Free Things to do in Seattle Washington

I remember visiting Seattle many years ago, and I’d love to go back and get to know the city properly.  Seattle expert Pamela from The Directionally Challenged Traveler wrote this fabulous guest post with the best things to do in Seattle, so I know that when I visit I can enjoy the best of Seattle on a budget!  Take a look and see what she recommends:

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Nestled in the northwest of the United States, Seattle is home to a wide unrivaled blend of music, mountains, and markets. Travelers will find Seattle captivating and invigorating. Luckily, there are plenty of free things to do in Seattle! 

How to Make the Best of Seattle on a Budget

I love finding free things to do wherever I travel, and you can have an amazing time with a very limited budget. However, some things might be worth paying for if you have the budget to do it. Perhaps by compromising and saving money on some things, you can afford to splurge a little on something you really want to do.

For example, you could save money by staying in cheap accommodation and doing lots of free activities in Seattle, and then treat yourself to some paid activities or Seattle tours to learn more about something you’re interested in.

If you have the budget to treat yourself a little bit, these are some of the most popular tours and activities in Seattle that you might be interested in:

Or you can browse more activities and tours in Seattle. That said, no matter what budget you have, there is no need to pay for activities in Seattle if you don’t want to. You can still have an amazing Seattle vacation without spending a lot of money and have some unique experiences you will remember forever! 


The Best Free Things to Do in Seattle

Roam Around the Markets

Pike Place Market is one of the most famous markets in Seattle and across the United States. Located in the central Puget Sound region, the market is very easy to get to by public transportation. It’s free to walk around but challenging not to buy anything!

You’ll find local food, jewelry, art and other handicrafts for sale. You make be able to get some free samples as you walk around, and don’t miss the Pike Place Market fish stalls, famous for throwing the fish to each other before passing it on to the customer.  Continue down the stairs to enjoy views of the Seattle waterfront and the intriguing Gum Alley. 

If you’re in the city on a Sunday, you can visit the Fremont Sunday Market. This flea market is open year-round with up to 250 vendors. You’ll find everything from antiques to street food here. 

Fishermen throw their fish while visitors look on at Pike Place Fish Market - Free Things to do in Seattle
Pike Place Fish Market – Free Things to do in Seattle

Relax in Waterfall Garden Park Downtown

The park is home to a 22-foot man-made waterfall overlooking a patio with tables and chairs.  Not only is it beautiful, but it’s historic as well. In 1907, the American Messenger Company was started in Seattle. Today, we know this company as the United Parcel Service (UPS).

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Take an Art Walk Around Seattle

Seattle is home to a variety of art walks that can be done on your own. The Olympic Sculpture Park is located just north of Pike Place Market on the waterfront. The Space Needle is not the only large-scale metal construction in the city! Managed by the Seattle Art Museum, it’s open and free to the public from dawn till dusk.

If you plan on visiting the Theo Chocolate Factory you can also check out the Fremont neighborhood art installations on the way! There’s plenty of art in Seattle if you know where to look. 

In the summer months, Seattle’s neighborhoods open galleries for all to explore. Pioneer Square gallery opens the first Thursday, Belltown gallery opens the second Friday, and Capitol Hill gallery opens on the second Thursday. In addition, businesses and other vendors host specials on these nights – making for a budget-friendly night out.  

Visit the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle - RedEagle Sculpture and Space Needle
Visit the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle

Tour the Frye Art Museum

While small in size, the Frye Art Museum is full of beautiful paintings and exhibits that will intrigue you. It’s also in the quaint Capitol Hills Neighborhood – which is perfect for grabbing a drink to relax! 

Bonus Tip: Every First Thursday of the month, many museums offer free admission for general admission! Special exhibits are still normal charge. Some of these museums include the Northwest African American Museum, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Flight, and the Kid’s Discovery Museum! 

Wander through Ballard Locks

The Ballard Locks are at the heart of the Ballard neighborhood, and quite the engineering feat. You can watch the locks fill and drain water allowing boats to move through Puget Sound and lakes Union and Washington.

Keep an eye on the ladder outside the locks to spot jumping salmon. If you head down the stairs to get a closer look at them swimming, you can learn more about the Pacific Northwest salmon. 

Ballard Locks on a summer day in Seattle.
Ballard Locks on a summer day in Seattle.

Get Cultural at the Seattle Center

Almost every weekend, the Seattle Center hosts a variety of events, from an Irish Festival in March to CroatiaFest in October – you can enjoy a variety of foods, dances, and cultures all for free!  

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Take an Urban Hike in a Park 

Did you know that Seattle has over 400 parks in the city? That is a LOT of different parks – so find one that interests you! The Washington Park Arboretum is over 200 acres of a variety of plants (including cherry blossoms in the spring!). 

