travel
The birthplace of modern Seattle has a colorful history marked by economic and geological fluctuations. The Great Fire of 1889 virtually destroyed it, before Alaska’s Gold Rush breathed new life and Victorian architecture into the mix. The old warehouses and narrow streets gave rise to a thriving loft arts scene in the 1980s and 90s. While rents have skyrocketed and developers continue to renovate the grand façades of relic buildings, the galleries, cafés, and entrepreneurial spirit remain. The district stands as a testament to a city’s survival, particularly after a devastating earthquake in 2001.

Elliott Bay Book Co

  • 101 S Main St

  • 206 624 6600

  • 9:30am– 10pm Mon–Sat, 11am– 7pm Sun

Bill Speidel’s Under-ground Tour

  • 608 1st Ave

  • 206 613 3108

Grand Central Bakery

  • 214 1st Ave S

  • 206 622 3644

  • $

Merchant’s Café

  • 109 Yesler Way

  • 206 624 1515

Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

  • 319 2nd Ave S

  • 206 220 4240


Nisqually Earthquake

In February 2001, Pioneer Square and the entire Puget Sound region experienced a 40-second earthquake, measuring a whopping 6.8 on the Richter scale. Several otherwise sturdy and fireproof brick-and-mortar constructions from post1889 met their match. Falling bricks and façades crushed cars and damaged many edifices .


If the weather’s rainy or cold, curl up under high ceilings by Grand Central Bakery’s cozy fireplace with a good book and a tasty meal or dessert.



Top 10 Sights
  1. Smith Tower

    Built in 1914 by typewriter tycoon L.C. Smith, at 42 stories this skyscraper was once the tallest edifice west of New York. Ride the hand-operated elevator to the observation deck for great views.

  2. Elliott Bay Book Company

    A bibliophile’s dream destination, this is one of Seattle’s best booksellers. Expect an erudite and informed staff, an incredible selection, a large café, and a notable series of author’s readings.

  3. Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour

    Deliberately unusual in name and nature, this out-fit presents a remarkable look at Pioneer Square’s underground history. The Great Fire, tidal patterns, and poor sewage design forced citizens to convert second stories into first, shown through this subterranean 90-minute walk starting from Pioneer Building.

  4. First Thursdays

    On the first Thursday of each month, from 6pm to 8pm, galleries sponsor a well-attended art walk. Patrons can talk directly to the artists about their displayed works. An ideal starting point is Occidental Way between Main and Jackson Street, where you can find many of the galleries and upscale shops.

  5. Pioneer Square

    This cobblestone triangle of land bordered by Yesler Way and First Avenue is notable for a Tlingit totem pole, and a statue of Seattle’s namesake, Chief Sealth. It also features an iron-and-glass pergola built in 1909 that once marked the entrance to the “finest underground restroom in the United States”.

    Cedar totem poles
  6. Grand Central Bakery

    This is the artisinal bakery and café that helped make hand-rolled European-style bread a mainstay in Seattle.

  7. Waterfall Garden

    In the Northwest, water is everywhere. Step inside this tiny private park to meditate on a man-made paean to tumbling water.

  8. Merchant’s Café

    Popular and still prospering after 100 years, Merchant’s Café is Seattle’s oldest restau­rant with Victorian decor and hearty meals.

  9. Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park

    A versatile display of exhibits, films, and photographs emphasize Seattle’s role as the closest US city to Alaskan gold, and as a crucial supply post for claim stakers .

  10. Skid Road

    Henry Yesler’s logging mill sat at the foot of what is now Yesler Way, a hill as long and steep as any in San Francisco. He used it to slide timber down to the wharf. When Pioneer Square’s economy tumbled, Skid Road came to signify deso­lation and despair.

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