Pioneer Square, where Seattle’s founders first settled in 1852, is a bustling district in the southwest corner of downtown Seattle. The shop- and nightlife-laden neighborhood takes its name from the small, triangular cobblestone plaza known as Pioneer Square Park, and features a bust of Chief Seattle, an ornate pergola, and a totem pole.
Its streets lined with trees and restored Victorian buildings, Pioneer Square is listed on the Nation Register of Historic Places. During the day, the area buzzes with locals and visitors alike perusing the antique shops and art galleries. When you’re not shopping or marveling at cutting-edge art, visit the Seattle Underground, a network of underground passageways and basements that are remnants of the original buildings here, many of which were destroyed in the Great Seattle Fire in 1889. Come evening, Pioneer Square’s restaurant, bar, and nightclub scene takes over, making this one of Seattle’s hottest night spots.
Most Seattle walking and other sightseeing tours include a stop at Pioneer Square in combination with other nearby highlights such as Pike Place Market, the Space Needle, Chinatown, and the Smith Tower. The Seattle Underground tour takes you through the interconnected tunnels of the neighborhood.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Walking tours are the best way to get to know the neighborhood’s history and cultural offerings.
- Pioneer Square deserves two visits: one to patronize the local boutiques galleries during daylight hours, and one to sample the bustling nightlife.
- Parking around Pioneer Square can be tough. Plan to join a guided tour with transportation or arrive via public transportation.
How to Get There
Pioneer Square, like the rest of downtown Seattle, is easily accessible by bus and streetcar. The neighborhood lacks definitive borders, but is bounded roughly by Alaskan Way South on the west, South King Street on the south, 5th Avenue South on the east, and between one and two blocks north of Yesler Way. Nearby are the International District, Waterfront Park, and Union Station.
When to Get There
Pioneer Square offers different pleasures at different times of day: boutiques and historical landmarks during the day, and a buzzy nightlife scene after dark. Most locals would recommend visiting Seattle from June to September; the city lives up to its rainy reputation for the remainder of the year.
Klondike Gold Rush History
During the Klondike Gold Rush of 1897 to ’98, Pioneer Square was a hot spot for “stampeders” heading up to Alaska. Their stopover business is part of what made the neighborhood prosperous. Now the area is host to part of the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park; the other part of the park is located in Skagway, Alaska.