Seattle's Capitol Hill Neighborhood

Jimi Hendrix in Seattle
Kristin Kendle

Capitol Hill is the epitome of 21st century Seattle: young, high-tech and culturally adventurous. It's the epicenter of coffee culture, home to clubs that spawned the grunge movement, and the site of some of Seattle's biggest events, like Block Party and the Pride Parade. While it's simply home to many, it's also one of the hottest nightlife neighborhoods and has a long list of things to do, from visiting beautiful Volunteer Park to going to the Seattle Asian Art Museum, to dining or hanging out at a microbrewery.

Geography

Capitol Hill blends into stodgier, older and hospital-dominated First Hill to the south, with Madison the approximate southern boundary. To the west Interstate 5 provides a barrier between the Hill and downtown. In the north, Highway 520 marks a distinct boundary. To the east, you could make a case for 19th or 23rd/24th being the formal border.

Capitol Hill has a common ambiance and self-identity, but it is really closer to three distinct neighborhoods:

Upper Broadway: This end of the neighborhood has some of Seattle's oldest and most expensive mansions, and is increasingly dominated by large, multi-story condo buildings with street-level retail.

The Pike/Pine Corridor: The Pike/Pine area is an edgier, more raucous complement to its northern neighbor. Seattle University and  SCCC fill the area with students.

15th: Farther up the Hill from Broadway is 15th, a slower-paced but still hip area, with an older demographic. The area is home to the sprawling Group Health medical complex.

Demographics

Capitol Hill has about 25,000 residents. The median age is 32 and there are relatively few families with children. Over half of residents have a bachelor's degree or higher. The vast majority of residents were born out of state. The neighborhood remains a desirable place to live and is cheaper than neighborhoods closer into downtown, but not the cheapest place to live by far. Rents tend to be higher than in nearby First Hill or Central District, but lower than downtown, South Lake Union or Belltown.

Food and Restaurants

Capitol Hill has some of the most diverse dining options in the city, covering not only a wide variety of styles but also prices. You probably won't be disappointed ducking into any restaurant catches your eye, but some excellent choices include:

  • Smith (15th) - "Rustic Pub Fare" - 332 15th Ave E
  • Poppy (Broadway) - "Pacific NW flavored Thali" - 622 Broadway E
  • Dick's Drive-In (Broadway) - "A Seattle hamburger institution" - 115 Broadway E
  • Annapurna (Broadway) - "Taste of Nepal, India, and Tibet" - 1833 Broadway E
  • Café Presse (Pike/Pine) - "French bistro" - 117 12th Ave E
  • Kingfish Cafe - (15th) - "Authentic soul food" - 602 19th Ave E

Nightlife

The action is on the south end of the neighborhood, though upper Broadway boasts a few gems. There's a full range of nightlife in Capitol Hill, from Elysian Brewing Company to nightclubs.

  • Oddfellows - (Pike/Pine) - Hipster epicenter - 1525 10th Ave E
  • Century Ballroom -(Pike/Pine) - Salsa and swing dance hall - 915 E Pine St.
  • Canterbury - (15th) - A dive bar for nerds - 534 15th Ave E
  • Sun Liquor - (Broadway) - The pinnacle of cool - 607 Summit Ave E
  • Wild Rose - (Pike/Pine) - The definitive lesbian bar - 1021 E Pine St.
  • The Cuff Complex - (Pike/Pine) - "For lovers of leather, Levis, and uniforms." - 1533 13th Ave E

Coffee

Every Seattle neighborhood has a few coffeehouses its residents would defend to the death. Capitol Hill is no exception, but it does indeed have some excellent coffee options.

Shopping

You won't find high-end malls or even strip malls in the neighborhood, but Broadway is still a major shopping destination and will not disappoint. You'll find quirky indie stores and unique small businesses embodying the spirit of the area. Arguably, the city's best bookstore, Elliott Bay Book Company, is here. So is one of Seattle's (and Western Washington's) best art stores, Dick Blick. You'll also find favorites like Everyday Music, a great used record store, Retail Therapy and Value Village if you're in the market for clothes, or even the Hill's own adult toy superstore - Castle.

Parks

Seattlites love the outdoors, and Hill denizens are no exception.

  • Cal Anderson Park - The heart and soul of the Hill, Forbes called this one of America's best parks. Located between Broadway and 12th and adjoining the incoming Light Rail station, the recently renovated Cal Anderson is a marvel.
  • Volunteer Park - Volunteer Park is the crown jewel of Seattle's park system and, as such, belongs more to the city as a whole than to the Hill. It is a sprawling, intermittently wooded park with multiple attractions.
  • Small parks - The Hill is dotted with numerous small parks that take up less than a block, sometimes featuring a small jungle gym, sometimes little more than a couple benches. These parks help break up the urban monotony and offer a place to sit and read on a nice day.
  • P-Patches - P-Patches are small neighborhood vegetable gardens, entirely maintained by residents. The Hill currently has three P-Patches. Sign up for garden space at the kiosk in each P-Patch.

Arts

Capitol Hill has none of the city's major arts institutions, but it is still a force to be reckoned with on Seattle's arts scene with venues like NWFFAnnex Theatre, and ​​Neumos. Also, don't miss readings and signings at Elliott Bay Book Company.​​

Public Transportation

Capitol Hill is served by numerous bus lines. A streetcar line runs in nearby First Hill and there's a light rail stop in the neighborhood, too, at 140 Broadway. The light rail is an increasingly good way to get around town or to the airport as stops are expanding.

Library

Capitol Hill's only branch library is located at 425 Harvard Ave E.

Updated by Kristin Kendle.