Seattle/Capitol Hill-Central District
Capitol Hill is Seattle's most densely populated neighborhood and the heart of the city's counterculture. Lying directly east of the downtown retail core, Capitol Hill is unofficially bounded to the east by 23rd Ave E, to the west by Interstate 5, to the south by E Union St, and to the north by E Interlaken Blvd. Included here is the neighboring district of First Hill, immediately to the south adjacent to Downtown.
The Central District is located southeast of the downtown area of Seattle and is bordered by the International District, First Hill, and Capitol Hill. It's the traditional center of Seattle's African-American population, though recently it has attracted young first-time homeowners from throughout the city because of the undervalued property, creating a boom in new home construction and new business. Nonetheless, it is still the center of Black culture in Seattle and has the highest concentration of black residents in the Pacific Northwest, with African-Americans making up 51% of the population. It also has a significant Ethiopian population, whose restaurants and shops lend the area an interesting character.
Also included here are the chain of small, residential neighborhoods to the east, running along the shore of Lake Washington. From north to south, they are: Montlake, Madison Park, Madison Valley, Madrona, and Leschi. Continuing south past Interstate 90 (partially hidden in a tunnel) leads into South Seattle's Beacon Hill and Mt. Baker neighborhoods.
Capitol Hill is the most densely populated neighborhood in the city and is the center of the city's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. Famous residents include Dan Savage, a popular American gay alternative sex advice columnist, who well represents Capitol Hill's population of hipsters and homosexuals. The neighborhood is not exclusively queer by any means, and most establishments are integrated.
Capitol Hill has also has been the center of Seattle's alternative community for decades. During the 1990s, Capitol Hill was one of the birthplaces of the country's grunge movement, with Kurt Cobain and other famous grunge musicians frequenting Capitol Hill establishments. Capitol Hill is still the center of Seattle's independent music community.
Popular retail districts within Capitol Hill include Broadway, the Pike/Pine corridor, and 15th Avenue E. There are a variety of restaurants, bars, music venues, clubs, boutiques, and other shops here, while the surrounding blocks are filled with condominium and apartment buildings and cafes. There are many grand old homes in "mansionland" to the north, near Volunteer Park. Capitol Hill residents are generally some of the most politically progressive in the country, exemplified by the fact that many of the 1999 WTO protests spilled from Downtown into Capitol Hill, which has had an impact on the mindset of the community.
From Downtown, it's a pleasant walk up the hill on a nice day (the Broadway area is roughly a mile from the retail core). By bus, King County Metro serves the area with numerous routes, most of which run frequently; good options from Downtown include Routes 10 (Pine St/15th Ave E, and the most convenient option to Volunteer Park and the Asian Art Museum), 11 (Pine St/E Madison St), 43 (John St/24th Ave E), and 49 (Pine St/Broadway), all of which can be boarded along Pike Street in Downtown. First Hill is served by the 2 and the 12, with the 2 continuing along Union Street out to Madrona, while the 12 turns north on 19th Avenue into Capitol Hill.
There is currently a light rail station under construction at Broadway/Denny Way, but it's not scheduled to open until 2016. Also under construction is a streetcar line along Broadway, which will connect Capitol Hill to the International District; an opening date hasn't been set yet, but it's currently scheduled to open sometime in 2015.
- Seattle Asian Art Museum, 1400 E. Prospect St (in Volunteer Park), ☎ . W–Su 10AM–5PM, Th 10AM–9PM, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. An offshoot of Downtown's Seattle Art Museum, SAAM displays a portion of the permanent collection balanced with rotating, consistently well-curated special exhibitions. The focus is usually on Chinese or Japanese art, where the collection reflects long-established ties across the Pacific, but does include works from as far as India. The Art Deco building (the Seattle Art Museum's original home) is an attraction in its own right. $5 (some special exhibitions may be higher, usually $7); free the first Thursday of every month.
- Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave, ☎ , fax: +1 206 223-1707, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Tu-Su 11AM-5PM, Th 11AM-7PM. A small private collection on First Hill. Parking is always available and the place is worth a visit. free.
