Best Shopping in Seattle

Seattle Shopping Proves as Eclectic and Unique as the City's Neighborhoods

Seattle’s renowned Pike Place Market is just a starting point for unique Northwest shopping finds. Here, local vendors sell beautiful, varied goods amongst the hustle and bustle of this invigorating bazaar. The region's global influence is on display at enticing shops in the International District, while progressive neighborhoods promote local arts and crafts.

Weekend markets prove a great way to check out some of the local talent; vendors' merchandise ranges from clothing and accessories to wall hangings, furniture (often made from the area's luscious wood) and eclectic art pieces for the home or office. Both Fremont and Ballard host Sunday markets that are well worth a visit (think delicious food and coffee plus exotic wares and wears to take with you).

Luxury goods are showcased in tony shopping gallerias both urban and suburban. Find luxurious malls downtown (Pacific Place and its surrounding streets) or out east in Bellevue. The arrival of Spain's ZARA has the downtown buzzing and promises to revitalize Seattle's core shopping zone. (Travel even farther to the suburbs to find more traditional malls offering a cornucopia of shopping choices.)

Whichever type of shopping scene you happen to fancy–sleek megastores or intimate boutiques, this town surely promises to deliver.


The University District, as full of young faces as you would expect, features plenty of shopping venues, thrift stores, restaurants, cafés and cultural centers. The area was also the site of the Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition in 1909; a few of the buildings constructed then are still in use today. Aside from the gorgeous campus, the district offers museums, libraries, comedy clubs and bars for day and evening entertainment. In addition, the area boasts a farmers market and a veritable cornucopia of unique stores and boutiques. Find hip, young fashion at American Apparel and Buffalo Exchange or stock up on UW paraphernalia at the bookstore.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The University District features laid-back restaurants, bars, a seasonal farmers market and an array of shops that sell recycled goods plus the newest trends.

Corinne's expert tip: The University Bookstore is not only a great place to load up on UW banners and clothing; it's also a great spot to find regional photography compilations, technology and children's books.

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PCC Community Markets
Photo courtesy of PCC Community Markets

At PCC Community Markets, a member-owned cooperative, you'll find fresh, local and organic produce, quality meats and sustainable seafood at more than a dozen Seattle-area locations. And while these are certainly great places to do one's grocery shopping (or pick up a quick, hot meal on the go), they're also a lesser-known destination for stocking up on gifts (think journals, books, knitted goods and kitchenware) by local companies and artisans for your friends or loved ones. Also consider gifting tasty local goodies ranging from chocolate (Theo, Fran's and Seattle Chocolate Company's seasonal holiday bars) to Washington wines and beers from neighboring Fremont Brewing. Other great gifts? The PCC Cooking From Scratch Cookbook plus PCC gift cards .

Recommended for Best Shopping because: At PCC Community Markets, a member-owned cooperative, you'll find local and organic produce, quality meats and sustainable seafood, plus journals and knitted goods.

Corinne's expert tip: Check out cooking classes offered by PCC, too, for those who prefer "experience" versus material gifts! On Sundays, you can combine a Fremont PCC run with a visit to the year-round Fremont Fair, a vibrant market showcasing local artisans who take over the street that runs adjacent to the store.

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The International District, or the "ID," was originally settled in the 1880s by a group of Chinese railroad workers. Since that time, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Korean cultures have come together to form the Asian-American district of Seattle. In addition to several trendy boutiques, the area also boasts a plethora of delicious Asian restaurants and authentic shops well worth your time and a visit. Particularly noteworthy is Uwajimaya, an enormous market where you can find everything from arts and crafts to live fish to fresh produce and herbs. Save some time for a meal after your shopping spree, as this district boasts some of the city's most delicious ethnic food.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: The International District, or the "ID," features several trendy boutiques as well as a bounty of delicious Asian restaurants and markets.

Local Expert tip: If you work up an appetite after all that shopping, try delicious eats at spots like Tamarind Tree, Jade Garden and Dough Zone Dumpling House. To learn about the neighborhood's fascinating history, visit the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience.

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Shops at the Bravern
Photo courtesy of Shops at the Bravern

Occupying multiple levels on the basement, street and mezzanine of a massive combination Microsoft office tower-and-condo complex in downtown Bellevue, the Shops at the Bravern is tony and upscale. This collection of high-end merchants and restaurants has elevated Northwest shopping by creating an environment that attracts international luxury brand retailers to the region. The prime example is department store Neiman Marcus, for which the Bravern is an initial outpost in this part of the country. Local bakery phenomenon Trophy Cupcakes, star restaurateur John Howie and Seattle Asian-cuisine institution Wild Ginger have all set up shop here. In addition to Nieman, heavy hitting haute retailers here also include the likes of Jimmy Choo, Karen Millen, David Barton Gym, Louis Vuitton, Salvatore, Ferragamo, Neiman Marcus, Tory Burch, Hermes and Wolford. On chilly evenings, the huge stone fireplace in the courtyard is a great place to gather.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: On the Eastside, Bellevue's Shops at the Bravern offer high-end stores in a comfortable retail environment.

John's expert tip: With validated underground parking and covered, open-air hallways, the Shops at the Bravern is a perfect spot to while away a rainy Seattle day shopping and dining on the finest.

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The hub of the Seattle's University District shopping scene, University Village is an attractive open-air complex that features popular hometown outdoor clothier Eddie Bauer along with chains such as Barnes & Noble and Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, Gap, and the North Face. More than two-dozen local merchants also maintain stores in this unique center, providing shoppers a touch of Northwest flavor. Among them are chic candle maker Glassybaby and Fran's Chocolates. Attractive garden areas, numerous restaurants, and ample free parking are additional draws. Among the many restaurants, enjoy Din Tai Fun, Bamboo Sushi and Ba Bar (check out pickup options, too), and afterward treat yourself to some delicious Frankie & Jo's plant-based ice cream.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: University Village is a pleasant open-air complex that boasts shops from Gap and North Face to local favorites like Fran's Chocolates.

