Winning in the rain: A guide to Seattle

The Emerald City resists characterisation, but has plenty to offer visitors


Seattle is outdoorsy, beardy and coffee-crazy, yet it's also techy and bookish – so much so that Amazon started in the city. Throw in sensational Pacific Northwest backdrops and you'll love the news that Norwegian has recently started direct flights from Gatwick. Here are some beginner's tips.

What to do

Seattle is flanked by snow-capped peaks and dense forests, with a number of nearby hiking loops available, headlined by the schlep to Rattlesnake Ridge. In the city limits, you can swim from the dock of Golden Gardens Park or legally start a bonfire while gazing across Puget Sound.

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What to see

It rains – as David Hyde Pierce memorably warns Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle – nine months of the year here, so an indoor alternative is necessary. Pike Place Market, a gigantic, century-old farmers' market beside the waterfront, is mostly covered. Everything from antiques to artichokes are sold.

Where to eat

The Walrus & The Carpenter's seafood – chiefly oysters – is legendary, although that, coupled with a no-reservation policy, often means long queues. Sister restaurant Barnacle is next door, however, and Ballard Avenue spills over with alternative eateries.

Where to drink

Coffee, you mean? Seattle also spawned Starbucks, but all that will be forgiven upon a visit to Analog in cool Capitol Hill, when you sample its local roasts. The best bars await across Lake Union in indie Fremont, and most particularly behind Jewish-style Roxy’s Diner. Here is The Backdoor, a sort of speakeasy-ballroom combo where huge wall-painted faces watch on as terrific cocktails are prepared.

Where to shop

Individualist, hard-to-define shops predominate. Ballard Avenue's Prism is typical: it pairs international fashion with local jewellery, fragrances and homeware, all superb gift fodder. The city of Amazon remains replete, rather incongruously, with bookstores, including Fremont's Book Larder – perhaps the world’s best trove for lovers of cookbooks.

Where to stay

Prefer the cool and boutique vibe? Then stay at the Kimpton Palladian, whose 97 rooms are playfully decorated with Brad Pitt pillows and clawfoot tubs, and whose guests receive complimentary yoga mats and bikes to hire. For extravagance and stellar views, it has to be the Four Seasons, if only for that fourth-floor infinity pool facing Elliott Bay.

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