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A Solo Travel Guide to Seattle: Traveling to Seattle Alone

My first trip to Seattle was a solo trip. Six months later, I moved to the Pike Place Neighborhood where I spent the next four years exploring Seattle. In this article, I share all my best Seattle local tips for seeing the best of Seattle as a solo traveler.

Here’s why Seattle is Solo Traveler friendly:

It’s easy to navigate without a car. Unlike many American cities, it’s easy to be a pedestrian in Seattle. You don’t need to rent a car- Seattle is far easier to navigate by walking, public transportation, and rideshare than it is by driving. Check out my guide to navigating Seattle without a car.

Most must-see spots are in a small geographic area. Seattle is a great solo travel destination because many of the top tourist attractions are located within a 1 to 1.5 mile radius of the city center. The best hotels and hostels are also concentrated in this area.

Seattle is safe for solo travelers. Seattle has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the country. Solo travelers who follow basic personal safety tips like (avoiding alleys at night and staying alert to their surroundings) should have an enjoyable trip. Seattle does have a high property crime rate, however, so always keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowds.

A woman sits on a bench in kerry park in seattle, enjoying a solo travel visit.
This bench in Kerry Park in Seattle, WA is one of the best spots to enjoy the Space Needle.

Planning your solo trip to Seattle

One way to stay safe is to have a plan and communicate that to your emergency contacts. Before you head to Seattle, create a list of places you’ll stay and things you will do. This itinerary helps organize your trip so you can focus on exploring! An itinerary can also help your friends and family know how to reach you in an emergency.

There are apps where you can create an itinerary and share it, but a shared Google doc can work just as well.

Solo lodging in Seattle

Seattle has no shortage of lodging in the form of Airbnbs and hotels, but hotel rooms can be cost-prohibitive for many travelers. Thankfully, there are multiple clean and safe hostels throughout the city. Hostels offer affordable accommodations for young travelers. They can be a good place to meet other travelers and find companions for a day. Noise, however, can be a drawback (see tips on sleeping in a hostel here).

Getting around Seattle By Yourself

Many American cities are difficult to navigate without a car, and rental cars can be an expensive add-on to solo travel. Thankfully, Seattle is well equipped for people traveling alone without a car. Budget travelers may wish to familiarize themselves with King County Metro (Seattle’s bus system) and plan to use public transportation for destinations outside of the city center. Even popping over and checking out all the things to do on Bainbridge Island is easy, thanks to a straightforward ferry route from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge.

How to get from SeaTac airport to downtown Seattle via Public Transportation

Stretching from SeaTac airport (about 30 minutes south of downtown) to the Northgate neighborhood (about 20 minutes north of downtown), the light rail train can be an efficient way to travel from the airport into the city

Getting from Seattle’s SeaTac airport to Downtown Seattle (adjacent to most tourist destinations including Pike Place Market) via the light rail public transportation is cheap and easy. Taking the light rail into Seattle is as simple as:

  1. Claiming your baggage at the airport,
  2. Following airport signs to a walkway leading to the Lightrail Station.
  3. Purchasing a ticket from an ATM-like dispenser using a credit card, and
  4. Hopping on one of the trains that leave the SeaTac station every 10-20 minutes

From the light rail stops downtown, most tourist hotels are within easy walking distance- making it easy to get from the airport to Seattle without a car or expensive rideshare. For a more detailed guide and maps to using Seattle’s public transportation, see my guides: Getting from SeaTac Airport to Pike Place Market without a Car, Getting from SeaTac Airport to Orcas Island without a Car, and Getting from SeaTac Airport to Bainbridge Island without a Car.

Getting from Sea-Tac to the Light Rail Station in 8 Photos:

Things to See

Seattle has no shortage of things that are fun to do alone. In fact, for the four years that I lived, worked, and shopped in the Pike Place neighborhood, I visited Pike Place market alone well over 100 times.

Pike Place is a great destination to try out solo travel. If you’re busy chatting with travel companions or listening to a tour guide, you might miss the full experience.

Instead, as a solo traveler, notice your senses:

  • Walking on the old uneven bricks,
  • noticing the smells change as you pass from the fishmarket to the flower stalls to the coffee roasters,
  • or tasting free samples from vendors.

I LOVE visiting Pike Place Market alone. It’s a place you can spend hours exploring. It’s really nice not to need to monitor a travel partner’s speed or interest as you navigate the shops and stalls. Visiting Pike Place market solo is an opportunity to really be present to the sensory element of travel.

