Downtown Seattle is a bustling central business district, chock full of skyscraper office buildings, a variety of stores and the occasional historic or tourist sight. It faces the waterfront strip of Elliott Bay, with the main industrial port to its south and the Olympic Sculpture Park to its north. Nestled into the side of a hill, Seattle’s Downtown is full of hills, one-way streets and a myriad of other traffic confusions. East of the hills of downtown are First Hill and Capitol Hill, south of it is the International District and Pioneer Square, site of Seattle’s original downtown, and to the north is Belltown, South Lake Union and Lower Queen Anne. Arguably, Belltown and parts of Pioneer Square are in fact, just distinctions within the Downtown Seattle borders.

While many of Seattle’s largest local businesses are not located in the rather compact downtown area (see Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon and more), the medium sized local businesses, such as Nordstrom, and many national corporations keep their presence here. A remnant of a former local business still anchors Third Avenue in the form of the Washington Mutual Tower. The most noticeable building in the downtown area, however, is the Columbia Center. Containing more floors than any other building west of the Mississippi River, the building’s black façade stands out amongst the other skyscrapers. In addition, its position on Fifth Avenue gives it the illusion of added height, as it is higher on the downtown slope than the collection of buildings on Third Avenue.

Other buildings that stand out when glancing at the Seattle skyline include the historic Smith Tower, at one time the tallest building west of the Mississippi, and the Seattle Central Library designed by Rem Koolhaas. The library has also become something of a tourist attraction, for its fabulous architecture and incredible interior, filled with great books and resources.

Tourists will also find their way to the Robert Venturi designed Seattle Art Museum, at which they are greeted by an iconic piece of local outdoor art, the Hammering Man. Nearby is Benaroya Hall, a local concert hall that plays host to numerous concerts and events, including the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

The most significant tourist attraction downtown is the Pike Place Market. The symbol of Seattle and its most well known feature, the market invites visitors to investigate the local bounty in the form of vegetables, fruits, fish and arts. The market is always a bustling exciting place. Unfortunately, to the north of the market is one of downtown’s few parks, Victor Steinbrueck Park. Despite its convenient location to the market for picnics and tourist photographs, despite its panoramic, breathtaking views, despite its nods to local history in the form of a totem pole, the park is mostly used by homeless men as a bedroom and bathroom. Efforts are underway by local businesses to clean it up, but as of yet have been unsuccessful. Freeway Park, on the east end of downtown has many of the same problems. Westlake Park, which is centrally located, and the Olympic Sculpture Park, on the northern edge both are much cleaner and more pleasant places to pass the time outdoors in Seattle’s downtown, as is much of the waterfront.