Pike Place Market (The Ultimate Guide, By a Local)
Pike Place Market is Seattle’s top attraction. It’s a historic district, sometimes referred to as the “soul of Seattle,” and it’s one of the best things to do in Seattle. You don’t want to miss this Seattle landmark on your visit!
The 100-year-old market is more than your average farmers market. Here, you’ll find produce stands, artisan shops, a crafts market, flying fish, restaurants, and a variety of shops on every corner.
As a Seattle local, I’m here to help you plan your visit to this dense yet exciting attraction. This guide will give you some direction on where to eat and insider tips so you can fully enjoy your visit.
Pro tip – Expand the table of contents to easily hop between sections to find the information you need. And check out this epic chef-guided food tour of the best of Pike Place Market!
Table of Contents
- Pike Place Market History
- Pike Place Market Visiting Information
- Shops, Stalls & Places to Visit at Pike Place Market
- Where to Eat & Drink at Pike Place Market
- 5 Tips for Visiting Pike Place Market
- Things to Do Near Pike Place Market
- FAQs about Pike Place Market
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Pike Place Market History
Before Pike Place Market
Before Pike Place Market, local farmers would sell their wares to wholesalers, on slim commission margins. The produce was sold to the public at exorbitant prices.
The farmers were frustrated with the lack of profit and customers were frustrated with the production costs. A Seattle city council member proposed that the area on Pike Place become a market where farmers could sell directly to their customers.
Despite the wholesalers’ best efforts, on August 27, 1907, the market opened for the first time.
The Creation and Early Days of the Market
On opening day, about eight farmers showed up at the market. It was chaos, but they managed to completely sell out by noon.
Frank Goodwin was an architect who saw the chaotic morning and the rush of the sales. He realized the market’s worth and decided to help. He helped build the first building, the Main Arcade, and the market continued to grow and expand from there.
By 1911, more stalls were needed as demand and expansions continued. In 1918, City Fish opened, bringing fresh fish to the market. In 1937, the iconic Public Market clock sign was erected.
World War II
World War II brought a grim disruption to the market. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans on the west coast were forced into internment camps.
Since the beginning, the Japanese American farmers were one of the biggest sellers at Pike Place Market. With the internment, many of these farmers were forced to leave, meaning over half of the farmers in the market were gone.
Redevelopment, Preservation, and the Battle for the Market
Pike Place Market came close to the wrecking ball in 1963 because of a proposal to turn it into a hotel, hockey arena, and office building. The city council, the mayor, and the owners of the market supported this.
The community was staunchly against it. A committee called “Friends of the Market” fought to keep the market from the wrecking ball.
In 1971, Seattle voters voted to turn the market into a historic district. Once the bill was signed the market was no longer in danger of demolition. In 1973, the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority (PDA) was created to manage the market. They continued to restore and update the buildings.
Pike Place Market Foundation and Social Services
The PDA eventually formed the nonprofit Pike Place Market Foundation.
The Pike Place Market Foundation was established to help raise funds for the market’s social services. Low-income housing, child care, a food bank, a senior center, and a medical clinic were among these services.
The PDA and Pike Place Market Foundation worked to raise money by selling tiles people could put a name on. They used these tiles to replace the market’s wooden floor, and the tiles are still on the market floors today.
In 1986 the giant bronze piggy bank, Rachel, arrived to help the Pike Place Market Foundation raise additional funding. It still collects between $6,00-$9,000 yearly.
Modern Era to Present Day
Despite several years of ownership disputes and conflicts between farmers and craftspeople, agreements were reached to support the market’s continued operation. The Pike Place Market Foundation continues to play a large role in funding the market and its services.
In 2007, Pike Place Market turned 100. To this day, the market remains one of the longest continually operating markets in the United States.
Pike Place Market Visiting Information
Costs, Hours, and How to Get to Pike Place Market
💰 Cost & Admission – It’s completely free to visit Pike Place Market.
🕧 Hours – Pike Place Market is open 7-days a week year-round and is only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The market’s official hours are 9 am – 6 pm. However, this varies from business to business.
Produce, seafood, breakfast, and coffee vendors open around 7 am. Many restaurants and bars open later and stay open into the late evening. The craft market, farm, flower, and other vendors start closing down around 4 pm.
How to Get There – Pike Place Market’s cross streets are First Avenue and Pike Street in downtown Seattle. The market sprawls several blocks north, south, east, and west of this. There are several ways to get to the market.
