While you could spend weeks enjoying the city, here is the perfect 3 days in Seattle itinerary to give you the best experience you can have during your visit.
Seattle, nicknamed the “Emerald City,” is about as green as you would expect its nickname to imply.
Like Ireland, Seattle benefits from many days of precipitation that leaves it vibrant and green at any time of year.
Located in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle is both interesting in and of itself as well as a jumping-off point to explore many unique places in the area.
Whether you’re interested in heading north into British Colombia just a short drive away, or want to explore some of the lushest forests in North America, Seattle provides it all.
Of course, the city is a bustling metropolitan area that offers plenty to see and do. With the likes of companies like Amazon, Starbucks and Boeing headquartered in the area, the city draws a large and diverse population.
There are professional sporting events offered throughout the year and the city attracts the top musicians and artists from around the world.
As such you could find yourself spending your 3 days in Seattle just checking out galleries, museums and other cultural attractions, exclusively entertaining yourself in sports and outdoor activities or finding quiet places in green spaces throughout the city to simply relax and enjoy the spectacular views and climate that Seattle has to offer.
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Table of Contents
- How to Spend a Perfect 3 Days in Seattle Itinerary
- Seattle Travel Guide
- When to Visit Seattle
- Getting Around Seattle
- Where to Stay in Seattle
- Best Restaurants in Seattle
How to Spend a Perfect 3 Days in Seattle Itinerary
Three days is never enough time for all that Seattle has to offer. However, to make the most of your time in Seattle we definitely want to make sure that you can see and do as much of the iconic things as possible.
As such, this 3 days in Seattle itinerary is going to keep you at the heart of the city for most of your time, while allowing for a day trip to one of several incredible places nearby.
Before you go on though, one of our biggest recommendations is to purchase a CityPass before you start your exploration of the city.
The reason is that by buying the CityPass ahead of time you get entry to 5 of the best attractions in Seattle, at a 46% discount, including the Space Needle, Seattle Aquarium, a harbor tour and more.
It’s by far the most budget-friendly way to see all the top things to do in Seattle.
Of course, we’ve packed the itinerary with so much that you can choose to simply cut out those things that don’t interest you.
But know there’s no wrong way to spend the perfect 3 days in Seattle – rain or shine.
Day 1 – Enjoy Pikes Place Market & Downtown Seattle
Starting your 3 day Seattle itinerary in Downtown Seattle will give you the best opportunity to enjoy this part of the city.
On this first day, wake up early (plan to be at the market around 8 am to beat the crowds!) and walk down to the famous Pikes Place Market.
If you are a Starbucks fan, then make sure to get in line to grab a coffee at the first Starbucks which is just across the street from the market.
After you get your latte to go, watch the fish fly at Pikes Place and buy a bouquet of beautiful fresh flowers.
Pikes Place Market has been selling fresh produce, local foodstuffs, crafts and flowers for over 112 years!
Explore the market and all it has to offer, sample locally grown produce and purchase homemade souvenirs.
Or just gawk at all of the vendors you’ll discover and their goods from around the world. Don’t forget to stop and be grossed out by the gum wall that’s located just outside the entrance to the market!
Pikes Place is also a great place to grab breakfast or a snack while touring the area.
Stop at Daily’s Dozen Doughnuts for breakfast or Piroshky Piroshky for a savory snack.
If you want to beat the crowds and get a cool guided tour of Pike Place, check out this locals tour.
Next, journey on down to the waterfront and head north towards the Seattle Great Wheel.
Watch fishing boats and cruise ships come in and out of the port while exploring several different piers along the waterfront.
At Pier 57 is the Seattle Great Wheel, a giant Ferris wheel with incredible views of the city. One of the largest Ferris wheels in the US at 53.3 meters, it has 42 climate-controlled gondolas that seat eight passengers each.
The ride makes three revolutions in 12 minutes and it’s the only Ferris wheel that extends over the water.
For lunch, make sure to stop at Ivar’s for a basket of delicious fish and chips.
From pier 57 its a short walk to the Seattle Art Museum. A world-class visual arts museum, SAM houses nearly 25,000 pieces of art from all over the world and has fantastic touring exhibitions that shouldn’t be skipped.
Exploring the Seattle Art Museum is a great way to escape the rain if you happen to be visiting in less than stellar weather.
If you are an avid art lover, then be sure to check out the Asain Art Museum in Capitol Hill and the Olympic Sculpture Park located at the opposite end of the Seattle waterfront.
At the very end of the waterfront sits Pioneer Square. It is the historic center of downtown Seattle and is lined with Romanesque Revival-style buildings, hip eateries and bars and is home to Seattle’s first skyscraper, Smith Tower.
If you are into history and museums then the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park museum is worth a look.
But the really unique part about Pioneer Square is the network of underground passageways and basements that use to be ground level in the1890’s.
