9 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Seattle

Feb 10, 2018

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Seattle’s rainy reputation belies its spectacular beauty. The city is flanked by water and mountains on both sides, and the moderate climate keeps the area green year-round. All of that provides a striking backdrop for this recurrent boomtown and rising tech hub, which is one of North America’s fastest-growing cities. From tourist highlights to tucked away treasures, here are nine spots you should visit to flex your photographer muscles while you’re in town.

1. Space Needle

This popular landmark is more than just a quirky World’s Fair relic; it’s also a great spot to start your adventure in Jet City. The Space Needle stands at one corner of the Seattle Center alongside other major attractions such as the Chihuly Garden and Museum of Pop Culture, while the surrounding grounds host an assortment of concerts, festivals and free events. Of course, climbing the Needle itself is a great way to take in your surroundings, as the 520-foot-high observation deck offers 360-degree views of the city and beyond. Scan your ticket for a selfie shot by one of the automated cameras, or bring your own and snap away.

2. Pike Place Market

Tucked into a steep hillside where downtown meets Puget Sound, the 110-year-old market is Seattle’s most popular destination, and it offers a cavalcade of shareworthy spectacles. Pike Place is renowned for fish tossing and being home to the original Starbucks, but the whole area (including the lower levels) is worth exploring. Hundreds of shops and stalls sell everything from chocolate pasta and foraged mushrooms to needlecraft and handmade guitars. Tourists abound, but plenty of locals frequent the market as well, and it remains a thoroughly Northwestern experience. The famous neon sign and nearby gum wall are popular photo spots, but poke around and you’ll find plenty more.

3. Tropical Butterfly House

This fixture of the Pacific Science Center is home to over 100 butterfly species and an equally colorful botanical display. Kept at a balmy 80 degrees with humidity around 80%, a trip to the butterfly house feels like a mini tropical vacation, and is especially pleasant during Seattle’s rainy winter. The butterflies are free to move around the 4000-square-foot space, and are known to sometimes land on visitors, providing plenty of photo opportunities. Stay as long as you like, and bring your macro lens if you have one.

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4. Olympic Sculpture Park

The Seattle Art Museum curates this free outdoor gallery, which is home to about 20 monumental artworks. There’s plenty to photograph here: the main path zig-zags down to the shoreline, and if the sculptures don’t impress you, the scenery of Elliott Bay and the Olympic Mountains will. Chairs and benches throughout the park offer perfect spots to enjoy the view and watch the sun set.

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5. Fremont Troll

The troll was built in 1990 by a quartet of local artists, and has since become a Seattle icon. Lodged under the north end of the Aurora Bridge, the 18-foot-tall statue is a short ride from downtown, and within easy walking distance of restaurants and shops in the bohemian Fremont neighborhood. While trolls are notoriously grumpy, this one doesn’t mind being climbed on, so feel free to scale his shoulders or wriggle under his right hand to strike a pose.

6. Gasworks Park

Formerly the site of a coal gasification plant, Gasworks is now one of the city’s prized gathering and recreation spaces. The park occupies 19 acres on a small peninsula that juts into Lake Union, providing a fantastic panorama of downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. Much of the plant’s equipment remains, giving the park a funky industrial tinge and some easy photographic contrast. Check out the old pump house for a close-up look at the mechanical foundation, and climb the kite hill to see the intricately sculpted sundial at the top. 

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7. Pioneer Square

Seattle’s original neighborhood sits at the south end of downtown, where a blend of late-19th-century architecture and modern art sets the tone for the city’s most vivid nightlife. The area offers a jumble of antique shops and museums that will appeal to historically-minded visitors, plus a heavy concentration of galleries for the avant-garde. I also recommend a trip to Smith Tower — the tallest building west of the Mississippi when it opened in 1914 — which hosts a speakeasy-themed bar on its observatory deck.

8. Kubota Garden

Well off the beaten path, this hidden gem features 20 stunning acres of Japanese landscaping using plants native to the Pacific Northwest. A network of paths leads you through brief sections of forest interspersed with well-manicured lawns, waterways and footbridges. The park is free to the public and generally less crowded than the much smaller Seattle Japanese Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum. You’ll see vibrant colors year-round, but the Instagram potential is highest in spring and fall.

9. Queen Anne

This lofty neighborhood northwest of downtown boasts Seattle’s highest point, with picturesque views of the city and the region’s many peaks. Check out Kerry Park on a clear day for the quintessential shot of the Space Needle and Mount Rainier. Queen Anne is also dotted with beautiful old mansions that are great for house peeping (and snapping a few discreet photos).

Featured image of Gas Works Park towers in Seattle, WA. (Photo by gregobagel/Getty Images).

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