Walking Tour 1: Pike Place Market
Start: At the corner of Pike Street and First Avenue.
Finish: At the corner of Pike Street and First Avenue.
Time: Approximately 4 hours, including shopping and dining.
Best Times: Weekends, when crafts vendors set up along Pike Place.
Worst Times: Weekends, when the market is extremely crowded.
Despite the crowds of visitors and locals, Pike Place Market, a sprawling complex of historic buildings and open-air vendors' stalls, remains Seattle's most fascinating attraction. You'll find aisles lined with fresh produce, cut flowers, and seafood, as well as unusual little shops tucked away in the hidden corners of this multilevel maze. Street performers also perform here, adding another level of fun to a meander through the market. Because Pike Place Market is so large, it is easy to overlook some of the more interesting businesses and its many quirky works of public art. The following walking tour is meant to lead you through the market, past the many places you wouldn't want to miss.
Start your tour at the corner of Pike Street and First Avenue at the:
1. Pike Place Market Information Kiosk
This cubicle is one of the most important buildings in the market. Here you can pick up a copy of the market newspaper, which has a map of the market.
Directly behind the information kiosk rises the famous Pike Place Market neon sign and clock. Just below this sign, you'll find:
2. Rachel the Pig
This life-size bronze statue of a pig is the unofficial Pike Place Market mascot and also doubles as the market piggy bank. Every year people deposit thousands of dollars into Rachel. Hardly any visitor to the market goes home without a shot of some friend or family member sitting on the pig.
It's sometimes difficult to spot Rachel because of the crowds that gather here to watch the flying fish at:
3. Pike Place Fish
The antics of the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish are legendary. No, they don't actually sell flying fish, but if you decide to buy, say, a whole salmon, your fish will go flying through the air (amid much shouting and gesticulating) from the front of the stall to the back, where someone will steak it or fillet it for you and even pack it on dry ice so that you can take it home with you on the plane.
On the far side of Rachel from Pike Place Fish, you'll find a flight of stairs leading down to cobblestone Lower Post Alley. Walk 50 feet down this alley to:
4. The Gum Wall
The brick wall along one side of the alley has been covered with thousands of wads of ABC (Already Been Chewed) gum. The wall started out simply, with a few bits of colorful gum wads, but has grown more and more creative (and disgusting) over the years. Is it art or a revolting form of littering? You decide.
5. Produce Stalls
In summer, look for fresh cherries, berries, peaches, and melons; in the fall, it's Washington state apples. Stalls full of colorful cut flowers also line this section of the market.
As you wander through this crowded section of the market, keep an eye out for:
6. Chukar Cherries
This Washington State candy company, at 1529B Pike Place (tel. 206/623-8043), specializes in chocolate-covered dried cherries. Samples are always available.
A little farther along, you'll come to the North Arcade, where you'll find lots of:
7. Crafts Vendors
This is a good place to shop for handmade souvenirs. These craftspeople know their clientele, so most of the work here is small enough to fit in a suitcase.
On weekends, you can find more crafts vendors along this side of the street just past the end of the covered market stalls. Across Western Avenue from the last of these outdoor crafts stalls is:
8. Steinbrueck Park
Although this small, grassy park is favored by the homeless, it is also home to a pair of impressive totem poles and offers a superb view of Elliott Bay. Watch for the comings and goings of the giant car ferries that link Seattle to Bainbridge Island and Bremerton, on the far side of Puget Sound.
From the park, walk back across Western Avenue and Pike Place and head toward your starting point. You'll now be on the opposite side of Pike Place from the produce stalls. This stretch of the market has lots of great prepared-food stalls, so be sure to do a little grazing. If you've become convinced that Pike Place Market is strictly for tourists, climb the stairs to the:
9. Lisa Harris Gallery
This art gallery, at 1922 Pike Place (tel. 206/443-3315), always seems to have interesting contemporary artwork, largely by Northwestern artists.
A little way up the street, you'll find what was once the only:
That's right, years ago this narrow space, at 1912 Pike Place (tel. 206/448-8762), was the only Starbucks in the world. Unlike today's Starbucks, this espresso bar has no tables or chairs; it's strictly a grab-it-and-go spot. Because you've already been on your feet for a while and still have a lot of the market to see, you may want to stop in and order a grande mocha to see you through the rest of your walking tour. Also be sure to notice how different the mermaid here looks compared to today's official logo. By the way, this was not the first Starbucks; it had been in a previous location before moving to the market.
How about a little something tasty to go with that mocha?
