Aerial view of Eastlake and Downtown Seattle

Where to Stay in Seattle, By an Area Local

Seattle is a dynamic, visionary city that’s a top-rated destination on the West Coast and one of the best places to visit in Washington state. If you want to guarantee you’ll have a good time here, choosing the right place to stay will seal the deal.

Not all neighborhoods in Emerald City are for everyone. Some are better for nightlife, others for kicking back with the locals, and some will help budgeters get the most out of their coins. Choosing where to stay in Seattle all depends on your preferred vibe and travel priorities.

As a longtime local, I’ve spent a ton of time in each of these Seattle neighborhoods, so I’ll help you decide which ones check your boxes so you can continue planning your epic trip to the Pacific Northwest!

Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support my work by purchasing through the affiliate links on this page, which may earn a commission for this site. Thank you!

Best Places to Stay in Seattle

The author in the Secret Garden in Pike Place Market
The Secret Garden is one of my favorite spots in Pike Place Market

Just looking for a quick answer on the best places to stay in Seattle? Here are my top picks: 

Got an idea of which sounds like the best hotel for you? Great! Now let’s do a deep dive into the best areas and neighborhoods in Seattle: 

10 Best Neighborhoods and Areas to Stay in Seattle

Seattle has tons of neighborhoods between Puget Sound on the west and Lake Washington to the east, but the majority of the best neighborhoods for visitors are adjacent to the downtown area. Generally speaking, these neighborhoods have the best hotels in Seattle and harbor the bulk of tourist attractions. That said, places a bit further afield are great for visitors whose main objective is to get more of a local experience. 

I’ll start with the best neighborhoods around the city center, and then walk you through the ones further away. 

Downtown Seattle

View of Downtown Seattle with a clear blue sky and the Seattle Great Wheel from afar

👉 Best Area For First Time Visitors | ✨ Best Downtown Hotels: Fairmont OlympicInn at the MarketFour Seasons

First-time visitors probably have their sights set on seeing the famous Pike Place Market and the Seattle waterfront, so booking a hotel in the heart of the city is a stellar idea. Staying downtown means you’ll have tons of options for gorgeous, historic hotels with top-notch amenities within walking distance to attractions like the Seattle Art Museum, the Aquarium, and The Great Wheel. 

High-end eateries and rooftop bars with Puget Sound, Space Needle, or Olympic Mountain views are nestled in the areas around Pike Place Market and the waterfront. Fantastic public transit makes it easy to get anywhere downtown and to surrounding neighborhoods. 

Since downtown Seattle is the business center it means there are more buildings here than green spaces and activity slows down after work hours. But because of its central location and the surrounding must-see sites and attractions, I highly recommend first-time visitors stay in downtown Seattle.

Pros of Staying in the Downtown Seattle Neighborhood:

  • Great public transportation
  • Many hotels to choose from
  • Close to sites and attractions
  • Easy to get anywhere else in Seattle

Con of Staying in the Downtown Seattle Neighborhood:

  • Not as pretty as other areas
  • Crowded during peak tourist seasons

📚 Downtown Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for First Time Visitors
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsRenaissance HotelMayflower Park HotelInn at the MarketFour Seasons
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – The Pink Door ($$$), Matt’s in the Market ($$$), Von’s 1,000 Spirits ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Radiator Whiskey, Alibi Room
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Pike Place Market, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Aquarium

Lower Queen Anne

The author sitting in front of the fountain in Seattle Center
The fountain at Seattle Center is one of the many focal points of the neighborhood.

👉 Best Area For Families | ✨ Best Lower Queen Anne Hotels: Mediterranean InnThe Maxwell HotelHyatt House Downtown Seattle

The Lower Queen Anne neighborhood is home to Seattle Center, one of the best things to do in Washington state. Come to get up close and personal with the Space Needle, and stay to wander through a glass garden, visit the Museum of Pop Culture, ride the monorail, attend an opera, and more. 