- Cal Anderson Park, 1635 11th Ave (near Broadway and E Pine St). A newly renovated park near Broadway and E Pine St that is very popular on sunny days. It includes a signature fountain and pond, a basketball court, tennis and softball fields, and a playground. Great for peoplewatching, and you can often see groups of people doing activities varying from hackeysack to drum circles to freeze tag to bike polo to twirling around with colorful scarves.
- Lakeview Cemetery, 1554 15th Ave E (at junction with Garfield), ☎ . Summer 9AM-8PM; spring 9AM-6PM; winter 9AM-4PM. Incorporated in 1872, Lakeview Cemetery is set on a hillside with views of Lake Union, the Cascades, Lake Washington and the Olympic Mountains. The site holds the final resting places of Seattle's first families, many with diverse backgrounds. Many come to pay tribute at the graves of Bruce Lee and his son Brandon. Free.
- Volunteer Park (at Prospect St.), 1247 15th Ave E. Designed by John Charles Olmsted and Fredrick Law Olmsted Jr, this is the largest park in Capitol Hill and is the site of a botanical conservatory and the Seattle Asian Art Museum (above).
- Water Tower, at Prospect St. park entrance. 10AM-sunset. The 1906 tower at the highest point of Capitol Hill has an observation deck at the top, with views from the Cascades to the Olympics interspersed with a series of panels explaining the history of Seattle's Olmsted-designed park system. The views are somewhat obstructed by metal grates, but the clever photographer can work around them. No elevator - the only way up is the staircase wound around the water tank, seven stories high. Free.
- Washington Park Arboretum, 2300 Arboretum Dr. E. Daily, dawn-dusk. The Arboretum is a 230-acre park additionally serving as a botanical garden and horticultural research center, with thousands of trees and plants from temperate climates represented. An extensive network of walking trails covers the park. The visitor's center, near the northeast corner of the park, is open from 10AM to 4PM daily, and has limited parking available. Guided tours are offered on the first and third Sundays of every month, and free trail maps highlighting the major parts of the collection are available at any time.
- Seattle Japanese Garden, 1075 Lake Washington Blvd. E (southwest area of the Arboretum), ☎ . Hours vary seasonally: generally Tu-Su 10AM until sunset. Extended hours from May to September, closed December to February; check the link above for more detailed information. A small, formal Japanese garden within the grounds of the Arboretum, recently renovated. $6 adults, $4 children over 5 years and seniors.
- Streissguth Gardens, on E Blaine St. between 10th Ave E and Broadway E (park at E Blaine Street and 10th Avenue East and go down the public stairs; the gardens will be on your left). A small, family-maintained garden located on the northwest side of Seattle´s Capitol Hill, on a steep hillside. Noisy but offering great views over Lake Union, Downtown Seattle, and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.
- Madison Park, 4000 E Madison St (south of Evergreen Point Bridge), ☎ . 4AM-11:30PM. Activities include swimming, bathhouse, restaurants, tennis court (with lights), and great views of the floating bridge and the Cascades. Lifeguards patrol the area during the summer, which creates a safer playground for kids, but it's still a beautiful park to hang out for teens and adults.
- The Jimi Hendrix statue rocks out on the sidewalk at the NE corner of E Pine Street and Broadway, though there's no particular historical connection between the location and the man.
- Seattle University, 901 12th Ave, ☎ . A private Jesuit university.
The northern portion of the Arboretum includes several small islands, and on one of Seattle's characteristically lovely summer days, exploration by water is enjoyable. Watercraft rentals are available from two locations in the University District just across the Ship Canal.
- Hothouse Spa & Sauna, 1019 E Pike St, ☎ . A small urban women-only spa with an industrial/basement vibe. Great for a relaxing soak in the tub. Expect to be nude and quiet, and bring your own towels.
