Every Neighborhood in Seattle in a Nutshell

From Broadview to Belltown to Rainier Beach.

By Stefan Milne, Benjamin Cassidy, Zoe Sayler, and Allison Williams Published in the April/May 2020 issue of Seattle Met

Boundary Issues: Divisions are based on Seattle Met’s in-house neighborhood map.

Broadview / Bitterlake 

Northwest Seattle’s sleepy enclave crescendos between Carkeek Park and Aurora. Highway-adjacent renters enjoy the quick trip to the park. Park-adjacent homeowners enjoy ignoring the highway.


Long defined by America’s first proper mall, which bequeathed Northgate its name, this large neighborhood—split between big-box stores, apartments, and houses—now has a new identity: a place that almost has light rail. 

Lake City 

Blue-collarness is Lake City’s defining trait, its eponymous street a canyon of bars and plumbers and used cars. But elsewhere surprises abound. Very good Ethiopian food at Jebena Cafe. A Waldorf school. Lakeside properties with the big houses you’d expect, but more mud and moss.


It’s lively, but gently—a place of balance. Unseedy dive bars and unpretentious cocktail joints. An $11 burrito the size of a baby and a $125 porterhouse. A vibrant main street with quietude all around. 

Wedgwood / Maple Leaf

They’re frequently lumped in with neighbors, Northgate or View Ridge, but that doesn’t quite fit. Instead, they’re the middle children of the North, flaunting little—a few good pubs and the city’s last for-profit video store—while quaintly keeping the peace. 

Ballard—no longer very industrial, still pretty nice. 


Ballard’s once-industrial spirit is now mostly limited to the concrete floors of its multitude of breweries. Friends insist it’s too far. Good friends happily bike over (if the first round is on you).

Phinney Ridge 

A trolley brought Seattleites here about a century ago, and Phinney retains that feel: Good restaurants adhere to the main drag the way transit remains limited by wire. Livelier neighborhoods nearby are frequented, but never required.

Greenlake: Seattle’s self-care capital. 

Roosevelt / Greenlake 

Fixated on self-care? You’ll fit in. The lake itself contains the city’s most strollable waterside path. Beyond lie yoga studios, flotation therapy, vegan restaurants, so much acupuncture, and the city’s shortest walk (0.6 miles) between a PCC and a Whole Foods. 

University District 

It’s easy to write off as a college haunt. But—like a Walt Whitman line its lit majors brandish—the U District contains multitudes: beautiful wetlands, high-end shopping, ragtag performance venues, an abundance of regionally specific Chinese restaurants.


This is the PhD to the U District’s bachelor’s degree. The same beats, but upgraded. Here, the treasure of a bookstore, Third Place, has a pub below with handsome woodwork, and the homes are more likely single-family than single-frat. 

The Laurelhurst peninsula. 

View Ridge / Sand Point / Laurelhurst 

For residents: lots of knockout brick houses on broad curlicuing streets that offer sudden views of Washington’s waters and jagged horizons. For the rest of us: Magnuson Park.


If Fremont is where Capitol Hill’s feral youth retire, why do so many trek over (pre-retirement) for Add-a-Ball? Here, too, tech money is buffing out quirks. A chorus of naked cyclists, probably: “Over the Lenin statue’s dead body.”


You might come for Gas Works Park, or the residential streets that slope toward Lake Union with the peacefulness of a meditation app. But stay because Wallingford contains a half-mile stretch with a half-dozen rad Japanese restaurants.


The large, sleepy neighborhood is a haven for those who pretend they do not live in a city, even while close to its center. The massive and unmanicured Discovery Park helps. So do the suburbanite streets and shopping center.   


While the tidal flat turned industrial zone endures the startling growth spurts of a teenager, Expedia’s new campus and an old armory site targeted for mixed-use development offer a glimpse of the grown-up neighborhood it’s maturing into.

A Queen Anne–style house in... Queen Anne.

Queen Anne 

Unlikely to ever shake its austere rep with all that stately, yes, Queen Anne architecture, Hilltoppers clutch at the zeitgeist at Canlis parking lot parties and by fawning over Eden Hill Provisions’ remixed Big Mac.

Lower Queen Anne 

For visitors, it’s all spectacle. Space Needle! MoPop! KEXP! Opera! Yet for residents, it’s rather quiet, with a bar scene no wilder than further flung locales. The best part? The hill itself, vaulting some average apartments to skyline views. 


The prime real estate here floats. Houseboats line docks along Lake Union’s eastern shore; seaplanes splash nearby. On land, UW commuters seek serenity within an architectural medley.


BMWs and Audis protrude from tudors’ driveways in this affluent patch that flaunts greenways and parks with water views. The arboretum can sate any urbanite’s conifer cravings.