- 🚶 Walking: This is the best way to get to the Market if you’re staying in a hotel downtown or in a nearby neighborhood like Belltown.
- 🚌 Public Transportation: The King County Metro buses and the link light rail are good options for getting to the market from further afield. Both have stops near Pike Place Market and are some of the best ways of getting around Seattle.
- 🚕 Rideshare: Uber, Lyft, and Yellow Cab all operate in Seattle and are readily available to transport you to the market. Most local drivers know not to drive down the historic cobblestone pathway along Pike Place.
- 🚗 Driving: The Pike Place Market garage has three entrances on Western Avenue, and is the best place to park for visiting. You can also find other nearby parking lots and walk down.
👉 Pro Tip: If driving, do not drive down the historic cobblestone road on Pike Place. Cars are technically allowed, but pedestrians have the right of way. If you drive down it, you’ll slow to a frustrating snail’s pace to go a couple of blocks past crowds that don’t care about the cars making their way through.
When to Go and The Best Seasons to Visit Pike Place Market
📅 Best Day and Time To Go – For shorter lines and fewer crowds, the best time to go to Pike Place Market is during the weekdays in the morning or after the lunch rush between 2 pm and 4 pm.
Pike Place Market Seasons
- ☀️ Summer – This is the most crowded and busiest time to visit the market, especially on weekends. Be prepared for lines. The flower selection is phenomenal and produce shopping is a must during the summer.
- 🌼🍂 Spring and Fall – These are good times to go to the market with a good mix of locals and tourists. Sunnier days will be more crowded, and drizzly or overcast days quieter. This is a good time to try out the restaurants for seasonal selections.
- 🌧️ Winter – This is the coldest and wettest time to visit. Crowds are smaller and the lines are shorter. Bundle up and come out to the market to mingle with locals. Warm up with a steaming bowl of clam chowder.
📚 Related Reading: Debating when the best time to visit Seattle is? Read this next to learn the ins and outs of a visit every month.
What To Expect at Pike Place Market
🐟 Fish, Flowers, Produce – Vibrant flowers and farm fresh produce are all over the market, along with Seattle’s favorite dish: seafood. Upon arriving, you’ll immediately see Pike Place Fish Market – the home of the flying fish throw that draws crowds daily.
🥘 Foodie Paradise – Pike Place Market is one of the best places in Seattle to pig out on famous Seattle foods. You’ll find bakeries, coffee shops, bars, and both casual and fine-dining restaurants. There are also takeaway stands, breweries, and more foodie-friendly options.
🧑🤝🧑 Crowds – Throughout summer and on sunny Saturdays, expect big crowds at the market. Pike Place Market is Seattle’s number one attraction and gets over 10 million visitors annually.
🎨 Arts, Crafts, and Retail Shops – You’ll find glass creations, original paintings, leather goods, jewelry, soaps, and more in the crafts market area. There are also small businesses selling things like comic books, records, and other knick knacks.
🎹 Buskers & Street Performers – The market is never silent. You’ll see and hear performers playing banjos and pianos, and singing to keep the crowds entertained.
Shops, Stalls & Places to Visit at Pike Place Market
Pike Place Fish Market
One of the most popular attractions at the market is Pike Place Fish Market. They’re most well-known for the “flying fish throw.” But aside from the fish tossing, they have a huge selection of seafood for sale including salmon, octopus, and crab. If you want fresh fish, this is one of the best spots to get it.
🤔 Why Throw the Fish?: The fish tossing tradition started as a way for the fishmongers to move fish around the shop. Instead of walking back and forth to take orders, they’d simply toss the fish so it could get wrapped more quickly. Eventually, it evolved into the beloved tradition today, with the addition of the fake monkfish they use to prank unsuspecting onlookers.
Sosio’s Fruit and Produce
Just one of many great produce vendors in the market, Sosio’s Produce carries a variety of seasonal fruit and veggies that are immensely tasty. Browse the stalls, ask for samples (I highly recommend the Rainier cherries), and buy your favorite to snack on in one of Seattle’s many parks.
Come to MarketSpice for high-quality tea and a unique range of global spices at very reasonable prices. The cinnamon-orange is their classic and most popular flavor, so you can count on them having samples available. In addition to spices and teas, they have teapots, coffee, hot chocolate mixes, candles, and gift sets, making this a good place to shop.
Flowers are abundant at Pike Place Market. The majority of flower vendors are in the Market Arcade. Choose between fresh and dried bouquets. Most bouquet prices start around $10, making them a great deal.
