A Walking Tour of Seattle’s Capitol Hill Neighborhood

Seattle Volunteer Park Sign
Seattle Volunteer Park Sign | © Cindy Shebley / Flickr
Samantha Ladwig

The Capitol Hill neighborhood, with its roaring nightlife and dense, vibrant culture, is one of Seattle’s most prominent areas.

Capitol Hill is home to the literary institution the Hugo House and the indie film center Northwest Film Forum, as well as Seattle’s alternative magazine The Stranger. Locals and tourists flock to its many coffeehouses, green spaces, and, of course, its beloved Elliott Bay Book Company. See all that the Capitol Hill neighborhood has to offer with our walking guide below.

1. Volunteer Park


© Bill Roberts / Flickr
Start the day by taking a walk through one of Seattle’s most beloved parks, Volunteer Park, which sits in the center of the neighborhood and covers 48 acres. It’s home to the Art Deco-designed Seattle Asian Art Museum—free admission on the first Thursday of every month—as well as the botanical garden conservatory. On the north end of the park sits the water tower with an observation deck. Visitors can take the stairs up to the top to enjoy scenic views of the Space Needle and Lake Washington.

Visitors can then meander through the Lake View Cemetery on the northeast edge of the park. People from all over come to visit the cemetery where martial artist Bruce Lee and his son, actor Brandon Lee, are buried. Indeed, so many visitors show up that the cemetery had to plant shrubs around their graves so that people wouldn’t trample the surrounding headstones.

2. Harvard-Belmont Landmark District


© vl04 / Flickr

Located on the west slope of Capitol Hill is the Harvard-Belmont Landmark District, an area packed with Seattle’s most historic structures. The district housed Seattle’s leading financiers, entrepreneurs, and industrialists, including railroad builder H.C. Henry. Visitors of the district will enjoy the array of architectural designs such as the colonial, Tudor, and Victorian-style mansions. Primarily built in the first decade of the 20th century, the area was officially registered as a preservation site in 1980.

3. Seattle University Gardens

Botanical Garden

© Cornel Morozan / Flickr

Afterward, head southwest to Seattle University, where visitors can explore some of the city’s best gardens. Though the university is clearly labeled to those who pass by, the campus hides behind large trees, bushes, and buildings. The small, private university is an intimate space with small patches of greenery tucked behind buildings and scattered throughout. The campus website provides a self-guided walking tour of the school’s lush gardens, such as the Shakespeare Garden that is rich with chamomile and features many of the botanicals referenced in his work and the Healing Garden that’s full of historically medicinal plant life.

This green wonderland is a Seattle must-see. Along with the gardens, the campus experiences a lot of traffic from architecture and art enthusiasts because of its church. Designed by acclaimed architect Steven Holl, the Chapel of St. Ignatius won the Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1998. The church is small, but it’s famous for its obscure shape and windows that warp the sunshine, creating bright, colored pools of light inside.

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