Seattle’s Pike Place Market: Totally Worth the Trip

People walk the streets of downtown Seattle in conservative blacks and browns, almost blending in with the surrounding buildings. The sky hangs heavy and grey. “It’s not a colorful city, is it?” I whispered to my husband.

Not long into our Seattle stay, I realized that some of the lack of color – in this part of the city, anyway – was due to a serious lack of signage. McDonald’s and Starbucks huddled behind dark glass windows, their trademark logos barely visible in muted earth tones. No flashing neon here.

Several blocks away, I found the missing colors. At Pike Place Market, the oldest farmers market in America, it’s as if someone tipped the city and diverted all of the color here. Berries, eggplant, tomatoes, and cut flowers light up the cobbled roads with their rainbow hues. Hanging baskets spill pink blossoms overhead. Lavender soaps, deep red salmon, and yes, even the neon in the Pike Place Market sign add their flair to the riot of color.

The scent of baked goods wafts on the ocean breeze as a rabbit warren of alleyways and underground levels reveal apothecary and spice shops, ethnic markets, and the Giant Shoe Museum (which might also qualify as the smallest museum ever).

At the Pike Place Fish Co, customers choose their dinner and get a show as the fishmongers toss the fresh catch across the shop for wrapping. You’re guaranteed fresh fish, but you never know what kind of call and response the improvising salespeople will come up with.

“Four shrimp cocktaaails….on the Visa!”

“Four shrimp cocktaaails….on the Visa!”

And the fishmongers aren’t the only entertainment. Buskers set up throughout the market on an hourly schedule bringing a  jivey vibe to the streets with musicians (yes, that IS a piano on the street corner), magicians, and a wacky guy with a guitar, harmonica, and hula hoop. Gospel? Got ’em. Accordion? Yep.

The market isn’t a hidden gem; it’s one of Seattle’s most recognized attractions and it’s teeming with both locals and tourists popping in and out of ethnic markets, picking up cheese, sampling hazelnuts, and ordering pancetta. Truly, there is something for everyone, even if it’s just a stop at a sidewalk cafe for an espresso and a little people watching.