The neighborhood has trendy restaurants and bakeries, animated bars, multiple theaters and performance halls, and superb cultural events. Kid-friendly play spaces, activities, and hotels are in abundance here, so this neighborhood is a good option in Seattle for families. 

Those who want to check out the downtown waterfront or Pike Place Market will still have easy access via buses. If you stay here, be sure to venture further up the steep Queen Anne hill to check out Kerry Park for one of the best views of Seattle.

Pros of Staying in Lower Queen Anne Neighborhood:

  • Seattle Center is here
  • Very walkable area
  • Great for families

Con of Staying in Lower Queen Anne Neighborhood:

  • Entrance costs to attractions can get pricey

📚 Lower Queen Anne Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Families
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsMediterranean InnThe Maxwell HotelHyatt House Downtown Seattle
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Toulouse Petit Kitchen & Lounge ($$), Moontree Sushi & Tapas ($$), Sal Y Limon ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Queen Anne Beerhall, Keys on Main
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Seattle Center, Space Needle, Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Children’s Museum

Belltown 

View of the red sculpture in Olympic Sculpture Park
Definitely check out the amazing sculptures at Olympic Sculpture Park (photo: frankmlee / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Nightlife | ✨ Best Belltown Hotels: Hotel AndraBelltown InnEdgewaterAce Hotel

Looking to experience Seattle’s nightlife scene? Sandwiched between downtown Seattle and Queen Anne, Belltown is chock full of restaurants, bars, and clubs that are always ready for a party. 

By day you can spend time at the gorgeous Olympic Sculpture Park along Puget Sound or explore the vibrant boutique shops on 1st and 2nd ave. By night, you can go out dancing, pop over to Jazz Alley to hear live music, or grab cocktails at Bathtub Gin and Co., one of Seattle’s best speakeasy-style bars. 

Because it’s home to some of the best nightlife, Belltown can get loud and rowdy at night, so it’s not the best option for families with younger kids or anyone craving an undisturbed night of sleep. Visitors should also note that since the 2020 health crisis, there is an increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in the area.

Pros of Staying in Belltown Neighborhood:

  • Energetic nightlife
  • Close to the city center and within walking distance of attractions
  • Nice mid-range hotels

Con of Staying in Belltown Neighborhood:

  • Loud and rowdy at night

📚 Belltown Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Nightlife
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsHotel AndraBelltown InnEdgewaterAce Hotel
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Tavolata ($$$), Local 360 ($$), Biscuit Bitch Belltown ($)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Bathtub Gin & Co., Shorty’s
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Olympic Sculpture Park, 1st & 2nd Ave

Pioneer Square

The Pioneer Square at night and the Smith Tower
A view of Pioneer Square in the evening with the iconic Smith Tower peeking through. 

👉 Best Area For Sports Fans, History Buffs | ✨ Best Pioneer Square Hotels: Lotte HotelThe Arctic ClubEmbassy Suites By Hilton

The original Seattle neighborhood is Pioneer Square. It was established in the late 1800s and packs tons of charm. Located south of downtown and west of the International District, Pioneer Square is filled with Romanesque-style buildings and caters to history buffs and sports fans. You can tour the original underground city on which the current one is built and learn about Seattle’s gold rush history. Afterward, go watch a game at the nearby T-Mobile Stadium or Lumen Field.

Pioneer Square has abundant bars and restaurants, and tons of art galleries to tour during city Art Walks. Staying here will also put you within walking distance to the ferry terminal, which makes it easy to get to places like Bainbridge Island, one of my highly recommended day trips from Seattle

Visitors should note that there are a lot of social services buildings in the area. This means the unhoused population is pretty prevalent here, and some parts of the neighborhood can be quite gritty.

