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Seattle is composed of many distinct neighborhoods, each with its own personality. While any Seattlite would likely have difficulty naming all the neighborhoods that have been identifed by the city of Seattle, as well as in the greater Seattle area, some of the major communities include:
University District Also known as the "U-District", the area of Seattle adjacent to the University of Washington, is geared towards a collegiate lifestyle. Independent cafes, bookshops and theaters are the norm. The main drag in the U-District is University Way NE, simply called "The Ave".
Capitol Hill East of, and above, downtown Seattle, this is home to a variety of interesting shops, including galleries, reataurants and taverns. In addition to being a diverse and inclusive center of popular/hipster culture, Capitol Hill is the traditional home of the LGBTQ community in Seattle. It provides one of the most interesting and vibrant nieghborhoods in the city. In recent years, the center of the nieghborhood has shifted away from Broadway to the Pike/Pine corridor (especially between Broadway and 12th).
Madrona lies to the west on Lake Washington, midway between State Route 520 and Interstate 90. Madrona is known as the 'peaceable kingdom' because it is so ethnically diverse. It is a place for lovers of nature and lovers of peace. A slow-lane kind of place where you can feel at home, even if it is your first visit. Walk down 34th street and see local shops, or pack a picnic lunch at one of Madrona's parks, or enjoy Madrona's trails with breathtaking views of Lake Washington.
Queen Anne, north of downtown, contains some of Seattle's outstanding residential architecture, and is home to a number of landmarks, such as the Queen Anne Drive Bridge, Kerry Park (great views of Puget Sound and the city) and more. As always, many shops. The neighborhood itself is divided into two parts, Lower Queen Anne and Upper Queen Anne. Lower Queen Anne was a center for night life surround basketball games before the Sonics were stolen by Kansas City. Now, it is primarily an apartment area with a small commercial area (most apartments were built for the 1962 world's fair). Upper Queen Anne has many of Seattle's most stately addresses. Kerry Park is in Upper Queen Anne.
Belltown , a northerly extension of the downtown area, is considered a nightlife and condo centered neighborhood. The bars and clubs in this area can get rowdy, especially late at night. During the day, restaurants offer an interesting mix of food and there is also the nearby Olympic Sculpture Park at the far northern edge on the waterfront.
South Lake Union SLU is an "up and done" neighborhood in Seattle. With upscale condos being completed and sold every day, this neighborhood is growing by leaps and bounds, mainly powered by (and inhabited by) Amazon. Many new restaurants and businesses are flourishing as they cater to this budding tech community. Much of the development here is generated by Paul Allen, of Microsoft fame. The gem of this neighborhood is by the lake shore where there is a new park, the Museum of History and Industry, and the wooden boat center. This park, finished in recent years, has been very successful.
Ballard is a few minutes north of downtown Seattle. This older Scandinavian neighborhood is a rich district with enough restaurants and boutiques and old architecture (off the main drag) to interest most. Today, the Scandinavian community has been largely replaced with a newer demographic, however signs remain: The Nordic Heritage Museum provides an insight into Northwest immigrants from Scandinavia and the docks still house a strong Norwegian fishing community.
Fremont is a neighborhood a couple of miles north of downtown Seattle, just to the east of Ballard. It is a liberal, artsy neighborhood known for its free thinking, with many and diverse restaurants and pubs. It is a popular place for college students and young professionals. The famed Fremont Troll can be located under the Aurora Bridge.
Downtown in Seattle is a relatively confined central business district, bordered east by the city hills, and to the west by Elliot Bay. The generalized downtown area includes some of the most visited destinations such as the Seattle Center with, for example, the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project, the Pike Place Market, waterfront and more.
Greenlake Greenlake has a paved trail that goes around the lake. Here can be found walkers, bicyclists, in-line skaters, many dogs and strollers. Also around Greenlake are large grassy areas where people play sports of all kinds, picnic and relax. Around the lake are some of Seattle's older neighborhoods and beautiful homes. Also in this area are a number of pubs, coffee shops and quaint, one-of-a-kind restaurants.
Northgate Defined by the Northgate Mall, this north Seattle neighborhood marks the boundary of where Seattle quirkiness gives way to suburbia. Although the area is still largely residential, you’ll also find the California Pizza Kitchen (in the mall), Quiznos, Azteca, as well as Target and Best Buy. Likely, a visitor to Seattle will not spend time in this neighborhood. The mall is full of stores that can be found at any other mall in America. On the downside, Northgate has the highest rate of car theft in the Seattle area.
The Eastside is a broad term for the cities east of Lake Washington, including Bellevue, Kirkland, Redmond, Sammamish, and Issaquah; although the borders of "The Eastside" are loosely defined. The Eastside has many jewels of its own from shopping to sightseeing and outdoor activities. Bellevue has been touted as home to more millionaires per capitia than any other city in the United States. Kirkland is notable for its upscale waterfront community and family friendly beaches. Redmond is home to the Microsoft Corporation as well as home to many of Microsoft's employees.
West Seattle is a neighborhood across Elliot Bay from downtown that is a happening place. Alki beach is always a favorite place to take a stroll or enjoy one of the many restaurants with some of the most spectacular views of the city skyline and Olympic mountains. Lovely wooded parks with trails such as Schmitz Park and Lincoln Park make for a delightful afternoon. If eating is on your mind, whether it be a great steak, sushi or pizza, West Seattle has a great selection for any palate. During the summer months, a water taxi shuttles people between the downtown and West Seattle. In particular, "The Junction" at California and Alaska has a number of excellent shops and restaurants including Bakery Nouveau, The West 5, and Husky's Deli.