This article includes links to our travel partners at Tripadvisor, where you can read traveller reviews, book tours and plan your visit to Seattle.
What makes Seattle so iconic that there’s just nothing like it? Well, they’ve got Space Needle, evergreen forests on the outskirts of the coastal city; it’s the birthplace of grunge music and home to corporate giants including Starbucks and Microsoft.
If you’re researching what to do in Seattle on a layover, we’ll share some great ideas to fill your time. With downtown Seattle just a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport (14 miles), spending time in this place of peculiarities, mesmerizing nature, and world-class coffee is easy.
If your layover time won’t allow you to explore downtown, Seattle Airport (also called Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, code: SEA) will have you sorted for creature comforts and more. Need some shut-eyes? There are lounges you can pay to use. Stay connected with the free WiFi and power outlets (peek under the seats). But the highlights are the half-mile Art Walk and live music performances (daily!). To find out more details of what you can get up to there, check out our Seattle Airport Guide.
Seattle Sightseeing Attractions
Below are a few of the top things to do in Seattle:
Pike Place Market
Want to jam-pack as much of Seattle as you can in a few hours? Then mark Pike Place Market down. Considered the “Soul of Seattle,” this iconic 9-acre market—one of the oldest and largest in the US—is buzzing with crafters, farmers, shopping locals, and fish throwers (no kidding). Come for the people-watching, glorious food, and electric atmosphere.
- Time Required: For some walking, shopping, and eating—giving yourself 2-3 hours would be great.
- Getting There: From the airport, the market is 20 minutes away by taxi ($45-60) or a 36-minute train ride on the 1-Line ($2.25), followed by a 9-minute walk.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more details, visitor ravings, and tour options.
Seattle Coffee Culture Tour
Are you visiting the world’s capital of caffeine? Then, it’s due time for a coffee tour. This coffee-paired-culture tour will take you back decades through the rich history of Seattle’s coffee culture—as you walk with your guide through the trendy Capitol Hill neighbourhood and try plenty of specialty coffee.
- Time Required: The tour lasts for 2 hours with a start time of 10 AM or 1 PM.
- Getting There: The tour departure point is at the Jimi Hendrix Statue downtown—an 18-minute taxi ride away from the airport (for $40) or a 40-minute train ride via the 1-Line (for $2.25)
- Plan Your Visit: Check Tripadvisor for more tour details, visitor reviews, and reservation options.
Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum
If you’re tight on time for a stopover (or want an intermission to Seattle coffee stops), the Chihuly Garden & Glass Museum is a rave-worthy must-see. It features blown glass sculptures by the artist Dale Chihuly—the intricacies of the glass, the experience of seeing it lit in the evening, and the curated gardens around, which are just out of this world. With glass-blowing demonstrations, super helpful staff, and audio tours, it’s zero surprise that this place made it to the Traveler’s Choice for 2022.
- Time Required: Just 1 hour at this museum would do well. But with 2-3 hours, you can explore the entire garden museum, watch the demonstrations, and drop in at the little restaurant.
- Getting There: From SEA airport, the museum is a 20-minute taxi ride away ($45-60) or a 4-minute train ride on the 1-Line, followed by a 30-minute bus ride (taking the 124).
- Plan Your Visit: See Tripadvisor for more details, visitor reviews, and stunning pictures.
Bainbridge Island Nature Reserve Walk
Emerald City is another name given to this tech city by the sea. When you need fresh air and to shake off that jet lag, this nature reserve walk will take you a ferry away to Bainbridge Island—home to the 150-acre Bloedel Reserve. Expect fairytale-like woodlands, orchard trials, an arboretum, a Japanese garden, and more (with lunch in between to refuel).
- Time Required: The departing-returning ferry ride + walk + lunch will take around 7 hours, with a single start time at 9 AM.
- Getting There: As part of the tour package, you can be picked up directly from the airport or airport hotels.
- Plan Your Visit: Visit Tripadvisor for more tour details and reservation options.
With Seattle Airport being just 14 miles from downtown and its iconic skyline, you’ll have plenty of public/private transportation options.
Public transit options:
- Light Rail Train (LRT): A 6-minute walk away from the airport, you’ll find the SeaTac/Airport Station. For $2.25, you can take the 1-Line railway heading to Northgate and reach downtown in around 36 minutes. Visit the Seattle Airport website for more information.
Private transit options:
- Taxi: Right outside the terminal, plenty of taxis offer a flat rate of $40 (during the day, night or the weekends) to take you downtown in 15 minutes.
- Private airport shuttle: There are various options for private airport shuttles to the city center—a great option if you’re travelling in a group and need more space for luggage.
Before You Go: Layover Tips
Now that you are motivated and excited about your mini layover vacation, check a few final logistical concerns off your list before you fully commit.
- Do you need to organize a visa to leave the airport? Requirements change frequently and for each nationality, so be sure to seek out current details on the availability, cost, and procedures of obtaining a transit visa.
- When is your next flight’s check-in time? Double-check with your airline exactly when you need to be at the airport – and plan your layover accordingly.
- What are security wait times like at the airport? Some airports are notorious for extended security wait times, so be sure to research in advance and factor that into your overall time budget.
- What’s happening with your luggage? When you check in to your first flight, confirm whether your luggage will be checked through or needs to be picked up between your connecting flights. Check out our Seattle Airport Guide for information on luggage storage.
Other Useful Resources
Finally, here are a few handy resources to help you plan your layover even more thoroughly: