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Best Neighborhoods in Seattle
Moving to a new city is always challenging. And a large part of that challenge is looking for a place to live, and it can be quite overwhelming.
That’s why we’ve done the research for you, so you don’t have to. In this blog, you’ll find a list of the best neighborhoods to live in, in Seattle.
This list is a more in-depth neighborhood guide meant to examine what it’s like living in each of these highlighted areas (oh, and by way of introduction, we’re Bellhop—Seattle movers and movers throughout the country).
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A Little About Seattle’s Neighborhoods
Former Seattle mayor Greg Nickels has called Seattle “a city of neighborhoods.” When the city was established during the mid to late 1800s, early European settlers were pretty haphazard when creating settlements for themselves, which were widely scattered around the area. These settlements grew larger as they became more populated, growing into conurbations, or regions that are made up of neighborhoods, towns, and cities that, as a product of population growth, have merged into one continuous, urban area.
In Seattle’s case, these areas formed organically around trolley stops in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with not much forethought into city planning. And because of this, no official neighborhood boundaries have been marked since 1910, causing street-naming and transportation problems in the city ever since. District and neighborhood boundaries may overlap and multiple names are sometimes given to a single district. It all sounds very confusing. Seattleites call these “informal districts.”
If you’re moving to Seattle and you don’t care where in the city you move, you just want the best neighborhood possible—this guide is for you.
Located just north of downtown in the center of the city, Fremont’s got a bohemian vibe with indie shops, hip bars and quirky outdoor sculptures, including the famous gigantic Fremont Troll lurking under the Aurora Bridge and the towering Fremont Rocket. Arty residents and tech workers often hang out in the area’s eclectic eateries. The Fremont Sunday Market has art, antiques, and food trucks. Cyclists and walkers can explore the canalside Burke-Gilman Trail. Companies like Adobe Systems, Google and Getty Images are also based in this neighborhood.
Fremont dates back to 1891, when nearly 5,000 early pioneers gathered there to live, with a sawmill and a relatively simple commute to downtown. By the 1940s, rail and trolley service ended to the area, sending the neighborhood into decline. In the 1960s, artists and students looking for cheap places to live moved into Fremont, turning it into the eclectic and funky area it is today.
What’s Happening in Fremont
Fremont always has something going on, as you can tell by the area’s website, with events and attractions for all ages and lifestyles. From the Summer Solstice Parade to Oktoberfest, to outdoor movies and its First Friday Artwalk. There’s also the Fremont Sunday Street Market, and you can tour a chocolate factory, distillery, and brewery, all in the same area. Grab a sandwich at Paseos, eat a freshly made pie at Pie or sit down for a killer margarita at El Camino.
Schools in the area include B.F. Day Elementary School, Nurturing Knowledge School and Pacific Crest School, among others.
Homes in Fremont
You can find single-family homes, condos, and townhomes there. Average home prices are around $828,000 and average rent goes for around $2,300.
Transportation in Fremont
Need to get around in Fremont? Don’t worry! There are tons of options for you, with the most popular being riding a bike, walking, and taking public transportation, including a bus or taxi.
Belltown is filled with trendy shops, bars and eateries. Indie boutiques, galleries, and cafes line busy 1st and 2nd avenues and the area’s many nightclubs and live-music spots include the Crocodile, an iconic rock venue since 1991. Z-shaped Olympic Sculpture Park, with its trails and outdoor art, has expansive Puget Sound views and beach access. And, no worries, this neighborhood is very walkable.
History of Belltown
Just north of downtown, Belltown was filled with very steep hills. After years of debate, developers decided to remove the hills there, known as the Denny Regrade. It took about 30 years and by the mid-1900s, the area was much more manageable for business development.
But growth didn’t happen as quickly as planned, with car dealerships and warehouses lining the area rather than the skyscrapers and hotels city leaders were hoping for. But in the 1970s, the area was rezoned for high-rise residencies and plenty of space for businesses. Then, young professionals began moving in, making their homes and starting businesses in the area, with a unique culture that’s evident there today.
What’s Happening in Belltown
There’s the Cinerama movie theater, the Dahlia Lounge, List, and Bathtub Gin & Co., a delightful speakeasy tucked in an alley. For a little fresh air, scope out the Olympic Sculpture Park to enjoy the many art installations by local artists. There are also plenty of art galleries, clothing stores, home furnishing shops, salons and tons of other places to eat and drink.
Schools in Belltown
Schools in the Belltown area are the Spruce Street School, the School of Visual Concepts and Emerald City School, among others.
Homes in Belltown
High-rise condos and apartments are predominantly what you’ll find in Belltown. Average home prices are around $509,000 and average rent goes for around $2,400.
Schools in Belltown
There’s no shortage of ways to travel to Belltown, with the easiest ways including public transit (buses), taxis, and rideshare services.
