Best areas to stay in Seattle without a car

Best areas to stay in Seattle without a car
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you (thank you!). For more info, check out my disclosure policy.

If you’re looking for where to stay in Seattle without a car- you are the ultimate in “traveling like a local”. The environment thanks you. You’ll thank yourself, if you’re not used to driving on hills, in rain, or along streets that start/end in unexpected ways. And while it’s no Europe, it’s definitely one of the cities on the west coast where it’s easy to get around without a car.

These are all districts and hotel suggestions that are either:

  • Walking distance or one quick bus/lightrail (aka train) away from the major sights (including the airport), which is perfect especially for first timers
  • Not as close to the typical sights, but have so much charm on their own that you won’t care, which is perfect for people who want to be off the beaten path

So if you’re interested in finding out where to stay in Seattle, read on below!

Notes:
Yes, you can totally still stay in these places even if you have a car.
— “Wait, if you lived there, how do you have hotel recommendations?” is something I always wonder when I read these blog posts. I’ve stayed in a ton of Seattle hotels with friends/family when they visit, for fun, and for work. The recommendations on specific properties are based on my experience vs. other Seattle hotels and their location relative to things to do. Disclaimer: In the US it’s hard to stay in hostels that are in your state, so I’ve never actually stayed in the hostels. But there’s only five hostels in Seattle to choose from sooooo.
— All distances came from Google maps.
— Budget here is <$50. Mid-range is $50-200. Luxury is $200+ and if it has a four star or higher rating.

Best areas to stay in Seattle if you want to be close to all the essential sights…

Belltown

Belltown is one of the best areas to stay in Seattle without a car- especially if this is your first time here, because you’re in the middle of everything. This district is where the Space Needle is located, and it’s close to Pike Place Market and the Waterfront Park. Plus it’s in the middle of many major bus lines, which makes it easier to get to new districts without a car. Plus, you’ll be next to one of my favorite waterfront parks in Seattle- Olympic Sculpture Park! #notbiased

For food and dining, there are a ton of great bars and restaurants serving food from around the world. Yes, even though the International District is called the “international” district, it’s only in Belltown where you can get Bosnian, Brazilian, Korean, and Mexican food on the same street.

Budget Hotel Recommendation: Hostels!

Well, disclaimer, there are only five hostels in all of Seattle. But, only one is in Belltown. Aka, City Hostel, which has a ton of positive reviews on HostelWorld.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 0.6 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 0.5 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 0.8 miles

Mid-range Recommendation: Best Western Executive Inn

Best Westerns are always a solid “middle of the road” hotel choice, but Best Western Executive Inn is literally a five minute walk to Seattle Center, which is where the Space Needle and popular museums like the Chihuly Glass Museum, Pacific Science Center, and Museum of Pop Culture are located.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 0.2 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 1.0 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 1.3 miles

Luxury Recommendation: The Edgewater

The Edgewater is a nice luxury choice because it’s right on the Puget Sound, but its claim to fame is that the The Beatles stayed here when other hotels in Seattle didn’t want to host them. So if you’re a dedicated and super wealthy Beatles fan, consider staying here and getting their Beatles Package. In general, they offer a ton of interesting package deals that similarly offer special rooms, cocktails, and tickets for things to do in Seattle- for example, a Pearl Jam inspired one.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 0.7 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 1.0 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 1.3 miles

Downtown

Right next to Belltown is downtown, which makes downtown another great area to stay in Seattle since you’re still in the middle of everything. While the dining options here aren’t as exciting as Belltown (unless you like generic American chains like Buffalo Wild Wings and the Cheesecake Factory), there’s a lot of shopping you can do in this area after exploring, and it’s even easier to get to other districts via bus or train from downtown.

Budget Recommendation: Green Tortoise Hostel

This is the only downtown- which narrows your budget choices down by 80%. Booking.com has actual reviews, for actual firsthand info.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 1.1 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 0.3 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 0.3 miles

Mid-range Recommendation: The Paramount Hotel

The Paramount Hotel is almost like a higher end, mid-range hotel. What I also like about this place is that it’s right on top of the Paramount theater, where Broadway plays perform in Seattle. Plus, it’s kind of borderline downtown- you’re slightly away from the more hectic parts, but still close to everything.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 1.0 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 0.5 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 0.7 miles

Luxury Recommendation: Fairmont Olympic Seattle

The Fairmont Olympic Seattle is a gorgeous, historic building with a ton of amenities (including the comfiest bathrobe), the sweetest staff, and it’s been ranked #1 in the “best hotel in Seattle” category by the US News and World Report. I absolutely love their spa, and they also have tea time!

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 1.1 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 0.5 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 0.4 miles

seattle hotel

Pioneer Square Hotel by Hollywata is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

If you want a fancier alternative to downtown…

Let’s be real- all downtowns are a little sketchy, and Seattle’s downtown and Belltown neighborhood are no exception. If you want to be close to the essential sights but in a less gritty neighborhood, here are two more options. Note that these are a bit further from lightrail stops, so getting here from the airport without a car means that you’ll either need to walk a bit after you get off, take a short bus after you get off, or Lyft/Uber from the airport.

