The Best Walking Tours in Seattle

Get an inside view into your favorite things with these tours
Inside the Amazon Spheres

This article appears in print in the June 2019 issue, as part of the 150 Must-Do Summer Experiences cover story. Click here to subscribe.

> On two Saturdays a month, you can make like an Amazonian and gaze at the tropical canopy and intricate architecture of the Amazon Spheres on a self-guided tour. Linger at the “nest,” an intimate conference space, and stop for a doughnut and coffee at Renee Erickson’s General Porpoise, located on the second level. Times vary. Free, reservations required. South Lake Union,

> Soak up the vibe with a guided tour of London Bridge Studio, where well-known artists such as Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam have recorded. Times vary. $55. Shoreline,

> Learn why Seattleites once climbed ladders to get to sidewalks as a guide leads you on Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour. Grab a sip and a bite on-site before or after the tour at Doc Maynard’s Public House. Times and prices vary. Pioneer Square,

> Although recent controversy surrounding its 737 Max aircraft has taken a bit of the shine off this local company, a guided tour of the Boeing factory is still an amazing window into how a jetliner is assembled. Times and prices vary. Everett,

> Learn about the production cycle of chocolate—from bean to bar, with generous samples of innovative flavors—by taking a guided tour of the Theo Chocolate factory. Times vary. $10. Fremont,

> Absorb how Chinese, Japanese and Filipino immigrants lived and labored in Seattle on the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience’s historic hotel walking tour, included with all-day museum admission. Check out The Wing’s other themed neighborhood explorations as well, including food tours and a look around Bruce Lee’s old stomping ground. Times and prices vary. Chinatown–International District,

The Crocodile. Photo by Alex Crook

Music History
Seattle is the birthplace of grunge. Take a self-guided tour of a few places where some fo that history was made. 

Kurt Cobain didn’t go to Vain to get his hair done. Back in the day, the salon was a music venue—The Vogue—and the site of Nirvana’s first Seattle show. Belltown,

In 1989, the historic Moore Theatre was the location of Lame Fest, a three-act Sub Pop showcase that featured Nirvana, Mudhoney and Tad. The event helped launch grunge into the national spotlight. Belltown,

For years, the basement of now-shuttered Black Dog Forge, a Belltown blacksmithing studio owned by artists Louie Raffloer and Mary Reid Gioia, was the practice space for grunge bands, including Pearl Jam. Belltown, 2316 Second Ave.

Live-music venue The Crocodile, formerly co-owned by R.E.M.’s Peter Buck, was the place to perform; all the aforementioned bands played there, as did Everclear, Mad Season, Girl Trouble, Gas Huffer and others. Belltown,

Adjacent to Cobain’s former Lake Washington residence, where he died of suicide, is Viretta Park; fans from around the world still gather at the park to pay their respects. Similarly, Chris Cornell’s fans come together at “A Sound Garden,” an outdoor sculpture that served as the inspiration for his famous band’s name. The piece is located on the NOAA campus next to Magnuson Park. Various locations;,

Akio Takamori’s “Young Woman, Girl, Mother and Child” in South Lake Union. Photo by Hayley Young

Art Access
Take yourself on a free, self-guided tour of these highlights of public art

Jonathan borofsky’s 26,000-pound “Hammering Man” on the steps of the Seattle Art Museum relentlessly wields his hammer, resting only on Labor Day and between 1 and 5 a.m. each morning. Downtown, 1300 First Ave.

Alexander Calder’s 6-ton, 38-foot-tall “The Eagle,” the centerpiece of the Olympic Sculpture Park, watches over downtown to the south and the Olympic Mountains to the west. Downtown, 2901 Western Ave.

Make time for a public art “twofer”: a visit to the ever-controversial 16-foot-tall, bronze statue of Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and to the notorious Fremont Troll, which lurks under the Fremont Bridge. Fremont, locations vary

Located in the heart of Volunteer Park, “Black Sun” is the black Brazilian granite sculpture by Isamu Noguchi that perfectly frames the Space Needle in its hollow center. Capitol Hill, 1247 15th Ave. E

A professor at the University of Washington for 21 years, Akio Takamori created the 7-foot-tall, cast aluminum “Young Woman, Girl, Mother and Child” sculpture that is located outside South Lake Union’s Whole Foods Market. South Lake Union, 2210 Westlake Ave.

Sentences excerpted from famous books, translated into 11 different languages and imprinted into a maple wood floor make up Ann Hamilton’s “Lew Wood Floor” at the Fourth Avenue entrance of the Seattle Public Library’s Rem Koolhaas–designed Central Library. Downtown, 1000 Fourth Ave.

Two local musicians have been immortalized with public art pieces: Chris Cornell’s signature Gibson guitar, boots and wavy hair are cast in bronze outside MoPop (Seattle Center, 325 Fifth Ave. N); and the Capitol Hill statue of Jimi Hendrix (1604 Broadway) depicts his wild, vibrant nature—on his knees entertaining the masses with his guitar wizardry. 

Follow the trotter prints throughout Pike Place Market that lead to Rachel and Billie, sculptor Georgia Gerber’s life-size bronze piggy banks, located respectively at the Market’s main entrance and the new MarketFront expansion. Downtown, First Avenue and Pike Street.

Approximately 40 works of glass art created by masters of the Pilchuck Glass School, including Dale Chihuly, reside inside the U.S. Bank Center. Downtown, 1420 Fifth Ave.

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