Behind the veil of the Seattle rain (part of its charm), you’ll find some thrilling experiences awaiting.
From the snowy and otherworldly mountainscapes to breathtaking ocean views, the indie music, the epic dishes and the classic coffee flavours – we wanted to know everything.
Luckily, a local expert generously agreed to share his personal experience living in this emerald city – just for you!
Meet Lars Gesing, running his own fine art nature photography gallery in West Seattle.
Editor’s Note: Welcome to this ongoing series of articles featuring interviews of locals from various cities across the United States. Our goal is to provide readers with unique insights about local living, drawn from personal experiences of individuals on the ground.
If you do have any questions or inquiries related to a particular city or state, we encourage you to send them over, which we will use to improve and refine our questionnaires for a more helpful output. Submit them here here
Before moving on to our insights from Lars in detail, let’s have a look at some of the key takeaways from the interview.
Living in Seattle – Things At A Glance
- Seattle offers stunning natural beauty, diverse food options, and a range of neighbourhoods to suit different lifestyles.
- Seattle’s seasons offer unique experiences, with beautiful springs, enjoyable summers, cosy falls, and rainy, gray winters (short days) which some residents may find distressing.
- The cost of living is generally high, but the quality of life is also considered high.
- Seattle has quality healthcare options and facilities, including the University of Washington campus and Swedish Hospital.
- The housing market is expensive, with a median home price of $760,000.
- Public transportation options are solid, including buses, light rail, water taxis, and ferries.
- Seattle has a thriving tech job market, with companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft having a strong presence.
- The food scene is diverse and influenced by international flavors, with a focus on seafood and local breweries.
- Seattle offers various activities, from exploring iconic landmarks like the Space Needle to enjoying outdoor experiences like hiking and ferry rides.
Pros of living in Seattle, Washington
- Stunning natural beauty abounds.
- International flair means great food with tons of different influences.
- Find a neighbourhood like West Seattle, and you’ll find that you get a tight-knit small-town feel while having access to all the big-city amenities.
- As we have dark winters and our fair share of gray days, Seattleites place a premium on cosiness. So many great coffee shops and hangout places build community even when the days are short.
- An abundance of water and mountains provides a plethora of recreational activities year-round.
- Summer in the PNW is second to nothing I have ever experienced.
- Did I mention the natural beauty?
Cons of living in Seattle, Washington
- Let’s get the weather out of the way first. Yes, we get a lot of gray days here. But no, it doesn’t always rain in Seattle. We actually get less rain than Atlanta does! But if you move here from a place that’s always sunny (I moved from Denver with its 300+ days of sunshine), then embracing the gray days for the cosy comfort they provide is something you actively have to choose
- In that same vein, the days around the winter solstice are very short — with barely eight hours of daylight. Seasonal depression symptoms are not uncommon among the uninitiated. But you get used to it and quickly pick up many strategies to combat it when you live here.
- Downtown Seattle has had a homeless problem for years now, and the Covid pandemic made it worse. There have been efforts to mitigate the situation — at the same time, there are a number of stores downtown that are still closing, now no longer for economic but for security reasons. That’s unfortunate and something the local community keeps pressuring our local elected officials to address even more forcefully.
Seasons of Seattle
Spring is magnificent in Seattle. We have cherry and apple trees growing all over the city, and when they start blooming in the spring, it is hard not to walk around with a smile.
The annual cherry blossoms on the Quad of the University of Washington are world-famous and certainly a sight to see if you are here in late March or early April.
In early April, the massive tulip fields in the Skagit Valley a little more than an hour north of Seattle are also in full bloom and a fabulous day trip.
There is an unwritten rule here in Seattle that summer doesn’t start until July 4 because, before that, the weather can often still be somewhat moody. But just like clockwork, once we hit the holiday weekend of July 4, summer really kicks off and boy oh boy is summer in Seattle a treat.
The weather is beautiful, it rarely gets too hot, and all the water and mountains around provide an almost limitless supply of activity.
Fall in the Pacific Northwest is a time when we celebrate all things cosy. We often get foggy mornings, especially in the mountains, and we turn to our favourite coffee and books. But we certainly also still spend a bunch of time outside — the fall colours in the PNW are fantastic.
If you’ve never gone on a fall hike at Mount Rainier or in the Cascades, you are in for a treat. Look out for the native and abundant huckleberries that grow all along the trails and are ready and ripe for picking. They make for a great fall snack!
Winter in Seattle, I’ll be honest, can be a challenge to the uninitiated. Around the winter solstice in December, we barely get eight hours of sunlight (which, unfortunately now gets dubbed “the Big Dark” in the media).
I still really enjoy winter, as I look at it as a season of rest and comfort, of spending time on the couch with loved ones, a hot beverage, a candle burning and a good book or TV show.
But yes, during winter, it does rain a fair amount, and the days are usually short and gray. But by February, there are already signs of spring again — and soon enough, it’s summer again!
Cost of living in Seattle, Washington
Seattle is definitely not a cheap place to live — in large part because the quality of life here is so high. But with that certainly come the price tags.
One thing that’s nice in Washington is that the state doesn’t have an income tax — but the flip side is that many of the government services like trash pickup, water and electricity are more expensive than in other cities.
Ultimately, these services need to be funded somehow, after all.
