I’ve gone back and forth a bit on whether I want to do neighborhood-specific travel guides for Seattle. Lately, I’ve gotten asked a TON for recommendations though, so here we go! The Emerald City has manyyy incredible neighborhoods, but I wanted to start with the one I call home: Ballard. There’s so much to share about this awesome corner of Seattle… so let’s dig in!
Seattle Travel Guide: What to Eat, See, & Shop in Ballard
A Brief History of Ballard
Historically, this area was home to many Scandinavian people and businesses. Thanks to the area’s prolific fishing, shipbuilding, and lumber mills, maybe Swedish and Norwegian immigrants lived here. There’s been a massive influx of younger people thanks to Amazon and Microsoft, so the neighborhood is changing rapidly. Many of the charming, old Craftsman homes are being torn down to make way for townhouse style homes — personally I am really saddened by this turn of events! You still see a lot of the Scandinavian influence that made Ballard special, but it’s definitely becoming more and more of a mix.
Here’s a fun fact about Ballard: it used to be it’s own city! In 1907 (one year before my house was built!), the residents voted to be annexed by Seattle due to a water crisis.
Where is Ballard?
Ballard is located in the northwestern quadrant of Seattle. It’s below Shoreline and west of Fremont. There are lots of opinions about neighborhood boundaries. It’s safe to assume that anything below 85th Street NW and west of 8th ave NW counts as Ballard. Salmon Bay provides a natural southern boundary, too. The main drag, so to speak, in Ballard is Ballard Avenue. It’s chock full of great restaurants, bars, shopping, and coffee shops… with tons of historic charm!
Now, let’s dig into the good stuff… what to do, see, drink, and eat in Ballard! New spots are popping up all the time, so I’ll do my best to make sure this travel guide stays updated.
Restaurants & Bars
Let’s be real here: I tend to travel based on food. I kinda assume everyone else does, too! I just really love food — and happen to believe that the Pacific Northwest is home to some of the best ingredients and most delicious cuisine. All of these reasons are why I’m kicking off this travel guide with my favorite Ballard restaurants:
- La Carta de Oaxaca
- San Fermo — One of my absolute favorites! Their pasta is heavenly and I adore the decor, especially the bar area. Plus, they get bonus points in my book because their bathroom is all black.
- Hattie’s Hat — My favorite dive bar with really solid, delicious food. It’s been open since 1904, which means the people who built my house probably hung out there.
- Percy’s & Co.
- Bitterroot BBQ — Go to the back bar and get a creamed old fashioned.
- Hotel Albatross — Awesome tiki drinks + I love the tonkatsu fried rice
- Brambling Cross — Sean loves the fried chicken here, plus it’s an Ethan Stowell restaurant, so you knowww it will be delicious.
- King’s Hardware — Another dive bar and it’s dog friendly.
- The Walrus & The Carpenter
- The Sexton — They have a truffle burger that I dream about.
- The Other Coast Cafe
- Staple & Fancy
- The Fat Hen
Bars & Breweries
Ballard has a few spots that I love that are only bars… as in, they don’t serve food. Sometimes there are food trucks at the breweries, but I wouldn’t expect to have a meal while hanging out at any of these spots. Also, there are more and more breweries and beer halls opening each day… I’m sensing a trend! Here’s a short list of some Ballard bars and breweries of note:
- Ballard Beer Company
- The Sunset Tavern
- Reuben’s Brews
- Stoup Brewing
- Peddler Brewing Company
- NW Peaks Brewery
- Skål Beer Hall
When traveling, don’t forget dessert! It’s like the calories don’t count when you’re on vacation, right? If you’re craving a sweet treat, try out these Ballard destinations:
- Hot Cakes
- Salt & Straw
- Frankie & Jo’s — Plant-based ice cream with cute wallpaper moments for Instagram.
- D’Ambrosio Gelato
- Cafe Besalu
Coffee & Tea Shops
Seattle is known for it’s coffee, so I figured this needed it’s own section! Here are some of my favorite Ballard coffee shops and tea houses:
- Woodland Coffee – Basically my daily coffee spot.
- Anchored Ship Coffee — I love their lavender chai, too.
- Miro Tea
- Caffe Umbria
Ballard Avenue has so many adorable boutiques and great shopping. It’s not the only shopping area though, so be sure to explore the rest of Ballard. There are lots of charming shops tucked away into residential areas, too!
- Lucca Great Finds — My favorite boutique for gifts.
- Baleen — They have an awesome selection of jewelry and most is made on site.
- Tides & Pines
- The Palm Room
- Prism — My second favorite place to buy gifts.
- C.C. Filson
- Ballard Consignment — Good for furniture, although I am sometimes not impressed with their pricing.
- Second Ascent — My favorite shop for outdoor gear. It recently closed, but word on the street is that it will re-open soon.
- Secret Garden Bookshop
- Classic Consignment
- Ballyhoo Curiosity Shop
- Eco Collective — Our awesome new zero waste store.
- Bop Street
- The Ballard Farmers Market — Happens every Sunday. Make sure you get a bag of mini donuts.
- Golden Gardens — the best place to watch the sunset!
- Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
- The National Nordic Museum
- Rabid Hands — One of my fave tattoo shops.
- Urban Nail Box — The best place for a manicure & pedicure.
- Ballard Reuse — A great place to find vintage home decor and construction pieces (mostly large things, though).
- Sip & Ship — One part boutique, one part cafe, one part shipping center.
So this is my list of personal faves for my Seattle neighborhood, Ballard. I’m hoping to share more of different ‘hoods I love soon, including Greenwood, Pioneer Square, and Fremont. Stay tuned for those and let me know how you like this new type of post! Also, if you’re local and feel like I missed something, let me know and I’ll update the travel guide.
Photography by Jojotastic & Andrew Carlton.
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