Gasworks Park has a playground and trails and a hill that is great for picnics. It also has great views of downtown Seattle and the Space Needle. Seward Park is one of the biggest parks in Seattle and has a lakeshore that has views of Mount Rainier, so take your pick and explore!

View of Mount Rainier across a lake with ducks in the foreground
Enjoy views of Mount Rainier from the Parks in Seattle

Visit the Seattle Central Library

The downtown Seattle Public Library is home to some incredible architecture. The outer walls are covered in diamond-shaped windows letting in natural light everywhere. You can also get a cup of hot chocolate from Chocolati inside to warm you up on a cool day. 

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Explore the Olympic Peninsula 

There are a lot of free things to do outside Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula. Olympic National Park is free on four days of the year – Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January, the first day of National Park Week in April, National Public Lands Day in September, and Veterans Day in November.

There are some excellent hikes near Seattle too, you can enjoy hiking the Ozette Loop for example or drive along the curves of the peninsula for breathtaking views of the coastline.  While Seattle is a fantastic city to explore it’s also good to get out and enjoy the nature closeby too.  

READ MORE: The Best National Parks to Visit in Winter

The Pacific Coastline Close to Seattle
The Pacific Coastline Close to Seattle

Join a Free Walking Tour

Seattle Walking Tours offers a few different types of walking tours – all completely free – you just pay what you feel! Learn about Seattle’s markets, get a good introduction to the city, or a combination of the two. 

Visit Theo Chocolate for a Tour & Tasting 

The first organic, free trade, bean-to-bar chocolate maker in North America was started right here in Seattle. They are open for tours and classes daily. Tours usually cost $12, but there are free community tours on the third Thursday of the month.

The sign-ups for these tours open two months in advance so plan accordingly. If you’re not interested in a tour, you can simply just visit to sample the chocolate (and maybe buy a souvenir for home!) 

Taste some Delicious Chocolate - Chocolate chunks in a glass jar spilling onto the table
Taste some Delicious Chocolate

Take a Boat Ride on Lake Union

Located on the southern tip of Lake Union, the Center for Wooden Boats is located near the Museum of History and Industry. It’s always free to visit the docks and museum and on Sundays, they offer free boat rides! Get to the museum by 10 am to sign up for your spot.

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Curl up with a Book

The Sorrento Hotel hosts a Silent Reading Party every Wednesday. Bring a book, claim a cozy spot, and listen to soothing music. It’s a silent-but-social reading – and definitely a unique experience. Currently, this is done virtually due to COVID-19. 

As you can see, it is easy to visit Seattle on a budget!  There are plenty of free things to do in Seattle – so get out of your comfort zone and get exploring.   

Where to Stay in Seattle

Some of our top picks for hostels and budget hotels in Seattle include:

  • Hotel Theodore: Centrally located, this hotel offers guests beautifully appointed rooms, a fitness center, and a one-of-a-kind pillow bar! Close to the Space Needle, the infamous gum wall, and plenty of other Seattle attractions. >>>CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES
  • Belltown Inn: Conveniently situated in downtown Seattle close to Puget Sound and other popular attractions, the Belltown Inn provides guests with modern and comfortable rooms each with a kitchenette, and a rooftop terrace with stunning city views. >>>FIND OUT MORE
  • Mayflower Park Hotel: Originally built in 1927, this hotel is full of history and charm. With amenities like a restaurant and lounge, a fitness center, convenient access to popular attractions like Pike Place Market, and the rich historical ambiance enhancing the overall experience of staying in the heart of downtown Seattle.  >>>CHECK PRICES AND AVAILABILITY

Here are some highly-rated hostels in Seattle: 

  • Green Tortoise Hostel: Offers affordable dorms (including female-only) and private rooms, a communal kitchen, a cozy common area with regular social events, a free breakfast, and a prime location in downtown Seattle, making it an ideal choice for exploring the city and meeting fellow travelers. >>>CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES 
  • HI Seattle at the American Hotel: This hostel provides budget-friendly accommodations and a welcoming atmosphere, with amenities such as shared and private rooms, a communal kitchen, a vibrant common area, organized activities, friendly staff, and a central location in the International District near popular attractions, making it an excellent choice for travelers looking to explore the city on a budget and connect with fellow adventurers. >>>FIND OUT MORE

If you’d like more options, you can browse all hostels in Seattle on Hostelworld, or find great value hotels on Booking. There are also various options for Airbnbs in Seattle too, take a look at some of the rental homes available here.


About the Author

Pamela, the Directionally Challenged Traveler, has been traveling the world for as long as she can remember. She is a thrill seeker – whether it’s camping in Antarctica or spotting wildlife on safari in Kenya. She hopes to inspire travelers to get out there and explore by showing unedited pictures, hidden gems, and travel tips! You can follow her on FacebookInstagram, or Pinterest.  

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