- Club Z, 1117 Pike St, ☎ . On the other end of the spectrum, Club Z is a gay male bathhouse with no tubs and a lot of glory holes! Don't walk in if you expect to do any dancing or, um, bathing.
- Capitol Hill Block Party. Takes place in the heart of Capitol Hill for one weekend in the summer, attracting both local and national musicians.
- Seattle International Film Festival. The largest and one of the best film festivals in the country takes place in Seattle from the end of May to early June every year. Most venues are located on Capitol Hill and in Downtown.
- Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave, ☎ . A Seattle-based non-profit organization for film artists, showcasing American and international cinema as well as quarterly world premiere live performances.
- Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave, ☎ +1 206 686-MOVI (listings) / +1 206 328-3230 (office). A unique, smaller movie theater that shows older films as well as plenty of midnight movie screenings of hilariously bad films. Also serves excellent food and beer during the show. $8.
- Elliott Bay Book Company, 1521 10th Ave (between Pike and Pine), ☎ , toll-free: . M-Th 10AM-10PM, F-Sa 10AM-11PM, Su 10AM-9PM. Seattle's largest independent bookstore, recently moved up onto the Hill from its old home in Pioneer Square. The wide, wooden-shelved spaces are a pleasure to browse. There's a small cafe tucked in the back of the lower level, which is good but rather expensive.
- Twice Sold Tales, 725 E. Denny Way (at Harvard Ave). Daily 9AM-10PM. Capitol Hill's last remaining used bookstore. A good selection of literature, philosophy and more contemporary reads. Home of numerous cats who appear to have free reign.
- Take 2, 430 15th Ave E, ☎ . Excellent consignment store for women's clothing and accessories, with a small men's section. Great condition and quality brand-name items at very good prices.
There's lots of good Ethiopian food in the Central District. Capitol Hill holds an outrageous number of Thai restaurants; occasionally one goes out of business and like a head of the Hydra, is immediately replaced by another one or more.
- Ayutthaya, 727 E Pike St (at Boylston St). Inexpensive, quality Thai food.
- Big Mario's New York Pizza, 1009 E Pike St (on Capitol Hill just east of Broadway), ☎ . Daily 11AM-4AM. Seattle's only true New York-style thin crust pizza. Huge, foldable slices or whole pies. Full bar with lots of local beers. Pizza window open late night.
- Bluebird Microcreamery & Brewery, 1205 East Pike St, ☎ . 3PM-10PM weekdays, 12PM-10PM weekends. Excellent ice cream shop which also serves beer and soda with everything made in-house. The peanut butter ice cream is outstanding. Listed as Best Ice Cream joint in Seattle in 2013 by the Seattle Weekly newspaper.
- Byzantion, 601 Broadway E, ☎ . 5PM-11PM. Greek food is hard to find on the Hill, but this excellent little place serves up Spanakopita, gyros, lamb, seafood dishes, fresh vegetables, baklava and more. Good wine selection and the staff is quirky, but attentive. $10-$20.
- Cactus, 4220 E Madison St (multiple locations), ☎ . A local favorite. A creative mix of Mexican, Southwestern and Spanish cuisine complemented by great cocktails. Always full, with outdoor seating in the summer.
- Cafe Flora, 2901 E Madison St (in the Madison Valley neighborhood). closed Mondays. Upscale, all-vegetarian cuisine in a casual atmosphere. Menus change weekly.
- Cafe Lago, 2305 24th Ave E (at E Lynn St in Montlake neighborhood), ☎ . Established Italian restaurant popular for vegetarian lasagna, apple-wood fired pizza, and fresh hand-made pasta (they have an employee dedicated solely to making pasta).
- Coastal Kitchen, 429 15th Ave E. A casual restaurant that serves excellent food at a reasonable price. It has specials that change monthly, as they serve the cuisine of a new coastal region every three months. Very popular for brunch on weekends, with long waits at peak times.
