Lined with skyscrapers, high-end boutiques, shopping malls, and restaurants, downtown Seattle also offers gleaming cultural institutions and unusual architecture.
Start at founded-in-Seattle (1) Nordstrom's (500 Pine Street; www.nordstrom.com) flagship store on Fifth Avenue and Pine Street. Ogle the stilettos and leather boots and appreciate the history: Nordstrom began as a simple shoe shop in 1901. Roam the floors and consult a free personal shopper, and then head west on Pine. Bargain hunters, don't miss a stop at (2) Nordstrom Rack at Second Avenue and Pine.
Turn left on First Avenue and walk three blocks south. The 48-foot-tall (14.6-meter-tall) kinetic sculpture (3) Hammering Man, created by artist Jonathan Borofsky in 1992, marks the entrance to the newly expanded (4) Seattle Art Museum (1300 First Avenue; www.seattleartmuseum.org). With exhibits ranging from contemporary African art to Impressionism, the museum displays its diverse collection on four floors of galleries. After you've explored, exit the building from the second floor onto Second Avenue.
Walk across the street to (5) Benaroya Hall(200 University Street; www.seattlesymphony.org), which covers an entire city block between Union and University streets. Built in 1998 for the Seattle Symphony, the $118.1 million building boasts two installations by glass artist Dale Chihuly, a 12-foot-tall (3.6-meter-tall) mural by modernist Robert Rauschenberg and scenic Elliott Bay views. Benaroya hosts numerous talks and music concerts; check at the box office to see if there are any free events going on during your stay.
Exit the Hall on Third Avenue and University Street and walk one block east on University to the (6) Fairmont Olympic Hotel (411 University Street; www.fairmont.com/seattle/). Have high tea at the hotel's elegant The Georgian, and then do a little window shopping at (7) Luly Yang Couture (1218 Fourth Avenue; (www.lulyyang.com)—with wedding and cocktail dresses that rival Vera Wang's.
Walk south two blocks on Fourth Avenue to the (8) Central Library (1000 Fourth Avenue), impossible to miss thanks to its unusual shape and glass-and-steel exterior. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas, the 2004 flagship in the city's library system houses books in an 11-story, avant-garde interior with neon lighting, planters of grass, and floors of bamboo, aluminum, and concrete. The library offers free architecture tours on a first-come, first-serve basis. (Visit www.spl.org for a schedule.)
Exit the library on the Fifth Avenue side and turn left. Walk three blocks to (9) Rainier Square, a high-end shopping area with stores including Louis Vuitton (www.louisvuitton.com) and Seattle-only boutiques such as (10) Fox's Gem Shop (1341 Fifth Avenue; www.foxsgemshop.com) and trendy (11) David Lawrence (1318 Fourth Avenue; www.david-lawrence.com).
Once you're all shopped out, continue north on Fifth and turn left on Olive Way. Nosh at the Mayflower Park Hotel's (12) Andaluca (407 Olive Way; www.andaluca.com), which serves fresh Pacific Northwest-influenced Mediterranean cuisine in an intimate, relaxing space.
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