For four years, while I was in graduate school, I lived in the Pike Place Market and attended a school nearby. On grad-school budgets, I and my fellow students learned to navigate Pike Place Market and enjoy the best it has to offer without sacrificing the experience (or the epic Instagram photos!)
Here are 12 tips to get the full Pike Place Market experience for free or nearly free. For a more general article on seeing more Seattle attractions on a budget, check out my Cheap Seattle post.
Cheap Travel & Parking Tips:
**Whatever you do, DON’T PARK AT PIKE PLACE. Parking near the market is a nightmare and if you find a spot it can cost up to $50 to park for the few hours you’ll want to spend at the market.
If you aren’t already a member of a ride sharing app, signing up before your Seattle trip can get you discounts and make sure that your app is set up, with payment source connected, before you are curbside looking for transportation. This referral code for Lyft or this one from Uber, can net you small discounts if you are a new signup, though the discounts are currently modest. Ride-sharing apps are the ideal way to navigate downtown Seattle, where you can get picked up in a minute or two without the headache of downtown traffic and parking or navigating public transportation.
**2022 Parking Update: The new Pike Place Market official parking garage (at 1531 Western Ave, Seattle, WA 98101) recently added 800 parking spaces and improved the parking situation considerably. At the time of this writing, in January of 2022, parking at the garage is very affordable, due to the shifts in supply and demand. Currently, hourly parking is just $4 in the official garage. (The opening of this garage combined with travel changes in response to the pandemic has dramatically lowered the cost of parking at Pike Place Market. In 2019, hourly parking at a gravel lot 1/2 mile from the market was $12/hr!)
When you visit someplace, you make a memory, and it’s fun to have an object to represent that memory- or represent that you were thinking about someone back home while you were there. Pike Place is a memorable destination and you can spend a small fortune on souvenirs ranging from magnets to tote bags to piggy bank replicas of Pike Place pig statues. Instead of souvenirs from the expensive stalls in the market, here are a few alternative souvenir options that are cheap or free. (For even more suggestions, see my post on the best souvenir to bring back from Seattle)
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For mass market souvenirs:
(magnets, totes, etc) at a better rate, hike two blocks up the waterfront on Pine St to Walgreens, where the corporate-owned drugstore has a selection of imported junk that says “Seattle” with all the kitsch for a notably lower price.
My personal recommendations for cheap & free souvenirs
My recommendation is small food gifts, like spices from MarketSpice (where you can get whole nutmegs, cardamon pods, real cinnamon sticks, etc for under $2 or $3) or beef jerky from Don & Joe’s Meats ($1.75 for a shelf-stable “german walking sausage”)
Quirky Seattle Souvenirs:
If you or your significant other has a quirky sense of humor, head to the Gum Wall for free souvenirs. Yep. Dried Gum. It’s memorable, part of the landscape of the Market, and a super gross object to remember your trip by. And believe me, no one cares if you peel a piece off the wall.
If you’re cheap but not petrified-gum cheap, find souviners at the Market Rummage Hall. It’s a second-hand store located inside the streetside market building, enter the interior of the market via the entrance beside Pirosky Pirosky, then turn left at the cigar shop. The Rummage Hall is rented daily by varying vendors, so contents often vary in type and price, but I’ve snagged some great finds here.
Cheap Eats At Pike Place
Cheap Food – you can spend a small fortune and/or most of your day standing in line for food and drinks at Pike Place Market. While this is one area I think is worth splurging a teensy bit (Like market fresh fruit, Le Panier’s almond croissants or tiny donuts at the Daily Dozen Doughnut Company) there are definitely ways to cut costs at the market, including:
- Don’t forget your water bottle! Extra important at Pike where drinks can be expensive.
- Plan for a picnic. Sit down restaurants & even food stalls at pike can be very expensive. Cut costs by packing part of your lunch and picnicking on the waterfront side of the market, or in the hidden away rooftop community garden.
- If you wander long enough, you can almost make a meal out of free samples. Fruit vendors, the BBQ stand, Beecher’s Cheese, Le Panier, and many other vendors offer small samples of their product.
- Group Tip: there are many food counters in the market and many are happy to cut a sandwich into halves, thirds, or even quarters so you can experience more while spending less.
Cheap Stuff to Do at Pike Place
Check out my Insider’s Guide to Pike Place for more details on “stuff to do” while you are there.
More Articles on Pike Place Market:
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.