10 ways to take a European vacation right here in Seattle

Summer days make the view of the Seattle skyline from Kerry Park worth the trek up Queen Anne. (Photo by Annaliese Davis)

Not everyone can jet off to Rome or Ibiza this summer, but luckily there’s plenty of European culture right here in Seattle.

Here’s a list of ten things you can do in Seattle to add a bit of European flare to your life this summer:

1. Take in a show

If you can’t make it to the National Theatre in London or the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, consider watching a broadcast of a play at SIFF Cinema Uptown.

Everything from Shakespeare’s “Henry IV Part I” to the National Theatre’s presentation of “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” is playing at SIFF this summer. Why stand in the London rain watching a performance at the Globe Theatre when you can relax in a cool auditorium snacking on popcorn, watching some of the Western’s world greatest works of theatre?

Showtimes vary, ticket prices range from $15-20. Check out SIFF.net/cinema for more details.

2. Catch a match

Football is Europe’s most popular sport by a long-shot. Here in Seattle it’s better known as soccer, and while it may not have the same popularity on this side of the pond, the Seattle Sounders are one of the best teams in the nation. Many Sounders players are actually from countries other than the U.S. or have recently transitioned from European football clubs to American soccer teams.

The club itself is known for hosting a slew of friendlies against European teams like England’s Chelsea and Spain’s FC Barcelona. Seattle Sounder Clint Dempsey is currently captaining the U.S. men’s World Cup team in Brazil — but he’s also about to drop a rap album to assuage any doubts about his American-ness.

The Sounders play at CenturyLink Field throughout the summer. Tickets can be found at soundersfc.com

3. Old-fashioned culture

The Seattle Art Museum is home to some of the best pieces of European art in the Pacific Northwest. Works of art from masters like Van Dyck and Monet call SAM’s downtown museum home, while traveling collections routinely cycle through.

The Hammering Man, outside the Seattle Art Museum. (Photo from Flickr by Chuck Taylor)
The Hammering Man, outside the Seattle Art Museum. (Photo from Flickr by Chuck Taylor)

Across the city in Ballard, the Nordic Heritage Museum exhibits artwork and dioramas of Scandinavian life. The museum showcases how immigrants from Scandinavian countries made the Pacific Northwest their home and the types of art and culture they brought with them to Seattle.

The Seattle Art Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, hours vary by day. Tickets can be purchased online or at the museum. The Nordic Heritage Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, hours vary by day. Tickets can be purchased at the museum. 

4. Make for the hills

The hills may be alive with the sound of music in Austria, but the mountains of Washington have plenty of music of their own.

Mt. Rainier National Park is only 85 miles away from Seattle and provides spectacular hiking trails year-round. It’s easy to pretend you’re in the Alps when you see critters like mountain goats and chipmunks throughout the 369.35 square mile park. Most trails are open in the summer — day hikes range from as little as 0.3 miles for the Carbon River Forest Nature Trail to 9.6 miles for the Green Lake Trail.

Olympic National Park is roughly 80 miles from Seattle, including a 8.6 milelong ferry crossing from downtown to Bainbridge Island. The park has a plethora of trails, great for day hikes or overnight camping. Olympic National Park also includes ocean beaches and tide pools.

Entrance to the national parks is $15 per vehicle, which is good for 7 days. An annual pass costs $30 and can be purchased at any park entrance. Camping fees are extra. 

5. Shop ‘till you drop

Swedish chain H&M has become increasingly popular since the first store sprang up in Tukwila in 2008.

But now there’s competition in the European clothing front in Seattle. European mainstay Zara opened in downtown earlier this year, and now Topshop is making waves in the Seattle fashion scene. Topshop boutiques have sprung up in area Nordstrom stores, and there’s no sign the fascination with European clothing trends will slow down anytime soon.

6. Markets, markets, markets

Just about every neighborhood in Seattle has a farmers market — from Capitol Hill to Fremont, the vendors and customers vary greatly at place to place.

The cobblestone street of Ballard Avenue may not have the same ambience as Rue Cler in Paris, but you’re sure to find great local artisans and farmers at the Ballard Farmers Market.

