Aerial view of Seattle's waterfront district, one of the stops on the one day in Seattle itinerary

One Day in Seattle (Perfectly Planned By a Local for You)

I’m a Seattle local here to help you maximize your one day in Seattle. Even with a short amount of time, you can see many of Seattle’s top attractions, eat at great restaurants, and add a few unique excursions to your day.

This comprehensive and easy-to-follow 1 day Seattle itinerary also includes suggestions on where to stay and how to get around.

Have more time in the city? Check out my 3 day Seattle itinerary!

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!

One Day in Seattle Itinerary

8:30 AM – Morning Coffee and Pike Place Market Experience

The author holding a cup of coffee outside a coffee shop in Seattle
A tasty shot of espresso in front of the small coffee shop

Begin your first day in Seattle at one of the best coffee shops in the city, Monorail Espresso. This little coffee window is smack dab in the middle of downtown Seattle. This coffee shop is a serving window, not a cafe. They have a few chairs and small tables available if you want to sit outside and enjoy your drink, though.

Otherwise, grab your coffee and take a leisurely walk down Pike Street to get to Pike Place Market. This will take you less than ten minutes.

Pike Place Market is Seattle’s number one attraction. When you get there early, you can watch it come alive around you as vendors set up and businesses open. There’s a lot to take in at the market, so make sure you bookmark my Pike Place Market guide. Read it before you visit so you know what to expect when there. 

A statue of pig in Pike Place Market
Rachel, the Pike Place Market mascot

Spend time perusing the stalls, watching the famous flying fish at Pike Place Fish Market, and taking photos by the infamous Seattle gum wall. While here, be sure to stop for breakfast, too. 

If you want something quick and light, grab a pack of fresh, hot mini donuts from Daily Dozen Donuts. You can also try sweet or savory crumpets from The Crumpet Shop, or grab scones and bagels from Three Girls Bakery. For a sit-down option, go to Lowell’s Restaurant and nosh down on their eggs benedict.

Once you’ve made it through Pike Place Market, head down Post Alley, past the gum wall, and make a right onto Union Street. Next, you’re heading down to Seattle’s bustling waterfront. 

👉 Pro Tip: Pretty much every local will tell you to skip going to the Starbucks location in Pike Place Market. This is an over-touristed spot and the lines are almost always long, especially on weekends. 

One little-known fact is that this isn’t really the first Starbucks. The sign is the original, but the first Starbucks location was actually a couple of blocks away. Skip this stop in Pike Place Market, especially with only one day in Seattle, and see my guide for more Seattle travel tips.

11:00 AM – Seattle Waterfront and Olympic Sculpture Park

View of the Miner’s Landing and the Seattle Great Wheel under the clear blue sky
Miner’s Landing and the Seattle Great Wheel at Waterfront Park (photo: Brian Logan Photography / Shutterstock)

Prepare for a pleasant stroll along the waterfront. You’ll see some top Seattle attractions like the Seattle Great Wheel and the Seattle Aquarium. 

After crossing the street from Pike Place Market, take time to wander around the Waterfront Park area. Take a peek inside Miners Landing, which has restaurants, arcade games, and sculptures. Wander up to Pier 62 Park and play a round of giant checkers. 

Take some time to watch the ferries traveling back and forth across the Puget Sound. On a clear day, you can see the stunning Olympic Mountains. 

A sculpture and the Space Needle from afar in Olympic Sculpture Park
A sculpture at the Olympic Sculpture Park and the Space Needle in the background

Continue walking north along the waterfront. If you get tired of walking, you can usually find electric scooters or bikes nearby that will speed things along. After about twenty minutes of walking, you’ll reach Olympic Sculpture Park. 

The Olympic Sculpture Park is one of the best Seattle parks that’s also a part of the Seattle Art Museum. You’ll see all sorts of modern and abstract sculptures lining the pathways here. It’s a gradual uphill climb from the waterfront and through the park, so take your time. 

You’ll get some of your first glimpses of the Space Needle as you reach the top, which should give you a hint as to where you’re headed next.

12:00 PM – Lunch and Seattle Center Exploration

Aa red sculpture in Seattle Center
One of the cool sculptures you’ll see around the Seattle Center

After making your way through the Olympic Sculpture Park, walk to Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar for a light lunch.