South Lake Union

This area has been built up in recent years because of wealthy Amazon’s presence from a big stretch of mostly nothing to a bunch fancy buildings, hotels, and high quality eateries and bars. There are a few buses that go through here, so it can still be easy to get to other districts, and even if the bus you want is in downtown, downtown is a 20 minute-ish walk away.

Budget Recommendation: HA! There are no ‘budget’ place this neighborhood- at least with my budget. You could check out Airbnb for a room in someone’s place if you’re looking for the absolute cheapest. If you haven’t used Airbnb yet, here’s $40 off your first stay.

Mid Range Recommendation: MOXY Seattle

I love the modern style of MOXY Seattle, and also they give you a free drink on your first day. This is right in the middle of Amazon buildings, so it has more of a 9-5 work vibe than say a nightlife or tourist scene- but you’re still close to most things if you want to go around by foot or bus.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 0.9 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 1.1 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 1.4 miles

Luxury Recommendation: The Pan Pacific

I highly, highly recommend the Pan Pacific! This is one of the nicest hotels I’ve stayed in, ever. A plus is if you’re tall- this hotel, like, caters to tall people by providing huge robes, huge towels, wide bathtubs, and tons of ceiling space (does it have to do with the thought that tall men viewed as more powerful and therefore more fit to be CEOs and therefore the only ones who can afford to stay in places like this? Maybe). Also, it’s right on top of a Whole Foods for easy hot bar food.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 0.7 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 0.7 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 1.0 miles

Lower Queen Anne

The other option is staying in lower Queen Anne- which will put you on the other side of the Seattle Center compared to Belltown. It’s been interesting longer than South Lake Union and is a little more residential. It’s also the neighborhood home to Kerry Park, famous for having the postcard view of the Space Needle against downtown, and entering/leaving this neighborhood gives you gorgeous Seattle views in general.

More affordable recommendation: The Mediterranean Inn

I think The Mediterranean Inn is a hidden gem because of how nice the hotel is for the price you’re paying. Plus, there’s a rooftop where you get great views of the city and the mountain ranges (if it’s not cloudy).

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 0.5 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 1.3 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 1.5 miles

A bit pricier recommendation: Homewood Suites by Hilton

Sure, many hotels offer a free breakfast (and this place has an amazing one)- but the Homewood Suites by Hilton also has an “evening reception”, with alcohol and fancy snacks! Plus, it’s right by the waterfront and Olympic Sculpture Park (aka one of my favorite parks in Seattle, which technically I already said but who knows if people read these).

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 0.5 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 1.1 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 1.3 miles

If you want a less touristy Seattle trip…

Capitol Hill

If the focus of your trip is to do things as the locals do, as well as check off all of the major sights, you should stay in Capitol Hill. Capitol Hill is walking distance from downtown if you like walking, and if you don’t, it’s a quick bus or Uber ride away (tbh sometimes walking is faster if you’re traveling during rush hour).

After you do the touristy things downtown, there are a ton of amazing bars, restaurants, parks, and other things to check out in Capitol Hill. This is where most locals live (if they can afford it) and go out for a fun night! My last plug for Capitol Hill (especially over Fremont or Ballard) is there’s a lightrail stop here- which could make it easier to get here from the airport with no car.

Fremont or Ballard

These districts are right next to each other so I’m treating them similarly (sorry Frelard people, I lived in Capitol Hill before here).

For these areas, to get to the ‘main’ sights near downtown, it’s a bit more of a commute. Like a longer bus ride plus a walk, or maybe even two bus rides, and you likely don’t want to walk the whole way. Even to get here from the airport is not a simple light rail ride like the other suggestions.

But if the goal of your trip is to mostly do off the path activities, I would highly recommend staying in these areas. They each have a lot of charm like Capitol Hill- with artsy installations, unique local shops, great dining and bars, parks, and waterfront areas. They would make the perfect place to stay if you’re doing a totally off the beaten path trip and are another popular area for locals to actually live (if they can afford it).

Also disclaimer – they do have a few things that tourists usually frequent, like the Fremont Troll statue, the Lenin statue, and Golden Gardens Beach, so you can still do a bit of sightseeing in these districts.

General Accommodation Recommendation: You should look for an Airbnb in these districts, to truly get in touch with whole “this is what it feels like to live in Seattle, minus the whole having to go to work thing“. Since there are soooo many options, I feel weird giving Airbnb recommendations. But here are a few hotel recommendations across all three if you do decide one of these:

Budget Recommendation: Hotel Hotel Hostel

Only Fremont has a hostel. It’s called Hotel Hotel Hostel, and they have free breakfast. Head over here for reviews.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 3.0 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 3.8 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 4.0 miles

Mid Range Recommendation: Silver Cloud Hotel – Broadway

This Silver Cloud Hotel is right on the edge of Capitol Hill, so is especially nice for people who want to be close to everything, but do want more peace and quiet as opposed to if they were actually in the middle of everything. Plus, this hotel is really nice. I thought that this was a luxury hotel before I had actually stayed in a luxury hotel #plebian.