11. Le Panier
Located at 1902 Pike Place (tel. 206/441-3669), this French-style bakery has good croissants and other pastries to accompany your espresso. They also have fresh bread to go with anything you might buy at the next stop.
Continue along Pike Place in the same direction, and on the next block you'll see:
12. Beecher's Handmade Cheese
Here, at 1600 Pike Place (tel. 206/956-1964), you can watch cheese being made and taste samples. This place also does a yummy macaroni and cheese.
Continue along Pike Place for another block, passing several more prepared-food stalls, and then turn left into Post Alley. This narrow lane cuts through several blocks of the market, and many shops and restaurants open onto it. For Seattle souvenirs, it's hard to beat:
13. Made in Washington
Shortly after you start up the narrow lane, you'll come to this store, at 1530 Post Alley (tel. 206/467-0788). It carries smoked salmon, prepared foods, crafts, books, and plenty of other inexpensive stuff from here in Washington.
14. Take a Break
Pike Place Market is full of surprises, not the least of which are the many excellent restaurants hidden away in quiet corners of the complex. One of my very favorites is Cafe Campagne, 1600 Post Alley (tel. 206/728-2233), a little French cafe serving delicious lunches. The atmosphere is très French.
Continue up the alley, and at Stewart Street, on the north side of the street, you'll see:
15. Antiques at Pike Place
This large antiques mall, at 92 Stewart St. (tel. 206/441-9643), has more than 80 dealers. The stalls are packed full of interesting collectibles.
Back on Post Alley, watch for:
16. The Pink Door
This restaurant, at 1919 Post Alley (tel. 206/443-3241), is one of the market's most famous dinner spots. No sign marks it out front, just the pink door. A flight of stairs leads down to an Italian restaurant and cabaret/bar. The deck is the place to eat on summer evenings.
From Post Alley, descend to Pike Place via the staircase to the left of the Pink Door. These stairs lead down to a building with a shady courtyard. After walking through the building, turn right and go 2 blocks to the corner of Western Avenue and Lenora Street where you'll find:
17. Angie's Umbrella
This giant steel-and-aluminum umbrella sculpture, seems to have gone the way of so many Seattle umbrellas. It's seems to have been blown inside out by the wind. The umbrella also acts as a weather vane, so you won't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
Walk back the way you came and continue downhill on Western Avenue to the:
18. Market Heritage Center
At 1533 Western Ave., in this open-air exhibit on the history of Pike Place Market, you can learn all about the various incarnations of the market since its inception. If you'd like to do a guided walking tour similar to this one, you can contact Friends of the Market (tel. 206/322-2219).
Continue down Western Avenue, and in a couple of blocks, you'll come to the Pike Street Hill Climb, a network of stairways that connect the waterfront with Pike Place Market. If you head up the stairs, you'll find the market's Down Under area, which consists of long hallways lined with small shops. My favorite shop in the Down Under is the:
19. Market Magic Shop
Located on the Down Under's fourth level, the Market Magic Shop (tel. 206/624-4271) sells all kinds of tricks and paraphernalia for magicians. Kids love this shop, as do aspiring magicians. Across the hall from this shop are some unusual coin-operated window displays of giant shoes. Don't miss them!
If you leave the Down Under by way of the market stairs that are an extension of the Pike Street Hill Climb, you will find yourself back in the vicinity of Rachel the pig and Pike Place Fish. From here, make your way through the crowd of people waiting to see the fish fly and head into the Economy Building. In the walkway leading toward First Avenue, you'll find:
This Italian grocery, at 1435 First Ave. (tel. 206/622-0141), has a great deli case full of Italian cheeses and meats. It also sells imported pastas and has a good selection of wines and beers. Samples of various olive oils are often available.
If you exit DeLaurenti through the door in the wine shop area, you'll be in an atrium, from the ceiling of which hangs a:
21. Giant Squid
This life-size copper sculpture was created by a local artist. Although you won't see any squid this size in the nearby Seattle Aquarium (on the waterfront), you can see a live giant octopus there.
Beneath the giant squid, you'll come face to face with a life-size wooden sculpture of the Northwest's legendary and elusive Sasquatch, aka "Bigfoot."
23-24. Winding Down
From Sasquatch and the giant squid, head down the hall to The Pike Pub & Brewery, 1415 First Ave. (tel. 206/622-6044), where you can enjoy a cool microbrewed beer. Alternatively, you can head outside to First Avenue, where you can get a creamy gelato at Bottega Italiana, 1425 First Ave. (tel. 206/343-0200).