Here’s what we mean by “essential”: The Field House in Ballard sells hearty, practical Northwest and American products like Thermoses and Pendleton blankets, and they do so in a way that elevates these objects to a place of sophistica

In thinking of your summer guests and mine, smart travelers from other smart cities who want to know where and how to see Seattle style in action, I thought I’d make a list of 12 must-shop spots in town.

Once I got started, I thought, Okay, well, 15. And then I panicked, feeling I couldn’t do it in less than 25. And “essential” has such an edited, discriminating ring to it, doesn’t it? Twenty-five wouldn’t do. I settled myself with this mapped list of 18 Essential Seattle Shops, and figured we’d do another list later in this season, for that second wave of friends-and-family tourism. Deal? Deal.

For now, you might be wondering what makes a store essential to our city’s landscape.

In some cases—say, Curtis Steiner, Palm Room, Kobo, and Far 4—it’s a sense of you-won’t-find-this-anywhere-else. With, for example, Essenza (where exquisite his-and-her scents mingle with locally and internationally crafted jewelry and the sweetest selection of items for baby), it’s a matter of worldliness; the sense that you and your out-of-towners might find it similar to the little discovery you made in Paris, Barcelona, San Francisco.

And then there are shops like Field House, REI, and Filson, that practically draw a portrait of the nature-loving Northwest spirit; and Elliott Bay Books, Uwajimaya, Sur La Table and Baby & Co, because they’ve been here for a long time, too, and they illustrate a different side of our pioneering spirit.

You and your mother-in-law from Montreal will find all these and more on the shopping map linked here.

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