How often is it that in a major international city the marketplace is one of the top rated destinations? Not very often. Pike Place Market [85 Pike St Seattle, WA 98101] cannot be overlooked on a trip to Seattle, thought of as simply ‘touristy’.
Sure the place is packed, but if are looking to see more than just the main strip, you’ll certainly find some solitude. This is one of the most obscure, complex, and astounding markets I have been to in the entire world. Plan to spend hours here, lunch and dinner if you can. Explore every nook and cranny, leave no stone unturned.
What exactly is the layout of this place? Anything but coherent. I entered utterly confused and map-less. There is the first floor of the unified covered market which is the most congested. Did you know there are actually six floors in the market building?
The down under shops are much quieter, there are some staircases, but you have to take an elevator to access some of them. The confines of the market doesn’t end at the walls of its very building. It sprawls out across the street to Pike Place. It even fills the nearby side streets, most notably Post Alley.
Really, I’m not sure where the market ends, but it’s huge and maze like and would take days, years maybe, to see and sample it all. Note that parking is a pain. There is a lot designated for the market, but it is $3 and hour unless you come after 5PM when there is flat rate – but you’ll barely get any time to explore as shops close down around 6PM. Bite the bullet and pay for the market garage, or try your luck at street parking nearby.
What to eat!
There are traditional farmers market items such as cheese, fruit, honey, meats, and veggies – but also numerous vendors and restaurants. I went in with a few places to try in mind and after walking back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – I couldn’t find any of them! I asked a local where Mee Sum Pastry [1526 Pike Pl Seattle, WA 98101] was. He actually walked me all the way there, and told me it was a great choice. It wasn’t right in the main market, but across the street.
The BBQ pork hom bow were SUPERSIZED, and super-delicious! A soft dough, sweet and sticky meat, and great ratio between the two. I could have eaten a hundred more, sitting on the curb (no seating!). As we were walking I thankfully spotted my second savory choice on the same block – Piroshky Piroshky [1908 Pike Pl, Seattle, WA 98101]. We conveniently stopped by during happy hour which is Mon-Thurs 4-6pm, where all of the piroshkies were $3. Game on. There are plenty of meat and veggie options, but their bestseller is the smoked salmon pate. It is an incredible combination of smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill and onion in a warm flakey pie.
While all of the sweet options looked mouthwatering (marzipan roll, fresh rhubarb piroshky, cherry white chocolate), I had some other options in mind. Back in what I considered the main market Chukar Cherries caught my eye. I am a sucker for chocolate cherries and these are as good as you can get. Local cherries coated in dark chocolate, we sampled one and decided to grab a bag for our journeys. Since they were taken to go, we still had room for dessert. Daily Dozen Doughnut Company is another stand on the main floor of the market, you have to try a bag of their mini cinnamon sugar morsels! Fried to golden brown perfection, still warm, sink your teeth into these pillowy petite treats. They’re messy – but so worth it!
Even after you’re finished eating, you don’t have to leave because there are plenty of things to see. Above ground there are street performers. You can find workers at the seafood stalls tossing fish. Head to Beecher’s on Pike Place and Pine Street to find out how cheese is made.
Below ground things get a bit strange. Of course there is the infamous Gum Wall. In the maze of the market, it’s not obvious to spot. Ask around, or look for the golden pig by the fish throwers and take the stairs down into an alleyway – follow the flash of the cameras!
Even stranger yet, and more widely unknown is the Giant Shoe Museum. I tried to ask for directions from market employees, but just got sideway stares. I was persistent, after maybe five asks someone got a glimmer of ‘I gotcha’. It’s in the down under shops, have a few quarters and an open mind ready.
Murals, sculptures, and hidden treasures. A subtle artistic flare can be found almost anywhere in the market, if you keep a keen eye open.
Like a motif? Go pig spotting, they are all over the place. (Below I can spot two! 😉 )
Gardens and vistas are art to me, too and there is a beautiful quiet spot to nibble on some of your goodies or just relax.
Of course you can buy art to take home too, in the form of crafts.
Because there is no doubt in my mind I will be returning to the city in the future spots I’m most interested in are Pike Place Chowder, Alibi Room, and the Crumpet Shop!
Have you been to the Pike Place Market? Share your tips or tid-bits!