Seattle/Pioneer Square-International District

Pioneer Square is Seattle's oldest neighborhood, showcasing a wealth of art galleries, bookstores, antique shops, cool restaurants, and buzzing nightclubs within easy walking (or free bus) distance of most Downtown Seattle hotels. The classic red brick buildings, cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages are a reminder of life a century ago. Local lore holds that the term "skid row" originated in Pioneer Square, when timber would be slid down Yesler Way to a steam powered mill on the Seattle waterfront. The area sits, from east to west, between 3rd Ave. and the waterfront; and between Downtown proper to the north, and the sports stadiums to the south.

Just to its east, the International District is the name given to Seattle's Asian neighborhood. It is located southeast of Downtown, loosely bounded by 4th Avenue S. and S. Dearborn Street. While the old Chinatown stops are concentrated around the Interstate 5 freeway, the area to the east is called Little Saigon, centered on 12th and Jackson. From there, going south along Rainier Avenue, the stores transform from Vietnamese to Cambodian, beyond which it slowly merges into South Seattle.

Get in

It is easy to get here from the Downtown hotels – the walk is short, and any bus traveling south from Downtown will get you to within a few blocks of your destination. There are a few pay parking lots, and limited street parking is available too. Often the best parking bet are the metered spaces under the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which are usually overlooked by all but the locals. Occidental Street, which sits between 1st and 2nd Avenues, is closed to cars between Washington and Jackson Streets and forms a pedestrian mall lined with galleries and shops.

Most city buses that go to Downtown Seattle from other parts of the city terminate in or pass through the area. From central Downtown, it's about a five-minute walk due south toward the stadiums. One tourist-focused line is King County Metro's free Route 99 service, which runs along 1st Avenue past the ferry terminal, aquariums, and Pike Place Market downtown. However, service is quite infrequent.

Buses and trains in the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel make stops at Pioneer Square Station at James Street/3rd Avenue (a few blocks north of the main neighborhood) and at International District Station at Jackson Street/5th Avenue. King Street Station, served by Amtrak and Sounder commuter rail, sits directly in the center of the area at 4th and Jackson. The First Hill Streetcar line runs along Jackson Street through the area, connecting the district to First Hill and Capitol Hill.


The Smith Tower


Pioneer Square totem pole




Chinatown gate

True to its name, the International District has a great variety of ethnic cuisines. While tourists and most non-Asian Seattleites stick to the large Chinese restaurants, the smaller places serve mostly locals and offer a quite authentic atmosphere as well as food. Chinese seafood restaurants are a Seattle institution popular with locals, many with live seafood tanks; they're not particularly elegant, but the food is great (if a bit venturesome for some tastes). And while most of Seattle's immigrant Japanese population has long since moved out to the suburbs (as have the upscale sushi bars), a few restaurants still stick it out in the area. Some places, especially the hole-in-the-wall restaurants, only accept cash as payment.



For a cheap eat, try a dim sum lunch. Roving servers bring steam carts of exotic (e.g., chicken feet) but often delicious food, then stamp your meal ticket for each dish. When you're done, take your ticket up to the register and pay. If you aren't a complete master of chopsticks, bring your own fork for the slippery shrimp and rice noodles, because the staff will rarely get around to bringing you one. If you're not getting what you want, or you don't see it, ask the staff - you may have to be a little aggressive.



Bubble tea

Bubble tea arrived in the International District in the late 90s. Places here originally served it in basic plastic cups with dome lids, though now all the bubble tea cafes in the district vacuum seal the tops of each cup with semi-permanent plastic covers.




Stay safe

Pioneer Square and Occidental Park, as with many parts of the downtown area, are best avoided at night, since they get shady when the beggars, the homeless, and possible crime abound. The International District is noticeably safer, especially the area between 4th Avenue S and Interstate 5, but watch out for drunks after midnight.


The City of Seattle provides free wi-fi access in Occidental Park. Use the SSID "seattlewifi".

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.