You can wander these secret passageways by booking a tour, it’s worth it!
Next up, for an amazing view of the Seattle skyline and a fantastic place to watch the sunset, I recommend going to Kerry Park.
Take the bus up Queen Anne hill to get to the park. It’s a small park but the views are spectacular.
And if you happen to be there on a clear day, you will get to see Mt. Rainier in the distance!
After watching the sunset you can head back into town or wherever you choose to go for dinner.
The Pink Door is a popular choice for great Italian food and entertainment located near Pike Place Market.
You can end your night after dinner and head back to your hotel, or stay out a little longer and enjoy drinks and the Seattle nightlife.
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Day 2 – Daytrip to National Parks or Local Islands
The second day of your 3 days in Seattle itinerary is going to take you away from the city a little so that you can enjoy the natural sights and sounds of Washington.
If you are planning your trip for summer, then that is the perfect time to visit Mt. Rainier or Olympic National Parks.
You could also plan to book a whale watching tour as summer is prime whale season in the San Juan Islands.
If you aren’t visiting in the summer, plan on ferrying out to explore the beautiful Bainbridge Island.
It will be incredibly difficult to fit any two destinations into one day, so pick your favorite activity from below and plan to add whatever activities you miss to your bucket list for your next trip to Seattle!
Mt. Rainier National Park
Plan to wake up early and grab a quick breakfast offered at your hotel. Then head out to Mt. Rainier National Park.
Located just over an hour from Seattle, Mt. Rainier can often be seen from downtown and thus makes for an iconic day trip.
If you have a car (click here to find the best rental car prices in Seattle), you can make your way out to the national park yourself. But if you don’t have a vehicle, you can join a small-group tour to enjoy the beauty of the National Park.
Enjoy the day spent hiking, driving through the park or mountain biking through the trails.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park is a little further from Seattle than Mt. Rainer but both the drive to the park and the park itself are worth the day trip.
Unlike Mt. Rainier, which is located inland, Olympic National Park borders the Pacific coast. Thus it is a perfect place if you enjoy both mountains and water.
Spend half the day hiking through lush rainforest and the other half walking along the beach.
Head out to Ruby Beach, in particular, to wait for low tide to reveal tidal pools full of all sorts of marine life such as colorful starfish and sea urchins.
Or simply make the day a trip of driving around the perimeter of the park and stop in any of the quaint seaside towns along the way.
Sequim, for instance, has a wonderful lavender farm where you can pick your own lavender and enjoy lavender ice cream and lemonade.
Bainbridge Island is a popular day-trip destination from Seattle. With fares under USD$10 each way on the 35-minute passage, the journey across Puget Sound is as much fun as the island itself.
If you have a vehicle you can drive it onto the ferry to give you better access to explore Bainbridge Island. But no worries if you are without a vehicle.
Once you arrive on the island there are tons of things to do that are well within walking distance of the port.
There are a handful of activities such as the Waterfront Trail, the Museum of Art and a variety of boutique restaurants and coffee shops to enjoy.
You can even rent bikes right next to the port and head out on your own adventure.
The ferry runs at least once per hour in each direction but there are plenty of places to stay on Bainbridge Island if you wanted to make a longer trip of it.
San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are world-famous for whale watching between May and October.
Situated approximately halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, just off the coast of Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands have attracted visitors eager to sea kayak and/or watch for orca whales.
You can catch a ferry or join a tour from Seattle. And even if you happen to miss the prime whale-watching season between mid-May and mid-October, these islands are beautiful to explore by foot, bicycle or kayak.
At the end of this day it is likely you are exhausted from exploring the nearby areas.
But be sure to take in the Seattle evening by walking along the waterfront and/or stopping in for dinner or drinks and a handful of restaurants and bars nearby.
Or, depending on where you are staying, you may be able to take in the views from the balcony of your hotel.
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Day 3 – Explore Seattle Center
The final day of your 3 days in Seattle itinerary will take you into Seattle Center.
You can take the monorail, bus or walk there from your hotel. The Seattle Center is where you will find the famous Space Needle, and you can’t visit Seattle without going for a ride to the top of this iconic Seattle monument.
Get instant access and included entry to the Space Needle with your CityPass. Otherwise get in line for the Space Needle early as lines can get long!
After you ascend to the top and take in the incredible 360-degree views, it’s time to come back down to enjoy your next activity.
Next door to the Space Needle is Chihuly Gardens and Glass. An exhibition center showcasing the glass artwork of Washington local Dale Chihuly, there are 8 galleries, a magnificent glasshouse and a garden to explore.
After you are wowed by the beautiful glass sculptures, you can choose to watch a short video about Chihuly’s work and glassblowing process.
Chihuly Gardens is a unique experience that shouldn’t be skipped!
If you have kids then a visit to the Pacific Science Center must be on your to-do list!