And don’t worry if it rains, there’s so much to do at Pike Place while staying dry- and some things to do in Pike Place are even better in the rain.

For more information on the best tips for visiting Pike Place Market visit my Pike Place Market Insiders Guide and my article on 15 Things to do at Pike Place Market.

For more of my favorite things to do in Seattle, follow me on Pinterest:

Things to do in Seattle Alone on a Solo Trip:

As a local, here are some of my favorite activities to do in Seattle on my own

Ferry Ride

The Washington state ferry system is impressive, not only are the boats themselves technically pretty amazing, they are also the cheapest way Seattle has to take a cruise on the Puget Sound. Ferries leave from the downtown ferry port every 20 to 30 minutes, and a round-trip (which takes one to two hours depending on which route you choose) costs around nine dollars per person.

While on the ferry you can explore the outdoor decks or take a seat in the indoor seating area with panoramic views of the cityscape, mountains, and water.  Seattle ferries are a great activity for almost any time of the day. Early morning and sunset cruises offer dramatic skies and mountain views (on a clear day). Night time ferry rides offer something different: city skylines and bioluminescence.

If you take a nighttime ferry, keep your eye on the water churned up by the ferry’s engines. Bioluminescent bacteria are native to the Pacific Northwest’s cold waters and are especially bright in the winter. Click here for more ferry riding expert tips.

Ferries are extremely popular with people who commute to the city for work, so you don’t need to worry about standing out as a solo traveler.

Mural Walk

One of the most recent additions to WanderBig’s archives on things to do in Seattle is this interactive map of murals to see in Seattle’s downtown.

This is a fun addition to any Seattle itinerary because it requires only the slightest modifications to routes you’ll be traveling anyway- for example, while a standard tourist guide will likely lead you down 2nd Avenue as you travel from Pike Place Market to the Space Needle, this route has you take a few easy detours, adding just a few hundred feet to the route, past iconic murals and even an alley turned open-air modern art museum.

The mural walk is a fun way to see a little more of Seattle than most solo tourists manage to catch. You can do a self-guided walking tour for free using our map. As a bonus, I’ve walked this route dozens of times and can attest that it’s a safe downtown Seattle walk for a solo traveler.*

*slight exception: if you’re solo and there aren’t already tourist groups exploring Mural Alley between 3rd & 2nd Avenues, avoid the alley and take 2nd Avenue instead.

Follow this map to a self guided mural tour near pike place market
Follow this map to a self guided mural tour near Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is an essential stop for anyone visiting Seattle, but it is an especially great destination for solo travelers. When you’re traveling alone, you’re free to explore Pike Place market at your own pace.

My advice? Go deep. Most people visiting Pike Place market walk down the main avenue and think they’ve “seen it”- but there’s so much more to the market! Pike Place market actually has multiple levels, including basements and sub-basements that include niche shops, vintage markets, and even 2 different tiny museums.

Eating alone at pike place market lunch counters is common.
Eating alone at Pike Place Market lunch counters is common.

SLU / Amazon go / Amazon Dog Park / Center for Wooden Boats

If you want to extend the traditional space needle/Pike Place market Seattle solo travel itinerary by another half day or so, add South Lake Union as a destination to explore in Seattle.

This itinerary, which we describe in detail in our article on visiting South Lake Union and the Amazon campus, includes a visit to the now-famous Amazon spheres (plus the, in my opinion magical, dog park hidden at the base). Next, travelers visit Amazon’s experimental store “Amazon Go” (which allows shoppers to walk out with products without being a cashier or self-checkout). Then, it ends at the banks of Lake Union. There, you can explore the Center for Wooden Boats. On sundays, you can even take a free sailboat cruise.

Live Shows

Seattle has no shortage of live shows. Live music and performance form an important part of the heart and history of Seattle. Whether it’s improv comedy, rock, symphony, ballet, or even burlesque (or BOY-lesque, the male-dancer equivalent)  Seattle has a show to satisfy your interest. Live performances are a great way to spend your time solo traveling in Seattle.

National Park & Pioneer Square

Did you know and Seattle has a national Park plopped right down in the center of downtown? It does! The gold rush national Park celebrates Seattle’s role in the Alaskan gold rush and it’s free to enter and explore the tiny park and museum. Adjacent to Pioneer Square, it’s a great way to see a unique part of Seattle alone. Click here for more information on this itinerary.

Fun things to do with a free afternoon in downtown seattle.
Seattle’s tiny national park, learn how to visit.

