News, Culture & Society

Meet the world leaders in computers, coffee bars and fish-flinging in Seattle

The city of Seattle pretty much invented modern life as we know it. A bold claim, perhaps, but Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft all hail from this port city in America’s rugged Pacific Northwest. 

You’ll recognise Seattle from TV hits Frasier and Grey’s Anatomy, while rockers with local links include Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana, The Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam.

Seattle is famously wet in winter – locals joke that they invented coffee and computers to help pass the time – but for the rest of the year it’s a glorious destination. There’s a thriving bar and restaurant scene, and the outdoor activities are second to none. 

The sky’s the limit: The restaurant and viewing platform at the Space Needle

Set on Puget Sound, Seattle is surrounded by three stunning national parks – the Olympic Peninsula, Mount Rainier and North Cascades – making it a paradise for hikers, bikers, kayakers and beach-lovers.


Morning: There’s no better starting point than Pike Place Market, which dates from 1907 and is one of America’s oldest farmers’ markets.

With views of Puget Sound and the snow-capped Olympic Mountains, Pike Place Market is a sprawling, often raucous showcase for local producers, with stalls crammed with everything from asparagus and creamy cheeses to chocolate-coated cherries.

But the star attraction has to be the world-class seafood fresh from the Pacific. Pike Place Fish Market workers are famous for throwing fish: it’s an astonishing sight, watching a 2ft salmon sail through the air ready to be packed.

To hear the stories of producers, as well as sampling plenty of their wares, take a guided walking tour with Savor Seattle (two hours from £31pp). 

Fresh brew: Coffee giant Starbucks was founded in Seattle and its first store is still open

Fresh brew: Coffee giant Starbucks was founded in Seattle and its first store is still open

Flying fish: Pike Place Market, which dates from 1907, is one of America’s oldest farmers’ markets

Flying fish: Pike Place Market, which dates from 1907, is one of America’s oldest farmers’ markets

Still hungry? Grab a counter lunch at Athenian, the Pike Place bistro featured in Sleepless In Seattle, or at Etta’s, the relaxed diner run by Seattle super-chef Tom Douglas. It’s across the road from the first Starbucks branch.

Afternoon: Seattle is a family-friendly city, with some fantastic museums. Living Computers is the brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and is a geek odyssey through the history of modern computing.

Allen also founded the eye-catching, Frank Geary-designed Museum of Pop Culture at Seattle Center (a two-minute monorail ride from downtown). You could spend an entire day exploring interactive sections devoted to cultural favourites such as The Muppets, Star Trek and David Bowie, or embracing your inner pop star at the Sound Lab studio. 

But make time for the Pacific Science Center, with its Planetarium and Laser Dome, as well as the breathtaking Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition – a beautiful collection of large-scale works by world-renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly.

And at the centre of it all is Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, which is undergoing a £60 million refurbishment. The space-age tower rises 605ft into the air and has a famous glass ‘flying saucer’ SkyCity restaurant at 500ft, due to reopen in May. Take the lift up for a romantic sunset dinner, watching the sun’s final rays illuminate Mount Rainier. If you fancy a nightcap afterwards, pop into the rooftop bar at the chic Thompson Seattle hotel.

Seattle’s iconic Space Needle is undergoing a £60 million refurbishment

Seattle’s iconic Space Needle is undergoing a £60 million refurbishment


Morning: Seattle boasts the busiest ferry network in the world, with more than 22 million passengers travelling out to nearby islands each year. Hire a car and catch a ferry to Bainbridge Island (£15), gateway to the rolling forests, cascading waterfalls and stunning beaches of the Olympic Peninsula. It’s an hour’s drive north to Port Townsend, a historic port town, where Victorian wooden buildings house a fantastic mix of atmospheric bars, galleries and chic homeware stores.

It’s also the start of the 80-mile, coast-hugging Olympic Discovery Trail: hire a bike for an exhilarating ride along pristine beaches and deep valleys of cedar and Douglas fir, teeming with elk, deer and bald eagles (£29 for half a day with

Alternatively, kayak around the harbour (from £36 for a half-day with spotting seals, puffins and orcas.

Stop for lunch at The Fountain Cafe before driving on to explore the dazzling panoramic views from Hurricane Ridge.

Afternoon: Just 20 miles north of Seattle, Woodinville is the heart of Washington State’s wine country. There are 120 wineries here, second only to California’s Napa Valley for producing award-winning and extremely gluggable varieties.

You can tour Chateau St Michelle (Washington’s oldest wine producer), but make a beeline for boutique wineries such as Sparkman (its riesling was voted one of the world’s best) and award-winning J M Cellars, which is set in a vast arboretum.

Celebrities and work-weary Seattleites stay at the luxurious Willows Lodge hotel – its rooms overlook six landscaped acres and flourishing vegetable gardens.

Book a table in its award-winning Herb Farm or Barking Frog restaurants, ask the sommelier to pair the delicious seasonal dishes with local wines from the extensive cellar, and savour the flavours of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.


America As You Like It (, 020 8742 8299) offers a seven-night fly-drive to Seattle and Washington State from £1,435pp. 

The price includes return flights to Seattle on Virgin Atlantic, fully inclusive car hire for five days, three nights room-only at the Thompson Seattle, one night’s B&B at the Bishop Victorian Hotel in Port Townsend, two nights’ B&B at Colette’s Bed and Breakfast in Port Angeles, and one night room-only at Willows Lodge in Woodinville.

For further information, visit