Should Pike Place Market be under the "Local Customs" section, or "Things to Do" or "Tourist Trap" or a "Shopping Tip"? In reality, it is all of the above.
It has continuously operated as the Pike Place Market since 1907, yet parts of the market spirit date back all the way to trading between Native American tribes conducted through the region. Even in its more modern form, however, Pike Place Market is considered by some to be the oldest "farmer's market" in the USA.
There is some liberty in calling it a "farmer's market" since it is right on the waterfront, and naturally has included fish as long as anyone can remember. Today, of course, it also includes all of the tourist trap memorabilia you would expect, and more. Plus, cheaply made foreign junk from everywhere that looks like good stuff at first glance.
Local and worldwide handcrafts are also available, and while the main market is located between Pike and Virginia streets the entire district around the market, including the city sidewalks and park to the north of the official market, plus various stores near the market, are part of the location and what make the market a special location.
The market has been undergoing a long term renovation, and construction will change a number of things about the location of vendors and pedestrian traffic routing for some time to come.
Coming early (about 9 in the morning on a weekday, for example) you can watch the various vendors set up their space, converse with them easier than when they are very busy later in the day, and get a feel for the market before it gets really crowded.
The market is located on a steep hillside that goes all the way down to waterfront level. Be sure to explore the various levels of the market, and if the weather is clear you should go out onto one of the balconies that overlook Puget Sound, with the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
Also be sure to go outside the market and northward a little bit, as the open space on the north side of the market also fills up with vendors selling all manner of crafts as well.
Parking near the market can be quite difficult at peak tourist season. Your best bet is to park on the Alaskan Way side of things, as there are several parking areas under the Alaskan Way Viaduct. However, even those will be overcrowded at times. Public transit is available on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, and Alaskan Way provides easy access from Free Bus Route 99. Elevators and stairs are scattered all over inside the market.
Here are the Several Photos of the Market:
Photo 1: Public Market sign located above building.
Photo 2: Interior of Market at 9 am While there are some vendors already set up, many of them are in the process of setting up their boothes. The good news is that this is a less crowded time to come to the market, and you will find many of the vendors willing to talk. The bad news is that if you come this early, you may find some of the interesting vendors are not here yet.
Photo 3: Just outside Pike Place Market, you can see how busy it is, and how hard it is to find a place to park, but it is still very early in the morning. This place will have huge crowds and vehicles all over the place when the market is busy.
Photo 4: Outdoor vendors set up on the north side of the market, especially in a small park area just north of the market.
Photo 5: The Original Starbucks is still here at Pike Place Market, and outside the store you will find bands playing to crowds in the street.
From my August of 2010 Photos of Seattle you will find
Photo 4 on that Travelogue has a photo of the famous Pike Place Market sign and the market is decorated for the spring and summer by a number of flowers all over the market.
Photo 5 on my August of 2010 Photos of Seattle is of the New Light Fixtures being installed at Pike Place Market which are a testament to the city's creative streak.
Photo 6 on my August of 2010 Photos of Seattle the balconies along one edge of the market which overlook Elliott Bay, Puget Sound, and the Olympic Mountains. If it is a clear day and thus a worthwhile view is available, be sure to get high enough up in the market that you aren't looking directly at the side of the Alaskan Way highway viaduct.
The Market is also the home of Seattle's Most Disgusting Tourist Attraction: the Gum Wall.
What to buy: Local Crafts
Locally Grown Food
Crafts from All Over the World
All Manner of Crazy Things
What to pay: Depends Entirely on What You Want, but if it is too cheap it is likely not worth buying it, and if it seems overpriced most likely it really is overpriced.
