While Seattle is the largest city on the upper West Coast, it’s not a very large city as far as cities go—it’s no LA or New York! Seattle is an approachable size. Big enough that there are lots to do, but you don’t have to drive miles to get between the major things to do. In fact, if you like walking, you can even hoof it between most of the major attractions. And this is a perk. If you’re only in town for a weekend or a couple of days, you can easily get a great feel for what Seattle has to offer in a short time, especially if you plan ahead for what you want to see.
Here's an itinerary for 48 hours in Seattle. See the major sights as well as some places locals frequent to take in a little bit of everything that makes Seattle so awesome.
Morning Day 1: Pike Place Market
Chances are you’re staying in or near downtown Seattle so start there. If you’re not staying downtown, find a parking garage with all-day rates (Pacific Place is central and affordable) and leave your car for the day. Be prepared to walk and be prepared for some hills. Downtown is hilly!
8 a.m.: Start your day at Pike Place Market. Grab some doughnuts at Daily Dozen Doughnuts or a coffee and pastry at the original Starbucks for breakfast. Mornings at the market are a little quieter than many afternoons
9-11 a.m.: Spend some time exploring the market. Most of the main floor is produce, meat and flower vendors. The bottom floors have interesting shops of all stripes. Make sure to take a stroll through Post Alley and stop by the Gum Wall. Yeah, it’s a little gross, but it’s a Seattle institution. You can even add to it if you want.
If you have time or got started early, venture behind the market (and down a lot of stairs) and toward the Seattle Waterfront. You won’t have too much time to really delve in here but choose from taking a ride on the Seattle Great Wheel or Wings Over Washington and then peek in at the shops along the water, including Ye Olde Curiosity Shop.
Afternoon Day 1: Explore Downtown Seattle
1 p.m.: Check out the Seattle Art Museum, which is just up the hill from Pike Place Market. There are almost always special exhibitions, and the regular collections include everything from abstract art to ancient artwork.
3 p.m.: Enjoy exploring downtown Seattle. There are lots of stores to explore, including Metsker Maps (a treat for geography buffs), locally based Columbia, Fran’s Chocolates, Macy’s and others large and small.
4 p.m.: Stop by Cupcake Royale for a snack. These are some of Seattle’s most famous sweet treats and the flavors are varied and yummy! Afterward, head to Westlake Center at 4th and Pine and catch the Monorail to Seattle Center (or you can walk. It’s about a mile on foot).
Evening Day 1: Seattle Center
5 or 6 p.m.: If you haven’t done it before, the Space Needle is worth doing. Yes, there are lines, but if it’s a clear night, the view is second to none. Even if it’s cloudy, you’ll get a great overview of the city. Try to aim for sunset for maximum effect. Depending on the time of year, you might need to switch dinner and the Space Needle to make this happen. After you go up the Needle, enjoy Seattle Center. There are plenty of other activities here, too, if you prefer to swap out the Seattle Center for an art break at Chihuly Garden and Glass, some scientific exploration at Pacific Science Center, or some entertainment history at MoPop.
7 p.m.: There’s a range of restaurants in and around Seattle Center. For casual, you can even eat at the food court at Seattle Center (MOD Pizza is really very tasty). For a great burger and fries, look to Dick’s Drive-In. For sit-down, there’s a Melting Pot on the perimeter of Seattle Center. Or if you just aren’t ready to leave the Space Needle, you can even dine at the top of the Needle at SkyCity.
After dinner, take the Monorail back downtown (unless you drove over). Make sure to check the Monorail schedule so you don’t miss the last train, but trains usually go until 9 or 11 p.m.
Morning Day 2: Discovery Park
8 or 9 a.m.: Start your morning the Seattle way—at a coffee shop. There is no shortage of great coffee shops outside of your first stop, Discovery Park.
10 a.m.: Explore Seattle’s largest park, Discovery Park. The park’s 534 acres include paved and rough trails alike, meadows, forests and even a beach with a lighthouse. You could easily spend half a day here but aim to spend two or three hours. Make sure not to miss the beach and lighthouse as some of the most picturesque views in the city are found here—a lighthouse, Mt. Rainier, and the Puget Sound await.
Afternoon Day 2: Ballard
Noon or 1 p.m.: Cross the Ballard Bridge and scope out lunch. There’s no shortage of restaurants of all stripes in Ballard, but highlights include The Walrus and The Carpenter, where you can enjoy fresh oysters and other local seafood, or The Noble Fir where you can enjoy customized charcuterie and an impressive lineup of beer. Seattle is a microbrew kind of city so if you don’t plan on getting a beer for dinner tonight, why not have a lunch beer?
2:30 p.m.: The Hiram M. Chittendam Locks (also just called the Ballard Locks) is very uniquely Seattle and yet lower key than many of the bigger sights. The locks keep the salt water of the Puget Sound separate from the fresh water of the lakes on the channels that connect them and also adjust for a height difference—meaning you can watch as ships and boats load into the locks and be raised or lowered.
3 p.m.: Cross to the far side of the locks and go down the stairs and you’ll find an underwater view of a salmon ladder. Most of the year, there will be some fish climbing the ladder, but summer is best to see the most salmon returning home to spawn.
3:30 p.m.: Wander the park and botanical garden surrounding the locks as well as the exhibits.
Evening Day 2: Fremont
Seattle is a city of neighborhoods with distinct atmospheres, but one of the most unique neighborhoods is Fremont with its ample amounts of unique things to see and places to eat. It’s the perfect place to see a less touristy side of Seattle, as well as a good mix of what makes this city a fun place to be. You can easily park and walk between all of the sights in Fremont.
4 or 5 p.m.: Start with the Fremont Troll, which is located under the Aurora Bridge (it’s a troll, after all) at N 36th Street. The troll is so big that he’s crushing a Volkswagen Beetle under his hand. Climb on him and have your camera ready. This is a fun photo spot.
5:30 p.m.: Walk the streets of Fremont with a focus on Fremont Avenue and N 36th Street. You’ll find local shops to explore as well as more quirky sights like the Fremont Rocket mounted on a building at N 35th and Evanston and a real Communist-era statue of Lenin a block later. You’ll also find glass art galleries, coffee shops and more, but don’t miss the Theo Chocolate Factory. If you have your heart set on chocolate, check the close time on the day you’re visiting and adjust accordingly.
7 p.m.: Have dinner in Fremont. Your options are pleasantly varied, from Qazi’s Indian Curry House, to brewpubs. If you want to have another round of Seattle microbrew, head to Fremont Brewing Company. They don’t have food, but you can get something to go at any restaurant (or PCC Natural Market, also in Fremont) and bring it along with you.