I’ve visited Seattle with and without a car. Both times were excellent in each of their ways. Going carless can save you money and relieve the stress of dealing with traffic and parking. However, choosing the right place to stay is the key to a successful car-free trip.
That’s why I’ve collected the best car-free areas in Seattle for you in this guide. This means super walkable neighborhoods with lots of cool stuff to do and public transport which is a breeze to use. Plus their various top accommodations that fit all budgets.
If you’re a solo traveler, visiting with a partner or friend, or taking a trip with your family, this guide is designed for you.
📖 Table of Contents
- The Best Places to Stay in Seattle Without a Car
- Getting Around Seattle Without a Car
- Things to Do in Seattle Without a Car
- Do You Need a Car in Seattle?
- Is Seattle Safe to Explore Without a Car?
- Frequently Asked Questions
The Best Places to Stay in Seattle Without a Car
Downtown, Queen Anne and Belltown are the best places to stay without a car. They’re all super walkable, close to attractions, and have excellent public transport.
If you're mainly after the best places to stay, no matter which of the three no-car-friendly neighborhoods in Seattle, here's a quick roundup of top accommodations for all budgets:
|● 🎒 Budget:||Green Tortoise Hostel|
(Rated: 9.1 of 10) 🤩
|● 🏨 Mid-Range:||The Sound Hotel|
(Rated: 9.2 of 10) 🤩
|● 🥂 High-End:||Hillside on North|
(Rated: 9.6 of 10) 🤩
1. Downtown Seattle: Best for First-Time Visitors
Downtown buzzes with energy day and night. Its walkability is fantastic, and the streets are full of shops, cafes, and occasional street musicians. You’ll also find many of the biggest attractions here. And with the city’s public transport, you can easily reach any part of the city.
- Easy to Get Around: Downtown is walkable and close to big attractions like Pike Place Market and the Seattle Art Museum.
- Great Public Transport: There are many options for public transport to explore other parts of the city.
- Perfect for First-Time Visitors: Being close to landmarks and easy to get around makes Downtown great for first-time visitors.
- Can Be Busy: Downtown can get crowded, especially during the peak tourist seasons (June to August).
First-time visitors who want a place that is easy to get around, close to all the big city attractions, and don’t mind the city buzz.
Downtown is perfect for those making their first trip to Seattle, eager to be in the middle of it all. It’s central, vibrant, and filled with iconic attractions. However, it can get crowded.
📌 TIP: Make sure to visit the historic Pike Place Market in Downtown. It's one of the oldest farmers' markets in the United States. Here you'll find a lot of local food, art, and unique gifts.
2. Queen Anne: Best for Families
Queen Anne offers a perfect mix of quiet residential streets and lively areas with a lot of shopping and more. Plus, many attractions, like the Seattle Center and Space Needle, are close enough to walk to. Plus with easy access to public transport, it’s simple to explore other parts of Seattle
- Family-friendly: Queen Anne is a quiet neighborhood that’s great for families.
- Easy Transport and Nearby Attractions: Public transport is easily accessible, and places like the Seattle Center and Space Needle are just a walk away.
- A mix of Home and Shopping: The neighborhood has both residential and commercial areas, giving it a balanced feel.
- Maybe Too Quiet: If you’re looking for nightlife or a very lively atmosphere, this might not be the place for you.
Families who prefer a quiet neighborhood with a mix of residential calm and nearby attractions, and aren’t particularly looking for a bustling nightlife scene.
Queen Anne strikes a great balance for families who want a quieter neighborhood that’s still close to key sites. While it’s family-friendly and peaceful, it’s might not the best for those seeking lively nightlife.
📌 TIP: While in Queen Anne, take a walk up to Kerry Park for panoramic views of Seattle's skyline, including an iconic view of the Space Needle. It's a favorite spot for photographers and a good place for relaxation.
3. Belltown: Best for Urban Luxury
Belltown boasts a vibrant atmosphere with diverse dining, shopping, and nightlife options. It’s a perfect combination of city living and neighborhood charm. Also, it’s super walkable with easy access to many attractions on foot. Plus, it benefits from excellent public transportation.
- Near Downtown: Lots of places to eat, shop, and enjoy nightlife.
- City and Home Amenities: Belltown has both city convenience and a cozy neighborhood feel.
- Good Public Transport: It’s easy to get around with many public transport options.
- Few Green Spaces: Compared to other neighborhoods, there are not as many parks or green spaces.
Urban adventurers who want a taste of luxury, love being close to Downtown, and enjoy a vibrant nightlife, shopping, and dining scene.