- Crush, 2319 E Madison St (Madison Valley), ☎ . Su-Th 5PM-10:30PM, F-Sa 5PM-midnight. Rated among the best 10 new restaurants in the U.S. after it opened. Under Chef Jason Wilson's stewardship it continues to be one of the more well respected haute cuisine houses in the country. Has received countless awards and the food is good, with an adventurous twist on traditional American cuisine. Reservations are strongly recommended. $20-$30.
- Dick's Drive-In, 115 Broadway E. Where the cool hang out (according to Sir Mix-a-Lot's song "Posse on Broadway"). Favorite items include Gloppy Dick's Deluxe cheeseburgers, hot fries, and tasty hand-dipped milkshakes. Drive up or walk up; this place will be hopping on a Friday or Saturday night, even if it's cold and rainy outside. Be sure to get in line by 1:45AM because they slam the order windows shut promptly at 2AM. Dick's cashiers have an amazing ability to instantly add up your bill in their head. There are other branches throughout the city (Lake City, Wallingford, Lower Queen Anne), but because the Capitol Hill one is easiest to walk up to, it's also the best for people watching.
- Ezell's Famous Chicken, 501 23rd Ave (at Jefferson), ☎ . This Central District mainstay gained wide renown when Oprah Winfrey declared it her favorite, but it really needs no celebrity endorsements; it's hands-down the best stuff around. This flagship location sits directly across from Garfield High School. There's no seating, but they recently started accepting credit cards. Spicy and original; the spicy chicken isn't too spicy, but you can get a side of hot sauce for 11 cents extra. Daily specials vary based on forecasted surplus of unsold chicken; you can sometimes get thighs for $1/each.
- Hot Mama's Pizza, 700 E Pine St. Classic New York-style pizza by the slice. You can't go wrong here and the pesto is particularly popular.
- Jamjuree, 509 15th Ave E. A Thai place that's fairly quiet and upscale, with excellent specials -- try the Lime Light Chicken if you have a chance. On request they can make truly vegetarian Thai food (i.e., without fish sauce).
- Julia's On Broadway, 300 Broadway E (at Thomas St). Julia’s serves Northwest cuisine along with good ol' American food, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Average quality, expensive meals and cocktails are prepared in a charming old building that used to house a seriously divey bar until they gutted it and put in a tasteful interior. On sunny days they offer ring-side seating to the throngs of passers-by. The location is excellent, but the service can be less than stellar.
- Monsoon, 615 19th Ave E, ☎ . Contemporary Vietnamese.
- Moonlight Cafe, 1919 S Jackson St, ☎ . 9AM-10PM daily. Serves excellent vegan mock-meat versions of Vietnamese and Chinese dishes such as noodle bowls and sesame beef. In fact, they boast a full vegan menu with as many dishes as their separate carnivorous menu offers. $7-$10.
- Pho Cyclo, 406 Broadway E. Serves the most popular pho of the several pho restaurants along Broadway. The prices are higher than Than Brothers, but the quality and flavors are superior. Well worth the extra dollar or two per meal!
- Pizzeria Pagliacci, 2400 10th Ave E. Serves unique Seattle style pizza, reminiscent of thin crust, by-the-slice New York pizza, but with an imaginative collection of toppings that change with the seasons. Walk in and ask for two slices of "primo" and you won't be disappointed. The Pagliaccio salad is a good starter. There are branches in the University District and Queen Anne, plus delivery throughout the city.
- Tacos Guaymas, 1415 Broadway. Offers authentic Mexican meals. Try the Sopa de Tortilla or the Wet Green Burrito.
- Than Brothers Pho, 516 Broadway E. Complimentary cream puffs and frighteningly large portions make this an always busy spot. There is plenty of seating thoughout and a nice clean environment. Be sure to try the French-style coffee. Other locations on Aurora Ave N and the University District.
If Seattle takes its coffee seriously, then Capitol Hill takes it very seriously. This is a good neighborhood to spend some quality time in one of Seattle's numerous coffee shops.
- Bauhaus Books & Coffee, 301 E Pine St. Cozy and fun coffee shop at the base of Capitol Hill. A great place to people watch and enjoy the view of the Space Needle. Wonderful baristas, fun latte art, decent coffee.