Madison Park 

Jaw-dropping houses confirm the tony reputation is real. But residents share their shoreline come summer, when pretty much the entire city descends upon Madison Beach. The strip of shops and restaurants beckons all year round.

Public art in SLU provides a fast-casual reprieve. 

Image: Amy Vaughn

South Lake Union / Denny Regrade 

Upheaval persists in an area once leveled to create roads. Amid the tech takeover, coders hardly lose Wi-Fi walking from their luxury mid-rise units to street-level fast-casual joints.

Capitol Hill 

Raucous and youthful, Capitol Hill’s all mimosas and man buns floating across rainbow crosswalks. But avoiding the commotion is possible on residential streets. Just prepare for a serious workout on the namesake incline.


It’s easy to forget this pocket, neither Madison Valley nor the Central District. Residents of these tidy craftsmans (and occasional mansion) may eschew flash, but they do enjoy a central location, Mayberry-friendly retail, and occasional water or skyline views.


Downtown’s chaotic sibling boasts some of Seattle’s best (Elliott Bay vistas, exceptional dive and cocktail bars, storied music venues, ranging architecture) and a bit of its worst (gentrification, crime). 


From designer clothing shops to chain hotels to landmark arts organizations (SAM, symphony), many layers of city life mingle in our nine-to-five skyscraper hub. But fess up: Do you live here or are you just staying in an Airbnb by the Market?  

First Hill 

By day, it hums with patients and medical staff. By night, it’s an ideally located residential neighborhood, where you can buy a two-foot- wide Jersey-style pizza only blocks from smart contemporary art. 

Central District 

You can mourn the CD, with its rich Black history, as a loss to gentrification. But that narrative discounts those working to balance its past and present. Consider, for instance, the Liberty Bank Building, which situates affordable apartments where the West’s first Black-owned bank once stood.


Longtime techies frequent the businesses along the water, while uphill, its blocks sport a mix—of architecture, of socioeconomics—but no central commercial district. Good thing it’s a crossroads for so many other neighborhoods.

Pioneer Square's classic yet relaxed vibes. 

Image: Amy Vaughn

Pioneer Square 

Seattle’s first neighborhood remains a pendulum. Art galleries sit alongside homelessness services. For a game, or concert, or art walk, the streets bustle. Otherwise the vibe fits all those brick facades—classic yet relaxed.

Chinatown–International District

A modest influx of apartments has infused younger residents into this historic neighborhood. Living spaces are compact, but you can’t beat the cultural array, layered with stores and restaurants—or the transit access.


Light rail kicked off the rush to settle the industrial blocks south of downtown. Few live here still, but the retail wave has brought curious combos, from an auto mechanic country club to a new seltzer taproom.

Beacon Hill 

Beacon Hill feels like the city’s diversity poster child, in demographics and sheer variety: An edible garden. A golf course. DIY shows and deep-dish at the Clock-Out Lounge. A recognition of history and a community focus at El Centro De La Raza.

Mount Baker 

In the last decade’s frenzy over the south’s hot neighborhoods, Mount Baker has kept quiet. Sure, it’s seen similar changes. But anybody inviting you for a night out there? Of course not. And that’s just the way its denizens like it. 

A view from West Seattle’s Alki.

West Seattle

West Seattle is our Texas, the behemoth to the south, with its own identity, its own transit (there, pickups; here, water taxi), and many subregions that, while distinct, feel of a piece, all tapped into the mainline of California Avenue. If you live down here, you’ve already partly seceded. 


The area’s big secret sports home prices $100k cheaper, on average, than the rest of West Seattle. But it’s still a quick trip to the beaches and junction, and it contains Puget Park, one of the only places in the city where you can go on a proper hike. 

Columbia City 

You already know about the good transit and food and coffee and bars. But perhaps you don’t realize how vibrant its arts scene is, from Columbia City Theatre to pop-up shows to excellent indie movie houses like the Beacon and Ark Lodge.  

Seward Park 

It shares its name with the stunning park that juts into Lake Washington and is a measure posher than its Rainier Valley neighbors. If you own a boat, or are a peninsula enthusiast (they must exist!), you may belong. 

South Park 

Perhaps because most cross the Duwamish to reach it, South Park maintains the vibe of a faintly rural island (you can find a dirt road here). Rarely does a single business define a neighborhood but—Loretta’s Northwesterner. 

Georgetown: few houses, but lots of fun. 


Not much housing sits between Boeing Field, two freeways, and the industrial district. But Georgetown is so damn fun. The art walks, punk shows, eclectic food, and slew of breweries might make it the finest distillation of the city’s indie spirit. 

Rainier Valley / Rainier Beach 

It’s decently suburban and distant to many. So nonresidents tend to ignore our southernmost neighborhood’s ample charms, like a beautiful waterfront, the lush Japanese Kubota Garden, and a small but varied group of restaurants.


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