You’ll be able to try some of the awesome seafood the Pacific Northwest is known for. Choose from selections like the geoduck chowder, Dungeness crab, or clams and mussels slathered in a creamy pesto sauce.

After eating lunch, you’ll finally have your chance to get up close to the Space Needle. Walk across the street from Taylor Shellfish Oyster Bar to the Seattle Center.

View of the Space Needle from Seattle Center

You’ll see the Climate Pledge Arena, home of the Kraken, and the International Fountain almost immediately. Watch one of the fountain’s water show performances or continue through the Seattle Center toward the Space Needle. 

The Space Needle is right between two other attractions you’ll be visiting: the Museum of Pop Culture and Chihuly Garden and Glass. These are two of the best museums in Seattle

First, get as close as you can to the Space Needle and admire this epic 605-foot Seattle landmark. Peek up from below at the revolving glass floor. Depending on the time of year, the top may be decorated. Take pictures, but don’t ride it to the top (don’t worry, we’ll visit a different viewpoint later).

Flowers hanging on a glass architecture in Chihuly Garden and Glass
Inside the beautiful Chihuly Garden and Glass museum (photo: Javen / Shutterstock)

Next, go check out the Chihuly Garden and Glass. This is one of Seattle’s most unique art museums, with incredible sculptures made entirely of glass. The work is by renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly. Wander through the glasshouse and watch a live glassblowing demonstration. Don’t forget to also check out the outdoor garden brimming with glass sculptures.

Once you finish, head to the Museum of Pop Culture or MoPOP, which was once known as the Experience Music Project. 

This cool and contemporary museum has tv, movie, and music exhibits. You’ll see film memorabilia, and interactive horror, science fiction, and fantasy exhibits. There is also a Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Jimi Hendrix exhibit. Don’t forget to admire the outside of the MoPoP, which is one of the coolest-looking buildings in Seattle.

Once you’ve finished exploring the museum, follow the signs to the monorail.

3:30 PM – Ride the Monorail and Grab Drinks at Smith Tower Observatory

View of a monorail in Seattle

The monorail is both a fun attraction and a convenient means to get back downtown. Get on the 60s-era Space Age-style ride when you finish exploring the Seattle Center. You’ll enjoy looking down below as you whiz from the Seattle Center to the Westlake Center. 

Once you arrive at Westlake Station, you’ll have a few options for getting to your next stop. 

If you’re tired of walking and want to give your legs a little break, go ahead and call an Uber or Lyft to take you to Smith Tower in Pioneer Square. You can also ride the light rail. Catch the 1-line going south toward Angle Lake. Get off at Pioneer Square Station.

However, if you’re okay with a 20-minute walk, start walking along Fourth Avenue toward Pike Street. Along the way, you’ll walk past another cool Seattle attraction, the Central Branch of the Seattle Public Library. 

The Seattle Central Library is most notable because it’s made entirely of glass and steel. It’s also one of the best free things to do in Seattle! Pause and take a few photos of it, and then make a right turn downhill when you reach Madison Street.

View of the Smith Tower during sunset in Seattle
Smith Tower is one of Seattle’s most iconic buildings

Walk down to Second Avenue where you’ll turn left. From here, it’s four blocks to the Smith Tower. The Smith Tower was the first skyscraper in Seattle and the tallest building west of the Mississippi at the time of its construction.

When you visit, you’ll purchase $19 tickets and then ride a historic elevator to the Observatory level where you’ll find a cool, speakeasy-style bar. Order some pre-dinner drinks and snacks and relax in the swanky, 35th-floor bar. 

And here is your promised viewpoint. You can go outside the bar and soak in 360-degree views on the observation deck. You’ll see the Puget Sound, the mountains, sports stadiums, and downtown buildings.

📚 Related Reading: Curious about safety for your upcoming trip? Check out my article on safety in Seattle so you’ll know what to expect on your visit.

5:30 PM – Dinner in Seattle’s International District

A painting at the entrance of Tai Tung Restaurant
You can’t miss Tai Tung, especially with this cool art on the outside

After you’ve had time to relax with your drinks and unwind, it’s time to get some delicious eats. Head back down the elevator. Make your way out and begin your short walk to the adjacent International District, one of the best Seattle neighborhoods

The International District has some of the most delicious restaurants in the city. For dinner, there are a few that I suggest going to.

Visit Maneki for Japanese food. This is a historic restaurant that’s been in business since the early 1900s. It’s popular, so make sure you text them for reservations ahead of time.

