Seattle is known for its rainy weather, Owl City, and the Space Needle. However, as can be imagined, there’s a lot more going on under the iconic surface of The Emerald City. Seattle and its residents have a healthy appreciation for the outdoors and tend to be very eco-conscious, which means that many of the apartment properties in Seattle (the newer ones especially) often take measures to be environmentally friendly. This means bigger windows, recycling programs, water-efficient faucets, etc. Seattle is also a place for many different kinds of people, from creative artists and musicians to sports junkies to tech geniuses. No matter the interest, no matter the lifestyle, Seattle probably has something to offer for the perfect fit.
When it comes to the best time for renting, Seattle is similar to most other cities: summer is the most popular time to move. This is because people don’t like moving in the rain, and there are a lot of students leaving (or coming in), so a lot of places open up. Finding an apartment in the winter increases your likelihood of having your move rained or snowed upon - which, combined with the hilly terrain of neighborhoods, can make things a bit more challenging.
Geographically, Central Seattle sits on an isthmus partitioning the Puget Sound and Lake Washington. The prime living locations are on this isthmus (specifically the Eastside, which is anything on the isthmus east of Lake Union). The mid- and lower range occupy either the lower part of the isthmus or the upper peninsula above. Capitol Hill is a popular area, with its beautiful homes and access to Downtown as well as shopping and restaurants. Places like Downtown, Belltown, and Bellevue tend to attract young, tech-minded people and young families. Areas near Lake Union are very popular as well, such as Ballard, Wallingford, and Fremont, with Fremont being especially popular for young people who don’t want to drive.
No matter where you live, you’re sure to find something great. Check out some of the neighborhoods a little more in depth to help you with your apartment search!
Downtown/International District: Love taking the ferry to Bainbridge Island on the weekend? Parking at the ferry landing can be a pain—but not if you live three blocks away! Safeco and Qwest Fields, the Seattle Aquarium, and the heaps of restaurants along the waterfront are some of the other perks you’ll be entitled to if you live Downtown. Not to mention there are tons of gorgeous, luxurious apartments in the area. Renting Downtown is the suite life for sure.
Capitol Hill: This neighborhood gets all the buzz for being the new bohemian enclave, though keep in mind there are quite a few other neighborhoods on the east side of the isthmus worth exploring as well. Historically the African-American sector (Garfield Public High School saw the likes of both Quincy Jones and Jimi Hendrix waltz through its doors), this area was slowly gentrified throughout the 80s and 90s. The area boasts some of Seattle’s best nightlife and entertainment, and hosts some of the city’s wealthiest homes. Smallish Capitol Hill apartments are pretty pricey, so if you want a larger apartment with a view of the water for the same price, check out the Madison Park neighborhood.
Queen Anne: Directly north of Downtown and the city’s first suburb, Seattle grew up rapidly around this gem. And it got its name from all of the Queen Anne style homes built there! Depending on who you’re talking to, the lower part of Queen Anne may or may not include the Seattle Center, but either way its residents are close to the Space Needle, Key Arena, Science Center...all that good stuff. This neighborhood is quite large and steep, so where you are “on the hill” will determine how quiet or exciting your immediate area will be.
North Seattle: These neighborhoods lie north of the Lake Washington Ship Canal, which is traversed via a series of drawbridges and truss bridges. The drawbridges are more convenient for communities west toward the Puget Sound to enter Downtown Seattle; as you can anticipate, this scenario creates some obvious commuting difficulties. Keep this in mind when choosing a particular neighborhood. Just a tip: Most of the properties in North Seattle are pet-friendly.
Wallingford and Fremont are the closest neighborhoods to central Seattle and therefore enjoy the shortest commute times (expect 15-20 minutes on a morning metro bus from the north end of Fremont; longer in the evenings). Fremont borders Lake Union and hosts Adobe’s Seattle offices and Google Seattle, amongst other businesses and organizations, hence the short commute times. Wallingford also borders Lake Union and sits right across the freeway from the University of Washington. It has been largely residential in the past but is beginning to attract businesses like Brooks Sports (who moved its headquarters there) and Tableau Software.
Ballard’s an old hipster stomping ground—now filled with young couples enjoying the unique restaurant and bar scene. But that’s not to say there aren’t singles here; they just might be a few years into their careers. In recent years Ballard has gained tons of live music venues and local shops, lending even more uniqueness to its character. Commute times are only slightly longer from here, and the rent is more affordable.
The University District, named after the University of Washington, hugs Portage and Union Bays on the other side of I-5 from Wallingford. Rent is cheaper here, if only due to the amount of competition UW students bring in. Speaking of which, the students make up a large force for the culture in this neighborhood, which makes the area perfect for those pursuing degrees or those who want to stay forever young.
Beacon Hill: The less expensive alternative to Capitol Hill, Beacon Hill is known for its historic Craftsman bungalow homes and rich cultural diversity. Commuting into the Central Business District, however, can be a bit of a pain, and the SeaTac air traffic may be heard on most nights (the flight path from the runway is directly above North Beacon Hill). The neighborhood offers great views of Downtown and surrounding mountains and is a great place for families, as the area is very community-involved and kid-friendly.
West Seattle: The commute from West Seattle is one of the least desirable in the metro area. This is both because the drive in to I-5 is along a viaduct that receives constant maintenance and because if you’re traveling anywhere other than the Central Business District (say, along I-405 out to Bellevue), the transfer from one freeway to another incurs heedless traffic control lights and confusing on-ramps. However, the benefits of West Seattle include getting to make your home in a relatively serene setting with awesome views.
Bellevue and Points East: Bellevue is a newer community residing on the east side of Lake Washington. It’s often disparaged for its cookie-cutter feel, but Bellevue-ians typically report a solid feeling of communality and a high quality of life. Plus, commuting from Bellevue isn’t as bad as it might seem: morning car trips to Seattle CBD usually range 30-35 minutes, with a few minutes longer in the evening/afternoon. But to residents it’s well worth the distance; Bellevue has a host of shopping options and restaurants, not to mention plenty of green space.
Public transport in Seattle is making incredible strides with the creation of a new light rail (connecting Seattle to Everett and Tacoma) and streetcar (in the South Lake Union zone of the CBD), but the city is still one of the most car-congested cities in the U.S. But don’t lose hope, anxious car commuter! The Washington Department of Transportation maintains a great website delineating real travel times between Seattle and its many suburbs. Seattle recently pledged to become carbon-neutral by 2030, a feat it hopes to achieve primarily by instituting new technology (unsurprising for the city that houses Microsoft and Amazon).
Seattle is a great place to be, with lots of interesting and unique people. From tourist spots to the nearby mountains to shopping, dining, and cultural attractions within, it’s got a great vibe. With all of the water, mountains, parks, and trees around, most people love anything to do with the outdoors and enjoy getting out to participate in various activities. With tech as a thriving industry in Seattle, people of course love their technology, but real life face time is important here too, and people love getting together and fostering strong community bonds. In fact, there are all kinds of festivals going on especially during the summers, so there are plenty of opportunities to try new things and meet more friends! Also, Seattle has one of the highest literacy rates in the country, so if you’re looking for fellow book-lovers, great bookstores, and reading spots, this might be your place!