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Except for the busy areas around the Market and the piers, and the always-frenetic shopping district, a lot of Downtown can often seem deserted, especially at night. Still, while it may not be the soul of the city, it's definitely the heart, and there's plenty to do—nearly all of it easily reachable by foot. There's the city's premier art museum, the eye-popping Rem Koolhaas–designed Central Library, lively Pike Place Market, and a major shopping corridor along 5th Avenue and down Pine Street. And, of course, there's the water: Elliott Bay beckons from every crested hill.

Within the core of Downtown—which is bounded on the west by Elliott Bay and on the east by I–5, stretching from Virginia Street to Yesler Way—are several different experiences. The waterfront and much of 1st Avenue are lively and at times quite touristy, thanks to Pike Place Market, the Seattle Art Museum (SAM), and the piers, which have several kid-friendly sights as well as ferries to Bremerton and to Bainbridge Island. As you head east from Pike Place Market, you soon hit Downtown's shopping and entertainment district. The flagship Nordstrom department store is here, and the Westlake Center and Pacific Place shopping centers offer plenty of opportunities to part with your money. In addition to the shopping at Pacific Place, there are multiplex movie theaters, a multistory arcade, and a few popular chain restaurants.

Heading south of Pike Street, the Central Business District holds mostly office and municipal buildings. There are a few sights scattered about, including the remarkable Central Library, a handful of art galleries, and a sampling of higher-end shops. There are a few major cultural sights, too, including the Seattle Symphony's elegant concert venue, Benaroya Hall.

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