While shopping is part of a typical travel experience for many travelers, for some, finding that perfect souvenir can turn into a sort of personal challenge!
Why People Buy Souvenirs
Buying Souvenirs as Gifts
When you love someone and you travel without them, it’s natural to want to bring them a small gift back from your trip. The gift of a souvenir is sure to make them smile and, even more so, souvenirs serve as a sort of token to show that you were thinking of them while you are away. For others, souvenirs purchased as gifts may be more of a family tradition or expected practice. In either case, purchasing souvenirs for other people is probably the most common reason that people shop for souvenirs in Seattle or anywhere in the world.
Buying Souvenirs for Ourselves
Nearly as popular, according to some travel surveys, many travelers purchase souvenirs to add to their own personal collection. Just like golfers keep trophies and hunters have their greatest conquest taxidermied, many travelers like to keep and display souvenirs that they purchased while traveling. A collection of souvenirs can serve as a conversation starter, and (like a travel journal) a way to prompt fond memories of a trip long after you have returned home.
How to Buy Souvenirs in Seattle
The first step to buying great souvenirs in Seattle is deciding what kind of souvenir you’re looking for. By my own personal calculations there are really just three types of souvenirs:
Seattle Branded Souvenirs
Destination-branded souvenirs are probably what the word “souvenir” conjures up in your mind: travel magnets with destination names emblazoned boldly, T-shirts printed with iconic landmarks, and various tchotchkes (usually all created by the same few Asia-based manufacturing companies) proudly proclaiming that they hail from Seattle. Branded souvenirs can be purchased at a huge variety of price points from under a dollar to over $100.
Where in Seattle to Get Seattle-Branded Souvenirs
In Seattle, the best place to get branded souvenirs is actually (and arguably, sadly) the big box stores near Pike Place Market. The Walgreens drugstore located near the market entrance has the largest selection of Seattle souvenirs including keychains, coffee mugs, T-shirts, snow globes, and a variety of other small plastic items. Target, which also has an urban location adjacent to Pike Place Market has a smaller selection of branded Seattle souvenirs, though it is a bit tucked away.
Within the heart of Pike Place Market, there are also a few places to purchase branded Seattle merchandise souvenirs including Simply Seattle’s street front store and a small booth of keychains, postcards, and magnets, called Swanbergs Gifts, located in the heart of Pike Place Market’s main market hall.
Seattle Made Souvenirs
If you can’t tell already, I’m a little biased against overly advertorial souvenirs, whether they’re from Seattle or from my list of best souvenirs from other destinations. I think the best souvenirs from Seattle are unique artful objects.
These types of souvenirs likely won’t have “Seattle” written on them anywhere, but when you find an object that speaks to you and that you’ll always remember you purchased in Seattle, you don’t need the cheesy label.
Where to Find Seattle-Made Souvenirs:
The best places to get handmade Seattle souvenirs are from the artisans at Pike Place Market. On a sunny day, hundreds of vendors of handmade goods set up stalls in and around Pike Place Market where you can find everything ranging from jewelry to pottery, woodcraft to quilting, and stuffed animals to handmade weavings.
For those looking for an even more unique souvenir from Seattle, I think one of the best things to bring back from Seattle as a souvenir is also one of the cheapest: natural objects.
If you visit one of the pocket beaches I map out on the way from Pike Place market to the space needle, and I recommend you do, you’ll find no shortage of bits and baubles to pick up and place in your pocket for your return trip home. Whether it’s a bit of petrified driftwood or a colorful rock perfectly smoothed by glaciers passing a millennia ago, there’s no shortage of free souvenirs in Seattle.
✨HINT: Turn your free souvenirs into souvenir refrigerator magnets by gluing the object to a strong magnet using epoxy glue.
Probably the least popular souvenirs to bring back from Seattle, perishable souvenirs are still some of my favorite. Perishables souvenirs, like things that can be eaten, often get the biggest response as gifts, in my experience. A gift of a perishable item tells the person receiving the gift that not only were you thinking about them during your trip, but you took the time to figure out how to bring them a perishable item and also that you want the opportunity to enjoy, with them, something you loved about Seattle.
Good perishable souvenirs from Seattle include some of the most iconic products from the city, including:
🍥 Fresh salmon – at Pike Place Market, every fishmonger booth is prepared to pack fish in packaging that will keep it chilled for 24 hours. Smoked salmon is a more stable alternative.
🌷 Fresh flowers from Pike Place Market – While extravagant bouquets can be purchased for just $15 or $20- they do present a challenge during air travel. Don’t worry, though, it’s nothing that SeaTac airport and Seattle flight crews haven’t seen before.
☕ Coffee and Chocolate – in my opinion, the absolute essential souvenirs to bring back from Seattle are coffee beans and chocolate. Both foods have an abundant locally produced supply, and a bag of coffee beans from one of the best coffee shops in Pike Place Market and a few artisanal chocolate bars from Theo chocolate is sure to delight anyone.
Final Thoughts on Seattle Souvenirs
As you can see, there are many options for great souvenirs to bring back from Seattle. Whether you are searching for the perfect souvenir for a child, partner, parent, or friend, Seattle souvenirs are never in short supply- especially if you are open to unique, as well as standard, souvenirs and shop at the most popular tourist destinations in Seattle.
For more recommendations on travel in Seattle, including the 15 things you must do at Pike Place Market be sure and check out my archives on Seattle travel.
Lynli Roman’s unique approach to travel is informed by decades of experience on the road with a traveling family and, later, years spent as a solo international traveler. When she’s not writing about Seattle from her Pike Place Market apartment, Lynli writes on-location while conducting hands-on research in each destination she covers. Lynli’s writing has been featured by MSN, ABC Money, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post. She is passionate about sharing information that makes travel more accessible for all bodies.