There aren’t that many places I know of where I can purchase an authentic piroshky, humbao, or croissant, a dozen tulips, lavender lip balm, a handmade leather bag, AND watch a salmon being thrown back and forth, but when I’m in Seattle, I know exactly where to go to make that happen: Pike Place Market.
The Pike Place Market is located at 1st and Pike in downtown Seattle, Washington, and has a beautiful view of Elliott Bay and Seattle’s new Ferris wheel. On a sunny day you can’t beat the view from here — the water sparkles, Mt. Rainier stands sentinel to the southeast, and the Olympic mountain range surrounds the area in gorgeous a jagged border. Of course on a cloudy day the same things are happening, but you just can’t see them! Luckily, the market still bustles, rain or shine, and it’s all under cover.
Pike Place Market was established in 1907 to connect citizens and farmers. It has continued this “Meet the Producer” tradition ever since with locally-owned farm stands, bakeries, seafood, and dairy and butcher shops. I had no idea it was a nine-acre historic district or that it is one of the largest crafts markets in the U.S. I also didn’t realize there are more than 200 independent small businesses at the Pike Place Market. When you’re there, it seems small and intimate, and it doesn’t seem possible there are 200 different vendors there. But then you start discovering hallways and turning corners and going down stairways, and you start to think that maybe that website is right!
Many Seattle residents go to Pike Place Market just as I go to my local farmers’ market, to purchase locally grown fresh produce, other local food items, and flowers. The flowers are astounding, particularly in spring and summer. Bunches of all kinds of brilliant blooms. I am usually traveling when I’m at the market, so I rarely purchase them, but I love to look at them and photograph them. And it seems one can purchase nearly anything needed to make a fantastic and fresh meal. There are beautiful fruits, vegetables and herbs; fish and shellfish galore; delicious baked goods; unique fresh pastas; lovely sweets (try the fruit logs rolled in coconut) and many other tasty treats. And there are lots of samples. My favorite samples were the chocolate covered cherries from Chukar Cherries (I bought the dark chocolate, pinot noir covered dried bing cherries) and the OMG! Olive Oils balsamic vinegars, aged an average of 12-18 years! I wanted to buy the vanilla fig vinegar, but I didn’t. I could just drink that from a glass, it’s that good. Wow!
One of the most famous parts of the market is the fishmongers’ section. It’s a wild and crazy fish market like no other. The people who work there follow the famous FiSH philosophy: 1. Play, 2. Make their day, 3. Choose your attitude, and 4. Be there. You can watch them practice this philosophy every minute as they engage individual visitors in conversation (whether they’re buying fish or not), joke around with their signage, hawk their wares, and throw giant fish back and forth amidst much hooping and hollering. It’s worth a trip to the market just to see them in action If you can’t make it to the market just now, you can watch this little video clip about the FiSH philosophy to tide you over.
People also go to the market for the lovely handcrafted items that can be found. I purchased some of my favorite lip balm ever from the Angel Farm lavender stall, but what I really wanted to purchase were the upcycled cashmere arm warmers made by the lovely Rowan of Rowanica Designs. She buys old cashmere sweaters from thrift stores, then felts the wool and sews and embellishes her products all by hand. They were divinely warm and soft along with being beautiful. It would have been handy to have Jeff along on that little shopping jaunt, because I think I could have coaxed him into buying them for me for a gift, whereas I couldn’t quite bring myself to buy them. They seemed like more of a luxury than I needed, but I really want them…. I also was also coveting some beautiful handmade leather bags and a pair of red, hand-tooled shearling slippers.
But that’s not all the market has to offer. In addition to all that goodness, there are all kinds of other places to explore: a magic shop, a pottery shop, several import stalls, sit down restaurants, a barber shop (with the actual blue and red barber pole!), a sweets store — it goes on and on (for nine acres, apparently). You can even meet the boys from One Direction there. And it’s Seattle, so of course there’s coffee.
If you’re in the Emerald City, you should definitely enjoy a few hours exploring the sights, smells and tastes (especially the tastes) of Seattle’s Pike Place Market! Have a great trip, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!