Belltown is a fantastic fit for those who want to experience city luxury and enjoy a vibrant scene. But, it might not suit those who prefer quieter areas, want a neighborhood with lots of green spaces, or travel on a tighter budget.
📌 TIP: Keep an eye out for happy hours at the many local bars and restaurants. It's a great way to enjoy the high-end offerings without a heavy hit on your wallet.
Getting Around Seattle Without a Car
Exploring Seattle without a car is easy with numerous alternative transportation options. From scenic bike rides to convenient public transit, this section covers all the options for navigating the city car-free.
Biking and Scooters
Seattle offers several bike and scooter-sharing programs, making it quick and convenient to rent a set of wheels and explore. Additionally, the city’s designated bike lanes with scenic routes ensure it’s a fun way to navigate the city.
📌 TIP: If you decide to go on a bike or scooter make sure to wear a helmet, as it's required by law in Seattle.
Monorail and Streetcars
The Seattle Monorail is a fast and fun way to travel between the Seattle Center and Downtown. Meanwhile, the South Lake Union Streetcar and the First Hill Streetcar connect key destinations and neighborhoods, both providing a convenient mode of transport for those without a car.
The Transit GO Ticket app allows you to purchase tickets for these services from your smartphone. If you’re using an iPhone, download the Transit GO Ticket app from the App Store. For Android users, you can find it on the Google Play Store.
Ferries and Water Taxis
Enjoy lovely views of Seattle’s coast and mountains while traveling by ferry or water taxi. Two popular choices are the Bainbridge Island Ferry and the West Seattle Water Taxi. The main dock for these services is located at Pier 52.
You can check the schedule and current location of ferries and water taxis on the Washington State Ferries website. You can also buy tickets there. If you prefer to do so in person, you can buy tickets at the ferry terminal as well.
Buses, Light Rail, and Metro
You can get around Seattle and nearby areas using buses, light rail, and metro run by the King County Metro.
The OneBusAway app can help you know when your bus or train is due. To buy tickets, the most common method is to use the Transit GO Ticket App mentioned earlier, or if you prefer buying in person, you can get them from ticket machines at transit stations.
The well-known Uber and Lyft apps are a tap away on your smartphone if walking or public transport isn’t an option for you. Both rideshare services are available throughout the city, offering a convenient and relatively affordable way to get around Seattle without a car.
Just make sure to check for surge pricing during peak times.
📌 TIP: I recommend primarily using Google Maps for planning and navigating public transport. 1. Launch the app and input your destination in the search bar. 2. Select your travel mode - whether walking, biking, or public transit. Google Maps will show you the optimal routes along with estimated travel times. 3. After picking your route, hit 'Start' to get step-by-step directions. Make use of the 'Depart at' feature for advanced planning, and don't forget to save your frequent locations for easier access later.
Things to Do in Seattle Without a Car
Seattle is a fantastic city to explore without a car. As you’re aware, many attractions are within walking distance, and if not you can always rely on the efficient public transit system. In this section, we’ll discuss some popular no-car activities and day trips to enjoy in the Emerald City.
Best Tours in Seattle Without a Car
1. Seattle Harbor Cruise: A Waterfront Adventure
Set sail on the Seattle Harbor Cruise for an exclusive perspective of the city. Discover famous landmarks like the Space Needle, waterfront skyscrapers, and the lively Elliott Bay from the calm waters.
- Great Views: The cruise provides a unique perspective of Seattle’s skyline from the water, an unparalleled view that you can’t get on land.
- Fun Learning: Enjoy live commentary throughout the cruise, offering insights into the city’s history and landmarks.
- Weather-Dependent: The cruise experience can vary greatly depending on the weather, so do check the forecast before booking.
- Fixed Schedule: The cruises operate on a set timetable, so ensure to plan your day accordingly.
This Harbor Cruise is a fantastic choice for individuals who love sea adventures and are eager to learn more about Seattle’s landmarks and history.
The Seattle Harbor Cruise offers a blend of entertaining and informative elements, presenting a unique way to explore the city. From stunning views to interesting commentary, this water adventure promises a fun experience.
📌 TIP: Remember to dress in layers as the breeze from the water can be quite chilly, even on sunny days!
2. Beneath The Streets Tour: Unearth Seattle’s Hidden Past
Venture into Seattle’s fascinating past with the Beneath The Streets Tour. This underground adventure takes you beneath Seattle’s sidewalks, letting you explore the city’s historic storefronts and pavements.
- Interesting History: You’ll get to learn about Seattle’s unique past from your knowledgeable tour guide.
