At the southern end of the city, Pioneer Square has the distinct privilege of being as much fun below ground as it is above. Beneath the cobblestone streets of Seattle’s oldest neighborhood—first populated in 1851—is a network of shop fronts connected by walkways that were, before the Great Seattle Fire of 1889, street level. The buildings had been erected on the low tidelands of Puget Sound. After the fire, city leaders opted to rebuild the destroyed structures directly on top of the rubble.
Above ground, the red brick facades and old-fashioned street lamps are a testament to the permanence of the past—proof that despite the neighborhood’s contemporary art galleries, internet cafes, and pulsing nightlife, Pioneer Square has retained all the allure of its Gold Rush days, when Seattle was the major outpost for miners heading to the Yukon Territory.
Far from merely alluding to its history, the area is soaked in 19th century charm. The sharp staccato clop of horse-drawn carriages is the heartbeat of the square. The reconstructed pergola was originally designed as a shelter for passengers of the Yesler Way cable car, built in the late 1800s. The Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park features artifacts, vintage photographs, and mining demonstrations.
Visitors to Pioneer Square will be hard-pressed to scrounge up any down-time during their stay. Challenge a friend to a game of bocce in Occidental Park or pull up a stool at Triangle Pub for its all day, every day $2 Rainier draft. Depending on when you visit, you can peruse the First Thursday Art Walk (held, as its name suggests, on the first Thursday of every month), during which local art galleries open their doors to showcase new and exciting exhibits.
- • Convention and Visitors Bureau: www.visitseattle.org/Visitors/Discover/Neighborhoods/Pioneer-Square
- • First Thursday Art Walk: www.firstthursdayseattle.com
- • Neighborhood Information: www.seattle.gov/tour/pioneer.htm
- • Seattle Underground: www.undergroundtour.com