More a district than an actual square, Pioneer Square is where Seattle began. This historic district has been rejuvenated with green spaces, benches and fresh facades on some of the buildings, but still retains some old-world charm. It’s a sharp contrast to the nearby ultra-modern sports stadiums of Qwest Field and Safeco Field.
Early settlers in Seattle opened businesses along the Elliot Bay waterfront. The area boomed due to the many miners who passed through in the late 1800s, seeking their fortune further north during the Yukon Gold Rush. Pioneer Square earned the title “Skid Row” because lumberjacks skidded logs down Yesler Street to the wharf at the bottom of the hill.
Pioneer Square has transformed over time from a seedy red-light district to a respectable arts community and visitor attraction. Jump on a horse-drawn carriage and tour the cobblestone streets with a local guide at the reins. The ivy-covered brick buildings and mid-19th-century Romanesque architecture lend character and charm to the cafés, sports bars, bookstores and nightclubs.
There’s plenty to do here, rain or shine. Check out the Klondike Gold Rush Historical Park to learn more about Seattle’s colorful history. And don't miss Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour of the old sidewalks, saloons, brothels and passageways of the original city. If the sun’s out, take your camera to the top of Smith Tower, riding up on the only manually-operated elevator on the West Coast. Completed in 1914, Smith Tower was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi and it still offers great views of the waterfront and distant Mount Rainier.
After dark enjoy live music, bars, dancing and spicy food. The party atmosphere continues until the early hours. This area has some of the oldest drinking establishments in the city, as well as a few clubs that were mainstays of Seattle’s grunge era in the early ‘90s. Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains all got their start here.
Pioneer Square is located on the south end of downtown Seattle, easily accessible by car, bus or taxi. Free parking is tough to come by, but there are plenty of parking lots and street parking for a fee.