I love markets. They have an energy that I find invigorating. A good market draws me in, and then moves me along, from one sight to another. It will also provide a composition of sounds that grab my attention as I pass along. A good food market will add the aromas of spices and cooked food. When I get to the end of a good market, I am disappointed and want to head back in and start again, because I feel like there is always something that I have missed. Pike Place Market, in Seattle, is an excellent market.
Pike Place Market is a collection of buildings overlooking Elliot Bay, just north of Downtown Seattle. The buildings stretch four blocks along Pike Place, from Union to Virginia Street. Opened in 1907, the Public Market was created to give farmers direct access to consumers, without having to sell their produce through wholesalers. The main arcade, west of Pike Place, was mainly a place for produce and flower vendors. That is still true today.
When I visit the Pike Place Market, I prefer to start at the north end of the Main Arcade, between Stewart and Virginia streets. This is home to the many flower vendors. My reason is that this entrance is the furthest away from the “big draws” of Pike Place Fish Market and the Daily Dozen Doughnut shop, but more on them later. I would rather start at the (slightly) less crowded side of the market. As I walk down the aisle I can stop and enjoy the displays of flowers. The colors are beautiful, and the wonderful aromas.
When I get to the Joe Desimone Bridge I turn to the right and encounter the many craftspeople who sell their wares in the market. There are t-shirts, jewelry, ceramics, metal and leather goods. Crossing the bridge I arrive at the newest addition to Pike Place Market—Market Front. Built on the west side of Western Ave, this $74 million complex includes a large open-air pavilion for vendors, and a large plaza, all built on top of the Producer’s Hall, home to artisanal purveyors of beer, food, baked goods, fish and chocolate.
Heading back to the Arcade, I continue South. I have now entered the land of fruit and vegetables. Stand after stand offer the beautiful and tasty produce grown on local farms. I also find butcher shops, spice stands and fish mongers. If you are really hungry there are several restaurants and prepared food stands in this section.
The south end of the Arcade is home to the most famous shops in the market. First is the Pike Place Fish Market. Here selling fish is part sport and part comedy show. Founded in 1930, the employees of Pike Place Fish Market are known for throwing the fish that their customers buy. The crowd grows until someone steps forward to order some fish. While waiting for a customer, the staff have many gags that they might pull on the crowd, from a fish on a string to startle passers-by, to getting members of the crowd to take pictures with different fish.
But the real action takes place when someone places an order and picks out a fish to fillet. The whole fish is picked up and tossed to a waiting staff member behind the counter to be cut and wrapped. Meanwhile the entire staff yell out the order at the top of their lungs. All in all, everyone has a good time.
Around the corner from the Pike Place Fish Market is Daily Dozen Doughnuts. These are considered to be the best doughnuts in the market. They are certainly the freshest. They are made right in front of the crowd waiting for them, and the store often can’t keep up with demand, causing a longish line, but the doughnuts are well worth the wait.
To the east and south of the Main Arcade are the Sanitary Market, so named because horses were not allowed into the building, the Corner Market and the Economy Market. Today these buildings host many stores, some food related, some not, and also many restaurants.
No trip to the Pike Place Market would be complete without a stop at the “gum wall.” Walk down to Post Alley, and you will encounter one of the “5 germiest” tourist attractions in the world. While it was completely cleaned in 2015, the collection of gum is growing again. Come and leave your contribution, and take a picture. It sure is colorful and gross.
As I said, the Pike Place Market is excellent. It has something for everyone. Come and enjoy.