Another fantastic option is Dough Zone, where you’ll be able to choose from all sorts of dumplings, noodle bowls, and soups. 

Finally, you can try Tai Tung, a Chinese restaurant, which was Bruce Lee’s favorite. The portions here are huge, making this a good budget option for people who like to share a couple of plates.

7:30 PM – Dessert and Fun on Capitol Hill

A rainbow pedestrian lane in Cap Hill’s Pike-Pine Corridor
A rainy day in Cap Hill’s Pike-Pine Corridor

When you’re all done with dinner, your next stop will be the vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood. Walk down to the International District Link Light Rail Station. Catch the 1-line going to Northgate. Get off at Capitol Hill Station.

When you get to the Hill, there are several things you can do. Feel free to do these activities in any order, or pick and choose the ones you want to do most.

First, go get some dessert. You have two great options for ice cream. Go to Molly Moon’s which is the classic Seattle option. Or you can go to my personal favorite, Frankie and Joe’s, which is tasty and vegan-friendly. Alternatively, if you want something super rich and chocolatey, go to Hot Cakes for indulgent chocolate lava cakes.

Books on shelves inside the Elliott Bay Bookstore
It’s easy to spend hours in Elliott Bay Bookstore

If the party vibes on the Hill aren’t your thing, head over to Elliott Bay Bookstore, the best bookstore in Seattle. Make sure you arrive before they close at 9 pm. Browse the titles and other merch for a while, and then head to Neko Cat Cafe.

Here, you can enjoy a glass of wine or sake and play with sweet cats. Be sure to book a reservation ahead of time to guarantee you get some time with the cats.

The author with her friend smiling for a photo in Unicorn
Me and a friend at Unicorn during weekend brunch instead of the evening bar scene

For a more high-energy evening, check out some bars in the area. Unicorn can be crowded and wild, but it’s also a fun carnival-themed bar if you’re in the mood for it. 

Rockbox is one of my personal favorites for Japanese-style karaoke. This is another place you’ll want to make reservations in advance. 

Finally, if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Havana for a nightclub setting. You can also go to Century Ballroom (one of my top Seattle date ideas). They offer salsa, swing, tango, and other lessons followed by an evening of dancing.

Once you’ve had your fill of Capitol Hill, catch an Uber or Lyft back to your hotel. That concludes your one day in Seattle!

Where to Stay in Seattle

View at the entrance of Inn at the Market
One of Seattle’s most popular hotels is right beside Pike Place Market

Best Seattle Hotels 

There are tons of great hotels in the city, and for one day in Seattle, the best options are in the downtown area and adjacent neighborhoods. There’s something for everyone. You’ll find Seattle hotels with waterfront views, top-tier accommodations, and wallet-friendly prices.

If you want some quick and easy choices, consider the following:

Best Seattle Neighborhoods & Areas

A traffic light and buildings in Belltown neighborhood
The Belltown neighborhood

The best neighborhoods and areas to stay in for just one day in Seattle are generally in the central area and close to downtown. Luckily, these are also some of the best neighborhoods in Seattle with plenty of dining options and some of the top attractions in the city: 

  • Downtown Seattle (Search hotels in Downtown Seattle) – Downtown Seattle has phenomenal hotels and public transit options. Many top attractions in the city are downtown. This includes Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum, the city’s iconic waterfront, and several cool Seattle landmarks. 
  • Belltown (Search hotels in Belltown) – Belltown is a great area for nightlife and dining. It’s close enough to downtown Seattle that you can enjoy the benefits of that area, too. The Olympic Sculpture Park and the Moore Theater are some of the popular spots to visit when staying here. 
  • Queen Anne (Search hotels in Queen Anne) – Families will love staying in the Queen Anne neighborhood. Lower Queen Anne is home to the Seattle Center which has the Space Needle, the Museum of Pop Culture, and the Pacific Science Center. Upper Queen Anne has historic homes, kid-friendly playgrounds, and Kerry Park, one of the best viewpoint parks in Seattle.
  • Pioneer Square (Search hotels in Pioneer Square) – It’s rough around the edges, but Pioneer Square can be a fun neighborhood to stay in. It was Seattle’s original neighborhood. Romanesque-style buildings, art galleries, and Smith Tower are a few features of Pioneer Square. It’s also close to Lumen Field and T-Mobile Park, one of Seattle’s major sports stadiums.
  • Capitol Hill (Search hotels in Capitol Hill) – The most popular neighborhood in the city, Capitol Hill has it all. Enjoy everything from great restaurants, bars, and nightlife to pretty parks, a museum, and music venues. If you’re looking for a lively time in Seattle, Capitol Hill is an awesome place to stay.

