Year after year we return to Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Year after year we see some of the same vegetable, fish and flower vendors. Yet, it never gets old. New and innovative craftspeople show up, street entertainers keep our attention and, yes, we pause and wait for someone to buy a huge salmon so we can see the “fish throwers” in action. Pike Place Market is a must do every time you visit Seattle and here’s why.
Pike Place Market – It’s Seattle History
The buildings of the market and the surrounding nine-acre historic district are an important part of Seattle history.
According to the Market history recounted by PikePlaceMarket.org, since the early 1900’s farmers brought vegetables, fruit, milk, dairy, eggs and meat to the city by horse drawn wagons and by ferry from the nearby islands. On the public market’s first day, August 17, 1907, crowds of shoppers seeking fresh produce and bargains descended upon the new marketplace. The first farmer sold out of produce within minutes. Within a week, 70 wagons were gathering daily to sell along the newly named Pike Place, a wooden roadway that connected First St. to Western Ave.
The market continued to weather the ups and downs of wartime Seattle and, in the 1960’s, the buildings were deteriorating. Fortunately, Seattle voters supported the renovation of a historic district and the Pike Place Market was preserved.
Pike Place Market – Fish, Produce and Specialty Foods
Seattle’s most iconic attraction is open all year. In the main covered food hall you’ll find colorful booths with carefully stacked produce, gorgeous bouquets of seasonal flowers, seafood like smoked salmon, crab, oysters and clams. In the fall, look for wild mushrooms.
And, of course, take some time to watch and photograph the action at the Pike Place Fish Market. Most of the fish is quick frozen at sea in Alaska. But the fun takes place when someone buys a whole fish to take home. They choose their fish, the assistant picks it up from the ice and throws it to the guy who will wrap and box it. Watch out when the fish is flying!
Pike Place Market – The Makers’ Booths
After you are wowed with the produce and the flying fish, head over to look through booth after booth of locally made jewelry, clothing and gifts. You’ll no doubt find t-shirts and totes with local Native American fish and eagle designs. There are people who make colorful ceramics, woodworkers and knitters of winter scarves. What a place to find a gift or souvenir.
I enjoy the ferry-themed notecards and paintings because, as you’ll find out, you can see the ferries leaving from the Seattle terminal and heading out across the Puget Sound to Bremerton. Just make your way through the market to the windows.
Take the ramp to the lower level and you’ll find an antique store that has been there forever with the same Beatles memorabilia that I saw there years ago. Love reading and exploring old books? Try the BLMF Literary Saloon.
Afghani Crafts has clothing and textiles from Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. Check out their handmade Afghani Lapis jewelry
Pike Place Market Restaurants
After all that exploring, shopping and watching flying fish, you may want to sit down and have a meal. The Athenian Restaurant and Bar has been serving up seafood and cocktails with a view since 1909.
You’ll find such local delights on the lunch menu as Penn Cove Mussels and Clams appetizer – steamed with onions, garlic, and local brew with ancho-chile sauce and Northwest King Salmon grilled and basted with herb oil and served with local pear chutney and fresh roasted pumpkin mashed potatoes.
You can sip on a craft cocktail while watching the activity on the waterfront and the ferries going back and forth from Bremerton across the Puget Sound.
Of course there are more casual places to grab a bite but having a traditional seafood meal at a restaurant like The Athenian or Lowell’s will round out a visit to Pike Place Market.
All Around Pike Place Market
There’s so much to explore in the blocks surrounding the market… bakeries, more eateries, shops and kitchen stores. Be sure and go inside Le Panier, a marvelous French bakery. Better yet, have a filled croissant, or a sandwich and espresso.
While everyone seeks out “Rachel the Piggy Bank,” the bronze pig where you can donate your spare change, there is much more to delight the eye around Pike Market. You can take a map and find the public art throughout the market and the historic district surrounding the market. There are more than two dozen murals, sculptures and historic signs.
Now trending is a visit to the Gum Wall in Post Alley. Me? I’d rather keep photographing the old neon signs in the market.
When You Go to Pike Place Market
Many people park along the waterfront and take the steep stairs from Western Avenue to the Pike Place Market. But my preference is to stay in a downtown hotel like the venerable Mayflower Park Hotel and walk to the market through the interesting streets of downtown Seattle.
You can also park in the Public Market Parking Garage at 1531 Western Avenue and explore the Market on foot. There is a skybridge in the garage that provides direct access to the main arcade of the Market.
You can find more information on the Pike Place Market website. Learn about more places to discover in Seattle on the Visit Seattle website. Enjoy more articles about Wandering Washington from our authors.