The price of goods breaks down as follows:
- Loaf of bread: 1.05 $
- Milk: 0.29 $
- Eggs: 0.82 $
- Potato: 0.65 $
- Tomato: 1.29 $
- Lettuce: 0.50 $
- Chicken fillets: 2.21 $
- Electricity: 12.6 cents per kilowatt hour on average
- Gas: Average right now is roughly $4.50
- Water: Average is around $70
- Internet: our internet plan is roughly $100 per month — but we also both work from home and are paying for the best speed available
- Cable Tv: this depends so much on your personal choices these days that it is hard to give an adequate average. Want to ditch cable? Try YouTube TV and you’ll save a bunch of money (that’s what we did).
My Opinion about Healthcare in Seattle, Washington
Thanks to the presence of the University of Washington campus as well as the Swedish Hospital, Seattle has some great healthcare options.
Costs are comparable to other major cities I’ve lived in, like Denver and Washington, DC — but yes, like all cost of living expenses, you are paying a premium for living in a desirable city like Seattle. In return, you get easy access to quality healthcare. I’ve never had any negative experiences.
I can recommend the OneMedical model which both my wife and I have used to cut down on wait times for doctor appointments (for an annual fee, you can get same-day appointments in person or virtual).
Thoughts about Housing in Seattle, Washington
If you are looking at buying property, you have to be prepared to spend a large chunk of change. The median home price in Seattle is $760,000. The good news for buyers is that currently, the market isn’t quite as it was even last year.
This year, homes stay on the market for an average of 43 days — compared to 19 last year. Of course, you do have to contend with higher interest rates – but the housing market here has definitely shifted from a seller’s to a buyer’s market in the last 12 months or so.
In terms of renting, there are options in all price ranges. Seattle attracts tons of young people for its vibrant, active lifestyle, and not all of them have high-paying tech jobs.
But it also bears mentioning that just like most major US cities, Seattle also struggles with providing adequate affordable housing in large enough numbers for the demand.
Transportation in Seattle
The bus system in Seattle is solid, and the city continues to expand on its existing light rail system. A fun way to get around (if you have a bit of extra time) is either by water taxi or by ferry — who in the US can say that they commute by water taxi?
There are also some great bike paths in the city, although that is certainly an area that we all hope will continue to improve with time.
If you live in the city, you don’t need a car in my opinion, as there are plenty of other ways to get around — plus parking is often tricky in many parts of the city.
The Job Market in Seattle, Washington
Seattle is absolutely a tech town, and not just because of the Amazon headquarters. Google has a presence here, and of course, so does Microsoft.
There’s also the Boeing headquarters on the outskirts of town. While the tech industry has been going through some upheaval recently, there is still so much opportunity here to build a life you’ll love.
The Food Scene in Seattle
Seattle has a fantastic food scene with lots of different influences. There’s an abundance of great seafood (Salty’s here in West Seattle has awesome food and fabulous skyline views) as well as really good Sushi (our favourite is Umi Sake close to Pike’s Place Market).
After the sun sets, or for a Sunday Funday, there are also tons of great breweries around (Elliott Bay is a local favourite here in West Seattle, and Dogfish Brewing has really good gluten-free beer; my wife has celiac’s disease and she approves of their beverages). We also really like Old Stove Brewing right in Pike’s Place.
If you are over by the market for breakfast, make sure you get breakfast at Honest Biscuit and eat it on the deck on a nice day for beautiful views of the Olympic Mountains and the Puget Sound while being surrounded by the hustle and bustle of Pike’s Place Market.
Best Things To Do in Seattle, Washington
The first thing you probably think of when talking about Seattle is the Space Needle, which does provide awesome views! For other great skyline views, I recommend Kerry park (on a clear day you’ll see Mount Rainier towering behind the skyline), Gasworks Park or the Marination water taxi dock.
If you have a car and a day to spare, going for a hike at Mount Rainier National Park in summer or fall is a must-do.
A Seattle rite of passage is to ride the ferry. A trip to Bainbridge Island from the downtown ferry terminal makes for a fun ride filled with awesome skyline views, and Bainbridge has lots of fun little shops, dining and coffee (I recommend Pegasus coffee).
Here in West Seattle, Alki Beach is a fun place to hang out — at night, you can even bring a few friends and your favourite beverages and have a fire at the beach. Before you go down to the beach, make sure you stop by my gallery in the Alaska Junction 🙂
And then, there’s of course Pike’s Place market. It’s a sight to see for sure — go early if you can to beat some of the crowds. Make sure you get some local seafood while you are here!
At night, go catch a Kraken hockey game or a concert at the Climate Pledge Arena — a new state-of-the-art venue which bills itself as the greenest, most sustainable arena in the world!
Notable Cultural and Historical aspects of Seattle
Seattle is a melting pot of rich maritime history and cutting-edge technology, with more than a few beans of Starbucks coffee sprinkled in.
But seriously, the breadth of industry in the city makes for a really diverse and wonderful population that each brings their own influences with them.
The arts scene is vibrant, with such historic quarters as Pioneer Square.
Common Misconceptions about Seattle
Ha! The weather, 100%. It does NOT always rain in Seattle. And summers here are absolutely glorious.
Thinking about moving to Seattle? Here are some Tips!
Research the different neighbourhoods. They all have their distinct differences.
For example, West Seattle has a small town and family-friendly feel with tons of great parks and close access to Alki Beach.
Lower Queen Anne on the other hand is a lot more vibrant if you are more of a “going out” person.
Then of course there’s life in the surrounding islands like Bainbridge, Vashon and Mercer which all have their own charm too. There really is something for everyone in Seattle!