These are just a few options to give you a starting point for figuring out your Seattle accommodations. Check out my guide on where to stay in Seattle for more choices and insight. 

How to Get Around in Seattle

View of a monorail at a station in Seattle
The light rail is one of the best ways to get around Seattle (photo: Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock)

There are tons of different ways to get around Seattle. People visiting Seattle even for a short amount of time won’t find transportation a limiting factor on their trip. 

If you’re only in Seattle for a day, I suggest sticking to the link light rail, buses, and rideshares like Uber or Lyft. The light rail is convenient, fast, and reliable. It can take you from the Seattle Tacoma International Airport to the northern neighborhoods of the Emerald City. 

If you’re staying downtown, buses are cheap, easy to use, and plentiful. Rideshares are also great if you want to go somewhere a bit further out. That way, you won’t have to worry about parking or navigating traffic. 

If you do decide to rent a car for this trip, make sure to check out Discover Cars for the best deal. This way, you can compare prices and find the right fit before you arrive.

Seattle 1 Day Itinerary Planning Tips

Tip #1 – Pack a Rain Jacket and Walking Shoes

A man admiring his view in Seattle during a rainy day

You should almost always expect a chance of rainy weather when you visit Seattle. Since the city is so walkable in the downtown area, you can also expect to be on your feet a lot. Make sure your Seattle packing list includes a decent rain jacket to keep you dry, along with comfy shoes that can withstand all the walking.

Tip #2 – Download the myORCA App

If you’re using public transportation and want to be able to get around the city as easily as possible, I suggest downloading the myORCA app. It will show you where to buy a physical card. 

From there, you can load money on the card via your phone. Use this to get around on metro buses, the light rail, the monorail, street cars, and more. This is one of the best ways to get around Seattle on a budget

Tip #3 – Visit Seattle During the Shoulder Seasons to Avoid Crowds

View trees at the Seattle Center at fall season
Fall is a particularly pretty time to visit Seattle (photo: Zhu Difeng / Shutterstock)

You’ll want to make the most of your time on a short visit, so it’s best to visit when attractions aren’t packed with tourists. The shoulder seasons are good times for this. The best times to visit Seattle to avoid crowds are May to June and September to October.

Tip #4 – Be Flexible with Timing and Activities

Depending on when you visit and what day you’ll be in Seattle, you may need to adjust some of your plans and some aspects of this itinerary. Some restaurants, experiences, etc. may be closed in certain seasons or on different days of the week. If this is the case, try to be flexible with the changes, and look at any of my articles to find other fun activities to substitute.

Tip #5 – Make Reservations when Possible

Avoid having to skip a restaurant or experience you’re excited about by making reservations in advance. This is also a good way to make the most of your time. You won’t have to wait in lines or hastily readjust your plans if you get a rez ahead of time.

Tip #6 – Decide on Your “Can’t-Miss” and Your “Skips”

View from the Pike Place Market during the author's visit
Though it can be crowded, Pike Place Market is one place I recommend not skipping

Seattle is one of the USA’s major cities for a good reason – there’s so much to do here. However, while one day in Seattle is enough time to get a taste of the top attractions, it’s not enough time to do it all. 

Before you visit, decide on the things you can’t miss and the things you’re okay with skipping for now. There are always other trips and it’s fun to have something to look forward to on return visits!

FAQs about One Day in Seattle Itinerary

How can I spend one day in Seattle?

You can spend one day in Seattle checking out top attractions and exploring dense, walkable neighborhoods. Visit Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, and Seattle Center museums. Stick around neighborhoods like downtown, Belltown, and Capitol Hill when you have one day in Seattle.

What is the number one tourist attraction in Seattle?

The number one tourist attraction in Seattle is the iconic Pike Place Market.

***

Now you know how to spend one day in Seattle, one of the best cities in Washington. Of course, feel free to tweak this guide as needed to make it the perfect itinerary for you, and so you can enjoy all the Pacific Northwest has to offer. Enjoy your 1 day in Seattle!

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