When you think of Seattle, what comes to mind? The Mariners, Seahawks, Microsoft and Starbucks? Or perhaps it’s Pike Place Market and the Sky Needle? While my Seattle readers could no doubt think of dozens of spots to tap in to for future visits, here’s a look at some of the sights I enjoyed during a recent weekend visit.
Sights to See
Seattle Art Museum; “SAM”
If you’re staying in downtown Seattle, as I did (at the lovely and centrally located Fairmont Olympic for this visit), you may want to begin by exploring the city on foot. The Seattle Art Museum, also known as SAM, is located at the intersection of 1st Avenue and University Street.
PIKE PLACE MARKET
While you’re in the area, you could continue walking down University Street and head left to visit Pioneer Square or right to reach Pike Place Market.
If at all possible, you really don’t want to be trying to park near the market. There is a parkade in the vicinity, but you’ll enjoy yourself more without scrambling for a space or making your way through foot traffic, particularly on weekends.
I found the market a bit of a linear maze; you can head upstairs and downstairs, and poke around to your heart’s content.
There are assorted restaurants and other establishments, such as the casual Lowell’s, where you can catch great views of Elliott Bay, the Great Wheel and more.
Across the street from Pike Place Market, you’ll find loads of little shops and restaurants. When you spot a crowd with their faces pressed to the windows at the corner of 1600 Pike Place, you’ll know you’ve found Beecher’s Cheese, where guests can watch the cheese being made.
Downtown by Night
Seattle Public Library
The Seattle Public Library’s Central Branch is also easy to reach on foot if you’re staying downtown. It’s at 100 Fourth Avenue and, if you have any interest in design (let alone books), you have to visit this beauty.
Tear yourself away from the downtown shops and nab the Monorail, built in 1962 for the City’s World Fair, to Seattle Center. It’s a $2.50 ride for adults, with only two stations – which means that, if you miss the “train”, it won’t be long before it’s back.
At the colourful terminus of the Monorail, you’ll find the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass, a great childrens’ playground and more. I found the use of vibrant colours at Seattle Center and the Public Library ideal for the Pacific Northwest skies.
Kerry Park is the place to go for views of downtown, the Space Needle, Elliott Bay and – on a clear day – Mount Rainier. If you like to stretch your legs, you could walk here from Seattle Center but, like many people, it seems, I drove. It soon became clear that Kerry Park is also a popular spot for wedding photos. If you’ve seen evening shots of the Seattle skyline, there’s a good chance the photographer was in this neighbourhood.
Queen Anne Neighbourhood
While I appreciated the views from Kerry Park, it was crowded and I was just as happy to go exploring its neighbourhood, which has some lovely homes and many built to take in the incredible views.
Walking along the leafy streets, such as those above and below, a person could be forgiven for thinking they’d stepped into a photo shoot for the good life.
accommodation: the fairmont olympic
For this visit, I stayed at the Fairmont Olympic. Most of the Fairmont hotels I know – in Banff, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto and the Hotel Vancouver in my home town – have a distinctive feel to them. What do they have in common? A sense of elegance and history, which I like.
A stay at Chicago’s Fairmont Millennium Park late last year was different. Service, meeting spaces and my actual room were all good, but the architecture and design were reflective of a shinier, more contemporary iteration of the brand. It reminded me more of the Fairmont Vancouver YVR, a locale that’s great for business meetings.
When you arrive at Seattle’s Fairmont Olympic, though, it’s clear right away that you’re in for the old school Fairmont experience. This particular hotel, which opened in 1924, boasts Italian Renaissance architecture. Inside, chandeliers suspended from overheight ceilings are complemented by marble, fine millwork, and equally fine service.
With hosts such as the gracious Thien (below) welcoming you curbside, you’re off to a good start.
Entering at street level, you’ll take the escalator or one of the elevators ’round the corner by the shops in order to reach the lobby and check in – where Fabricio (below) and Natalie are equally adept at making you feel at home.
The hotel has 450 guest rooms. My suite was lovely and also reflected traditional Fairmont standards. I appreciated that the hotel, while retaining old style character in its rooms, has visitors fully wired and able to charge a multiplicity of devices without having to prioritise them. The king sized bed and pillows were just right, and the toiletries exactly what you’d expect. I understand that full room renovations will be underway in the next few months and, while it will be interesting to return and see how the lobby and lounge evolve, I hope The Georgian is left unchanged.
If you’re looking for oysters and seafood onsite, visit Shuckers. Otherwise, The Georgian restaurant is just up the stairs from the lobby’s Terrace lounge, and you may also reach it by elevator. Think high ceilings, even more glittering chandeliers, a row of Palladian windows and tableware that would have made your most particular great aunt proud.
Combine the setting and gracious service with the food, and you’ll understand why the restaurant is so popular. If afternoon tea is your thing (and I know it is for many of my readers, not only those from the UK), the hotel has this covered, as well.
SAM and Seattle’s Great Wheel are literally down the hill on University Street – and that’s a good thing because, if you have lunch or dinner at the market or one of the many area restaurants, you can work it off on the uphill return.
If you appreciate interesting architecture, carve out a half hour or more to visit the Seattle Public Library’s Central Library, less than three blocks away – you’re in for a treat.
Great service is one of the many reasons to stay at the Fairmont Olympic. In addition to Fabricio, Natalie and Thien, I also found the lady closing up the spa and Concierge Patrick to be particularly helpful and gracious.
Using the cardio equipment, you overlook the indoor pool and hot tub.
The mezzanine level business kiosk is compact, but conveniently located just off the lobby, and extensive services are available at the 12th floor business centre.
The hotel has 28,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and 15 meeting rooms, and can accommodate events hosting up to 750 guests.
I like hotels that proudly wear their history. It’s on this site that the University of Washington was established in 1861, and the hotel opened here in 1924; in 1979, it was added to the US’ National Register of Historic Places.
The hotel has been awarded Trip Advisors’ GreenLeaders Bronze Level rating and also earned recognition from the Washington Lodging Association (2010) and the Washington State Recyling Association (2012).
The hotel is in the heart of the city, which is great in that you have little need of a car. Given the age and location of the hotel, the downside is that you have no on-site parking. You can park curbside, check in and then move your car to a parkade the next block up for $39 nightly, or take advantage of valet parking.
As with many locales, pricing will depend on how early in advance you book. The Fairmont Olympic is highly rated, and that’s reflected in the pricing. If planning a stay, check the Fairmont Olympic’s Special Offers page to see if one of the packages appeals to you.
You can have a look at the hotel’s website to see the awards it’s received.
FAIRMONT PRESIDENT’S CLUB
If you or the executives for whom you book travel spend much time in other cities, it’s only logical to acquire brand memberships for the hotels and resorts with which you do business. We’re Fairmont President’s Club members, and the benefits are worth considering. One of my favourites, after a full day of travel and lineups everywhere you turn, is the private reception desk for check in.
Disclosure: This stay at the Fairmont Olympic was sponsored by the hotel and, as always, all views are my own.