For those who have never experienced a freshly caught salmon hurtling through the air just steps from stands of freshly cut flowers and homemade amber-colored honey, meet Pike Place Market located on Seattle’s waterfront. With ten million visitors each year, you’ll be in good company.
No one could have predicted that what began in 1907 as a group of eight farmers selling produce from their wagons would become, a century later, one of the state’s most popular destinations. An average ten million people visit the shops, stands, and restaurants each year.
Unlike many produce-only farmers markets, the nine-acre Pike Place Market boasts a wide selection of wares from nearly 100 farmers and 190 merchants and craftsmen all year long. BLMF Used Books and Lamplight Books are both packed full of well-loved novels and popular literature. DiLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine offers over 200 cheeses and 1,800 wines from across the world. Maltby Produce Market/Marshland Orchards sells pressed cider, dried herbs, and local fruit and veggies brought weekly to the market. Other shops and vendors include 3D Wood Puzzles, Bead Zone, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Kim Drew Watercolors, Pike Place Naturopathic, and Sweetie’s Candy.
In addition to farmers and craftspeople, the market’s walkways and main cobblestone thoroughfare are scattered with 240 street performers. Musicians collect donations and sell CDs from their open guitar cases. One man can play a viola while standing on one foot, twirling a hula hoop around his waist, and balancing a book on his head.
Refreshingly absent (for the most part) from the bustle are major chain stores. The market is all about promoting the wares of local merchants and the produce of area farms, but that doesn’t mean you won’t stumble upon a Kitchen Basics, Sur la Table, or the original (and always packed) Starbucks. If, however, you’re looking to steer clear of mammoth coffee franchises, indulge in a great cup of joe at Café Campagne, rated Seattle’s best French bistro/café four years in a row.
Though it has multiple locations across the country, Pappardelle’s Pasta is one of the market’s most beloved institutions. Its selection includes a variety of oils, vinegars, sauces, and pastas. Try a pound of sweet potato orzo, basil tangerine fettuccine, whole wheat chipotle lime mafaldine, or the decadent dark chocolate linguine.
Arguably the most recognizable market staples known to tourists are the fishmongers of the Pike Place Fish Market. They routinely heave freshly caught salmon back and forth like baseballs, creating an entertaining atmosphere. In 1965, owner John Yokoyama purchased the then-small fish stand hoping to earn enough to pay off his car loan. The “stand” is now a full-fledged market, with iced displays jammed with everything from whole black cod to jumbo white prawns and premade salmon burger patties. Be sure to watch out for the giant king salmon nestled among Dungeness crab and halibut fillets—it just might take an unexpected snap at your fingers.
One-hour public tours are offered Monday through Friday for groups of ten or more, and every Saturday during the summer for groups of any size. Visitors can learn about the culture and history of the shops, including market ghost tales and urban legends.
- Monday through Saturday: 10am to 6pm
- Sunday: 11am to 5pm
- *Hours vary for individual stores – consult website for times
- Location: Pike Street & First Ave./ Parking garage: 1531 Western Ave.
- Phone: 206-682-7453
- Website: www.pikeplacemarket.org
- Market Heritage Tours:
- Hours: 9am to 4pm, Saturdays: Tours leave at 9am
- Admission: Adults: $10, Children/seniors: $7, Saturday Tours: Adults: $10, children/seniors: $5
- Location: The piggy bank (on the corner of Pike Place and Pike Street)/li>
- Phone: 206-774-5249 (Monday – Friday tours); 206-322-2219 (Saturday tours)/li>
- Website: www.pikeplacemarket.org/explore_the_market/tours