A trip to Seattle is not complete without a visit to the famous Pike Place Market; where you can find everything from fish throwing, beautiful big bouquets of flowers for just $10, and the grossest attraction I’ve ever seen.
Pike Place Market is one of the oldest continuously operated public farmers market and has been going since 1907. With over 10 million visitors annually, I thought I would put together some fun and interesting facts about the market that you probably wouldn’t realize when zigzagging your way through the marketplace.
- Stalls are categorized, and the rules are pretty strict
The number one rule in the market is that you have to sell products/produce that you make/grow yourself; however, there are a couple of places exempt of this and these are called “high stalls”. They are easy to spot as they are higher than the other places (surprise, surprise) — look at the fish stalls to see what I mean. That means the t-shirts on sale, the jewelry on display, the leather bound notebooks and all of the fruit and veges were all crafted/grown by the stall holders. Pretty cool huh? No mass production here as well as a shorter production line meaning lower costs to you! Set up of the stalls is also a pretty big deal in the market. The stalls that have been going to the market for the longest have seniority. They get to set up first, and choose what spot they would like. Everyone else has to wait and choose from what is left.
Tip: some stalls aren’t there every day, so if you see something you like, get it while you can! Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days meaning these days are priorities for stall owners. To aid with consistency, market management put rules in place meaning that if you want to be there on the weekend, you also have to commit to two days during the week leading up to that weekend. I saw a ring I liked on the weekend stalls and thought about it for a day or two then went back to purchase and the stall wasn’t there that day… Don’t be like me!
2. Jacks Crabs will cook your crabs for you… for no extra charge
$10.99-$12.99 per pound straight from the supplier is a lot better than upwards of $30 per pound at a restaurant… Tip: You can even pick what crab you want from the big tanks they have on display.
3. The market has the second germiest attraction in the entire world
The infamous Seattle Gum Wall is home to thousands of pounds of chewed gum that has been purposely stuck on the wall by visitors to the market. It was declared a tourist attraction around 1999, and twice a year it is sprayed with a chemical meaning majority of it falls away. If they didn’t do this, this gum would be inches and inches thick and would create havoc on the wall, as well as the surrounding walkways. In 2015, for the first time in 20 years, the wall received a total scrub down to prevent further erosion of the bricks in the wall from the sugar in the gum. Over 2,350 pounds of gum were removed (yuck!). Tip: google “Seattle gum wall time-lapse” and see all this gum come off in a minute video.
4. No already established businesses are allowed in the market
The Pike Place Market is home to a number of companies that have now expanded locally, nationally and even internationally; but to trade in the market, it has to be your birth spot (that is, your first place of business). The first ever Starbucks is located here, along with other local favorites like Pike Place Chowder, Rachel’s Ginger Beer and Piroshky Piroshky.
Tip: make sure you go to the correct first Starbucks – the one on Pike Place and not on 1st Ave. I saw countless people taking photos of the wrong one! Both of them have a special Pike Place roast however…
5. Nowhere on the front of the market does it says its name…
Check out your friends photos next time.. You’ll see “Public Market Center” and “Farmers Market” but nowhere does it actually say Pike Place Market. Back when it was established in 1907, it was more important to consumers that you could ‘meet the producers’, therefore this sign had priority over its actual name.
6. Sanitary Lane has an interesting reason for its unique name
There’s a little back alley behind some of the shops in Pike Place that is home to some delicious eateries, and it is known as Sanitary Lane. The history behind this name is pretty interesting – this was where the customers would tie up their horses when visiting the market, therefore keeping the horses away from the main market and in turn, keeping the market “sanitary”. Tip: keep an eye out for the horse posts that are still there when strolling down this alleyway.
Bonus Tips and Info:
- Starbucks was named after a character in Moby Dick who drinks a lot of coffee.
- I learnt most of these amazing facts from a guy called Jake who runs Seattle Free Walking Tours. I found out about the company from my hostel (see next point) but they have their own website with a number of different tours. Jake was very personable, knew all the vendors by first name and has been doing the tours for five years. I’m not sponsored or affiliated with Seattle Free Walking Tours at all but I just thought it was a great company!
- The Green Tortoise Hostel is located directly across the street from the market (I could see the market and the signs from my rooms window) and is one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed at. It has daily activities/tours, free beer on Friday and Saturdays (although they ran out the Saturday I was there), curtains on every bunk bed, shower/toilet combined, massive storage lockers (ALL of my luggage fit into it, and I don’t travel light), and a lamp, fan and four plug outlet for every bed. You can book with them directly by clicking here.
I hope you enjoyed this article about the Pike Place Market in Seattle and if you really loved it, don’t forget to share it!