PNW Beach Walk

The beaches of the Pacific Northwest are majestic, and no trip to Seattle – whether it’s group, family, or solo – is complete without walking along the glacier-formed beaches.

💡  Thanks to the work of conservationists, there are small, PNW-signature beaches accessible via a small detour on the walk from Pike Place Market to the Space Needle. Here’s a Google Maps link to the most popular downtown pocket beach.

The best access point to a real “beach” (rather than the touristy piers near downtown) is actually just a short walk from Pike Place Market! Adjacent to the Olympic Sculpture Park (a free outdoor art museum between Pike Place and the Space Needle) is Myrtle Edwards Park. These beachfront spaces are perfect for low tide exploring or simply sitting and enjoying the sound of waves hitting the shore. Things to do on the pocket beach:

  • Look for starfish. Although starfish have struggled in the Puget Sound in recent years,1 if you visit these pocket beaches at low tide and peer between/under the rocks that form the edges of the shore, you’re very likely to spot a sea star in the wild.
  • Make a Mosaic. No sea stars? Almost every time I walk down to these beaches to clear my head, I find myself making artful mosaics using the colorful rocks lining the beach.
  • Listen to the Unique Sounds. The particular pitch of these rock beaches creates a really lovely sound that’s an opportunity to be mindful: when waves hit this beach and recede, there’s an almost-waterfall-like sound as the water flows back towards the sound.
  • Watch the dog parade. Every day around 5-6 pm, this park fills with downtown dogs out for their evening walk. It’s delightful!

Space Needle

If I’m honest, I’m not really a fan of the Space Needle. Don’t get me wrong, I think the presence of that unique landmark lends a lot to the skyline, but if you purchase a ticket to head up the inner elevator, the experience is “meh” at best. That said, here’s why you should still at least visit the outside of this landmark:

The monorail. Just in time for the World’s Fair in 1962 Seattle opened a monorail to carry passengers from downtown’s Westlake Center to the Space Needle. The monorail never stretched more than 1 mile and is arguably the worst investment Seattle has made in public transportation, but the vintage looking cars continue to run on a well maintained track and for only $3, it’s a unique view and experience of the city.

Seattle Center Park. The park that houses the space needle is filled with sprawling lawns and majestic fountains designed for play. Unlike many city parks, the fountains at Seattle Center blend art and recreation, as families and solo travelers alike frolic in the splashing waters. Most weekend summers include festivals and markets.

Museums. The base of the Space Needle is home to several museums worth visiting: Museum of Pop Culture, Chihuly Garden and Glass, Pacific Science Center, and the Seattle Children’s Museum.

QUIZ: How Many Days Should you Plan to Spend in Seattle?

Unsure how long you’ll need to see everything on your must-see list? Take my quiz to find out:

Coffee & Journaling

Solo travel is an opportunity for reflection and contemplation, and for many people, coffee and journaling while solo traveling goes hand-in-hand. And trust me, there’s no better place for coffee OR soulful writing than in Seattle – if Seattle’s reputation for rain strikes during your trip, and you’re not down for rainy day adventures in Seattle, join the locals in cozying up in a coffee shop to work, write, or make travel art. Although it may not be your first choice for spending your time in Seattle, it can actually be an amazing way to experience the coffee and the unique coffee culture of Seattle.

Not sure where to find the best coffee? Here’s a flow chart to finding the best coffee in the Pike Place Neighborhood.

A serious and silly flow chart for deciding where to get coffee in seattle's pike place market. See detailed image description in article.
This graphic may be shared and republished, provided Wanderbig’s repost policy is observed.
For an accessible description of this graphic, see the detailed image description.

Eating Alone in Seattle at Pike Place Market

For some solo travelers who feel self-conscious about traveling alone, eating alone can be the hardest part. Good news: The bustle and chaos of Pike Place eateries make this easier.

Pike Place Market has 75+ restaurants and food counters. Thousands of locals stop in for a solo bite on their lunch hour every day. It’s easy to blend in eating alone at Pike Place Market. For more help navigating this solo travel hurdle, check out my tips for enjoying a meal alone at a restaurant during solo travel.

Final Thoughts

If you travel as a remote worker or digital nomad, combine work and play by choosing an exciting destination to work from, using my list of the best study and work spots in Seattle. For more tips on seeing Seattle on a budget, see my guide to Free and Cheap Things to do in Seattle.

  1. Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. UC Santa Cruz []