Like most big cities, Seattle’s distinct personality is made up of the sum of its many parts. Each of The Emerald City’s unique neighborhoods offers something distinct, and exploring them provides as much of an adventure as visiting the Space Needle or wandering stalls at Pike Place Market.
Pioneer Square, just south of downtown, offers a window into the city’s storied past and lets visitors discover how history shaped its modern personality. The area, first established in 1852 and Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, is built on the ancestral land of the indigenous Coast Salish people. As it evolved, various cultures, ethnicities and industries comingled to create a modern art ,food and wine hub that honors the city’s cultural roots.
The 1-square-mile Pioneer Square neighborhood is best explored on foot. Walking along its cobblestoned streets, you can take time to enjoy the beautiful architecture of historic buildings and relax in the peaceful parks and public spaces that feature installations from local artists. Find the heart of the neighborhood in Occidental Square, a beautiful tree-lined plaza that provides play spaces for kids (along with plenty of activities like bocce ball courts and ping pong tables for adults), totem poles and woodcarvings depicting images from indigenous lore, trendy cafés and wine bars, and quaint shops and boutiques that include independent bookstores and art galleries.
These historic streets no only let you explore modern Seattle but also historic treasures like Smith Tower, the city’s first skyscraper. Dating back to 1914, Smith Tower gives a glimpse into history with a Prohibition-era bar that sits atop the tower in the observatory. Complete with an open-air observation deck displaying a 360-degree view of the city with the beautiful Puget Sound nearby, this observatory is accessible via the building’s original gilded elevator, still powered by its original DC motor.
To dig even deeper into the history of the area, head below the streets of Pioneer Square for a guided experience with a Beneath the Streets tour. This excursion takes you deep underground to see what is left of the original city of Seattle that burned down in 1889 by exploring long- abandoned tunnels and passageways from the 1890s.
Whether looking to explore Seattle’s past or spend a day meeting deadlines in one of the neighborhood’s convenient coworking spaces, Pioneer Square provides the perfect introduction to a melting-pot city ripe with history, culture and personality.
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