Free Things to do in Seattle: Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market Attractions

Every visit to Seattle should include a trip to Pike Place Market.  Located right above Elliot Bay on Pike and First, just a few blocks from the Seattle Center, Pike Place Market has been in operation for over a century.  It is filled with almost 300 year round vendors selling everything from fresh seafood, fruits and vegetables, to locally made crafts and art work – and so much more.  Wind through the Market into the Down Under for more specialty shops and restaurants.

More than 350 residents, many of whom are senior-income workers, live in the district in the historic district. Walk down Pike Place’s cobblestone street and look up. The windows and balconies above the street are the houses of the residents who live above the shopping faces.

Market Pike Place is filled with miracles. This neighborhood is the longest ever operated Farmers Market in the U.S. On only one trip it is almost impossible to see everything on the market, with 6 distinct levels covering about 13 buildings. Our tip? Our recommendation? Start early and skip the multitudes! Most activities start at 9am and end at 6pm, although there are no schedule for the Pike Place Market.

The Main & North Arcades

Pike Place Market fishRachel the Piggy Bank guards the entrance to Pike Place Market’s heart and its busiest sector – the Main & North Arcades. Erected back in 1907, the Main Arcade was the first market building designed by Frank Goodwin. While its architecture is far from being robust, this part of Pike Place Market has its historical value, besides being a good venue to get to know the local lifestyle.

Here you will find, artfully displayed, all sorts of fresh produce, including cheese, meat, fruits and veggies. The most emblematic stalls here are those selling fresh fish and sea fruits. Be prepared for a cavalcade of loud noises and strong smells as well as to a real time market show as fishmongers toss the salmons back and forth as if they were joggling balls. At the end of the North Arcade, you will find the local artisans showcasing the results of their craft. Only handmade products can be put on sale here.

They say the best way to explore Pike Place Market is to put aside any map and just stroll through the maze of paths, letting your senses and your curiosity guide you. Once you are done with the ground level, get in the underground. Below the Main Arcade, you will find another labyrinthine stretching on three levels. Known as the Down Under, this is the place where you will find an eclectic mix of tiny shops, selling about anything, from Indian spice to military buttons.


A top tourist attraction in Seattle, Pike Place Market has been the buskers’ favorite spot in town since its beginnings. You will find street performers of many talents here, from musicians to illusionists and many others.

The buskers are an integral part of Pike Place Market’s ambiance, and an attraction for the tourists visiting Seattle. If you have some spare time, it’s worth spending a few hours in the market just strolling around, soaking in the atmosphere.

The list of those who made a name for themselves as buskers at Pike Place Market includes the famous artist the Spoonman who seduced everyone with his “playing the spoons” skills, the klezmer accordionist Evan Evanovitch, and the blind harpist Jeanne Towne.

Pike Place Market Sign & Clock

Probably the most emblematic image of Pike Place Market, this neon sign has a historical value, counting among the West Coast’s oldest items of outdoor neon.

The Pike Place Market Sign has been guarding the entrance to Pike Place Fish since 1927, when it was set in place. The clock has been keeping the time in Seattle’s soul that is the market for the same number of years.

If you visit Pike Place Market, don’t hesitate to take some snapshots of it at different times of the day, and even at night, when the neon light illuminates the darkness.

The Original Starbucks

Although no chains are allowed to open at Pike Place Market, one of the landmarks of the area is a Starbucks coffee shop. Yes, but not any Starbucks, but the original one.

Indeed, Pike Place Market is the place where this coffee success saga started. Actually, the three founding partners (Jerry Baldwin – an English teacher, Zev Siegl – a history teacher, and Gordon Bowker – a writer) opened their first outlet one block north of the current location, on Virginia Street. In 1975, after only 4 years of activity, they had to move because the building was being demolished. Since then, Pike Place Market has been their home.

In the beginning, they were only selling beans bought from the California based Peet’s Coffee & Tea, but later on, they developed from a store to a cafe. Howard Schultz was the one who introduced the idea of selling espresso drinks when he took over the business in 1987.

The Pike Place Starbucks remains unique until today, selling only drinks and no food. Outside you can see the original Starbucks logo.

World Famous Fish Market

Watch out for flying fish!  When you enter the Market directly under the large neon sign, the first thing you’ll experience is the show put on by the World famous Fish Market.  If no fish are being thrown, buy one, and you’ll get to catch it (see video below).  The fish mongers are fun to watch and great to interact with, definitely a Market highlight.

Imagine it – you walk through Seattle, Washington, an open-air farmer’s market when you notice the sign that reads “Caution: low-flying fish.” Curious, you stop reading the sign again, and – BAM! – flying fish hit you. When you realize that you are an unknown participant in one of the many traditional Pike Place fish market traditions, Laughter erupts. What?!

Together with the Space Needle, the market has become one of the most well known attractions in Seattle and has drawn thousands of visitors a day during peak summer months.

Rachel the Pig

Standing right under the “Public Market Center” sign since 1986, Rachel the Piggy Bank is the market’s unofficial mascot, a meeting point for locals and tourists, one of Pike Place Market’s top attractions as well as a revenue source for the Market Foundation. The local artist Georgia Gerber’s creation is a large scape piggy bank in which the locals and tourists equally are encouraged to insert coins and banknotes. The currency is not important. All the funds raised this way are used for social services.

Rachel took its name after a real pig from Whidbey Island, which had won the Island County Fair competition of 1977, weighing 750 pounds. The market’s mascot weighs only 550 pounds, and represented the inspiration behind a fundraising event, the “Pigs on Parade” held in Seattle for the first time in 2001. The second edition was organized in 2007 to celebrate a century since the founding of Pike Place Market.