- Caffé Vita, 1005 E Pike St, ☎ . Coffee roaster with a warehouse feel, where patrons can clearly see how the coffee beans are roasted. Average coffee.
- Espresso Vivace Roasteria, 532 Broadway E, ☎ . Daily 6AM-11PM. Founded by an engineer who's been developing progressively more sophisticated roasters for twenty years. Their beans, plus Mighty-O doughnuts, are also available at the sidewalk Vivace at 321 Broadway E, between Harrison and Thomas.
- Insomniax Coffee, 102 15th Ave E (at Denny Way). Nestled inside the Group Health complex, this coffee house caters to medical professionals and a diverse group of locals who enjoy freshly blended fruit smoothies (try the Big Apple!) and great conversations with the baristas.
- Pettirosso, 1101 E Pike St (at 11th Ave.). Cozy, intimate place full of regulars and good for a quiet conversation.
- Stumptown Coffee Roasters, two locations. A Portland transplant that serves up delicious high quality drinks at two tastefully decorated, minimalist shops on the Hill. One of the best cups of coffee you'll ever taste. Hosts free cuppings for the public every day at 3PM, head downstairs and learn about your beans!
- Stumptown Coffee Roasters on Pine, 616 E Pine St, ☎ .
- Stumptown Coffee Roasters on 12th, 1115 12th Ave, ☎ .
- SoHo Coffee Company, 1918 E Yesler Way (at 20th Ave.), ☎ . A neighborhood shop across from Pratt Park, serves Stumptown coffee and pastries from Alki Bakery. Free wi-fi. Great for meetings.
- Top Pot Doughnuts, 609 Summit Ave. E, ☎ . M-F 6AM-9PM, Sa-Su 7AM-9PM. Nestled into the neighborhood and a favorite weekend hang-out for locals. Incredible doughnuts (try the feather boa doughnut!) in a very Seattle-y atmosphere. Drip coffee isn't so hot, but the freshly-brewed options are all good.
- Tougo Coffee, 1410 18th Ave (at Union St.), ☎ . Somewhat out of sight in a mostly residential part of the Hill. The staff will cheerfully discuss coffee roasting and preparation at length, and the quality of the coffee suggests they know what they're talking about.
- Victrola, 411 15th Avenue E. M-Sa 6AM-10PM, Su 6AM-9PM. Neighborhood place in a hip neighborhood. This place is more spacious than most. Their roastery also has a (smaller) space at 310 E. Pike St., closer to Downtown.
Bars and taverns
- The Baltic Room, 1207 Pine St. A rather elegant and reliably stupid touristy DJ club (and occasionally a live music venue, though less so than in past years). Just across the I-5 freeway from downtown. Cover varies..
- Bill's off Broadway, 725 E Pine St. A strange mix of Capitol Hill old-timers (people who lived here before it was trendy), punks, and Seattle Central Community College students. The food is Italian-inspired bar food (lots of cheese!) and the drinks are stiff. Great place to start a night out (don't stay too late as Bill's closes at 12AM). Service can be amazingly slow, so if you're starving you might want to go somewhere else.
- Cha Cha Lounge, 1013 E Pike St. A weird cross of dive bar and trendy spot, the ambiance of their old location was successfully transplanted to this location after their former building was razed for yet more condo construction. Your bartender may have had an album in the charts circa 1992.
- Pine Box, 1600 Melrose Ave (at Pine St.), ☎ . M-F 3PM-2AM, Sa-Su 11AM-2AM. Located in a former funeral home (rumored to have handled Bruce Lee's body) that has now been converted to offices and a beer bar. Enjoy one of the best beer selections in the neighborhood.
- DeLuxe Bar and Grill, 625 Broadway E (at Roy). Dark, but appealing for a beer, stiff drink or bar food (hearty burgers, thick fries, etc.). More restaurant than bar.
