Seattleites are sometimes scorned for their fashion sense (polar fleece, sport sandals, and socks—oh my!), but as the city has grown and enough money has percolated through the ranks of retail, the city's style barometer has made a steady creep upward. Bibliophiles, foodies, wine aficionados, and design-centrists will also find plenty of shopping opportunities—Seattle is a hotbed of unique, independent shops stocking one-of-a-kind treasures.

Shopping in Seattle is something best done gradually. Don't expect to find it all in one or two days worth of blitz shopping tours. Downtown is the only area that allows for easy daylong shopping excursions. Within a few blocks along 4th and 5th Avenues, you'll find the standard chains (The Gap, Urban Outfitters, H&M, Anthropologie, Sephora, Old Navy), along with Nike's flagship store, and a few more glamorous high-end stores, some featuring well-known designers like Gucci . Downtown is also where you'll find department stores like Nordstrom, Macy's, and Barneys New York. Belltown and Pioneer Square are also easy areas to patrol—most stores of note are within a few blocks.

To find many of the stores that are truly special to Seattle—such as boutiques featuring handmade frocks from local designers, independent record stores run by encyclopedic-minded music geeks, cozy used-book shops that smell of paper and worn wood shelves—you'll have to branch out to Capitol Hill, Queen Anne, and northern neighborhoods like Ballard. Shopping these areas will give you a better feel for the character of the city and its quirky inhabitants, all while you score that new dress or nab gifts for your friends.

And don’t forget about Seattle’s culinary bounty, which includes the stalls at Pike Place Market; the flagship Sur La Table, which stocks every kitchen gadget known to man; and the city’s various weekly farmers' markets, where you’ll find enough locally made, artisanal offerings to fill a suitcase or two.

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  • 1. Archie McPhee

    If your life is missing a punching-nun puppet, an Edgar Allen Poe action figure, or a bacon-scented air freshener, there's hope. Leave your cares and woes at the door and step into a warehouse of the weird and wonderful. It's nearly impossible to feel bad while perusing stacks of armadillo handbags, demon rubber duckies, handerpants (don't ask), and homicidal unicorn play sets. Grab a cat-in-a-can to keep you company or leave with a dramatic chipmunk oil painting. You'll feel better. Trust us.

    1300 N. 45th St., Seattle, Washington, 98103, USA
  • 2. Baleen

    This independent studio makes some of the most stunning, yet affordable, jewelry you can find. Impressively simple, each design manages to be unique, giving them an elegant and modern edge. While the business has outgrown using the same space as both production and store, you can still stop by to shop all the hand-crafted, locally made necklaces, earrings, and bracelets in the light-filled corner shop.

    6418 20th Ave. NW, Seattle, Washington, 98107, USA
  • 3. Capitol Hill Farmers Market

    One of the city's liveliest and most interesting farmers’ markets fills a plaza and spills onto a side street. There's fresh produce galore, prepared foods including Ethiopian cuisine and ice pops, plus music, samples, and plenty of cut flowers. The market is open Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.

    E. Denny Way between Broadway & 10th Ave E (aka E. Barbara Bailey Way), Seattle, Washington, 98112, USA
  • 4. DeLaurenti Specialty Food and Wine

    Attention foodies: clear out your hotel minibars and make room for delectable treats from DeLaurenti (open until 5 pm daily). And, if you're planning any picnics, swing by here first. Imported meats and cheeses crowd the deli cases, and packaged delicacies pack the aisles. Stock up on hard-to-find items like truffle-infused olive oil or excellent Italian vintages from the wine shop upstairs.

    1435 1st Ave., Seattle, Washington, 98101, USA
  • 5. Elliott Bay Book Company

    Capitol Hill | Books/Stationery

    A major reason to visit this landmark bookstore—formerly a longtime haunt in Pioneer Square, hence the name—is the great selection of Pacific Northwest history books and fiction titles by local authors, complete with handwritten recommendation cards from the knowledgeable staff. A big selection of bargain books, underground parking, lovely skylights, and an appealing café all sweeten the deal—and the hundreds of author events held every year mean that nearly every day is an exciting one for dropping by.

    1521 10th Ave., Seattle, Washington, 98112, USA
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  • 6. Fran's Chocolates

    This Seattle institution (helmed by Fran Bigelow) has been making quality chocolates for decades. Its world-famous salted caramels are transcendent—a much-noted favorite of the Obama family—as are delectable truffles, which are spiked with oolong tea, single-malt whiskey, or raspberry, among other flavors. This shop is housed in the elegant Four Seasons on 1st Avenue.

    1325 1st Ave., Seattle, Washington, 98101, USA
  • 7. Kobo at Higo

    International District

    Housed in what used to be a 75-year-old five-and-dime store, this distinctive gallery has fine ceramics, textiles, and exquisite crafts by Japanese and Northwest artists; you can also see artifacts from the old store, a part of the original Nihonmachi (Japantown). Items range from something as simple as incense from Kyoto to an enormous painted antique chest. Clothes, books, and gift options abound, all with ties to Japan or the local Japanese community.

    604 S. Jackson St., Seattle, Washington, 98104, USA

    Shop Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Sun.--Tues.
  • 8. Nordstrom

    Seattle's own retail giant sells quality clothing, accessories, cosmetics, jewelry, and lots of shoes—in keeping with its roots in footwear—including many hard-to-find sizes. Peruse the various floors for anything from trendy jeans to lingerie to goods for the home. A sky bridge on the store's fourth floor will take you to Pacific Place Shopping Center. Deservedly renowned for its impeccable customer service, the busy Downtown flagship has a concierge desk and valet parking.  The Nordstrom Rack store at 1st Avenue and Spring Street, close to Pike Place Market, has great deals on marked-down items.