Since 2011, when the mascot turned 25, Rachel has a cousin – Billie the Piggy Bank standing in new Pike Place MarketFront.

Rachel, named after the real shell that served as the model, has the big piggy bank, located under the big “Public Market Center” sign and clock.  The Market Foundation has put coins and bills in Rachel’s slot fund. Taking a picture with the big bronze pig is one of the most popular things for visitors. Rachel does not only make an excellent spot for a picture, but it’s a handy place to meet friends with the vibrantly colored Pike Place fish market behind her.

Gum Wall

As you wander under the Market down Post Alley, you will find the Gum Wall.  The Seattle Gum Wall is, as its name suggests, covered with thousands of chewing gum pieces that have been placed alongside the Post Alley’s Market Theater since the early ’90s. This interactive, fairly unique attraction provides a great background for pictures and a rapid stop-off to some of the most popular destinations in the city.

If you are into quirky things, then you must visit one of Pike Place Market’s attractions – the Gum Wall. Colorful and weird looking, this Gum Wall has a story: it all started when those entering the Market Theater had to leave their gum outside.

The Market decided to keep the wall in place, and passers-by certainly feel an itch to contribute, but the local authorities try to keep the gum away from windows and doors. Removing the gum from these places as well as from the neighboring building is painstaking as it has to be done manually.

Here kids of all ages for almost 20 years have been adding their gum to the growing collection.  Gross, I know, but your kids will be intrigued and want to add their own.   Bring a pack of Bubble Yum!

Starbucks’ First Store

Get your double tall skinny vanilla latte fix where it all started. no green but a brown one (more anatomically) and had purely the task of selling fresh roasted coffee beans. On the window of the ‘Original Starbucks’ (actually, second to the Original Starbucks it moved to in 1977) in the touristic Pike Place market of Seattle, you can still see Starbucks’ original squirrel, waving her breasts and scattering her tails.

Victor Steinbrueck Park

At the north end of the Market is a large open space with a paved area, large lawn and amazing view.  You’ll also find street performers here. Victor Steinbrück Park is located on the northwest side of Pike Place Market overlooking Elliot Bay in Downtown Seattle (US) on 3,000 meters. It is located between the Western Avenue and the Alashan Way Viaduct at the foot of Virginia Street and is known as Seattle-based architect Victor Steinbrueck.

There are so many side streets and crazy alleys filled with shops, restaurants and great views.  A day at the Market is definitely a Seattle must see.

Pike Place Market Tours

Strolling around Pike Place Market is one of the best ways to feel Seattle’s heartbeat and take its pulse. A fascinating experience, a visit of this top Seattle attraction will appeal to all your senses. Its exuberant theatricality will certainly charm you.

Admire historical buildings, stroll along the colorful stalls showcasing the local artisans’ craft, watch the passers-by, and the notorious famous fish mongers flinging fish in the air to imprint on your retina some unforgettable visual memories of Seattle.

Embrace the mix of fish and other foods’ odors, sample some of the best coffee in the world and treat yourself to fresh bakeries to know the smell and the taste of the city. Listen to the sounds of the merchants and shoppers, and ear-drop on Seattleites gossiping over a cup of coffee.

Explore Pike Place Market on your own or take a guided tour, but it’s best you don’t eat before you go. This is where you will find some of the city’s best eateries. A food tour of Pike Place Market will make you understand the old saying claiming that love goes through the stomach. While sampling the local vendors’ produce and sipping some coffee you will simply fall in love with the city.

Pike Place Market is the place to shop for souvenirs, and also the best place in town to grab a bite, but its significance goes much beyond being a mere farmers’ market. Pike Place Market is an entire urban ecosystem, where craftsmen, small entrepreneurs, businessmen, office workers, fishermen, farmers, buskers and tourists mingle.

Pike Place Market Hours

Pike Place MarketOperating 363 days a year and 20 hours a day, Pike Place Market is undoubtedly a bustling heart of the city. The best time of the day to visit it depends on your goal.

  • Breakfast starts at 6 AM, but in most places you can enjoy it until noontime.
  • You can visit the market for fresh produce and fish in the morning, starting 7 AM.
  • The crafts market is opened daily (except Christmas and Thanksgiving Day) from 10 AM to 4 PM, but the other merchants are there until 6 PM.
  • Restaurants close after 1 AM, most of them having a last call at 1.30.

Pike Place Market Restaurants

Tucked into different corners, Pike Place Market restaurants offer a number of unique and flavorful ways to enjoy this top Seattle attraction. No matter what you are in the mood for, you are spoiled with choice. From a mac & cheese at Beecher’s to fine dining at Le Pichet, going through Uli’s and its famous sausages, you are bound to have unforgettable culinary experiences at Pike Place Market. Read More

Pike Place Market History

Stretching on 9 acres of land, Pike Place Market has been a staple in Seattle since it first opened to the public on August 17th 1907. One of this Seattle landmark’s prides refers to being the oldest continuously operating market in the US.

In 1907, Pike Place Market was established as a place for local farmers to sell their wares without going through middlemen. While the bustling never stopped, the market went through rough times and faced bulldozing threats. In the 1930s, the place was buzzing with activity, but by the 1960s, the area had become squalid, with peep shows and prostitution activities.

In the wake of Century 21 Exposition held in Seattle in 1962, the municipal authorities drew up plans of bulldozing the market. New office buildings and premium residences were supposed to be erected on this piece of land, but the plans were changed because of the Seattlites’ protests. Instead, the area was cleaned up and the market regained its livelihood.

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