John's expert tip: Attention all drivers: All levels of the south garage are open for free customer parking; the entrance is located off of 25th Avenue NE.

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Show Pony
Photo courtesy of Show Pony

When shopping for female friends and family members, consider a charming, neighborhood shop that guarantees unique gift options that won't match anyone else's. This welcoming Fremont women's boutique in one of Seattle's most popular, artsy neighborhoods stocks funky clothing, jewelry, accessories and gifts, most items locally manufactured and designed. Vintage and bargain shoppers head to the shop's upper loft to find an array of consignment gems. Among the venue's merch, find dresses by Suzabelle, handbags by Crystalyn Kae, jewelry by Lauren G Divine Designs and soaps by Estrella. The store now has an outpost at SeaTac Airport Concourse C, and Show Pony's merchandise is now also available online, too, so perhaps you can even save yourself a trip to the store.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Show Pony shows off Seattle's fashion flavors found in small, funky neighborhoods--like Fremont. This is a must-visit, thanks to its enticing merchandise and welcoming staff.

Corinne's expert tip: Visit the shop's website for the season's hottest trends, and sign up to receive 10 percent off your first order.

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Photo courtesy of REI

Sure, there are multiple REI locations across the country these days, and of course you can shop for their gear online, but the Seattle location is a destination in itself. Whether you're gearing up for a planned hike at Mt. Rainier National Park, looking for a kayak rental to ply Puget Sound or are just a helpless outdoor gadget geek, this is your place. The sheer volume of the place and the amount of gear itself is a wonder, but before you get to the ice-axe handles of the giant wooden front doors, you wander along a miniature section of Northwest trail complete with pine trees, ferns and a waterfall. In addition to wowing first-time visitors, the area is meant for trying out hiking boots and mountain bikes before buying. Parkas can be pushed to the limit in the "rain room." Also enjoy the towering indoor climbing wall (reservations required).

Recommended for Best Shopping because: REI defines the Pacific Northwest in many ways, and a shopping spree at this sprawling venue is an adventure unto itself. (Shop online too.)

John's expert tip: If you plan any outdoor activities in Seattle that require gear, REI's rental program is an excellent choice. Bikes, skis, snowshoes, kayaks, and more are available, all top-notch equipment in good repari at a fair rate. Underground garage parking makes this a perfect spot for rainy day shopping.

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Financial District
Pacific Place
Photo courtesy of Saskia Potter

Downton's premier five-story shopping center, occupying an entire city block at the intersections of two major hubs, has recently undergone an exciting refresh. The venue's grand new Amazon-facing entrance at Seventh Avenue and Olive Way opens up to South Lake Union, with a second recently enhanced downtown-facing entrance at Sixth Avenue and Pine Street. The center will soon complete its multimillion-dollar redevelopment "as one of Seattle's most important can't-miss shopping, dining and entertainment destinations." With the addition of Bezel & Kiln and Wishes Toys, Books & Games, the shopping center continues its active pop-up store program that  showcases art, new retail brands and experiences. More than 20 shops, restaurants and AMC Pacific Place 11 are currently open for business include Tiffany & Co., JNBY, Michael Kors, Aveda, Trophy Cupcake and Din Tai Fung. The mall's 1,200-space underground garage provides ample parking. If coming by Light Rail, use Westlake Station.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Pacific Place, a five-floor mall featuring an elegant vibe and an array of high-quality shops, has undergone a sensational refresh.

John's expert tip: Check the online "Events and Offers" page for deals at stores and promotions with local businesses (like nearby theaters, for example). Stream online live music from their page sometimes, too!

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Pike Place Market

Why not start your shopping adventure here? It could be argued quite persuasively that Pike Place Market is Seattle's heartbeat. Situated along the water, the market was originally founded to allow produce growers to sell directly to consumers. Today, it's a protected historic district that inundates you with sights, sounds, smells, and the best people-watching in town. Whether in suits or tie-dyed t-shirts, wearing boutonnieres or strewn with wildflowers, people of all persuasions find the market a fabulous place to spend the day. The Market Foundation offers fun and informational tours Wednesdays to Saturdays, starting at the Market Heritage Center at 1531 Western Avenue. (*Many vendors' good can be bought online, too.)

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Pike Place Market, Seattle's most iconic bazaar of bustling activity and local vendors, proves a great place to start the city's retail adventure.

John's expert tip: The Pike Place Market maintains two parking garages with more than 800 parking stalls and easy access to the venue's 500+ small businesses as well as the waterfront.

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What better way to pass the time on a rainy Seattle afternoon than browsing for that latest thriller or travel guide inside a cozy bookshop? You could do so online, too; visit Elliott Bay's website to learn about deliveries to your home. This venerable specialty bookseller can be found in the heart of Seattle's funky Capitol Hill neighborhood, in a re-purposed, historic brick building. More than a generation in business, Elliott Bay is a full service bookstore with more than 150,000 titles, all aligned on cedar shelves in a multi-level, loft-type space. Elliot Bay offers a full schedule of author readings and events throughout the year, and the cozy café downstairs is more than convenient.

Recommended for Best Shopping because: Elliott Bay Book Company proves an ideal place to spend a cozy Seattle afternoon, or stock up on reading material that's shipped to your home.

John's expert tip: Books, of course, can be purchased anywhere. But Elliot Bay is worth checking out for its selection of specialty and collectible editions. Go online to learn how to have books shipped straight to your homeâ€"and to peruse all the alluring "staff picks."

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Meet Corinne Whiting

Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's...  More About Corinne