- Garage, 1134 Broadway Ave, ☎ . 3PM-2AM. A trendy billiards hall and bowling alley, built in a spacious former garage that has no problem handling large groups. Multiple bars with food service, and an outdoor patio (weather permitting).
- Liberty, 517 15th Ave E, ☎ . Free wifi, large couches, decent sushi, good drinks and attractive servers conspire to make this one of the better Capitol Hill bars.
- Linda's Tavern, 707 E Pine St. The outdoor patio makes this the perfect place to enjoy a few drinks under the stars.
- Poco Wine Room, 1408 E Pine St. 4PM-2AM. A self-billed bistropub, home to a hefty list of wines by the glass (including on tap), full bar, and beers on tap. Quiet and friendly on weeknights.
- Smith, 332 15th Ave E, ☎ . Another bar owned by Linda Derschang of Linda's fame. Although Smith regularly becomes packed in the evening, large communal tables in the center of the establishment mean you can usually find a place to sit.
- Stumbling Monk, 1635 E Olive Way (at Belmont Ave. E). Its dark appearance from the outside makes it easy to miss, but worth stepping inside. As the name suggests, you’ll find an excellent selection of Belgian beer strong enough to make your walk home a challenge. The Stumbling Monk’s unpretentious atmosphere makes it a down-to-earth oasis on trendy Capitol Hill.
- Summit Public House, 601 Summit Ave. E. Offers many beers on tap and is home to one of the best BLTs in the city.
- 11th Avenue Inn, 121 11th Avenue East, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. An eight-room bed and breakfast built in 1906 on a tree-lined side street two blocks east of Broadway, just north of Cal Anderson Park. Free on-site parking, queen beds, private bathrooms, wifi. AAA 3-diamond. $69-169.
- The Corner House B&B, 102 18th Avenue East, ☎ , e-mail: TheCornerHouseBandB@gmail.com. A small classic B&B on Capitol Hill. Two rooms with queen beds, private baths, generous healthy breakfasts, friendly resident hosts, and a lowest-rates guarantee. Discounts by week and month. Two-night minimum. Cat alert! Make sure no one in your party is allergic or phobic. $85/night for 2 people, $70/1 person.
- Seward Suites, 215 13th Avenue East, ☎ . Check-in: 4PM, check-out: 12AM. Situated in an elegant turn-of-the-century building. Built in 1907, the original architecture and woodwork remain and have been restored to their original splendor. Each quiet room has original hardwood floors, moldings, 11 ft ceilings and large windows. The views of the Olympic Mountain range, the Space Needle, and the sunset over Puget Sound are breathtaking and picturesque. $109-139.
- Capitol Hill Guest House, 1808 E. Denny Way (turn off 18th Avenue; house is second home on left.), ☎ . Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. Comfortable and clean bed & breakfast style accommodations with friendly hospitality and a modest rate. $85-$145.
- Shafer Baillie Mansion, 907 14th Avenue East, toll-free: , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Sorrento Hotel, 900 Madison St, toll-free: . This historic hotel has crowned the First Hill since 1908. It is a posh, Italinate, 7-story hotel with fine dining in the AAA - 4 diamond Hunt Club - For a classy night out before the "hopera".
Though crime in the neighborhood has declined in recent years, the Central District has one of the highest crime rates in Seattle. However, the neighborhood is fairly safe at daytime. Walking in the District at night is not advised.
Wireless Internet is available at nearly every coffee shop, though some disable it during peak hours on weekends to keep the crowds moving.
All branches of the Seattle Public Library have open wireless, using the SSID spl-public. Public computers with Internet access and basic office software are available for up to an hour at a time, but require either a SPL library card or a temporary pass available from the circulation desk. All services are free.
- Capitol Hill Branch, 425 Harvard Ave. E (cross street: E. Republican St., one block west of Broadway), ☎ . M-Th 10AM-8PM, F-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 1-5PM.
- Montlake Branch, 2401 24th Ave. E (cross street: E. McGraw St.), ☎ . M-T 1PM-8PM, W-Th,Sa 11AM-6PM, closed F and Su.