Pros of Staying in Pioneer Square Neighborhood:

  • Close to sports stadiums
  • Great bars and art galleries in a historic neighborhood
  • Easy access to the ferry terminal

Con of Staying in Pioneer Square Neighborhood:

  • Can feel unsafe at night
  • Some spots are very gritty

📚 Pioneer Square Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for History Buffs, Sports Fans
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsLotte HotelThe Arctic ClubEmbassy Suites By Hilton
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Damn the Weather ($$), Shawn O’Donnell’s  ($$), Dead Line ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Central Saloon, Smith Tower Observatory Bar, Flatstick Pub-Pioneer Square
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Seattle Underground Tour, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, T-Mobile Park, Lumen Field, Smith Tower 

Capitol Hill

View of pride rainbow crosswalk and a bike lane in Capitol Hill
(photo: CineCam / Shutterstock)

👉 Best Area For Bar Hopping | ✨ Best Capitol Hill Hotels: Silver Cloud Hotel on BroadwayHotel SorrentoThe Art Inn

Capitol Hill is hands down one of the best neighborhoods to stay in for people looking for a place that’s vibrant, diverse, and culturally rich. It’s a hot spot for the LGBTQ members of the community and has a distinct counterculture vibe. 

Gentrification has affected it significantly over time, but community leaders continue to fight for its authenticity as it morphs and changes. The northern end is a bit sleepier but with many cute shops, cafes, and parks, and the main stretch around the Pike/Pine Corridor is full of the best bars and gay clubs in Seattle.

Along with Belltown, Capitol Hill is another great place to stay in Seattle for nightlife. Outdoor lovers can unwind in Volunteer Park, which is home to both the Seattle Asian Art Museum and a breathtaking Conservatory. For a real local treat, be sure to spend hours in Elliot Bay Bookstore and sample the goods at the famous Molly Moon’s Ice Cream. 

Pros of Staying in Capitol Hill Neighborhood:

  • Always lively and entertaining
  • Has some of the best bars in Seattle

Con of Staying in Capitol Hill Neighborhood:

  • Can be loud and crowded on weekends

📚 Capitol Hill Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Bar Hopping
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsSilver Cloud Hotel on BroadwayHotel SorrentoThe Art Inn
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Cafe Presse ($$), Annapurna ($$), Plum Bistro ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Unicorn, Rhein Haus, Rock Box
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Pike/Pine Corridor, Volunteer Park, Seattle Asian Art Museum

South Lake Union

View of a yellow pedestrian crossing sign in South Lake Union
Lake Union Steam Plant at dusk

👉 Best Area For Business Travelers | ✨ Best South Lake Union Hotels: CitizenMMoxy Seattle DowntownEven Hotel

Over the past years, South Lake Union has seen a lot of development, particularly by businesses like Amazon, which has its headquarters here. SLU is east of the Seattle Center, at the bottom of Capitol Hill, and has a distinct “techy” vibe. While it can feel a bit bland in comparison to some neighborhoods, South Lake Union is great for business travelers who don’t want to stay downtown. 

It’s near the Convention Center and there are some hip bars and dining spots surrounding Lake Union to grab a post-work drink and meal. Lake Union Park is a popular place for kayakers, joggers, bikers, or anyone who wants to spend some time on the water for great views of the Space Needle. SLU can be admittedly dead at night, but this means anyone visiting for a business trip won’t have to worry about being kept up too late from noise. 

Pros of Staying in South Lake Union Neighborhood:

  • Near Lake Union Park
  • Centrally located but quiet

Con of Staying in South Lake Union Neighborhood:

  • Feels blander than other neighborhoods 
  • Very limited parking

📚 South Lake Union Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Business Travelers
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsCitizenMMoxy Seattle DowntownEven Hotel
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – The White Swan Public House ($$), Duke’s Seafood ($$), Cask and Trotter BBQ ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Art Marble 21, MBar
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI), Lake Union Park, The Center for Wooden Boats

University District

Aerial view of U-District in Seattle

👉 Best Area Budget Travelers | ✨ Best U-District Hotels: Graduate SeattleCollege Inn HotelWatertown Hotel

The University District is the area surrounding the University of Washington. With youthful, college town vibes, affordable hotel, and dining options, and its proximity to the light rail station, it makes for a great option for budget travelers.