3. Downtown Seattle
More than just the high rises that dot it, downtown Seattle has a rich history and plenty of diverse culture. It’s the central business district of the city and is fairly compact compared to other downtown areas on the West Coast. Several neighborhoods make up this area including Belltown, Denny Triangle, Pioneer Square, Little Saigon, among others.
The original downtown looked much different than it does today, with wooden buildings, a sawmill and many more steeper hills. Then in 1889, the Seattle fire happened, burning down most of downtown to the ground. Also, the Denny Regrade, which we mentioned earlier. As skyscrapers and roadways such as I-5 were built, along with the Alaskan Way Viaduct, downtown was rebuilt as people know it today. Some historical artifacts have been preserved, though, such as Smith Tower. And underground, you can take tours to see structures that were just covered up and built on top of after the fire.
Downtown Seattle is so vibrant and full of life it’s hard to list everything that’s going on. There’s the Seattle Art Museum or the Symphony at Benaroya Hall. There are theaters and performance halls for every type of entertainment—the Paramount, 5th Avenue Theater, and the Showbox, just to name a few.
You like shopping? Westlake Center and Pacific Place have a mix of high-end and regular retailers, not to mention all of the one-of-a-kind boutiques that line any given street in the area. Check out the piers on the waterfront also.
Schools of Downtown Seattle
Summit Sierra Charter High School, Minor Avenue Children’s House Montessori school, and The Center School are among the schools in the area.
Homes in Downtown Seattle
High-rise condos and apartments are predominantly what you’ll find in this area. Average home prices are around $775,000 and average rent goes for around $2,220.
Transportation in Downtown Seattle
Downtown Seattle is one of the easiest places to commute to in the city, with everything from airport shuttles, and taxis to bus lines and more.
4. Pioneer Square
Art galleries, coffee shops, and trendy bars fill Pioneer Square’s late-1800s Romanesque Revival buildings. Seattle’s first unofficial neighborhood, tourists explore subterranean streets in Pioneer Square on the guided Underground Tour and learn about the city’s roots at The Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park. Office workers unwind in secluded Waterfall Garden Park or grab lunch from food trucks at Occidental Square, a plaza with bistro tables and bocce courts.
History of Pioneer Square
A history dating back to the very first settlers in Seattle, the Pioneer Square area grew very quickly after Henry Yesler erected the first steam-powered lumber mill on the pier there. But when the downtown area burned to the ground, Pioneer Square was where the rebuilding started. Many historical structures still stand today and are protected by the city’s historic preservation movement.
What’s Happening in Pioneer Square
On the first Thursday of every month, Pioneer Square holds a giant art walk, which has been going on for more than 30 years. Try Tat’s Delicatessen for their famous east-coast style cheesesteak sandwich. Late at night, try out Central Saloon. Established in 1892, this is Seattle’s oldest bar by a long shot.
Schools in Pioneer Square
Bailey Gatzert Elementary School and Puget Sound Community High School are nearby.
Homes in Pioneer Square
Pioneer Square is a relative newcomer when it comes to being a residential neighborhood, but condos and apartments have been quickly popping up in the area, selling on average at around $775,000, and average rent goes for around $2,400.
Affluent Magnolia is a residential neighborhood on a peninsula jutting into Puget Sound. Families explore the beaches and forested trails of vast Discovery Park, home to West Point Lighthouse and indigenous art at the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center. Smaller Magnolia Park has expansive water views. Locals mingle in the Village, a cluster of upscale shops and cafes, and site of a summer farmers’ market.
History of Magnolia
Magnolia was a major trading post, where people brought goods in from the Pacific. Once roads were built and folks started to settle there, the military built Fort Lawton on the northwest section of the peninsula. After the Vietnam War, most of the land was sold to the city, and Discovery Park was created, the biggest park in Seattle. And now, it’s a wonderful neighborhood with a secluded feel to it.
What’s Happening in Magnolia
The area around McGraw Street and 34th Avenue W has a walk score of 73 and is a thriving area of activity. There’s a farmer’s market, the annual SummerFest, a free nature walk at Discovery Park, and Fisherman’s Terminal, located on Salmon Bay near the 15th Street Bridge. There are also cafes, salons, boutiques, and bakeries. And the community pool and the library are great places to take kids.
Schools in Magnolia
A variety of schools are in this area including Catharine Blaine K-8, Our Lady of Fatima Parish School and Lawton Elementary School.
Homes in Magnolia
Mostly made up on single-family homes, average home prices are around $970,000 and average rent goes for around $3,000.
Transportation in Magnolia
Commuting to and from Magnolia is a piece of cake, with taxis, bus lines, light rail, and a ferry at your service.