Golden Age Collectibles
The oldest and longest-running comic book store in the country, Golden Age Collectible has been in operation since 1961. It’s beneath the main floor of the Market Arcade. Inside, you’ll find all manner of comic books, graphic novels, and a healthy dose of pop culture references.
📚 Related Reading: Want to be as close to the market as possible? Book a room at the Inn at the Market hotel, which was one of my top downtown Seattle hotel picks for where to stay in Seattle. Check out the article for even more options!
If you want a little taste of Italy in the market, visit Truffle Queen. They serve the tastiest truffle salts, oils, and wines. Sit down in their patio area to enjoy a wine tasting before grabbing a few items from their shop to help you get creative in the kitchen.
Rachel & Billie, the Market Mascots
You’ll see two large, bronze pigs at the market. The one near the entrance is Rachel who’s been there since 1986. Billie is near the MarketFront deck and made her arrival in 2011.
These two giant piggy banks help the Pike Place Market Foundation fund the market’s social services. These include the food bank, child care, and the senior center. It’s said that if you make a donation and rub their noses, you’ll have good luck.
The Gum Wall
Seattle’s infamous landmark has evolved into more of a gum canyon than just a wall and is just as gross as it sounds. It’s been scrubbed clean several times, but this never lasts long. Try not to accidentally lean against it or get too close unless you’re trying to leave your own addition to the wall.
It’s easy to spend most of your time in the Market Arcade. But don’t neglect Post Alley, which has can’t-miss restaurants like Pike Place Chowder, The Pink Door, and Three Girls Bakery. Go to Post Alley for all the lunch options your heart desires and to discover more market treasures.
Escape the market crowds and busyness at the Secret Garden. The produce grown at this little garden is donated to the food bank and the Pike Market Senior Center thanks to the Pike Place Market Foundation. But there is a lot of seating around for you to take a break or enjoy some lunch.
Where to Eat & Drink at Pike Place Market
Pike Place Chowder
Want to sample award-winning chowder that visitors and locals rave about? Pike Place Chowder won’t disappoint you. Along with their delightfully creamy chowder (yes, you should get it in the bread bowl), they also serve tasty lobster and crab rolls.
A cozy, hidden gem of a restaurant by the gum wall, Alibi Room serves delicious pizzas and has a wallet-friendly happy hour. Come here to escape the crowds and enjoy good food, especially if you’re looking for a fun, casual date idea.
Beecher’s Handmade Cheese
A haven for cheese lovers. Beecher’s Handmade Cheese makes their curds onsite (you can even watch the process from a window). They sell these curds, a range of cheeses, and other delicious treats. Grab a mac and cheese or grilled cheese and sink your teeth into a little slice of heaven.
Mee Sum Pastry
Lines at Mee Sum Pastry are usually long, but don’t let that deter you from snagging a sweet or savory pastry at this Chinese Bakery. The BBQ Pork and Beef Curry hom bows are the biggest crowd pleasers.
Rachel’s Ginger Beer
Rachel’s Ginger Beer is a must-stop on a hot summer day. Choose between fun flavors like pink guava, caramelized pineapple, and cucumber tarragon. Enjoy your ginger beer straight or in a cocktail.
The Pink Door
The atmosphere, food, and location make The Pink Door one of the most delightful places to dine out in Seattle. It’s identifiable only by its pink door, and reservations are highly recommended. Bring someone special and come here to enjoy quality Italian food, live bands, burlesque shows, and phenomenal service.
Old Stove Brewing
Brews and views join forces to make the experience at Old Stove Brewing a good one. Sip a range of locally crafted beers, have some pub grub, and enjoy the smell of the sea and waterfront views at this kid-friendly brewpub.
Piroshky Piroshky has been serving delightful sweet and savory Russian baked goods since it opened in 1992. They’re one of the most well-known bakeries in Pike Place Market which means there will probably be a line, but they move quickly. The portions are generous, making it a good stop for breakfast or a mid-day snack.
Ghost Alley Espresso
Just steps from the gum wall, this little hole in the wall is an awesome coffee shop to start your Pike Place Market adventure. Choose between classic drinks like an americano or latte, or try their mystery mocha to get something tailored to your tastebuds.
👉 Pro Tip: Unless your heart is set on it, I suggest skipping a stop at the original Starbucks in the market. The Pike Place Starbucks has awfully long lines, no seating area, and you can only get drinks there. Instead, go to the Starbucks Reserve Roastery, one of the best coffee shops in Seattle.
