How to spend 48 hours in Seattle

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Ever-changing, fast-moving Seattle is home to some of the biggest tech campuses in the world, with Amazon's headquarters in the city and Google planning an expansion. But it's not all futuristic technology and slick high-rises - there's a tantalising downtown just waiting to be explored, a buzzing music scene, eclectic museums and iconic sights. If you're planning to make the most of Virgin Atlantic's soon-to-launch new direct route to Seattle*, here's how to get the best out of a short break to the capital of Washington state.

How to spend 48 hours in Seattle © Tiffany Von Arnim - Flickr Creative Commons
How to spend 48 hours in Seattle © Tiffany Von Arnim - Flickr Creative Commons

48 hours in Seattle - day 1

Fly over the city

Taking a seaplane flight over Seattle is perhaps the most unique introduction to the city and a brilliant way to get to grips with its geography. As you soar over the Puget Sound, sit back and listen in to a running commentary explaining the various neighbourhoods, landmarks and history.

Pike Place Market

From the seaplane landing, it's just a half-hour stroll to Pike Place Market along Westlake Avenue. Known as the longest continually running farmers market in the US, it's a fantastic place to wander around fresh fruit and veg stalls, as well as a veritable smorgasbord of international street food outlets.

Pike Place Market, Seattle © Joe Mabel - Wikimedia Commons
Pike Place Market, Seattle © Joe Mabel - Wikimedia Commons

One of the most popular stalls is Pike Place Chowder - famous for winning numerous New England chowder awards, despite hailing from outside the region. However, the market is really best known for Pike Place Fish, where you can watch fishmongers tossing fish between themselves as they make a sale. On your way out, stop by one of Seattle's most bizarre attractions: a multicoloured gum wall, created out of passers-by's used chewing gum.

Shop 'til you drop

Seattle's diverse neighbourhoods have given rise to an abundance of busy malls, stylish boutiques and smaller independent shops. Downtown, you'll find Nordstrom's flagship store and all the biggest brands, while Ballard neighbourhood is known for the hippest shops in town. If you're into art, go to Belltown, where art stores and galleries await, while Pike Place Market is the place for locally made crafts.

Sunset with a view

No visit to Seattle would be complete without a trip up its iconic Space Needle. Built in 1962 for the World's Fair, the view from the Observation Deck out over Seattle and the surrounding area, with the Cascade Mountains rising to the east and the Olympic Mountains to the west, is the best in the city. Climb the Space Needle at dusk and watch the twinkling lights of the city ignite.

48 hours in Seattle - day 2

Ride a ferry

Travel out of the city centre and onto the surrounding water on one of Washington State Ferries' iconic green and white ships. A quintessential Seattle experience, this trip is part of daily life for many commuters. For visitors, it's a chance to see some of the islands that dot the Puget Sound, with excellent views of the city skyline from afar. While on the trip, lookout for local wildlife.

Ferry to Bainbridge Island, Seattle © Tobias Eigen - Flickr Creative Commons
Ferry to Bainbridge Island, Seattle © Tobias Eigen - Flickr Creative Commons

Innovative museums

As the city that gave rise to Jimi Hendrix, Pearl Jam and Kurt Cobain, it's only fitting that Seattle has one of the world's most fascinating music museums. The inspired EMP (Experience Music Project) museum's enticing programme of events and interactive exhibitions will have people of all ages interested.

Once you've found out about Seattle's music history, get to grips with one of Washington's most inventive artists. The Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum is an imaginative, unusual gallery throughout which multicoloured, whimsical shapes of blown glass created by famous glass sculptor Dale Chihuly are eccentrically arranged.

Coffee & craft beer

Coffee is a big part of Seattle culture, and a good way to get a feel for the city is to sit in one of its many cafés. From the world's first Starbucks (including Starbucks' Roastery & Tasting Room) to local microroasters, baristas across town are sure to satisfy your caffeine cravings. If you are more into craft beer than flat whites, Seattle is also the place for you. The city boasts around 60 breweries, and you'll find artisanal brews in every bar and restaurant.

Starbucks' Roastery & Tasting Room © Rob Bertholf - Flickr Creative Commons
Starbucks' Roastery & Tasting Room © Rob Bertholf - Flickr Creative Commons

Dine in Capitol Hill

Capitol Hill, the epicentre of Seattle's music scene, is also a fantastic place to experience the city's growing foodie scene, with innovative restaurants that focus on fresh, local ingredients. End your night at one of Capitol Hill's coolest cocktail bars, or even one of its secret speakeasies - that is, if you can find them.

If you have more time...

While 48 hours is just enough time to fit in some of Seattle's biggest sights, spending a little longer will allow you to get a real feel for this laidback, liberal city, and its lush surroundings. The following are just some of the outdoors activities that may take your fancy.

Day trip to Mount Rainier

Just a couple of hours' drive from Seattle, Mount Rainier is the highest peak in the Cascade Range and is surrounded by a beautiful National Park. With its alpine scenery and pretty wildflower meadows, the park is ripe for exploring, with hiking trails crisscrossing its breathtaking scenery.

Mount Rainier and the White River valley © Walter Siegmund - Wikimedia Commons
Mount Rainier and the White River valley © Walter Siegmund - Wikimedia Commons

Kayak on Lake Union

Get active and take a kayak out around Seattle. Try a guided tour around Lake Union; this freshwater lake is actually within the confines of Seattle so you can soak up the city buzz from the water, while yachts and houseboats cruise and float around you.

Go whale-spotting

Take a boat further out onto the Puget Sound, where you have the chance to spot eagles, ospreys and herons as well as otters, seals and, if you're really lucky, orca whales. For the best chance of seeing an orca, you'll want to head out to the San Juan Islands where there are resident pods.

Does Seattle sound like your kind of laidback city? Check out the latest deals on direct flights with Virgin Atlantic, which launches a brand new daily route from London Heathrow in March 2017. You can also check out the weather in Seattle and see when we think is the best time to go for fabulous weather, perfect for exploring the city.

More about Seattle

  • Top deals & discounts
  • Seattle weather overview
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  • Best time to go to Seattle
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Freya Godfrey

Freya Godfrey
Posted on Thursday 9th February 2017 in: City Culture North America Virgin Atlantic

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