Pike Place Market is the heart of the downtown Seattle’s cultural and commercial scene. It’s no surprise that our recent overview of America’s best indoor farmers’ markets included Pike Place as a must-visit destination. Many of the iconic images associated with the market—including fishmongers tossing the daily catch and fresh fruit literally piled to the ceiling—are drawn from the bustling spring and summer months. But highly caffeinated Pike Place becomes quieter and actually somewhat serene during the otherwise dreary Pacific Northwest winter—a fact that makes its charms more enthralling to those who take the time to look.
Here are five of our editors’ choices for taking some time out of your busy day to relax, unwind, and experience the mellower side of Pike Place Market during wintertime. It’s the city’s commercial hub in every season, but thoughtful visitors to the winter market can find some much-needed calm and a respite from the grey Seattle skies outside.
Have a spot of tea.
The hot beverage options at Pike Place are part of its winter market charm. There are plenty of Seattle’s famous coffeehouses to choose from—including the original Starbucks café—but we actually recommend hot tea as your go-to cup. Market Spice has been a Pike Place fixture since 1911, and their eponymous cinnamon-orange tea is warming and festive without getting too sweet. With dozens of varieties to choose from, plus tea accessories, gourmet foods, and much more, Market Spice provides a calming and aromatic sojourn in your Pacific Northwest winter.
Watch for whales… from inside
The whale watching boats don’t hibernate—they keep speeding hopeful tourists into Puget Sound all winter long. But really, who wants to be outside in that weather when you don’t have to be? With a prime location on the market’s mezzanine level, the Sound View Café provides a great vantage point to watch for wildlife in comfort. Grab a seat and a bowl of steaming hot clam chowder, then stare to your heart’s content at the sound’s boiling grey waters without getting cold and wet.
Get a hearty sit-down meal
It’s understandable that many of the market’s food options are geared towards get-in-and-get-out shoppers. But your choices extend far beyond grab-and-go choices like fried chicken and doughnuts. Indeed, there’s serious cuisine to be had here, and wintertime’s more relaxed pace provides the perfect opportunity to sit, relax, and dine. The cozy dining room at Café Campagne treats diners to seasonal Parisian bistro favorites like steak frites, bouillabaisse, cassoulet, and more. And if spice is your thing, the Indian, Tibetan, and Nepali specialties at Kastoori Grill are worth lingering over. Take your time and savor winter market food that isn’t served in a waxed paper bag.
Buy your Christmas tree
Why settle for another season with that pre-decorated plastic tree from the attic when you can grab a real fresh-cut Pacific Northwest Christmas tree from just outside the market’s main entrance? Handmade wreaths, hot cider, and all of your must-have seasonal favorites are all in one place. And with the abundance of close-in parking available during the mostly tourist-free winter months, youwon’t have far to tote that perfect tannenbaum back to your car.
We all know how to eat chocolate, but do you know how it’s made? Indi Chocolate’s 90-minute “Bean to Bar” course shows you how it’s done. Starting with the humble cacao bean itself, Indi’s master chocolatiers guide you through roasting, refining, and tempering. There’s even a special class just for chocolate-curious kids. It’s an aromatic, hands-on immersion into a very specialized art form—and of course, every student heads out into the Pacific Northwest winter with a complimentary chocolate bar of their choice.