More than just a big red sign and a few flying fish, Pike Place Market is an elaborate and historic center for trade. Its humble creation, just after the turn of the century, was born from a desire to save money through direct connections between farmers and their customers. Extremely high onion prices necessitated a change from middle man grocery stores. Space was set aside near the waterfront and eight farmers set up to receive what became over 10,000 customers on the first day, a frenzy that led to the market's official formation. Fast-forward a century to the market as it is today. Nine acres of stalls and shops, spread out over three floors, featuring everything from fresh produce to flowers, street food, fine dining, as well as handicrafts and novelties.
Whether it is locally grown produce or fresh fish caught in the Pacific, each stall is a proud representation of local resources and talent. The market enforces strict policies governing stall use which require the vendor to be involved in every stage of production. Buy tomatoes from the man who planted the seeds, try on stocking caps from the grandmother who knit them, or stop and smell the roses of the women who tend to their thorny branches. The stalls are loving creations, representing the very best that Seattle, and Washington State have to offer.
Visitors should spend a day sampling the various stalls, including the seafood circus of Pike Place Fish and the fresh roasted bliss of the original Starbucks. Enjoy views of ferries and water taxis crisscrossing Elliot Bay as you dine at the Athenian Steakhouse or Lowells Seafood. Dive into a frothy pint as you observe brew masters concocting new batches of beer at Pike Place Brewery. Pull a rabbit out of a hat at Market Magic or leaf through an original Batman comic at Golden Collectibles, reputed to be America's oldest comic book shop. Munch a local, organic apple or shoot a fresh oyster while you meander through the crowds listening to the notes of the dozens of talented street musicians who occupy the market every day, rain or shine. Pike Place is a symphony of smells, sounds and colors that should not be missed.
Inexperienced market-goers should consider a few local tips to get the best out of their market experience. Look for parking near the waterfront, below the market, where there are many pay-by-the-hour lots and few gridlocked streets. Once inside the market, go with the flow. Especially on weekends and summer days, the lanes in between stalls become human rivers and fighting their flow is an exercise in futility. Save yourself the effort by starting at one end, riding down one side of the stalls and then pulling a u-turn at the end to visit the other side. Buy flowers at the end of the day. Bountiful bouquets exacerbate the difficulties of moving around in tight spaces and vendors often sell their flowers at discounts before packing up. Above all, take your time. The market's subtleties, its hidden nooks, and phone-booth sized shops highlight Pike Place Market's need to be discovered and explored.
- Monday through Saturday: 10am to 6pm
- Sunday: 11am to 5pm
- Metro Stop:
- Any bus that takes you to downtown Seattle will work for Pike Place Market. If you are already downtown, the market is within easy walking distance, just head downhill towards the water.
- Location: Pike St. & 1st Ave., Seattle, WA
- Phone: 206-682-7453
- Website: www.pikeplacemarket.org