If you visit the city of Seattle, and you plan to travel in the downtown area, I highly recommend taking advantage of the city's FREE Zone public transportation. There are approximately 20 different public buses that drop off within 1 block of the market. (No parking required!) At the top floor/ main portion of the market, you are welcomed by rows and rows of Fresh Produce and Beautiful Floral bouquets that offer some of the lowest prices around. In the five years I have been visiting the market, I've never had one panhandler approach me-- On the exterior of the market, You will see street musicians and sidewalk performers set up working, but while they welcome donations, they never ask for them
What to buy: Keep in mind the market has been in the heart of the city for more than 100yrs, its not meant to be a shiny Mall of America. Go there and enjoy some of the terrific bakery choices, fresh fish and gorgeous flowers, visit the Rummage Hall, take in the view of the waterfront in the North End park. Don't forget to check out the PikePlaceMarket.org website as well-- if you have any doubts about visiting, its packed with more information about ALL of the market offerings--
If you were expecting a more modern market, and don't like the age or character, there is a shiny new 3 level TARGET within 1 walking block distance of the Pike Place Market, located at 2nd and Pike
What to pay: produce $1+, flowers $5+, pastry, $2.50+, fish assorted pricing depending on type/catch of the day and if you plan to ship. Restaurants $10+
At Pike's Market, you should stock up on lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. They have everything from regular stuff to the obscure. It's so colorful! Try their samples as you walk down the market. You can probably fill up just doing that!
What to buy: I liked the strawberries and plums the best.
What to pay: It's slightly more overpriced compared to the supermarket but perhaps it's more fresh.
I'm giving these guys a special mention as they're one of those great success stories. Pike Place Fish Market is famous for its "flying fish" - one employee tossing large fish to another, with great fanfare, when orders are placed. And that's all many tourists know about them - they love to come and take pictures. In reality, Pike Place's #1 attraction is famous because its enterprising owner and creative, energetic employees BELIEVED it into being so. I won't give away the story as it's far more fun to read about it on their website but trust me, the philosophy of this Little Business That Could has been covered in countless lectures, articles and books in the business world.
The market has beautiful, icy displays of fresh catch, that can be shipped via UPS anywhere in the country, as well as canned smoked salmon, spices and sauces. Their smoked salmon is really good, and a few cans are easy to tuck into a (checked!) suitcase for the trip home.
Open Monday - Saturday 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday 7:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.
I don't know which is tougher: snapping the shutter at exactly the right mid-toss moment, or getting close enough to do it.
What to buy: The variety package of 4 different types of canned smoked salmon: king, sockeye, coho, and pink salmon. The cans are tuna-can sized and the package runs around $28. A t-shirt will set you back a bit less at $15.
Note: don't pack the cans in your carryon!! Tuck them into your checked luggage or have them shipped home.
What to pay: I hate this question. More than $15. Best I can do.
Open 10 to 6 Monday through Saturday, and located just south of Pike Street, and therefore very convenient to the Pike Place Market.
What to buy: The name of the place pretty much says it all: Northwest Tribal Art.
Expect all sorts of northwest Native American items in this little store just two doors down from Pike Place Market.
This is one of the places you can legally buy ivory (sea lion ivory artwork created in Alaska, not African elephant ivory).
For over 100 years, this goofy store on the Seattle waterfront has been bringing bizarre things from all over the world to Seattle.
The number of Alaskan Native carvings and other such items appear to be what got the place going.
There are some nods to modern tourist traffic, as a significant amount of what you will find here is Seattle memorabilia rather than world wide crafts. This includes just about anything you can name with the Space Needle on it. There are a number of posters, post cards and other trinkets of Seattle.
A number of eccentric sports stores will sell you a deer or other animal head to mount on the wall above your fire place. This is the first store I ever encountered that also sells....well....the other end of the animal, if you get what I mean (see photo 3).
Some of the Alaska carvings may be of interest here as well.
The store hours vary with the season, but during peak tourist season the store is open 9 am to 9 pm every day.
What to buy: It is a convenient location to purchase Seattle memorabilia, if you happen to be visiting the waterfront.
