Considering its rather young age, the city of Seattle has had many identities since it was incorporated as a frontier logging town in 1869. It’s been a gold rush launchpad, airplane and computer manufacturing hub, grunge and counterculture home, politically progressive capitol and a hotbed of innovation – the ribbon that ties those disparate parts together. Even if you only have a couple of days on the ground, we can help you get a satisfying sampling of this multifaceted city with the perfect weekend in Seattle.

Modern couches and a coffee table are set up on a glass-walled, open air patio on top of a tall building on the Seattle waterfront. Perfect weekend in Seattle
The view from The Nest in Seattle is about as good as it gets © The Nest / Facebook

Friday Afternoon/Evening

When you arrive downtown head straight to the Nest, preferably before 5 pm when the marketing managers and junior associates kick off of work and take all the good seats. This rooftop bar will give you a wide-open view of the city and – if it’s a clear day – Mt Rainier in the distance. Sip a few cocktails and settle up: it’s time for the real fun to begin.

One block over on Pine St, catch the No. 11 bus for a 10-minute ride to Capitol Hill. This is the heart of Seattle’s nightlife and even early in the evening you’ll see groups of revelers adhering to Seattle’s ultra-casual dress code on a bar crawl. Take in the sites of the Pine-Pike corridor, once a neighborhood of radicals living in the ruins of auto shops and factories, now more gentrified with clothing boutiques and wine bars.

A large wall mural shows interesting anatomical drawings of flowers, fruit and bugs. Perfect weekend in Seattle
The Capitol Hill area of Seattle is the heart of street art and nightlife in the city © Robert Balkovich / Lonely Planet

When you’re ready to eat, zip over to Sitka & Spruce. This is considered by many to be Seattle’s finest restaurant, and it’s a great place to experience one of the city’s most treasured dining traditions: subtle, yet exquisite, seasonal dishes constructed using locally sourced farm-to-table ingredients.

With dinner out of the way it’s time to get the full Capitol Hill experience. Make sure you’re at multi-level LGBTQ+ club R Place before 9:30, the start of its weekly Friday night drag cabaret ‘Lashes.’ Watch in awe as the queens perform wild lip-sync routines (it’s a tight venue so watch out for the high kicks and death drops). Bring plenty of cash to tip and be prepared to get brought on stage for some playful ribbing.

After the show you can stay on for the dance party that follows, or head to Lost Lake, a half-diner, half-tavern homage to David Lynch’s seminal Pacific Northwest-set TV show ‘Twin Peaks.’ It’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and has you covered whether you stumble in for a nightcap or some 3 am emergency french fries.

Light shines through some clouds over the Seattle waterfront. Perfect weekend in Seattle
The waterfront is the epicenter of activity in downtown Seattle for visitors © Robert Balkovich / Lonely Planet

Saturday Morning

Get up as early as you can manage and fill your hangover prescription for good coffee and greasy carbs at Biscuit Bitch, adjacent to the Pike Place Market. The line might be long, but the biscuits smothered in sausage gravy will be worth it. When you’re done eating, explore the market before jumping on the No. 40 bus bound for Ballard.

Get off in the part of the neighborhood known colloquially as ‘Old Ballard,’ where the industrial remnants of the once separate city’s fishing industry sit. The blocks around Leary Ave NW are worth walking for their red brick architecture and the fabulous shopping the area is known for. Pop into Gold Dogs for vintage cowboy boots, Lucca Great Finds for cards and gifts emblematic of the Pacific Northwest, and Ballyhoo for strange and wonderful antiques.

Exhibits dedicated to Norway and Denmark show clothes and artifacts from those countries in a museum showcase. Perfect weekend in Seattle
Exhibits in the Nordic Museum in Ballard cover a wide range of history from the settlers' home countries © Robert Balkovich / Lonely Planet

Saturday Afternoon

Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head directly to the most out-of-place building in the area: a wooden whitewashed single-family home stuck between two towering multipurpose buildings. This historic house is now home to San Fermo, which serves appropriately rustic Italian fare. Down a bowl of carbonara made with thick noodles, pungent pecorino and gooey egg yolk.

You’ve got one more stop in Ballard: the Nordic Museum, which moved in 2018 from its quaint former home in an old schoolhouse to a proper museum complex on the neighborhood’s main drag of NW Market St. Here the history and culture of the Nordic people, the largest immigrant group to settle in the neighborhood, are given a deep dive thanks to innovative exhibits combining artifacts, interior design, documentary film and storytelling.

We see two people having drinks in a bar through the large front window, with the name Bookstore written on it. Perfect weekend in Seattle
The Bookstore Bar has an intimate ambiance and literary theme © Bookstore Bar / Facebook

Saturday Evening

Treat yourself to a taxi back downtown and get ready for dinner at Heartwood Provisions, a buzzy restaurant and bar that puts expertly balanced craft cocktails front and center. Splurge on a pre-dinner drink but don’t overdo it: each of the items on the restaurant’s new-American-meets-southeast-Asian menu (think seared halibut with shimeji mushrooms and ponzu butter) comes with an optional cocktail pairing. Head down the street to Bookstore Bar for a mellow nightcap in the library themed seating area.

A brick archway leads to a wooden wall with an old wooden sign that says Sam's leaning nearby. Perfect weekend in Seattle
Under the modern city of Seattle are the remnants of old wooden structures from the 1920s © Lost_Bullet / Getty Images

Sunday Morning

Start your day with a coffee from Storyville, a relative newcomer to Seattle’s robust offering of local café chains. It has already made a huge impression since its 2013 opening with bold espresso and expertly crafted lattes. Sip it on your way to meet up with your Seattle Underground Tour in nearby Pioneer Square.

After the great fire of 1889 parts of Seattle were regraded when burnt wooden buildings were replaced with new fire-resistant brick ones that give Pioneer Square its distinct look today. The result was a time capsule of a city buried under the sidewalks, one that is still there now and explored by curious tourists and locals alike on daily subterranean tours.

One last stop before you end your weekend in Seattle: trek over to the International District where you’ll find some of the city’s best brunch, specifically the dim sum service at Jade Garden. Grab a table (or join a stranger at theirs) and watch the carts full of steamed pork buns go by.

The skyline of seattle is seen in early evening, with lights on the space needle and various other buildings. Perfect weekend in Seattle
Seattle is a multifaceted city that has gone through many changes in its relatively short history © Kosei Saito / Getty Images

Where to Stay

A non-proverbial stone’s throw from the Pike Place Market, Palihotel (opened in 2018) is a brilliant union of historic charm and modern amenities. There’s a lot of early 20th century romantic nostalgia in the hunter green walls and overstuffed leather chairs, but the fully renovated bathrooms and absurdly comfortable beds are distinctly of our era. It's the perfect place to stay for a perfect weekend in Seattle.

How To Get There

SeaTac Airport is fifteen miles outside of the city. If you’re arriving by train or bus, you’ll arrive at King Street Station in the International District near downtown.

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