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 1.3 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 1.3 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 1.8 miles

Luxury Recommendation: Hotel Ballard

  • Distance from the Space Needle: 4.3 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 4-6 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 5-6 miles

If you want to be around a younger, college kid vibe…

U-District

Back in my early 20s, I felt really weird traveling to places with a lot of 30+ people (it felt too “mature”). I loved staying in districts with a younger vibe. If you’re like that too, consider staying in the U-District, which is where the University of Washington is located!

The light rail makes staying in the U-District without a car way easier. It’s just a couple of stops away from downtown, and it’s also the stop right next to Capitol Hill. When you’re done exploring the downtown-y areas, the U-District has a lot of unique things to do and see- like a Harry Potter-esque library in the school, blooming cherry blossoms if you go in the spring, and the shops along University Avenue (more commonly called “the Ave”). Since it’s a college area, the food and drinks are a little cheaper than say Capitol Hill, Fremont, or Ballard- and since it’s Seattle, they’re all generally amazing places to eat.

Budget Recommendation College Inn. Even though it says “inn”, this is really a hostel.

  • Distance from the Light Rail: 0.6 miles
  • Distance from the Space Needle: ~4 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 4-5 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: ~5 miles

Mid-range Recommendation: Watertown- Staypineapple. The Staypineapple chain is such a cute, fun, and artsy set of hotels. They have the comfiest beds even though you’re not paying “luxury” price and they even have a cupcake happy hour!

  • Distance from the Light Rail: 1.0 miles
  • Distance from the Space Needle: 3.5 miles
  • Distance from Pike Place Market: 3.8 miles
  • Distance from the Waterfront Park: 4.1 miles

Luxury Recommendation: Even though some students here are obscenely wealthy, I don’t have a luxury hotel to recommend here since you’re in a college district…

Which areas to avoid

While each district of Seattle is a special snowflake with its own quirky personality and deserves to be checked out, I did not write about every district in Seattle here.

Why? Because bussing from like random parts of North Seattle to downtown is not fun- especially during rush hour and is an expensive Uber from the airport. You don’t want to spend your first trip here in unhappy commutes. Also, I’m not going to lie, I’ve had more sketchy stuff happen to me in like Pioneer Square than in downtown- even though there are nice places to stay there and unique things to check out.

While you can stay wherever you want (#freedom), the neighborhoods in this guide were chosen because they really are easy to get around to big sights and aren’t like the most dangerous.

More hotel ideas

Do you buy hotels based on deals? Me too! Check out the latest deals on Seattle hotels here:



Booking.com

And there you have it- a super wordy guide on where to stay in Seattle if you don’t have a car. Which district do you think you’ll stay in? Would you add anything else? Let me know in the comments!

best places to stay in seattle pinterest image

where to stay in seattle by neighborhood pinterest image

Psssst – Looking for things to do or eat in Seattle? Check out my Seattle food guide, my dessert guide, and my list of alternative things to do in Seattle (because going to the Space Needle is not actually that interesting).

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase from an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission at no cost to you (thank you!). For more info, check out my disclosure policy.

8 Comments

  1. November 9, 2018 / 8:35 pm

    Wow! That’s a great guide. I’ve been to Seattle once, about 26 years ago. It was a fun trip. I didn’t stay in a hotel though. My mom had an apartment there, so I save some money.

  2. November 9, 2018 / 9:23 pm

    I can’t wait to go to Seattle someday! I see myself as a U-District, Staypineapple sorta person. Still with the younger folks but not hostelling it, ya know?

  3. November 10, 2018 / 5:28 am

    We’re going to visit Seattle next year so this post is rather timely! I always love hearing from locals about the best areas to stay – and how to avoid the touristy neighbourhoods. Thanks!

  4. November 10, 2018 / 8:29 am

    I’ve never been to seattle. I def want to go. I’m always a fan of a walkable city, coming from NY and all!

  5. November 10, 2018 / 8:35 am

    May I ask why it s difficult to stay in a hostel within your state? I got confused! Beyond that, thanks for this local insight , I love to read things written by locals! I also liked the honesty regarding the areas to avoid! I would stay in the Mediterranean one of course as it would be too oxymoron and fun for me (I am Greek!)

    • Angelica
      Author
      November 15, 2018 / 12:52 pm

      I’m not sure why, but for some of these hotels, you have to show proof that you’re actually traveling, like a plane ticket. I think it may be to make sure only travelers are staying in them (which makes sense, but also why I’ve never done it šŸ™‚)! Haha I love it, sometimes I stay in American hotels for the oxymoron too šŸ˜‚. And thank you for reading!

  6. November 10, 2018 / 4:19 pm

    I spent all summer in Seattle and this is pretty accurate. I love how you really highlight areas that can help avoid tourists.

  7. November 10, 2018 / 5:59 pm

    Wow! This is so detailed! Thank you for sharing, I can’t wait to visit Seattle!

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