Seattle Underground: The Subterranean Neighborhood

This neighborhood just isn’t like it used to be! 

No one can argue with how the Pioneer Square area of Seattle has changed over the last couple of decades.  Before it was what you see now, there was a whole other neighborhood of streets and storefronts, all of which were destroyed in the Seattle fire of 1889.

The fire turned out to be a good thing for the city.  Although it totally devastated 29 square blocks of the city, including nearly all of the business district, most of the wharves, and the railroad terminals, the rebuildding of the city post-fire was a turning point in Seattle’s history.  At that point, Seattle began the proess of becoming a real city.

The day after the fire, a town meeting was held, and it was agreed that the city would be rebuilt with wider streets, and a requirement for brick buildings.  The rebuilding began immediately, and within one year Seattle had nearly doubled in population.

If you stroll through Pioneer Square today, you’ll find many of those very buildings, required to be built of brick or stone, still standing.  The storefronts may be different, the businesses of a type not ever imagined in 1889, but the people and vitality of the neighborhood are not all that much different.

But beneath the heavily traveled streets of Pioneer Square still lies that other city. 

The Seattle Underground Tour lets you tour the city beneath the city.  It’s a three block tour, giving you a chance to discover the underground streets and storefronts, a chance to get a feel for what it must have been like to live in Seattle at the end of the 19th century.  You’ll also hear stories about Seattle’s rather colorful, and at a times rather messy, past.  This isn’t the stuff we learned about in our history class!

The tour leaves from Pioneer Square, 608 First Avenue.  Tickets are $11 for adults, $9 for seniors (60+) and students, and $5 for children.  Children under the age of seven are not encouraged on the tour for physical reasons.

Wear good walkng shoes, prepare for a little exertion, and allow yourself an hour and a half for the tour. 


Photo credit:  Seattle Conventions & Visitors Bureau (Tim Thompson)

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Mary Jo Manzanares is a traveler, travel blogger, and podcaster. In addition to her blog, Traveling with MJ, she hosts the Where Else to Go podcast, and is the founder and the editor-in-chief of The Traveler’s Way, an online travel magazine. Her travel ethos is value luxury - luxury for real people - and her goal is to help travelers know when to splurge and when to save. Mary Jo has been a speaker at various industry events around the world. When she’s not traveling, Mary Jo likes lingering over a cup of coffee, wandering in a museum, sipping wine at a cafe, and sharing it all with friends and readers. Her most recent travels were to Stockholm, a Baltic cruise, and Universal Orlando Resort.


  1. 10 Things to do in Pioneer Square in Seattle - August 25, 2012

    […] with brick buildings and wide streets, but much of the old Seattle remains underground.  The Seattle Underground Tour takes you below ground for a peek at three blocks of underground streets and storefronts, giving […]

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