- Unique Experience: Not many cities offer the chance to explore their underground, making this tour one-of-a-kind.
- Limited Accessibility: Please note that the tour isn’t wheelchair accessible and involves navigating stairs.
- Some Spooky Spots: Certain sections of the tour can be a tad dark and spooky, which might not be ideal for all kids.
This Beneath The Streets Tour is an excellent option for history enthusiasts and those seeking a unique, off-beat city tour.
Combining elements of history and adventure, the Beneath The Streets Tour provides a different take on Seattle. Just ensure you’re comfortable navigating stairs and don’t mind a bit of darkness!
📌 TIP: Remember to wear comfortable shoes and bring a jacket, as the temperatures can drop a little underground.
3. Pike Place Market Tour: Dive into Seattle’s Vibrant Culture
Delve into the bustling hub of Seattle’s food and culture with the iconic Pike Place Market Tour. This tour lets you explore a group of local delicacies, handmade products, and other unique specialties.
- Local Flavor: Savor diverse local foods, giving you an authentic taste of Seattle’s gastronomic roots.
- Crafted Products: Find unique, handmade items perfect for gifts or souvenirs.
- Vibrant Atmosphere: Immerse yourself in the dynamic atmosphere of a thriving market and experience local life up-front.
- Crowd Challenges: The market can get crowded, particularly during peak hours, which might affect the overall experience.
The Pike Place Market Tour is a must for food lovers and those hunting for unique products.
The Pike Place Market tour offers an enriching deep-dive into Seattle’s vibrant culture and gastronomic scene, making it a must-visit for every visitor.
📌 TIP: Bring a reusable shopping bag with you. It's a great way to carry any food or products you might buy during your visit.
Best Day Trips from Seattle Without a Car
1. Mt. Rainier Day Trip: Nature’s Best Close to Seattle
Join the Mt. Rainier Day Trip departing from Seattle for an experience that you’ll love. On this tour, not only will you witness an actual volcano, but you’ll also be surrounded by the stunning nature that makes the area special.
- Nature at Its Best: Mt. Rainier is filled with captivating sights, including lovely waterfalls, diverse animals, and a variety of plants.
- Informative Guide: A knowledgeable guide will accompany you, sharing interesting stories and information about the mountain’s history and the nature that thrives there.
- Weather Concerns: Mt. Rainier is known for its unpredictable weather, which might bring about changes to the tour’s itinerary.
- Physical Activity: The tour involves some walking. Certain areas might be a bit challenging for those not used to nature hikes.
This trip is ideal for those who have a passion for nature and are eager to discover a distinct region in the country.
Embarking on the Mt. Rainier Day Trip will provide you with both entertainment and knowledge. In a single day, you’ll get to grasp the beauty of nature and witness the wonders of an active volcano. It’s an enriching and exciting journey!
📌 TIP: Dress in layers and bring rain gear, as the weather can change fast at Mt. Rainier.
2. Olympic National Park Tour from Seattle: Experience the Wilderness
Prepare yourself for a memorable adventure with the Olympic National Park Tour from Seattle. This unique journey takes you right into the center of one of America’s most scenic parks, offering a day full of nature’s wonders.
- Varied and Beautiful Views: In Olympic National Park, there’s so much to see – from towering mountains to lush, green rainforests. Every turn offers a new sight to admire.
- Chance to See Animals: During your visit, keep your eyes peeled. You might get lucky and spot animals such as graceful deer, soaring eagles, or perhaps even the occasional bear wandering about.
- Not Many Facilities: Just a heads up – in some areas of the park, you might find that there aren’t many places to grab a bite or restrooms to use. It’s all part of the wild experience!
For those who have a deep appreciation for nature and are up for immersing themselves in the outdoors for an entire day, this tour will be a real treat.
Embarking on the Olympic National Park Tour from Seattle gives you a unique opportunity to dive deep into the heart of one of America’s beloved national parks. It promises both relaxation and excitement in nature.
📌 TIP: Pack your lunch and snacks as food options in the park may be limited.
3. Leavenworth Tour from Seattle: A Taste of a German Bavarian Village
Set out on an interesting journey from Seattle to Leavenworth, a lovely town designed like a German Bavarian village, sitting comfortably among the Cascade Mountains.
- Feel Like You’re in Bavaria: Leavenworth offers a unique twist in the U.S. – it’s like stepping into a little piece of Bavaria in Germany, with its retro buildings and rich cultural vibes.
- Majestic Mountain Sights: As you travel to Leavenworth and even when you’re there, you’ll be treated to some truly stunning views of the surrounding mountains. It’s a sightseer’s dream!