You’ll find the majority of the fun shops, indie cafes, cheap eats, and the quirky culture of the neighborhood along The Ave, but you can also do some shopping in the U-Village. Also be sure to relax in the Quad on the University of Washington campus, bike along the Burke-Gilman trail, or catch a bus, Lyft, or Uber ride to some of the other fun neighborhoods in north Seattle.

Though the U-district is a bit removed from the downtown area, the light rail station makes this a non-issue. Hop on and you can easily and quickly get downtown and to neighborhoods beyond like the International District and Columbia City. 

Pros of Staying in the University District Neighborhood:

  • Easy access to north Seattle neighborhoods
  • Great for budget travelers
  • Connected to the rest of Seattle and beyond via the light rail station

Con of Staying in the University District Neighborhood:

  • Some travelers might not like the college vibe
  • Loud during weekends when school is in session

📚 U-District Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Budget Travelers
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsGraduate SeattleCollege Inn HotelWatertown Hotel
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Portage Bay Cafe ($$), Thai Tom ($), Din Tai Fung ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Shultzy’s, The Kraken Bar & Lounge
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Burke Museum of Natural History, University of Washington Campus

Ballard

View of the sunset over the sea in Golden Gardens
The sunsets at Golden Gardens are unparalleled

👉 Best Area For Foodies | ✨ Best Ballard Hotels: Hotel BallardBallard Inn

Wondering where to stay in Seattle with hip, local vibes, and tons to do, see and eat? Go further afield to Ballard and you won’t be disappointed. In north Seattle, located across the Ballard Bridge, this neighborhood is a desirable spot for people moving to Seattle. Luckily, it’s a great place to visit as well. 

The historically Scandinavian neighborhood is packed with brunch joints, pubs, and restaurants of all flavors and varieties along Ballard Ave. Make sure to explore the vintage and boutique shops, visit Mox Boardinghouse for board games, try out Virtual Reality at Portal, and watch the sunset at the beloved Golden Gardens Park. If sampling some of Seattle’s best brews is on your to-do list, you’ll definitely want to check out Ballard. It’s the epicenter for some of the best breweries in the city.

Pros of Staying in Ballard Neighborhood:

  • Authentic local neighborhood
  • Abundant dining and shopping options
  • Tons of breweries

Con of Staying in Ballard Neighborhood:

  • You’ll want a car to get around
  • Far from the main sites and attractions

📚 Ballard Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Foodies
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsHotel BallardBallard Inn 
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – San Fermo ($$$), Hattie’s Hat Restaurant ($), Sawyer ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – The Sunset Tavern, Hotel Albatross
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Ballard Locks, Golden Gardens Park, National Nordic Museum

West Seattle

A man and a woman sitting by the Alki Beach
Alki Beach is one of the best places to admire the Olympic Mountains

👉 Best Area For Laidback Travelers | ✨ Best West Seattle Hotels: The Grove West Seattle Inn

It’s not on the top of my list for where to stay in Seattle for first time visitors, but if you’ve already seen the key sights and attractions in the heart of the city, West Seattle could be a good home base for further exploration. In West Seattle you’ll find a more easygoing and communal culture than a lot of other neighborhoods. There are tons of small businesses selling locally made goods, a year round farmer’s market, and friendly people. 

Alki Beach is a great place to relax while you admire the Seattle skyline, get awesome views of the Olympic Mountains and grab a bite to eat at one of many beachfront dining spots. Though West Seattle is one of the more overlooked parts of the city, if you’re a visitor who wants to move at a slower pace, you’ll love it here.

Pros of Staying in West Seattle Neighborhood:

  • An easygoing communal vibe
  • Great outdoor spaces to relax in
  • Easy access to Alki Beach, Vashon Island ferry, downtown water taxi

Con of Staying in West Seattle Neighborhood:

  • More isolated and a long commute to the rest of Seattle
  • Very few options for hotels

📚 West Seattle Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Laidback Travelers
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsThe Grove West Seattle Inn
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Itto’s Tapas ($$), Harry’s Beach House ($$), Arthur’s ($$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Good Society Beer, The Alley
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Alki Beach, Alaska Junction, Lincoln Park

Bellevue

View of the Bellevue Downtown Park before night time

👉 Best Area For Luxury Shoppers | ✨ Best Bellevue Hotels: W BellevueThe Westin BellevueAC Hotel

Bellevue is a city east of Seattle and if you choose to stay here, you won’t be staying in Seattle at all. It could be a good option for people who don’t want to deal with the hustle and bustle of the big city. 

