An Art Lover’s Guide to Seattle in 24 Hours

Seattle Street Art | © idugh / Flickr
Seattle Street Art | © idugh / Flickr
Photo of Jacklyn Grambush
13 October 2017

Seattle has long since established itself as a creative hub. Though the city celebrates art in all its forms—musical, culinary, performing, literary, etc.—it certainly works its magic with the visual arts. For art lovers dreaming of Paris, New York, and Rome as they land at Sea-Tac International Airport, fear not. The Emerald City will delight, bewilder, and impress your senses—in only 24 hours—with what it has to offer.

Must-visit museums

Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

The Seattle Art Museum is a can’t-miss venue with approximately 25,000 pieces in their collection, which include contemporary, African, Meso-American, Ancient Mediterranean, Islamic, European, Oceanic, Australian Aboriginal, Asian, American, decorative, and Northwest Coast art. There is a suggested donation price for the main collections and a fixed price for the special exhibition, which changes every few months.

Insider tip: During the first Thursday of every month, admission to SAM is free, and special exhibitions are half price.

Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture

As the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Burke Museum is undoubtedly important; it’s the oldest public museum in the state, established in 1885. The active research museum currently holds over 16 million pieces in its collections. From the first dinosaur fossils discovered in Washington State in 2012 to the identity of Pacific Rim cultures exhibit to the Erna Gunther Ethnobotanical Garden, the museum provides a wealth of information and displays for natural history and culture lovers.

Insider tip: The first Thursday of each month offers free admission and extended hours until 8 pm, instead of 5 pm. Parking in the U. District can be tricky, so check out the museum’s website for parking suggestions.

Burke Museum | © Wonderlane / Flickr

Chihuly Garden and Glass

This long-term exhibit of Dale Chihuly’s glass art offers eight stunning galleries, the centerpiece Glasshouse, and the garden. Earning the LEED Silver certification in 2012, the exhibit combines some of Chihuly’s previous pieces with those created specifically for the exhibition. Unlike any other museum, the unique interaction of glass with light and space will take your breath away.

Insider tip: The last ticket is sold an hour before closing time. Check the website for special event closures when making plans.

Chihuly Garden and Glass | © Dale Cruse / Flickr

Artsy cafés


Located in the basement of the University of Washington’s Art Building (and near the Burke Museum), Parnassus is a café and art gallery. Started in 1951 by students and for students, the café boasts local foods, while the Parnassus Art Gallery features the work of students. Half of all profits go directly to the School of Art scholarship program, so it’s a great place to refuel while enjoying and supporting local art.

Local Color

Near SAM at Pike Place Market, Local Color offers light fare, gourmet coffee, beer, wine, and art. Indeed, original artwork by Pacific Northwest artists that rotate every two months covers their walls. All pieces are for sale; you can carry them out or ship them to your desired address.

Local Color | © LWYang / Flickr

Art galleries


A fine arts gallery and bar, Vermillion is a chic spot to be. The full-service bar includes a daily seasonal menu. The art gallery is booked indefinitely, though it is only 10 years old. Vermillion strives to provide the excitement of an art opening, minus the crowd, on a nightly basis.

Woodside/Braseth Gallery

The Woodside/Braseth Gallery is the oldest gallery in the Pacific Northwest, established in 1961. With decades of experience working with Northwest, national, and international artists, the gallery has been successful in procuring the art of household names such as Picasso, Warhol, and Rodin. It’s no wonder they are one of the most respected galleries in the region.

Wooside/Braseth Gallery | © Harold Hollingsworth / Flickr

Gallery 110

Gallery 110 is a non-profit organization in Pioneer Square that features established as well as emerging artists. The gallery participates in the First Thursday Art Walk and changes its exhibits every month.

Public art

The Office of Arts and Culture in Seattle maintains an app and maps to facilitate finding public art. The app, STQRY, helps users discover and learn about nearby permanent installments. The maps show the locations in various Seattle neighborhoods of public art and other cultural points of interest.

Seattle Street Art | © Joe Mazzola / Flickr

In addition, the first-ever First Thursday Art Walk—gathering the community in an admission-free space to support local artists and small businesses—took place in Pioneer Square in 1981, making it the first of its kind in the United States. It has inspired over a dozen neighborhoods in Seattle since then to provide regular public Art Walks of their own.


Portfolio Restaurant

The Portfolio Restaurant is a student-run establishment at The Art Institute of Seattle. Under the supervision of their chef instructor and restaurant manager, the restaurant is used as a dining lab in which culinary students apply what they have been learning for two years in a real restaurant setting. What a fun situation in which to be a guinea pig!

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