entry.

When you think of Seattle, the Space Needle gracing the Seattle skyline is probably the first thing that comes to mind. This historic landmark is located in the Queen Anne neighborhood and stands proudly at 605 feet. Built for the 1962 World's Fair, the Seattle Space Needle is one of the most photographed structures in the world and remains one of Seattle's top attractions. The Chihuly Garden & Glass, an art attraction showcasing the glass art work of Dale Chihuly, is right next door to the Space Needle. In fact, your Space Needle ticket gets you in to the Chihuly Garden, so choose a time to go where you can visit both.

While you’re in the Queen Anne neighborhood, grab a quick bite and picnic in the lovely Kerry Park. (If you’d rather avoid the crowds of tourists, the Sky View Observatory offers the same view of the city as the Space Needle in a slightly more laid-back atmosphere. Alternatively, Smith Tower also offers an observatory and a speakeasy-style cocktail bar.)

3. Pioneer Square

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Pioneer Square is where it all began. What is now a bustling center of commerce was where Seattle's first neighborhood was established in 1852.

Settlers came from all over America to settle the Pacific Northwest and build Seattle into the great American city we know today. The old seamlessly merges with the new with stunning old-world architecture housing modern shops and amenities at this historic stop.

Best Things to Do During the Day in Downtown Seattle

The first time I visited Seattle, my friend dropped me off to spend the afternoon Downtown while she was at work. I had the whole day to walk around and explore the best things to do in Downtown Seattle. With no particular plan in mind, I went wherever my fancy took me. These were my favorite activities in Downtown Seattle.

4. Harbor Cruise

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  • Perfect For:‌ Getting a different view of the city
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  • If You Go:‌ Book between 4 to 6 pm and catch happy hour at the bar.

This one-hour cruise around the harbor is laid-back and lovely. You get a slow and peaceful view of the city while sipping your favorite drink from the fully stocked bar. Stand at the rail to experience the water and view of skyscrapers and Mount Rainier, or stay seated and cozy inside as you watch from the windows.

5. Seattle Art Museum

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  • Perfect For:‌ Seeing art from around the world
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  • If You Go:‌ Admission is free on the first Thursday of every month.

The Seattle Art Museum (SAM) houses 25,000 pieces of art and is my favorite spot in Downtown Seattle. Located within walking distance of Pike Place Market (1 block), SAM is a great place to add to your day trip. Soak in some beauty and culture at SAM's many art galleries before heading out to explore the rest of Downtown.

(If you have the time, drop by for a visit to the Museum of Pop Culture as well — you won’t be sorry! Alternatively, if you’re not one for art, the Seattle Aquarium is beautiful and right on the waterfront, or the Seattle Pinball Museum offers hours of interactive fun with its vintage pinball machines.)

Best Things to Do Outdoors in Downtown Seattle

Washington state is famous for its myriad of outdoor activities, beautiful landscapes, and national parks, from the majestic Mount Rainer and Cascade and Olympic Mountains to the mystical rainforests, but you don't even have to leave Downtown to have a magical time outdoors.

6. Seattle Great Wheel

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  • Perfect For:‌ Adventure seekers
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  • If You Go:‌ Opt for the four-course dining experience in your private gondola.

See the city from way up high and give yourself a time to remember! The Seattle Great Wheel is a Ferris wheel located on Elliott Bay in Seattle and stands at a whopping 175 feet. Sip on some Starbucks as you take in the aerial view of the city, or opt for a private dining experience from your gondola.

7. Street Food

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As you might expect, seafood takes center stage down by the waterfront. From salmon to cod and everything in between, get ready for a self-guided food tour to eat your fill of some of the best-tasting seafood you've ever had.

Best Things to Do at Night in Downtown Seattle

You won't have any trouble figuring out what to do in Downtown Seattle at night. In addition to a robust nightlife, there are a lot of other evening events as well. If you're a night owl looking for places to visit in Downtown Seattle that aren't the typical night scene, see if these delights suit your fancy.

8. 5th Avenue Theatre

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  • Perfect For:‌ Evening entertainment in a beautiful place
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  • If You Go:‌ Build in some time before your show to take in the beauty of the theatre.

You don't need to go to New York to catch a little Broadway. The 5th Avenue Theatre is a gobsmackingly beautiful theatre venue that presents nationally touring Broadway shows as well as original pieces by the 5th Avenue Theatre Association.

Employing over 600 actors, crew, and craftsmen, the 5th Avenue is the largest dramatic art employer in the Puget Sound region. Enjoy live music, live theater, and incredible talent in an atmosphere unlike any other.

9. Ghost Walking Tour

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Don't believe in ghosts? Then this ghost walking tour will be no problem. Join your travel guide on a spooky tour of Seattle's most haunted regions. Led by professional paranormal investigators, this tour has consistently been voted as one of the best tours in all of Seattle.

(If ghosts aren’t your thing, Seattle has many underground tours to choose from that give you insight into the history of the city without all the spookies.)

Free Things to Do in Downtown Seattle

Some of the best things to do in Seattle don't require any money at all to experience in all their glory. If you're traveling on a budget or saving your pennies for other things on your trip, there are still fun and memorable activities in Downtown Seattle for you to enjoy.

10. Seattle Central Library

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The Seattle Central Library is the flagship building of the city's robust library system. Designed to look like a stack of books, the Seattle Central Library contains 11 stories, each composed of cutting-edge creativity in architectural design. The fourth floor, known as the Red Hall, is perhaps the most stunning, sporting blood-red curving walls and walkways.

11. Olympic Sculpture Park

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The Olympic Sculpture Park is 9 acres of green waterfront space displaying modern and contemporary sculpture. Created and maintained by the Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park is the largest green space in Downtown Seattle and a lovely place to spend an afternoon.

Another famous public sculpture in Seattle you may want to see is the Fremont Troll, though it is decidedly less picturesque. The Frye Art Museum is a lovely little contemporary art museum, and admission is always free if you want to take in more art. If neither of those floats your boat, there is always the one and only The Gum Wall.

12. International Fountain

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The International Fountain is a part of the arts, education, and tourism center known as Seattle Center. Like the Space Needle (which is also located at Seattle Center), the International Fountain was created for the 1964 World's Fair. Equipped with LED lights and some snazzy new renovations, the International Fountain is a fun (and free!) place to take in the sights and play in the water.

The best things to do in Downtown Seattle are going to differ depending on your circumstances and travel plans, but whatever your budget or situation, the Emerald City has something for everyone. From top tourist attractions to hidden gems, we hope you found something from this list you and your travel companions will enjoy.