Seattle/Capitol Hill-Central District

Capitol Hill is Seattle's most densely populated neighborhood and the heart of the city's counterculture. Lying directly east of the downtown retail core, Capitol Hill is unofficially bounded to the east by 23rd Ave E, to the west by Interstate 5, to the south by E Union St, and to the north by E Interlaken Blvd. Included here is the neighboring district of First Hill, immediately to the south adjacent to Downtown.

The Central District is located southeast of the downtown area of Seattle and is bordered by the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill. It's the traditional center of Seattle's African-American population, though recently it has attracted young first-time homeowners from throughout the city because of the undervalued property, creating a boom in new home construction and new business. Nonetheless, it is still the center of Black culture in Seattle and has the highest concentration of black residents in the Pacific Northwest, with African-Americans making up 51% of the population. It also has a significant Ethiopian population, whose restaurants and shops lend the area an interesting character.

Also included here are the chain of small, residential neighborhoods to the east, running along the shore of Lake Washington. From north to south, they are: Montlake, Madison Park, Madison Valley, Madrona, and Leschi. Continuing south past Interstate 90 (partially hidden in a tunnel) leads into South Seattle's Beacon Hill and Mt. Baker neighborhoods.


Capitol Hill is the most densely populated neighborhood in the city. Historically, the hill was where you would find the homes of the merchants who made their wealth from Seattle's early growth, living in grand houses that overlooked the working-class homes of the valleys below. In the 1960s, much of the neighborhood was up-zoned for apartments built to house the influx of visitors expected for the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, and many of these mid-century modern apartment buildings survive to this day.

Through the 1970s, 80s, and 90s the hill became more bohemian and the center of the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, sprucing up the old mansions and creating a vibrant arts and music scene. Capitol Hill has also has been the center of Seattle's counterculture community for decades, serving as one of the birthplaces of the country's grunge movement in the 1980s and 90s, with Kurt Cobain and other famous grunge musicians frequenting Capitol Hill establishments. Today, Capitol Hill is still the center of Seattle's independent music community.

Given its proximity to the downtown offices of many major tech companies, Capitol Hill has become a playground for tech industry people with numerous restaurants, bars and music venues. Famous residents include Ben Haggerty (better known as the pop music artist Mackelmore), Jerrick Hoffer (better known as comedy drag queen Jinkx Monsoon), Ben Delacreme (better known as Benjamin Putnam) and Dan Savage, an American gay and alternative sex advice columnist who well-represents Capitol Hill's population of hipsters and homosexuals.

Popular retail districts within Capitol Hill include Broadway, the Pike/Pine corridor, and 15th Avenue E. There are a variety of restaurants, bars, music venues, clubs, boutiques, and other shops here, while the surrounding blocks are filled with condominium and apartment buildings and cafes. There are many grand old homes in "mansionland" to the north, near Volunteer Park. Capitol Hill residents are generally some of the most politically progressive in the country, exemplified by the fact that many of the 1999 WTO protests spilled from Downtown into Capitol Hill, which has had an impact on the mindset of the community.

Get in

From Downtown, it's a pleasant walk up the hill on a nice day (the Broadway area is roughly a mile from the retail core). By bus, King County Metro serves the area with numerous routes, most of which run frequently; good options from Downtown include Routes 10 (Pine St/15th Ave E, and the most convenient option to Volunteer Park and the Asian Art Museum), 11 (Pine St/E Madison St), 43 (John St/24th Ave E), and 49 (Pine St/Broadway), all of which can be boarded along Pike Street in Downtown. First Hill is served by the 2 and the 12, with the 2 continuing along Union Street out to Madrona, while the 12 turns north on 19th Avenue into Capitol Hill.

The Link light rail stops at an underground station at Broadway/Denny Way on its way between Downtown and the University of Washington. The First Hill Streetcar line runs along Broadway through Capitol Hill and First Hill, connecting the two neighborhoods to Pioneer Square and the International District.



Seattle Asian Art Museum


Statue of William Seward in front of the botanical conservatory at Volunteer Park
  •   Water Tower, at Prospect St. park entrance. 10AM-sunset. The 1906 tower at the highest point of Capitol Hill has an observation deck at the top, with views from the Cascades to the Olympics interspersed with a series of panels explaining the history of Seattle's Olmsted-designed park system. The views are somewhat obstructed by metal grates, but the clever photographer can work around them. No elevator - the only way up is the staircase wound around the water tank, seven stories high. Free.
  •   Seattle Japanese Garden, 1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E (southwest area of the Arboretum),  +1 206 684-4725. Hours vary seasonally: generally Tu-Su 10AM until sunset. Extended hours from May to September, closed December to February; check the link above for more detailed information. A small, formal Japanese garden within the grounds of the Arboretum, recently renovated. $6 adults, $4 children over 5 years and seniors.


Statue of Jimi Hendrix


The northern portion of the Arboretum includes several small islands, and on one of Seattle's characteristically lovely summer days, exploration by water is enjoyable. Watercraft rentals are available from two locations in the University District just across the Ship Canal.




There's lots of good Ethiopian food in the Central District. Capitol Hill holds an outrageous number of Thai restaurants; occasionally one goes out of business and like a head of the Hydra, is immediately replaced by another one or more.


Dick's on Broadway





If Seattle takes its coffee seriously, then Capitol Hill takes it very seriously. This is a good neighborhood to spend some quality time in one of Seattle's numerous coffee shops.

Bauhaus Coffee

Bars and taverns





Stay safe

Though crime in the neighborhood has declined in recent years, the Central District has one of the highest crime rates in Seattle. However, the neighborhood is fairly safe at daytime. Walking in the District at night is not advised.


Wireless Internet is available at nearly every coffee shop, though some disable it during peak hours on weekends to keep the crowds moving.

All branches of the Seattle Public Library have open wireless, using the SSID spl-public. Public computers with Internet access and basic office software are available for up to an hour at a time, but require either a SPL library card or a temporary pass available from the circulation desk. All services are free.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Tuesday, March 22, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.