A Locals Guide to Pike Place Market

When I first moved to the greater Seattle area, I thought I'd go to Pike Place Market once a week to pick up fresh flowers for our home. I've lived here for 20 years. Know how many times I've picked up flowers at Pike Place? Once. For years Pike Place Market overwhelmed me. It was always crowded and there were so many little spots to stop but I wasn't sure exactly which ones were the best and I felt like I spent half my time just working my way through crowds and getting from one end to the other without seeing much of anything. I became intentional about wanting to learn more about the market because there is so much history there. I think most tourists know Pike Place is iconic to Seattle, but aren't sure why and don't know more other than they are supposed to visit. This blog post has been almost five years in the making. I'll make sure you make the most of your Pike Place Market visit and I think it will make you really enjoy it that much more. So here's a locals perspective on Pike Place. Take notes my friends!


A Locals Guide to Pike Place Market

local's guide to pike place market

First up, the name

Locals immediately know you aren't local if you add an s to the name. It's Pike Place Market, not Pikes Place or Pike Market. You'll fit right in if you call it Pike Place or The Market, either work.

History of Pike Place Market

Pike Place opened in August of 1907. it's one of the oldest continuously operating public farmer's markets in the United States. The Market overlooks Elliott Bay waterfront on the Puget Sound. It's named after the street it runs along, Pike Street and it's Seattle's most popular tourist destination. 

When you think of a farmer's market, you probably think of produce and in the Pacific Northwest, fish. But Pike Place is more than that. It's got a variety of craftspeople, fine art, and some of the best buskers around! Some of Seattle's local music favorites {think Brandi Carlise and Dave Matthews} have been known to drop in to play music from time to time. 

visit pike place like local

Pike Place Market Foundation

The Pike Place Market foundation started back in 1982 to support the heart of the market-its people. 

Did you know The Market has a preschool? Vendors used to have to bring their babies and young children with them to their stalls because they lacked access to affordable childcare facilities. A preschool was opened and families pay for quality care on a sliding payment scale. 

Did you know that there are more than 500 residents who live in eight different buildings throughout the market? There is an assisted living facility as well as low-income housing. A senior center provides a warm safe place as well as a place to enjoy a hot meal and there is a neighborhood health care center to help reduce health inequities in and around the area of the market.

There's even a secret Pike Place Market garden that is run by volunteers and helps to grow produce for the local food bank. 

Many of these programs are supported by donations made to Rachel and Billie, The Market piggybanks. So when you see them, slip in some cash because there are some pretty amazing things happening because of donors that visit the market.


The Best Time to Visit Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market vendors take down and set up every single day. The market goes quiet after closing {around 6 PM} and wakes up slowly in the morning around 10. My favorite time to visit is in the morning. I like watching the vendors set up. I like wandering the halls watching the food get made and smelling the smells from all the fresh-baked goodies. 


I also find it's the best time to visit the original Starbucks located at 1912 Pike Place. The line gets long at Starbucks and it's not uncommon to wait for an hour or more to get a drink or pick up a specialty mug or tumbler you can't get anywhere else, but if you come early, and dip in before The Market opens, you might be able to walk right in and enjoy your favorite drink as you sip and watch the magic of the market as it opens for the day.

Another spot that's open early is Le Panier. This authentic French bakery opens at 7 am and uses classic techniques to bake up some of the most delicious French delicacies on the west coast.


Shop Like a Local at Pike Place

Locals typically don't bother to wait in line for their coffee at Starbucks. My favorite is Storyville. Storyville is tucked away up a few flights of stairs, but can be found by looking for their sign out front tucked just past the flower shop as you look towards the iconic Pike Place Market sign.


The view at Storyville is one of my favorites, so grab a seat by the window and people watch for a bit. You might get lucky. The staff often wanders around offering slices of free cake at random times throughout the day.

Next door, you'll find Matt's in the Market. I always suggest this little spot for lunch. Get there when it opens and ask to sit by the window. Again, another amazing view perched above the iconic sign watching the bustle of people below.


I spent my adult life thinking I didn't like yogurt UNTIL I tried Ellenos. Oh.my.word. It's like soft-serve ice cream but better. An American flight attendant was traveling to Australia, where she met a Greek father/son team making small-batch Greek yogurt. Every visit, I pick up a walk-about-cup {typically Marionberry} to wander around the market. Though you'll find plenty of fresh flavors made with local ingredients.

You can't go to the market and not wander over to get a dozen hot and warm cinnamon sugar donuts from Daily Dozen Donuts. After you get your donuts {or before}, wander down the stairs to the gum wall. 


Don't miss this post:

Everything you need to know about visiting the gum wall


Once you are done at the gum wall, come back upstairs and see if you can find the hidden garden. It's tucked away, but you can find it with a little wandering off the beaten path. You might be rewarded with a pretty amazing view of the city.

If the fishmongers are throwing, stand back for a bit by Rachel the Pig and watch the magic. This spot can get pretty crowded, but it's fun to watch these guys do their job. Pike Place Fish Market also ships, so if you want some fresh fish, place your order!


Rachel's Ginger Beer is one of my new favorites. I bring my growler and get it refilled, and also get a cup of the Blood Orange to sip on. 

Wander over to Beecher's and watch through the window as they make cheese. I like to grab a small container of cheese curds {pair it with a baguette from Le Panier if you stopped earlier}. You can pop into DeLaurenti to grab some more picnic supplies {try the cone} and then head over to Victor Steinbrueck Park and enjoy a little break while watching the ferries go by.

If you need a little dessert, the Made in Washington Store on Post Alley has Seattle Chocolate and they are delicious! Try the champagne flavor, it has the candy pop rocks inside and is a fun little treat.

pike place market food

After a little picnic break, wander down below to the retail shops. There are lots of market vendors upstairs, but those are often too crowded for me to enjoy, so I like taking a break from the masses and enjoying some time off the beaten path.


Marnin Saylor is the first new shop downstairs in more than 25 years! They did their time as a craft vendor setting up and tearing down daily for six years before finding what I think is the best location in the market. The pink window is the perfect backdrop for the Great Wheel. 

cat donuts

Marnin Saylor is known for its plush cat donuts, but the store tells a story and it's a true experience. 


Don't hesitate to wander back alleys, downstairs hallways, and off the beaten path locations around the market. You never know what you are going to run into and find. Every visit, I'm always finding a new favorite spot or hidden location.

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