The Fremont Sunday Market not only has the usual fruit and vegetable standards, the market also has many stalls with crafts and antiques. More similar to London’s Portobello Road Market than Borough Market, the Fremont market has a little something for everyone, including live music.

Most markets occur weekly on Sunday, but check your neighborhood’s website before venturing out.

7. Blend in with the seamen

Similar to river locks around England and mainland Europe, the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks (also known as the Ballard Locks), allow ships large and small to move from the saltwater of Elliott Bay to the to freshwater of Lake Union and Lake Washington; most recently that included “The VAVA II”, a super-yacht recently moored in Lake Union that was built in England and commissioned by a Swiss-Italian billionaire for his British wife.

Fishing vessels, like the KAIA, make their way through the Ballard Locks and moor in Lake Washington and Lake Union. (Photo by Annaliese Davis)
Fishing vessels, like the KAIA, make their way through the Ballard Locks and moor in Lake Washington and Lake Union. (Photo by Annaliese Davis)

Built in 1911, the Ballard Locks are open year-round, and allow visitors to watch everything from small sailboats to massive crabbing vessels pass from the Puget Sound to the Ship Canal. A fish ladder is connected to the locks — salmon pass by throughout the summerr, giving visitors the opportunity to observe the lifecycle of the Pacific Northwest’s favorite fish.

A visitor’s center explains the history of the locks with free tours of the locks available all year-round.

The locks are open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. The fish ladder viewing room is open from 7 a.m. to 8:45 p.m. daily. 

8. Grab a pint

Daytime drinking may not yet be the norm in the states, but Europeans have had a pint with lunch for years. Pub culture is huge in countries like England and Scotland, where business deals are often done over a pint of bitter.

The George and Dragon Pub is one of Seattle’s better known British pubs. Located in Fremont, the pub offers a wide range of beers on tap and serves up traditional pub fare like fish and chips or bangers and mash. Even Brits drink here — Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright stopped by last year during a visit to Seattle. Pegg went so far as to call it “the most British feeling, British pub in America I’ve ever been to.”

On the other side of the city, hidden off of First Avenue, The Owl N’ Thistle Pub is a lively place to grab a pint of Guinness. The Irish pub may or may not be haunted, but you won’t care when you step inside the homey brick building. Live music welcomes patrons throughout the week.

9. Travel with Rick Steves

European travel guru Rick Steves calls the Seattle-area home, and even has a travel center in Edmonds.

You may recognize Rick Steves from his PBS series “Rick Steves’ Europe”, but Steves is also the author of dozens of guidebooks and host of travel lectures at his Edmonds store. Travel guides offer free classes regularly, while Steves puts on a travel extravaganza three times a year, offering classes on every country from Ireland to Italy.

Steves offers travel seminars throughout the year. Seattle-area events can be found on his website. You can watch all of his shows on his YouTube channel.

10. Taste the continent

You can find cuisine from pretty much the furthest reaches of the globe here in Seattle, and some of the best examples of European grub come in the form of breakfast.

Cafe Besalu in Ballard offers up some of the best French pastries in the entire city, neigh the entire state. Rich, buttery, flakey croissants fill the display case in the small bakery. Limited seating inside and an insatiable public lead to long lines on the weekends, but the quiche lorraine more than makes up for it.

French pastries not your thing? Treat yourself to Piroshky Piroshky.

A baker at Piroshky Piroshky rolls together cinnamon cardamom braids. (Photo by Yvonne Rogell)
A baker at Piroshky Piroshky rolls together cinnamon cardamom braids. (Photo by Yvonne Rogell)

You’ll have to venture down towards Pike Place Market for the savory and sweet Russian pies, but the time and energy spent getting down to the bakery is worth it. With options like a smoked salmon pate piroshky or a apple cinnamon roll, you’re sure to walk away with more than a few small, yellow bags.

Cafe Besalu is open Wednesday through Sunday, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Lines can be out the door and down the block on weekend mornings, so bring a book.

Piroshky Piroshky is open Friday through Monday 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Tuesday through Thursday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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