    500 Pine St., Seattle, Washington, 98101, USA
  • 9. Peter Miller Architectural & Design Books and Supplies

    Aesthetes and architects haunt this shop, which is stocked with all things design. Rare, international architecture, art, and design books (including titles for children) mingle with high-end products from Alessi and Iittala; sleek notebooks, bags, portfolios, and drawing tools round out the collection. This is a great shop for quirky, unforgettable gifts, like a pentagram typography calendar, an Arne Jacobsen wall clock, or an aerodynamic umbrella.

    304 Alaskan Way South, Seattle, Washington, 98104, USA
  • 10. REI

    The enormous flagship for Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) has an incredible selection of outdoor gear—polar-fleece jackets, wool socks, down vests, hiking boots, rain gear, and much more—as well as its own 65-foot climbing wall. The staff is extremely knowledgeable, and there always seems to be enough help on hand, even when the store is busy. You can test things out on the mountain-bike test trail or in the simulated rain booth. REI also rents gear such as tents, sleeping bags, skis, snowshoes, and backpacks. Bonus: they offer an hour of free parking.

    222 Yale Ave. N, Seattle, Washington, 98109, USA
  • 11. Sairen

    International District

    Locally designed dresses, hand-made ceramics featuring East Asian ingredients, and cute children's toys from Hawaii somehow all make sense in this small boutique. The owners, both named Kaitlin and from Hawaii, curate an amazing selection of clothes, crafts, jewelry, and home goods, mostly produced in Seattle or by Asian American makers. Their eye for everything classy and cute, from boba tea-shaped cat toys to elegant Czech glass earrings makes shopping fun, and they stock European raincoats and cozy hoodies for men and women if you forgot to bring the right outfit for the weather.

    600 S. Jackson St., Seattle, Washington, 98104, USA

    Shop Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.-Tues.
  • 12. Scarecrow Video

    Forget going obsolete—this shop shows how video stores can keep up with modern viewers. One of the biggest and best independent film shops in the country can be found on Roosevelt Way, where 145,000 rare, out-of-production, foreign, and mainstream films are available to rent and buy. Scarecrow's friendly staff are bona fide film geeks—pick their brains for suggestions, or stop by for one of the non-profit shop's many in-store events.

    5030 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, Washington, 98105, USA

    Shop Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.
  • 13. Sonic Boom

    An independent record store that is just the kind of place you would want to find on a Seattle street corner: clean, helpful, and organized, but just a little bit time-worn and too cool. You can count on them to have music from the latest indie darlings alongside the classics, on vinyl, CD, or even cassette tape. If they have one of their free in-store events when you're in the neighborhood, stop in for a unique musical experience.

    2209 NW Market St., Seattle, Washington, 98107, USA
  • 14. Standard Goods

    If you want to get a true sense of Pacific Northwest style, this men's and women's clothing shop embodies it all, from casual plaid button-down shirts to wood-framed sunglasses. Carrying local brands like Filson, Shwood, and Capitol Hill Candles, this trendy local shop sources only quality goods.

    501 E. Pike St., Seattle, Washington, 98122, USA
  • 15. A Mano

    The store's name means "by hand," and that ethos of handmade, high-quality craftsmanship seems soaked into the very (exposed brick) walls of this charming shop. A small selection of shoes from all over the world, along with some jewelry and handbags from local designers can be found here—all of it lovingly selected and much of it unique.

    1115 1st Ave., Seattle, Washington, 98101, USA
  • 16. Agate Designs

    Amateur geologists, curious kids, and anyone fascinated by fossils and gems should make a trip to this store that's almost like a museum (but a lot more fun). Between the 500-million-year-old fossils and the 250-pound amethyst geodes, there's no shortage of eye-popping items on display.

    120 1st Ave. S, Seattle, Washington, 98104, USA
  • 17. Alair Gift Shop

    Whether you need to bring home an ironic "West Seattle Island" shirt or vintage-style Pacific Northwest hoodie, this cute neighborhood gift shop and boutique has one-of-a-kind clothes to help you remember your visit to Seattle. The rest of the shop is filled with stylish gifts for kids and adults, plenty of cards, and fun locally made products such as bath salts, candles, mugs, and more.

    3270 California Ave. SW, Seattle, Washington, 98116, USA
    206-659-7152-For texting

    Shop Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.–Tues.
  • 18. Alhambra

    Sophisticated yet casual, this pricey boutique delivers quality, European-style looks for women of all ages. Pop into the Moorish-inspired shop for a party dress, elegant jewelry, or separates, and be sure to check out the house line, designed by the owners.

    101 Pine St., Seattle, Washington, 98101, USA
  • 19. Alki Surf Shop

    Alki Beach gives off SoCal vibes, but the one thing it lacks is surfable waves. Still, that doesn't stop this surf shop from selling everything else you might need for a day on the beaches of L.A. or West Seattle. Beach gear, swimsuits, and sunglasses will keep everyone ready for hanging out in the sand, while the Island-style clothes, accessories, and gifts will make you feel like you might be somewhere warmer or with bigger waves. The merchandise makes a good souvenir (and conversation starter), especially the fleecy sweatshirts for when the sun inevitably goes down and the breeze blows in off the cool water.

    2622 Alki Ave. SW, Seattle, Washington, 98116, USA

    Shop Details

    Rate Includes: Closed Mon.–Thurs.
  • 20. Arundel Books

    Since 1984, this bastion of bibliophilia has offered new, used, and collectible titles to discerning shoppers. Its shelves are especially strong in art, photography, and graphic design. This eclectic assortment will satisfy both the avid reader and discriminating collector.

    322 1st Ave. S, Seattle, Washington, 98104, USA

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