Oriental Mart is easily identifiable by all the tongue-in-cheek signs surrounding the kitchen. Good, home-cooked style Filipino food awaits you at this family-owned restaurant. Try the flavorful adobo chicken, pancit, and lumpia to start.
Le Panier serves classic french pastries like macarons, croissants, and a variety of tasty tarts. If you have a sweet tooth, it’ll be satisfied here. Expect rich, well-balanced flavors and a huge range of offerings. Get here early to make sure you get the widest selection!
5 Tips for Visiting Pike Place Market
Take a Food Tour
The market is full of tons of must-try food spots. This is why taking a market food tour is my top tip for visiting Pike Place Market. Let a local guide and market expert walk you through this top Seattle attraction, sharing interesting bits of history and introducing you to some great eateries.
By the end, you’ll have a much better idea of what you want to do and where you want to go and eat. A bonus of taking a chef-guided Pike Place Market food tour? You get to skip the line!
Visit Over Multiple Days
If you have time in your itinerary, visit the market on different days for a couple of hours at a time. Trying to do and see it all in one day can be overwhelming. By going over the course of two days, you can take in the market slowly and savor the experience. I suggest going in the morning one day, and after the lunch rush or in the evening for dinner on another.
Have a Plan
Spontaneous exploration of the market can be fun, but it’s good to have a few places you know you want to visit so you don’t feel like you’re missing something. Select some shops and a few must-eat places before you go, so you know for sure that you’ll see and eat things you’re actually interested in.
📚 Related Reading: Make sure to bookmark my full list of Seattle travel tips next!
Go During the Low Season
The market will always be crowded to some degree, but if you’re trying to avoid this, go during early spring, late fall, or winter. Any day that it’s raining will also mean fewer people to navigate your way around and fewer lines to wait in.
Get the Name Right
The correct name is Pike Place Market, but a lot of tourists call it “Pike’s Marketplace,” “Pike’s Market,” or “Pike’s Place.” There’s no apostrophe in the name. Acceptable iterations are “The Market” or “Pike Place.” Make sure you don’t slip up when talking to locals or prepare for a (gentle) roast and correction!
Things to Do Near Pike Place Market
The waterfront is easy to get to from Pike Place Market and it’s one of downtown Seattle’s attractions. Visit the Aquarium or Pier 62 park. Ride on the Great Wheel, admire goods from Ye Olde Curiosity Shop, or simply watch the ferries making their way from Seattle to Bainbridge Island.
Olympic Sculpture Park
The Olympic Sculpture Park in the Belltown neighborhood is just north of the waterfront and is a part of the Seattle Art Museum. Take a nice walk down the meandering path past modern sculptures with views of Elliott Bay to keep you company.
Seattle Art Museum
The Seattle Art Museum is just a five-minute walk from Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle. Art lovers will have a fantastic time at this multi-level art museum filled with beautiful exhibits. As a bonus, the Seattle Art Museum is one of the best free things to do in Seattle if you visit on the first Thursday of the month. At those times, admission is free and the hours are extended.
One of Seattle’s best neighborhoods for nightlife, Belltown is within walking distance from Pike Place Market. It’s a great place to go for drinks, dancing, or late-night eats. Listen to live music at Crocodile (the birthplace of grunge), visit the Bathtub Gin speakeasy, or catch a performance at the Moore Theater to see some of Belltown’s best.
FAQs about Pike Place Market
Why is Pike’s Market Place so famous?
Pike Place Market is famous because it’s one of the oldest continually running markets in the country. The historic district is home to some of the best restaurants in Seattle. Its non-profit, the Pike Place Market Foundation, provides services to the surrounding community in the downtown Seattle area.
Is Pike Place Market still open?
Pike Place Market is open daily from 9 am to 6 pm. The market is only closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
How much does it cost to go to Pike Place Market?
It does not cost anything to go to Pike Place Market. The market is free and available to visit year-round.
What is the best day to go to Pike Place Market?
The best day to go to Pike Place Market is on a weekday morning in the off-season, especially if you want to avoid crowds.
Visitors and locals alike love visits to Pike Place Market, and you will too! Enjoy Seattle’s historic district and have a fun visit to one of the best attractions in the city.
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The Crocodile is not the birthplace of grunge it is just one of the many venues around town bands like the Melvins or Pearl Jam would play that is still open-sort of. It is not in its original location or anything like it was originally. The original location seen in the movie Singles sits vacant and boarded up on 2nd and Blanchard.