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In the latest instalment of our series on evolving urban centres, we discover how Seattle has become a hotbed of technical talent and entrepreneurs - not least because of the city’s distinct neighbourhoods, artisan ethos and the great outdoors.
Yes, Seattle is the seat of Starbucks, but caffeine-addicted locals prefer the more flavourful options at the city’s countless independent coffee shops. Try downtown’s modern Café Fonté for rich local roasts or Ballard newcomer Slate Coffee Bar for an extremely serious small-batch coffee education – no mocha, no caramel, and don’t you dare say the word Frappuccino!
Pioneer Square, one of Seattle’s oldest neighbourhoods, has long been celebrated for its wealth of art galleries, but lately it’s taken a foodie turn. Several new restaurants have opened to acclaim, from the bright Bar Sajor (pictured) offering locally sourced seasonal dishes, to the dark but divine hidden bar at the back of E. Smith Mercantile.
It’s best to approach the hipster smorgasbord that is Capitol Hill in small bites. Spend an afternoon browsing the woodsy shelves at The Elliott Bay Book Company, then walk two doors down for a casual dinner at Oddfellows, before heading upstairs to the grand Century Ballroom (pictured), where group dance lessons (tango, swing, salsa) are offered nightly, followed by a social dance – worth the admission if only to watch the pros cut the rug.
Designed by Dutch ‘starchitect’ Rem Koolhaas, the Seattle Central Library is a glittering paean to books in a city full of self-proclaimed ‘book nerds’. Chill out under the 50ft-high glass ceiling in the ‘living room’, and don’t miss the fourth floor, where the glossy red walls, floors and ceiling resemble the corridor of a sci-fi spaceship.
Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market is a marvel, but it can be overrun with tourists. For a calmer vibe, try Melrose Market (pictured), an airy space with a flower shop, wine bar, butcher, cheesemonger and restaurants. Pick up decor items at Butter Home, local oysters at Taylor Shellfish and Northwest grandpa-chic accessories at Glasswing.
The city’s iconic ferry system gives passengers stunning mountain views, but these are even better when bookended by the fruits of Seattle’s brewery craze. Buy a round-trip, walk-on ticket to Bainbridge Island ($4–$8) and start your seagoing pub crawl at The Forge Lounge, a ferry-commuter staple overlooking the terminal. Disembark at the small town of Winslow and celebrate with a local pint on the sunny deck of The Harbour Pub.
Once populated by old salts and senior Swedes, the Ballard neighbourhood is now ablaze with new shops, restaurants and bars. Brick-laden Ballard Avenue proffers whisky milkshakes at Hot Cakes, exquisite objets d’art at Curtis Steiner and one of the city’s biggest and best farmers’ markets every Sunday.
For a quick hit of the Pacific Northwest’s natural grandeur, take the 30-mile drive east on Interstate 90 to roaring Snoqualmie Falls. Made famous by David Lynch’s 1990s TV series Twin Peaks, the 280ft waterfall makes for instant awe – and an invigorating facial mist on windy days.