What to pay: I understand that some of the Seattle memorabilia is somewhat cheaper elsewhere, but you do pay for convenience, and this is a store right in the center of downtown and the tourist area. If you have time to shop around, check Pike Place Market stands as well as the memorabilia store at Seattle Center (not the Space Needle, but the lesser known store deeper into the middle of the Seattle Center - The Curiosity Shop is better priced than there for some items).
Sure, Pike Place Market is a tourist attraction and some might even say trap but it is a working market that people, even locals, shop at. In fact, they have been doing it since 1907 and there are still some deals to be had here especially in the produce department. It's also a fun place to shop so while there taking in the sights, do a little shopping as well.
What to buy: Though the seafood stalls get most of the attention, the fruit stands are more practical for grabbing a healthy snack you can eat while strolling. Rainer cherries are great value and grown just up the road, towards....you guessed it, Mount Rainier.
What to pay: We paid $4 a pound for some excellent quality Rainier cherries, probably the only place to get them cheaper would be a farm stand where they are grown. They're a lot cheaper than a supermarket in our hometown!
Seattle's biggest and best market selling a variety of goods mainly food and most of all fresh fish and seafood,if you dont like the smell of fish this market isnt for you,most of the big hotels in seattle use the market on a daily basis.It has a world wide reputation of having the best choice of fish in North America.
What to buy: A large variety of fish and seafood available but other goods such as fresh fruit and veg,food stuffs and even clothes stalls are here.
What to pay: Depends on what you buy.
Yes, Pike's Place is a tourist trap. And yes, it's crowded beyond belief. But it's always a visual treat, a good place to people watch and can be a lot of fun. If you're staying with locals and have a kitchen at your disposal, pick up some fresh fish, produce and flowers and cook them a feast to thank them! All of the fish mongers also pack and ship the fresh fish across the country and will deliver to your hotel or even the airport for a fee. Local artisans peddle their wares to the tourists and many farmers in the area also have stalls here. Also check out the specialty markets for prepared foods, spices and other culinary specialties.
What to buy: Flowers, local art, fresh fish, produce, etc.
Pikes Place market is the second oldest operational farmers market in the country. Pikes place was established in 1907 and it offers a unique collection of vendors, and fresh fruits and vegetables from the local Seattle area seven days a week to sell their goods. The market is famously located on the pier and has been home to many Hollywood films. Don't miss the fresh fish market where you can always catch a good deal.
What to buy: Fresh fish
What to pay: Average prices for fish, vegetables and other misc items.
The hippest tea and crumpet shop I've seen. Nice place to relax while touring the pike market area. Lots of spreads available for a warm crumpet like butter, maple butter, marmalade and nutella. Great variety of teas as well.
What to pay: You can have a nice snack for under $5 or $10.
The epitomy of a Seattle visit. We visited almost everyday because we were intrigued with the unusual shops, food and people. Everything from a French cafe, to a shop selling dragon's blood, fresh fish, tulips of every kind imaginable, street entertainers, jewelry, clothing and so much more.
Pike's Market is a "mall" of food broakers and artisians. To some extent it is sensory overload, but some of the artist do stand out from the crowd (depending on your taste in art).
One such person that caught our eye was a man that created pens using wood with intricant styles for the "barrel."
What to buy: Er...duh...Pens/Pencils....but one of a kind.
What to pay: $30-100+ depending on the rareness and availability of the wood.
Pike Place Markets is not only a great place to buy all of your fresh goods, but there are also many art and craft type stores if you wander thru the different levels of the building. You will also see here many different types of people trying to earn a few bucks doing various things from juggling, to playing the guitar, to impersonations etc.
What to buy: I think the best buy here would have to be fresh flowers. They had massive bunches starting at $5 thru to about $15. The arrangements were truelly gorgeous.
What to pay: I think prices were pretty average, with exception to the flowers.
A very busy and colorful farmers market that's been operating since 1907. They specialize in fresh seafood, produce, flowers & crafts. There are also restaurants, shops and street musicians. Not to be missed when visiting Seattle.