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Pike’s Place Market in Seattle

From fish-throwers to the original Starbucks

Mention Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and the first thing people think of is the fishmongers tossing salmon, cod and halibut through the air. But did you know the Pike Place Market isn’t just one building, but a historic district featuring 250 businesses, 100 farmers and 500 residents? Or that it houses the original Starbucks coffee shop? Or that it also has something called the Gum Wall (which is as gross as it sounds)?

Along with the Space Needle, the Pike Place Market is probably the place most associated with Seattle, especially with the market’s iconic neon sign and clock. (The market opened in 1907, and the sign was installed in 1928.) The open-air market offers all the fresh food you could imagine, from local seafood to fresh fruit, as well as a wide variety of arts & crafts, clothing, gifts and more. Pike Place Market is as much a tourist attraction as it is a farmers market, and it can tend to get crowded, especially on the weekends. Amateur photographers outnumbered shoppers when I was there, and one place that attracted a lot of attention was the Pike Place Fish Market, home to the fish-flinging fishmongers. It’s worth standing around the counter for a couple minutes to watch the fish-tossing, but if the crowd’s too big, take a short stroll down the nearby hallway to an observation area that provides a great view of Puget Sound and the port.

It takes about 15 minutes to walk through the main arcade – more if you decide to do a little shopping or sampling – but be sure to set aside some time to go through the other buildings as well. You can swing by the original Starbucks, which opened in 1971, or take in the great smells at Piroshky Piroshky Russian bakery.

Bottom Line

If you do one touristy thing in Seattle, make it a trip to Pike Place Market. (But really, don’t do just one touristy thing – the Space Needle is pretty cool, too.)

Know Before You Go

The Pike Place Market is open 362 days a year (it’s closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day), but merchants set their own hours, so it’s a good idea to check online before visiting.

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