These 2 US-cities in the Pacific Northwest region and less than 3 hours from each other by car are well worth a few days’ visit. Like any big city in the world, Seattle and Portland offer many sights to the traveller… Here is a short list of the main things to do if you have only a day or two for each city.
Pike Place Market
In the very center of Seattle and facing the ocean, this vibrant and colourful public market surely is a must-see. Being open (and crowded) throughout the day makes it easy to visit. Here you can also have a cup of coffee in the world’s first and oldest Starbucks! If you visit in summertime, try also the delicious local Rainier cherries.
The chewing gum wall
Next to the market, in a small alley, stands the very one-of-a-kind chewing gum wall. Artistic or disgusting, that’s up to you. Anyway, you have to see it.
The Olympic Sculpture Park
Not far from the market, have a stroll in the Olympic Park to see its big modern sculptures (and the Space Needle).
Dinner at the Space Needle
A vast majority of Seattle’s visitors are planning to go up the Space Needle. Besides the observation deck, there is also a rotating restaurant at the top named SkyCity. The ticket to the observation deck is pricey, so it may be wise to book a table at the restaurant to skip the long lines and enjoy the views seated with a meal (no entrance fee if you are dining at the restaurant). Not cheap, but the food is actually pretty decent though the place itself is quite worn out and fails in being the fine dining venue it aims to be.
Chihuly’s Glass and Garden
You will find a lot of different things to do and see around the famous Space Needle, including the fascinating exhibition of Chihuly’s glass works (both indoor and outdoor). Expensive entrance but totally worth the price. You can even bring home a (small) piece of Chihuly’s art if you have a few thousands bucks to get rid of.
To get that picture-perfect view of Seattle you must head to Kerry Park (at a reasonable walking distance from the city center to the north). Beautiful. Especially during sunset.
Further away north you can visit the hipster neighbourhood of Fremont. Nice cafés and a lot of street art. Worth the bus-ride from the center.
The Museum of Flight and Future of Flight Aviation Center
South from the city and rather close to SeaTac international airport lies maybe the world’s richest aviation museum! You will see retired aircrafts of all types and ages, inside and out. The collection is impressive and you can spend a long time here if you happen to be an airplane lover. The highlights include the Concorde, the B787 Dreamliner, the iconic B747 double-decker and an old Air Force One plane. To fulfill your passion for aviation, book a Boeing tour at the Future of Flight Aviation Center (the only downside being its quite remote location 25 miles north of the city…). There you will be guided through the Boeing factory and witness actual Boeing airplanes being manufactured inside the world’s biggest construction in terms of volume! No photos allowed, so just enjoy every minute of this very special moment. The Aviation Center itself holds a small exhibition, but the really interesting thing to do here is the guided tour. Book your tickets online and well in advance, as tours for the same or even next day may be sold-out at time of visit.
Food tip in Seattle: try the crab pasta at BOKA restaurant on 1st Avenue.
The Japanese Garden and Rose Garden
Probably one of the most beautiful Japanese gardens outside of Asia, this is not to be missed. On the other side of the road, visit also the Rose Garden and its vast collection of rose species in different shades and colours.
Impressive and mythic bookstore. Period.
City view from the Hawthorne Bridge
Have a walk on this special truss bridge crossing the Willamette River to get beautiful views of the city center on both sides.
Accommodation and food tip in Portland: consider staying at the centrally located and beautifully furnished Sentinel Hotel. Right next to it, between Alder and Washington streets, you will find a multitude of food trucks offering street food from all over the world.