Who can help but love a city right on the water? That’s what you get when you move to Ballard, a cultural destination that is popular for its delicious food, impressive scenery, and close proximity to downtown Seattle (seriously–it’s less than 7 miles). Living there, you get the luxury of walkable neighborhoods, all your basic amenities, and a long list of popular restaurants to choose from, including Cafe Munir, Sunny Hill, and Delancey.
History of Ballard
Ballard came to be in the 1850s and was referred to as “the shingle capital of the world” early on. The town grew faster once the Great Northern Railroad started taking trains through Seattle. Many Scandinavians came to the area, particularly as a result of the many jobs on the water, such as fishing. Through the years, the town grew and grew, and it’s now one of the top places to move to in Seattle, not to mention one of the most beautiful and cultural, being that it truly celebrates its Scandinavian roots (and, in fact, has both a museum to show for it–the Nordic Heritage Museum–and an annual parade–Syttende Mai–every May 17th).
What’s Happening in Ballard
There’s always something going on in Ballard, from the Ballard ArtWalk and the Ballard Farmers Market to the annual Ballard Hullabaloo, where local boutiques and stores get together to help you save on popular items. When there are discounts, entertainment, and drinks involved, you really can’t go wrong! Night-life wise, you have bars and lounges like Shingletown Saloon, Olaf’s, Waterwheel Lounge, and Hazelwood, among others.
Schools in Ballard
Local schools include Adams Elementary, Whitman Middle School, and Ballard High School. Fun fact: Ballard High School scores a 100% in “college and career readiness,” with an impressive 92% graduation rate and test scores that far surpass Washington’s average.
Homes in Ballard
Ballard has beautiful single-family homes that are great for growing families and especially helpful for those who have to commute for work due to being only a couple of minutes from Downtown Seattle. Popular styles of homes include red brick Tudors, bungalows, and Craftsman homes. The average home price is $840,000. If you prefer to rent, plan for an average of $2,266/month.
Transportation in Ballard
There are several ways to travel to and get around the city of Ballard. For instance, you can take a bus, ferry, or light rail–depending on where you’re coming from.
7. South Lake Union
Want to move to a progressive neighborhood that has everything from high-end restaurants to a thriving tech landscape? South Lake Union might just be for you. It’s the location of Amazon headquarters, which contributes to its esteemed title of “#1 Seattle neighborhood for young professionals.” Of course, don’t let that deter you if you’re well into your career and starting a family. It’s also one of the top places to raise kids and live out of all of the neighborhoods in the city.
History of South Lake Union
As you might expect by the name, there’s a lake in South Lake Union, which was utilized to transport goods back in the day. Once the neighborhood was settled, it was mainly industrial and used for manufacturing. However, as the years went on, the neighborhood rapidly grew and developed, eventually becoming home to Amazon (as we mentioned), Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and other major employers.
What’s Happening in South Lake Union
The list of activities in South Lake Union is never-ending. You can hop on an Ice Cream Cruise, Pirate Cruise, Mimosa Cruise, or–heck–even rent out a boat of your own if you’re in the mood for something fun and out of the ordinary. You can also play a game of mini-golf at the famous Flatstick Pub (not your everyday mini-golf scene as you might expect), go to an escape room, or stop by one of the neighborhood’s many bars and clubs. (The Collective Seattle, Tapster, and the Lodge Sports Grille are musts!)
Schools in South Lake Union
Some of the schools in the area are John Hay Elementary School, McClure Middle School, and Fusion Academy Seattle. One of the best things about living in South Lake Union is the quality of the public schools–if you have kiddos at home.
Homes in South Lake Union
Houses go for an average of $579,712 in South Lake Union, with rent sticking around $2,652/month. Even though those amounts are less than many other neighborhoods we’ve talked about today, we wouldn’t go as far as to call this area “cheap.” It can just be slightly more affordable to buy a single-family home, townhome, or condo there than in other Seattle neighborhoods, which is great news if you’re a rising young professional looking to keep costs low as you move up the ranks in your career (or if you have a growing family and want to make sure you can afford to pay for college in a few years).
Transportation in South Lake Union
You’ve got quite a few options for transportation in South Lake Union, including by the South Lake Union line, Metro Transit, Link light rail, and Monorail.
Other Popular Neighborhoods in Seattle
- Queen Anne
- West Seattle
- Capitol Hill
- Mercer Island
So, Which Neighborhood Are You Picking?
Neighborhoods are about location and lifestyle, to be sure. But more importantly, they are about the people who live in them. These neighborhoods offer a variety of lifestyles to meet most anyone’s needs.
Other Seattle Guides
Hungry for more information? Check out our other guide to life in Seattle:
We hope this guide helps you make the right choice to fit your lifestyle. If you decide to move in or to Seattle, don’t hesitate to reach out. Like we said, we are Bellhop—movers in Seattle and other nearby cities like Portland, Oregon.
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