While not as big as the likes of NYC or LA, Seattle is a big city by many people’s standards, and this means that it can be tricky for newcomers to travel around the city. Transport is a vital part of travel, and that’s why the helpful folks here at Totally Seattle have created this guide to getting around Seattle as a tourist.
We hope this guide unlocks Seattle to some readers considering visiting the Emerald City. If it does and you’d like a tour from the city’s premier luxury tour operator, check out our range of private tours of Seattle. With our tours, we will drive you around the city, showing you the best spots along the way!
Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions about Seattle. We’re always happy to hear from people interested in our city.
Explore Seattle by Train
Many people’s favorite mode of transport is by train, and Seattle has a variety of reliable train services to choose from. Let’s check out the main train services in Seattle!
Sound Transit’s Link Light Rail
This train service runs every 8 to 15 minutes, meaning that you will never be waiting long. And it is very affordable, with adult fare costing between $2.25–$3.50 — depending on how far you’re going.
The downside of taking this train through Seattle is that it can only run along its tracks, meaning that it won’t get you to every part of the city (more on this below). However, with 16 stops between Angle Lake Station and Northgate, passing through downtown Seattle, many places on any tourist’s bucket list will be found relatively close to a Link Light train station!
The Link Light Rail only runs North/South so neighborhoods to the East and West of Downtown Seattle can not be explored with this method of transportation. With most tracks in downtown Seattle being underground it isn’t great for those with a lot of luggage but it is a very convenient way to get to and from the airport to downtown for those who are travelling light.
Seattle Streetcars are trolley rather than trains, but they are the same idea, with stops scattered along the tracks. Dating back as far as 1889, the streetcars are a Seattle institution, and they are worth trying out if you aren’t in a hurry and enjoy looking out the window as you travel.
There are two Seattle Streetcars to choose between: South Lake Union and First Hill — both of which open up different parts of the city. Read more about Seattle Streetcars.
Get the Train from the Famous King Street Station
Seattle’s King Street Station is worth visiting in its own right — even if you don’t plan on taking a train. The catch: this beautiful building became a popular enough tourist attraction that you must buy a train ticket if you want to enter.
There are five main train routes that run into and out of King’s Street Station, all taking you in different directions, heading farther afield, taking you out of the city. The most exciting of which is arguably the famous Rocky Mountaineer, which travels to Vancouver and onwards to the Canadian Rockies.
The Iconic Seattle Center Monorail
Is there any form of train more exciting than a monorail? If there is, we haven’t heard of it! The Seattle Center Monorail is a wonderful way to enjoy views of the city while elevated above the people and cars below. There’s something delightfully futuristic yet old-fashioned about a monorail; or rather, monorails feel like what people in the ‘50s imagined the future to look like…
This all original method of transportation is left over from the 1962 Worlds Fair. Though it only runs from Westlake Center to Seattle Center (making no other stops), it is a charming way for people staying downtown to get to the Seattle Center to see the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass Exhibit, the MoPop and more.
With a fare of just $3, the monorail is a cheap way to move around the city center, but the lack of stops makes it more of a small tour than an effective transport method. Not every city has a monorail, and this is part of what makes Seattle special, so we highly recommend taking the Seattle Center Monorail at least once during your visit!
Explore Seattle by Car
If you’re happy to drive around a city you don’t know — probably with the help of your satnav — then this is probably the option for you. Of course, with driving, you may struggle to find places to park on occasion, so you will probably still need to walk part of the way. If you need help finding reasonably priced parking, try this specialist website.
Driving in Seattle is necessary if you want to explore attractions outside of Seattle such as Mount Rainier, Snoqualmie Falls, or even neighborhoods within the city such as Ballard or Fremont. However, if exploring popular tourist attractions in downtown, traffic and parking often make having a car more of a hindrance than an advantage.
There’s not a lot to say about driving around Seattle, except that if you’re flying to the city then you’ll need a decent rental service. Zipcar is a great option as you can book an on-demand car share. With the help of the app, it’s easy and quick. This isn’t an ad; we don’t even know anyone at Zipcar!
Take a Tour of Seattle
While it may seem self-serving to say that taking a tour of Seattle is the best way to explore the city, we genuinely believe it is. This is because there is a lot to see and do here that you just won’t find in the guidebooks and on travel websites. It’s also hard to find all of these spots if you’re driving yourself. And driving yourself makes it harder to look out the window and appreciate the sights!
We have tried to help visitors find some of the best parts of Seattle by writing travel guides, such as our guides on 5 Incredible Things to Do in Seattle for Families and 5 Off-the-beaten-path Spots in Seattle. However, there is no substitute for getting out into the city with a passionate local guide. This is where we come in!
Our Seattle City Tour is a great way to explore Seattle, moving throughout the city, learning its history, and perhaps even taking note of several places you’re interested in returning to for a closer look. This makes it ideal to do right at the start of your visit to Seattle.
If you’d like to push the boat out further, we have carefully crafted what we believe is the greatest possible Seattle experience. This 8-hour Luxury Seattle Tour isn’t for everyone as it includes the following decadent travel activities:
- Seattle helicopter tour
- Seattle sailing tour (private yacht charter with skipper) including the waters of Elliott Bay and the Puget Sounds
- Seattle driving tour
- Luxurious restaurant with a view of downtown Seattle
- Coffee tasting in a local Seattle cafe
- Reservation and meal at a prestigious Seattle restaurant
Other Great Ways to Get Around Seattle
However you decide to get around Seattle, we hope this guide has helped. We have not had time to explore every transport option. Here are a few honorable mentions that we may come back and add more information about later:
Local Seattle Bus Service
The King County Metro Transit offers a reliable bus service that is made even easier to access via the mobile app that offers lots of helpful times and information.
Local Seattle Taxi Services
We won’t link to specific local taxi services here as we aren’t affiliated with a specific company. There are plenty of great local taxi companies, however, so this is an option that may suit people who mostly want to walk around the city but occasionally need a taxi to get to a faraway area.
Cycling in Seattle
If you’re reasonably fit and you like getting your heart rate up while you explore a new city, then you’ll be happy to know that Seattle is a great city for cyclists. You’ll find ample local bicycle and scooter rental companies that are very easy to access.
If you have any questions about Seattle, please don’t hesitate to contact Totally Seattle. We’re your friendly, enthusiastic local tour guides. Start planning your next adventure in Seattle!