There are rotating exhibits throughout the year, a butterfly house, laser shows and an IMAX theater to keep you entertained.
From here you can catch the Seattle Center Monorail and cruise around between a handful of locations in the city center.
Alternatively, this is a great part of the city to explore on foot. As you walk through the center of Seattle keep an eye out for the various street art on display on the sides of various buildings.
Seattle is an artsy city and its street art illustrates the various facets of the creativity found within its city limits.
If you didn’t finish exploring the area surrounding Pike’s Place Market, make your way back over toward the water’s edge to enjoy the afternoon and evening.
Finish anything on your 3 days in Seattle itinerary bucket list and have a bite to eat at any number of amazing restaurants.
And to wrap things up, if time and the seasons permit, you can catch any number of professional sporting events in Seattle.
The city is home to professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer teams. Plus there are almost always top-tier performers and musicians passing through Seattle at any given time.
Seattle Travel Guide
Now that you know how to spend 3 days in Seattle, here is a little more information about when to visit the city, how to get around, where to stay and what to eat.
When to Visit Seattle
Any time of year is a great time to visit Seattle, depending on what you want to do. The winter months are typically rainy, especially November-January.
But that always means fewer tourists. If you don’t mind rainy and overcast days and plan on skiing outside of Seattle, then plan on visiting in winter.
If you want to see Washington’s spectacular National Parks, then summer is your best option. Though, expect the summer crowds!
There is less rainfall June through August, it’s warmer and there are more sunny days than overcast.
If you want less rain but are traveling on a budget, plan to travel to Seattle during the shoulder season.
The best months to find cheaper hotels and fewer crowds are April to May and September to October.
Getting Around Seattle
The best way to get around Seattle is by public transportation. It’s affordable, takes you anywhere in town you’d want to go, and it’s so much more convenient than driving a car through the busy Seattle streets.
I do recommend renting a car if you plan on making a trip out to see the National Parks though.
But for just touring the city, walking and public transport is your best option.
The Link Light Rail system can pick you up from the airport and take you close to your hotel, through Seattle’s popular neighborhoods and downtown.
And a one-way ticket should only set you back $3 or $4 bucks!
Where to Stay in Seattle
Seattle has a variety of options for accommodations. From budget hostels to elegant hotels and private residences, you can find a great place to stay at any budget.
As our 3 days in Seattle itinerary has most activities taking place downtown, this is the best part of town to stay and where you’ll find our best recommendations.
Budget Accommodation – HI Seattle At The American Hotel
Located in the heart of downtown Seattle, the HI Seattle offers the best possible budget hostel experience in the city.
With options for shared dorms or private rooms, you can count on having as much or little space to yourself as you desire during your stay in Seattle.
Stay connected with WiFi throughout the hostel and enjoy complimentary breakfast each morning, coffee throughout the day and a common kitchen to save on meal expenses.
Mid-Range Accommodation – Mayflower Park Hotel
A moderately-priced hotel located in the center of Seattle, the Mayflower Park Hotel is a great value for your accommodation during your stay.
With WiFi, flatscreen television and spacious bathrooms with tubs each room gives you a feeling of luxury. Additionally, the highly-rated Andaluca Restaurant is located in the hotel, as is Oliver’s Lounge.
You can catch the monorail just outside the hotel and take it to the Space Needle or walk down to Pikes Place Market.
Luxury Accommodation – The Edgewater, a Noble House Hotel
The Edgewater Hotel is centrally located just 15 minutes from both Pikes Place Market and the Space Needle. You will also have views of Puget Sound from your room and feast on meals in an on-site restaurant.
Enjoy complimentary coffee, a mini-bar and access to a fitness center during your stay.
Of particular interest are the in-suite fireplace, leather chairs and European-inspired bathrooms that make you feel luxurious.
Best Restaurants in Seattle
Seattle has no shortage in the variety and quality of food on offer. From fresh seafood to cold craft beers, you will not have trouble finding meals at any point during your 3 days in Seattle.
Budget – Fremont Brewing
For delicious craft beer, a relaxing atmosphere and some free savory snacks Fremont Brewing is at the top of the list for cheap eats in Seattle.
If the pretzels and apples don’t hold you over, hit up Cafe Turko just one block down the road for some authentic Turkish treats.
Mid-Range – The Pink Door
The Pink Door is pushing the mid-range prices for their dinner menu. But the quality of the food is a case of you get what you paid for.
Enjoy fresh, authentic and locally sourced Italian food served just steps from Pikes Place Market. The lasagna and risotto are particularly delightful.
High-End – Andaluca Restaurant
Mediterranean-inspired meals at their finest meet fresh local ingredients at the Andaluca Restaurant.
Guests rave over the duck breast and pork chops while the classic paella is enough to fill you up for days. You can also grab a nice breakfast here as well.
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