Pike Place Perfection

Seattle’s Pike Place Market celebrated its 100th Anniversary this August. While it takes a lifetime to explore all nine acres of this Pacific Northwest attraction, one of our Seattle staffers shares her list of must-sees (and must-eats) for the traveler who’s only got an hour or two:

Pike Place Fish (pictured): Look for a big crowd and follow the sound of rowdy fishmongers to get to the market’s most popular attraction. Since 1986, with the help of a now-famous business philosophy, these guys have set the standard for fish market operation. Order fresh Dungeness crab or wild coho salmon, and watch the fishmongers do what they do best—just be sure to watch out for low-flying fish. Can’t eat a 20-pound salmon fillet before you leave Seattle? No problem. The boys will put it on ice and ship it anywhere in the world.

Pigs on Parade: Make sure to visit Rachel (she’s a neighbor to the fishmongers), the market’s bronze piggy bank and Seattle’s original pig on parade. In 2001, the Market Foundation auctioned off 170 Pigs on Parade (each decorated by local artists) to raise money for the market’s social services. This year, in celebration of the market’s 100th anniversary and in the Chinese year of the pig, 100 more pigs can be seen all around Seattle.

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The Gum Wall: There is nothing more authentic (or disgusting) in Pike Place than the Post Alley Gum Wall, located by the ticket window to the Market Theater in Lower Post Alley. Legend has it, customers would use the gum to stick coins on the wall while they waited in line for a show. Eventually the coins were taken, leaving only the colorful, Bubblicious remains. Market managers have tried to clean it up, but ultimately realized the wall was an attraction, so efforts didn’t stick. Today, people come from all over to add their favorite flavors to a piece of market history.

The Athenian Inn: Stop for lunch at the Athenian Inn, located midway down the market. Sit where Tom Hanks sat while he filmed the “tiramisu scene” for Sleepless in Seattle, or sit at a window and watch the ferries go back and forth on Puget Sound. Try their crab salad sandwich or oyster omelet.

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More treats: Located across the street from the main market fare, be sure to check out another host of shops that many tourists neglect. Pike Place Market has been home to the world’s first Starbucks since 1971, and has been keeping Seattleites well-caffeinated ever since. Stop in for a latte but forget the sweets. Down the street from Starbucks are tons of bakery counters selling local and international specialties. Check out the Mee Sum Pastry counter for pot stickers and humbows, or Piroshky Piroshky for smoked salmon pate or a cream cheese and berry vatrushka.