With its laid-back vibe, diverse music history and exciting food scene, this flourishing metropolis is perfect for a stay-and-cruise. Find out more in our Seattle city guide by Becky Wiggins.
Nestling on a narrow strip of land between the salt waters of Puget Sound and the fresh waters of Lake Washington, and surrounded by lush forests and snow-topped mountains, Seattle has always done things a little differently.
The city’s fascinating history is entwined with the sea (during the gold rush, Seattle’s proximity to the Klondike made it the ideal exit point for prospectors). Always an industrial force to be reckoned with, it was not just a hub for the early transcontinental railroads, but the home of a burgeoning shipbuilding industry and the birthplace of the Boeing company.
Today Seattle combines Northwest charm with a pioneering spirit and it’s well worth adding a few days onto your cruise to really get under its skin.
Nearly all of the best bits of downtown Seattle are easily walkable. Start by buying a CityPASS which offers entry to some of the city’s top attractions for a single purchase price (citypass.com/seattle).
No trip to Seattle is complete without a visit to the fabulously retro Space Needle. Built in 1962 for the World’s Fair, this incredible structure offers views across to the Olympic and Cascade mountains, and a recent modernisation project has introduced masses of interactive experiences including selfie spots, revolving floors, stomach-churning transparent walls and even a virtual reality bungee jump. Head up early to beat the queues, then return with your ticket within 24 hours to check out the views after dark (spaceneedle.com).
Just a short walk away you’ll find Chihuly Garden and Glass. Visit with your CityPASS to experience the breathtaking organic shapes and eye-popping colours of Pacific Northwest native Dale Chihuly’s bonkers glass creations, including a 100ft ceiling installation in the glasshouse (chihulygardenandglass.com).
Cross the road to the immersive Museum of Pop Culture, jumping the queue with your CityPASS. MoPOP celebrates all things cultural: literature, movies, TV, music, games and more. Immerse yourself in music and light shows in the Sky Church, dominated by an enormous 60ft HD LED screen, play instruments and video games, or just enjoy the exhibits, such as those dedicated to iconic Seattle bands Pearl Jam and Nirvana (mopop.org).
Wander up Pine to Seattle’s coolest neighbourhood, Capitol Hill, to check out the trendy boutiques and cafés. Stop at Starbucks’ shiny Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room for coffee or lose yourself in a book in one of the squishy sofas at Elliott Bay Book Company.
Washington’s unofficial wine capital, Walla Walla, is an hour’s flight (or picturesque four-hour drive) away and it’s well worth adding on a few days to your Alaska cruise to make the trip. The region boasts an impressive 120 vineyards, as well as a burgeoning arts scene, and the pretty town brimming with excellent restaurants and independent shops is a delight to visit.
Where to eat
Thanks to the Pacific Northwest’s abundance of fresh ingredients, it’s the norm to eat local in Seattle. Add in the proximity to the Washington State wineries, craft beer breweries and incredible seafood and you’ll see why Seattle’s food scene has such a good reputation.
But first: grab a coffee. Home of the first ever Starbucks, Seattle is famous for its coffee shops and roasteries. We recommend Anchorhead, for the coffee and the people watching (anchorheadcoffee.com).
Try out Lost Lake Café in Capitol Hill for an authentic American diner experience (no fancy lattes here, just drip coffee and great food). And for something more original, there’s Seattle institution Purple Café and Wine Bar. Dominated by a fantastic central wine tower, this buzzy, fun restaurant offers a huge wine list as well as great steaks, lobster mac & cheese, pizzas and gourmet burgers (purplecafe.com).
Where to stay
In line with Seattle’s fondness for diversity, you’ll find glamorous gold rush era hotels rubbing shoulders with gleaming new-builds. In 1929, the Roosevelt was the tallest building in Seattle.
Renamed the Theodore, and recently modernised, the hotel is now the epitome of industrial chic, themed around Seattle culture and industry in partnership with MOHAI, the fascinating Museum of History and Industry, which has loaned exhibits from Boeing, Nordstrom and Microsoft, now on show in the rooms and hallways. Be sure to dine at Rider restaurant, with its creative menu sourced from Washington State (hoteltheodore.com).
When in Walla Walla stay at Eritage, a lakeside retreat nestled among 300 acres of wheat fields and vineyards with views of the Blue Mountains. Themed as a tribute to the region’s industrial past, with high ceilings and exposed pipework, rooms are cosy and elegant with fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows. Executive Chef Brian Price’s sophisticated menu features seasonal, regional produce and is complemented by a enormous choice of Washington State wines, beers and spirits (eritageresort.com).
Take advantage of the Port of Seattle’s innovative Port Valet service. Simply enrol on the ship and your luggage will be transferred direct to your airline and checked in all the way to your internal destination airport. The complimentary service also means you can skip check-in and head straight to security to board your flight (portseattle.org).
Fly Icelandair to Seattle via Reykjavík (icelandair.com). To find out more about planning a trip to Seattle, go to seattlecruisealaska.co.uk.