Whether you care to learn about the history of Pioneer Square, sample treats at Pike Place Market, or dare to head to the top of the Space Needle, there is no shortage of interesting spots. But if you feel the desire to trek off the beaten path, use our guide below to gain insight on the top ten hidden gems in Seattle. Oddities, good eats, delicious cocktails, and fascinating tours await you.
1) Orient Express Restaurant
South of downtown lies the quirky Orient Express Restaurant. Housed within seven railroad cars, this pan Asian restaurant used to serve as the private presidential railroad car of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his 1944 reelection campaign. Still containing original fixtures and photographs, the restaurant provides a unique sliver of history. A true hidden gem in Seattle, the Orient Express offers delicious Chinese and Thai menu options such as spring rolls or Lab Ga. Additionally, you can test your karaoke skills here, so arrive with songs and moves in mind.
2) Smith Tower
When you think of Seattle architecture, the Space Needle comes to mind. However, the iconic Smith Tower became the first skyscraper in Seattle in 1914. Considered the tallest building west of the Mississippi River at the time, the Smith Tower has stood as a beautiful cultural foundation for the city and one of the best hidden gems in Seattle. Today, the tower still offers multiple attractions. Visitors can peruse the souvenir ship on the ground floor, stroll through the building's historical exhibits, and glimpse breathtaking views from the observatory on the open-air observation deck. Furthermore, the tower houses a speakeasy-style bar with traditional cocktails and a menu featuring fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
3) Seattle Underground Tour
Explore Seattle's history with the Seattle Underground Tour. A local expert guide takes guests through the passageways of underground Seattle. Discover how Seattle rebuilt itself after the Seattle Fire of 1889 that essentially destroyed the business district. Uncover remnants of storefronts, basements, sidewalks, and more with preserved 1890's architectural facets during this 75-minute tour. Further, learn about the vibrant past of the city's landscape and culture, strolling through three city blocks of Pioneer Square's underground. Also, guides provide greater insight into the history of Skid Row, the Klondike Gold Rush, the Coast Salish people that first settled the area, and more.
The tour begins at Doc Maynard's Public House and ends in Rogues Gallery. With tour times available every day, there are plenty of opportunities to visit one of the top hidden gems in Seattle.
4) Paper Hammer
If you feel giddy over hand-crafted, unique stationery, Paper Hammer is the place for you. Owner Ed Marquand offers selections of handcrafted gifts, paper, and furniture. Moreover, local designer Kerry Quint creates furniture out of recycled books and welded steel tables. The shop stands somewhat as a gallery for Tieton-made paper products, perfect for finding eclectic gifts such as letterpress coasters and hand-bound journals. Fun, experimental, and kooky come to mind when entering this Seattle establishment.
Not only can you shop, but guests can participate in events like bookbinding, crafting Japanese-style portfolios, and writing letters in tandem to promote the lost art of letter writing! Check their calendar for more details, and note that the store remains open Monday through Saturday, 11 am to 6 pm.
5) Secret Beach
Located on 39th Avenue E. and E. Harrison St. End, this local favorite should be respected, as the locals attempt to keep this secret beach low-key. Secret Beach, north of Denny Blaine Park, stretches along Lake Washington to give beautiful views and fun in the sun. One of the glorious hidden gems in Seattle, guests can partake in a myriad of outdoor activities. Rest in the grassy area, wade your feet in the sandy low tide, read on a nearby wooden bench, or watch the sunset with your friends. This quiet beach provides reprieve from the hustle and bustle of other busier Seattle parks and beaches, so please keep that in mind when visiting.
6) Ye Olde Curiosity Shop
Since 1899, Ye Olde Curiosity Shop has been spooking residents of Emerald City with its weird wonders. Established by Joseph Edward Standley on Seattle's waterfront after the Great Fire, this shop remains older than the Space Needle, the Seattle Aquarium, and more Seattle foundations. Moreover, Standley's family still runs the establishment generations later, inviting visitors to peruse aisles of shrunken heads, mummies, taxidermy oddities, and beyond from around the globe. More than a million guests visit this free museum of sorts each year. With a variety of items for sale and on display, you can't find yourself bored at Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.
7) Needle & Thread Bar
Looking for a speakeasy in Emerald City? Needle & Thread Bar has your Prohibition-style dreams covered. Located upstairs within Tavern Law's restaurant on Capitol Hill, the speakeasy bar celebrates Prohibition Era-bars with uniquely crafted cocktails. However, do not count on ordering off of a drink menu. The bar individually makes cocktails based on their supply of fresh ingredients and patrons' tastes. Grab a delicious bite from the restaurant before heading upstairs. Gain entrance via an old bank vault door to sample individual concoctions from expert bartenders.
Additionally, guests must make reservations to drink at the bar.
8) Open Books
Small but mighty, Open Books: A Poetry Emporium houses more than 10,000 used, out-of-print, and new poetry books. Also, the store contains an impressive selection of titles about poetry. Moreover, visitors can find an extensive range of volumes from huge to smaller publishing houses. Whatever you may be looking for, you will most likely find it at Open Books, making this establishment one of the best hidden gems in Seattle. Furthermore, the store showcases poetry readings, workshops, and discussions within the store
Located in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood, Open Books stands within a renovated bungalow at 2414 45 St.
9) Campus Gardens
On a crisp, sunny day, take advantage of the Seattle University's campus gardens. Visitors can take a free self-guided tour of the twelve gorgeous, varied gardens available. From memorials to ethnobotanic gardens providing edible plants, the campus attempts to remain cognizant of creating sustainable green spaces. Although each garden presents its own unique story and purpose, two notable gardens include the Shakespeare Garden and the Japanese American Remembrance Garden.
Shakespeare Garden and Japanese American Remembrance Garden
The Shakespeare Garden, situated in front of the Fine Arts Building, originated as a collaboration between the university's Grounds and Fine Arts Departments. As Shakespeare made many references to certain plants within his works, this garden reflects his references as a living tribute to those plants. Additionally, the Japanese American Remembrance Garden is dedicated to Japanese Americans in the area who were incarcerated in internment camps during World War II. Designed by Al Kubota, the grandson of prominent gardener and philanthropist Fujitaro Kubota, the garden has stood since 2006. Adorned with rocks and plantings, the garden represents the pain of separation and the joy of return. Visitors can find the garden between Hunthausen, 1103, and Xavier Hall.
10) Melrose Market
While everyone else heads to Pike Place Market, explore the lesser-known Melrose Market. Standing at Pike-Pine's west end on Capitol Hill, Melrose Market occupies an indoor space housing multiple food and retail businesses. Constructed from historic early twentieth-century automotive buildings, the indoor market opened in 2010. Just up the road from the city's downtown shopping district, guests can find award-winning fine dining such as Sitka & Spruce and Terra Plata, or upscale retailers such as Glasswing and Green Fire Products. Further, the market encloses a massive event space and catering business, Melrose Market Studios.
Visit the Hidden Gems in Seattle
With so many things to do in Seattle, you don't want to miss out on a trip of a lifetime. Which of these unique hidden gems in Seattle do you plan on trying first?