- It’s a Bit of a Drive: The journey from Seattle to Leavenworth isn’t short. So, get ready for a day filled with travel and exploration.
- Weather Can Be Tricky: Keep in mind that the weather, especially during the colder months, can sometimes change the plans for the tour.
If you’re someone who’s drawn to cute, little towns, the feel of the German Bavarian culture, or just love gazing at majestic mountains, this trip will surely appeal to you.
Opting for the Leavenworth Tour from Seattle is a decision you won’t regret. It’s not every day that you find such a superb mix of old-world charm and natural beauty, all wrapped up in one day-long adventure.
📌 TIP: In addition to dressing in layers, be sure to explore the local shops and bakeries in Leavenworth, so you don't miss out on tasting traditional German pastries and dishes.
Do You Need a Car in Seattle?
As you’re aware by now Seattle is a city where you don’t need a car to get around. Most visitors find they can see all the sights without one. Seattle’s public transportation is great, and the city is made for walking and biking.
Interestingly, around 16% of Seattle’s residents don’t own a car, proving that getting around the city is very doable without one.
The bus system, light rail, and even water taxis are easy to use in Seattle. The King County Metro Transit covers the entire city, while the Link Light Rail is perfect for trips from the University of Washington to the airport.
The city center is easy to walk around too. Where you’ll find places like Pike Place Market, the waterfront, and Pioneer Square are within walking distance of each other. There are also plenty of other pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods such as Capitol Hill and Ballard to explore.
Lastly, if you like cycling, you’re in luck. Seattle is a bike-friendly city. You can rent a bike, or use the city’s bike-share program such as Lime. With bike lanes and trails everywhere, it’s easy to get around on two wheels.
Is Seattle Safe to Explore Without a Car?
Seattle is a fairly safe city, especially when you compare it to other places in the U.S.
If you’re planning on walking a lot or using public transport, here are some easy tips to help you enjoy your visit without any worries.
Start with a little homework. Look up the parts of the city you’re interested in visiting. This helps you find places that are both fun and safe to explore. An easy way to do so is to stay close to popular sights or transit stops.
When you’re out enjoying the city, try to stay in areas that are well-lit and have plenty of people around, particularly after the sun goes down. If you’re going somewhere new, stick to the main paths instead of taking shortcuts through unfamiliar areas.
To help make your visit enjoyable, keep these simple guidelines in mind:
- Stick to busy, well-lit streets, particularly at night.
- Be mindful not to flash expensive items around while walking, it’s just a simple way to avoid drawing unnecessary attention.
- Do a little research about the area before you go out. It will make you feel more at ease and confident as you navigate around the city.
Remember, there’s no need to be worried, just aware. Seattle is an exciting city with so much to offer. Stay mindful of your surroundings, and most importantly, enjoy everything this amazing city has to offer!
Frequently Asked Questions
Recommended neighborhoods for travelers without a car in Seattle include Downtown, Queen Anne, and Belltown. These areas offer easy access to major attractions, excellent public transportation options, and a range of accommodations to suit all budgets.
Yes, there are a variety of public transportation options in Seattle, including buses, light rail, and streetcars. It’s widely recognized that being carless in the city is not difficult, especially if you choose any of my recommended accommodations.
Seattle is known for being a pedestrian-friendly city with a high population density, giving it almost a European feel. It’s easy to explore many attractions on foot, particularly in areas like Downtown, Queen Anne, and Pioneer Square.
Yes, public transportation in Seattle is convenient for tourists. The Link light rail connects the airport to Downtown, buses cover a wide area, and the Seattle Streetcar and ferries offer additional routes to various neighborhoods and attractions. It’s an efficient way to explore the city.
Many of Seattle’s attractions are easily accessible by walking or public transit. Popular sights like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market, and the Seattle Art Museum are all within a walkable distance or via a short bus or light rail ride.
You can explore landmarks such as the Seattle Center, the waterfront, and parks like Discovery Park and Green Lake Park without a car. Many of these attractions are well-connected via public transportation or within walking distance of popular neighborhoods.
Walking or using public transportation is often a better choice for tourists in Seattle. Due to packed traffic and expensive parking fees, driving can be stressful and costly. Moreover, many attractions and neighborhoods are pedestrian-friendly, so walking is often easier.
No, you don’t need a car in Downtown Seattle. The area is compact, pedestrian-friendly, and well-served by public transit like buses and light rail. Many hotels, restaurants, shops, and attractions are within walking distance or easily accessed by public transportation.