By Melissa Croce
So you’ve made it to Seattle’s iconic, beloved Pike Place Market. Maybe you don’t have a lot of time to explore; maybe you don’t know where to even begin. The market is deceptively complex; a sprawling labyrinth spilling below ground and across alleyways where around every corner lays a hidden gem. It would take days to fully investigate every nook and cranny, but if you don’t have that kind of time, here’s what to do in Seattle’s Pike Place Market:
Perhaps what Pike Place is most famous for is its “flying” fish market, where you can purchase dinner and get a little show for it, too. An absolute staple of the market, the antics of the famous Pike Place Fish crew continues to delight locals and visitors alike. People swarm the little stand, but it’s worth it to push your way through the crowd and glimpse a peak—just remember to duck; you never know when a fish might be flying through the air next.
The numerous flower, produce, and souvenir stands that line the main arcade of the Market all have a distinctly local flavor; local farmers bring fresh produce to sell, ranging from the mainstream to the hybrid; local artists swarm the area and you can find a wide variety of jewelry, glass work, artwork, and clothing, each with its own Seattle twist—some more subtle than others. Local florists sell tulips, lilies, and carnations in very affordable bundles ranging from $5-$15, with much better quality than grocery stores.
Across from the Main Arcade of the Market is Le Panier Bakery. Created by a group of French bakers in 1983, the bakers were determined to create the most authentic French experience, including using French baking technology and equipment. Everything is made fresh and in the bakery, which is evident by the enchanting aroma of freshly baked goods wafting out their door and into the streets, enticing passersby. Indulge in a loaf of freshly baked baguette, a buttery brioche, or pain au chocolat, for dessert.
Started by Kurt Beecher Dammeier in honor of his grandfather and their mutual love of quality, handmade cheeses, particularly wheels of Stilton, Beecher’s flagship store is both a shop and an experience; visitors can not only purchase wheels of artisan, handcrafted cheese, but can press their noses to glass pane windows that separate the shop from the cheese making kitchen where the art of cheese making is on full display, and they can see how their product was created. Enjoy a sample or two (or three, or four) of the cheeses on display to find your favorite, or try a blend of cheeses in their signature, gooey mac and cheese.
A hidden treasure beneath the Main Arcade in the labyrinth below is Golden Age Collectables. Known as one of America’s oldest comic shops, Golden Age Collectables is for the geek inside of all of us. Whether you’re into comics or pop culture, you’ll be sure to find some sort of memorabilia of all your favorites, whether it be in the form of comics, posters, movie scripts, autographs, 1-sheets, life-size standees, 8×10 photos, or vintage and modern toys. The life-size standees placed outside and around the store are particularly popular with visitors, who often pose with them. Who needs Hollywood when you have Golden Age?
Nestled near the original Starbucks is Piroshky, Piroshky, whose unique name and succulent smells draw customers from blocks away to come taste their handheld pies. Piroshky, Piroshky takes traditional Russian recipes, adds some local ingredients, and this hybrid is pure heaven, with fillings that range from savory, such as chicken, mushroom, and rice or smoked salmon pate, to sweet, such as rhubarb, marzipan, or cream cheese vatrushka, there’s a little something for everyone in this small, but homey bakery.
A mecca for those who love authentic Italian food, DeLaurenti Specialty has everything a foodie could want: artisan breads, chocolates, nine types of prosciutto, every shape of pasta, an extensive selection of wines, 250 types of cheeses, a wall stuffed to the brim with nothing but olive oil, and homemade desserts. Whether you want to take items home to make your own Italian feast, or consume some goodies on the premises courtesy of their deli and café, DeLaurenti caters to satisfying our every want and craving through the form of authentic, high-quality Italian foods.
Best if you’re coming to Pike Place after dark, the Alibi Room is a hidden gem, a seemingly hole in the wall right across from the famous Gum Wall in Post Alley, with a door so discrete that you can easily miss it. A reprieve on Seattle’s rare, hot days, this cool, dimly lit bar is both low-key and subtly swanky, with exposed brick and beams that speak of a dark speakeasy style that’s appealed to in particular to the writers, artists, and musicians of the Northwest. The cozy room houses a small, sleek bar next to a wood fire oven that’s used to craft and bake homemade artisan pizzas to enjoy with your favorite beer or drink. Whether you’re looking for an intimate date spot, or a place for a low-key gathering, the Alibi Room is the place to go.
Officially known as the Market Theater Gum Wall, this local landmark is a testament to Seattle’s artistic history and sheer perseverance. Located across from the box office for the Market Theater, the Gum Wall began in 1993 when patrons of the theater stuck coins to the wall, using gum as the adhesive. Although theater workers tried to remove the gum twice, eventually due to the size and frequency of the gum postings, they eventually gave up and Market officials deemed the wall a tourist attraction six years later. A popular, though unsanitary tradition, many visitors, both local and tourist, make sure to bring a stick of gum with them every time they visit the place, making sure to wander down Post Alley and make their own mark on this quirky historic landmark.
Although there’s two on every block, no Starbucks in Seattle is as beloved as the original Starbucks, still cradled in the same small space it was when it first opened in 1971. Whether you just want a picture beneath its signature, original logo outside, or brave the crowds inside the cramped, cozy café that’s standing room only, Starbucks is an important fixture in Seattle’s past and present.