If you need just a few days to explore Seattle and want to have easier access to hiking and more outdoor adventures, Bellevue is a good choice. It’s also great for people who plan to do a lot of shopping on their trip because there are several shopping districts in Bellevue with notable luxury brands. The city doesn’t have the dynamic energy of the rest of Seattle, and it can feel a bit sterile to younger travelers, but it’s equipped with upscale dining choices and has a family-friendly suburban feel that will appeal to different crowds.

Pros of Staying in Bellevue:

  • Multiple large shopping districts
  • Quiet at night
  • Closer to outdoor activities

Con of Staying in Bellevue:

  • You’ll need a car to Seattle and to get around the city
  • Can feel sterile and cooperate

📚 Bellevue Mini Guide 📚
Best Area to Stay for Luxury Shoppers
Google Map

  • ✨ Best HotelsW BellevueThe Westin BellevueAC Hotel
  • 🍽️ Where to Eat – Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ ($$), Fogo de Chao Brazilian Steakhouse ($$$), Carmine’s  ($$$)
  • 🍸 Where to Drink – Daman’s Tavern, Off the Rails Sports Pub
  • 🎟️ Top Attractions – Bellevue Botanical Gardens, Bellevue Arts Museum, Downtown Park

Tips for Staying in Seattle

Utilize the Bus System

Finding parking in Seattle can be difficult, especially if you’re staying within or around downtown. Paid parking lots will end up costing you a premium. Luckily, the public transit system is convenient, inexpensive, and extremely easy to use. You can even use the OneBusAway app to help you plan out your routes!

Explore Beyond the City Center

Make sure after checking out the top sites on your list that you venture out to see the rest of the city. There are tons of other neighborhoods that aren’t listed here but that add to Seattle’s personality as a whole. If you want to get a really authentic feel for this incredible city, find the places locals haunt.

Don’t Be Afraid of Coming During “Off-Season”

Seattle summers are glorious and it’s when most people come to visit. But even during rainy, cloudy, and colder seasons, you’ll find there are things to do. Don’t be afraid of coming during mid-fall, late winter, or early spring! As long as you pack layers to keep comfortable and dry, you can experience a less crowded city with more affordable hotel options.

Answers to FAQs About Seattle

Where should you Not Stay In Seattle?

If you’re visiting Seattle, you should try not to stay south of SoDo, north of Northgate, or too far east of Capitol Hill. These places are far from the rest of Seattle and transportation options can be limited.

Is Downtown Seattle Dangerous?

Downtown Seattle is not particularly dangerous, but like most big cities, it can feel unsafe late at night. Stay with a friend, walk in well-lit areas, and be aware of your surroundings to ensure your safety.

Is It Safe to Stay In Seattle?

It is generally safe to stay in Seattle. The violent crime rate in Seattle is typically lower than in other major cities in the United States. 

Where is it safe to stay in Seattle?

It is safe to stay in most neighborhoods in Seattle. Some of the safest neighborhoods are Ballard and surrounding areas, Queen Anne, and West Seattle.

Is Bellevue a good place to stay when visiting Seattle?

Bellevue can be a good place to stay when visiting Seattle if you don’t mind a longer commute, want to be closer to outdoor activities, and want to be farther from the busy city.

***

🛑 Before You Go: Be sure to check out my guide to the best stuff to do in Washington state!

I hope this has given you insight into where to stay in Seattle on your next trip to the Pacific Northwest! Now all that’s left is for you to book your hotel and get packing. 

Do you have any other areas you’d include for where to stay in Seattle? Leave a comment to let me know!

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