A Renter's Life in Seattle: The Inside Scoop

Apartment Therapy's Renters Guide

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I've been a happy Seattle resident for going on seven years, and I actually moved here completely blindly—I had never been to the city in my life. I found which neighborhoods and hangouts I would enjoy through old friends who had lived here, and have actually stayed in the neighborhood I originally chose for the entire time! Seattle is a multi-faceted community, with an immense amount of neighborhoods, and although we couldn't cover them all here, I hope that this little guide can give a Seattle newbie and hopeful renter an idea of what to look for.

Neighborhoods

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Queen Anne and Magnolia

Types of rentals: Large family houses, mansions, condos and luxury apartment buildings.
Known for: Its "upscale-suburbia" feel, great restaurants, lovely parks, quiet streets and the best views for watching the New Year and Fourth of July fireworks.
Don't miss: Great restaurants like How to Cook a Wolf, The 5 Spot, GRUB and Homegrown, and shops like The Queen Anne Book Company and Stuhlberg's. For the outdoors lovers, there's Discovery Park and Kerry Park, plus Seattle Center (in lower Queen Anne) which hosts the Space Needle, the Experience Music Project (EMP), Chihuly Garden and Glass, The Pacific Science Center, plus the notoriously inefficient Seattle Monorail.
Transit: Metro Transit Bus Lines run all through Queen Anne and Magnolia, plus if you're into a real workout, walking and biking up those big hills will definitely get you one! Parking can be tricky if you're heading for lower Queen Anne, so take a look at those bus routes before venturing in your car.

The University District & Ravenna

Types of rentals: Dorms, studios, frat houses, older family homes, and brick apartment buildings.
Known for:
The University of Washington campus of course! Go Huskies!
Don't miss:
"The Ave," a bustling strip of quirky hole-in-the-wall restaurants, clothing shops and bars. University Village, an upscale outdoor mall, the University Bookstore, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Henry Art Gallery.
Transit:
Walking is definitely the transportation method of choice, but bikes are popular too, along with buses. Most U District dwellers leave their cars at home (if they have them).

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Capitol Hill and Madison Park

Types of rentals: Madison Park is more for the established folks looking to live in a nice neighborhood, while Capitol Hill tends to appeal to a younger crowd. Large, old family homes which have been converted into apartments, brick apartment buildings, and multi-level, tudor-style houses.
Known for:
Part hipster enclave, part wooded suburb, Capitol Hill is known for it's solid music scene, the best coffee shops in the city, and its acceptance of all walks of life.
Don't miss:
For eats, definitely check out Cafe Presse, Oddfellows, and Skillet, plus, take photos in front of the statue of Seattle native, Jimi Hendrix, and visit the Seattle Asian Art Museum for some refreshing high culture and art.
Transit:
Buses 10, 11, 12, 43 and 49 travel through Capitol Hill but bicyclists definitely rule the roost in this neighborhood.

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Central District, Belltown, Pioneer Square & Downtown

Types of rentals: Highrises, low-income apartment buildings, brownstones and lofts.
Known for:
Being the heart of Seattle, and having a large number of neighborhoods grouped into a small area. The International District (within the Central District) is bursting at the seams with cultural flavor, while Belltown and Downtown boasts premium shopping, restaurants and clubs. Pioneer Square was privy to some of the most historical events in Seattle, including the Great Seattle Fire, and hosts a thriving arts scene.
Don't miss:
In the International/Central/SODO District—the Kinokuniya Bookstore and tons of amazing eateries plus you're close to Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners and CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks dominate. Downtown—get a sip of fabulous wine at Purple, sample some orchestral music at Benaroya Hall, see the beautiful The Seattle Public Library, and don't miss Pike Place Market (of course) and the Seattle Art Museum.
Transit:
Buses, walking, bicycling, taxis, cars, and a very limited monorail.

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West Seattle

Types of rentals: A range of low income to luxury apartments, small midcentury houses, and hilltop mansions and condos.
Known for:
Feeling almost like it's its own city! And its proximity to Alki Beach, and the laid-back, suburban feel.
Don't miss:
The Junction, a busy shopping and eating area that hosts annual events, Alki Beach, and The Original Easy Street Records with its famous breakfast service.
Transit:
Seattle Metro Bus routes 55, 50, 128, plus the RapidRide C Line from downtown to West Seattle. A fun treat as well: a water taxi runs from the Seattle Ferry Terminal to the east shore of West Seattle.

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Ballard, Phinney Ridge, and Greenlake

Types of rentals: Turn-of-the-century to mid-century homes, apartment buildings and town homes in all price ranges.
Known for:
Great shopping, its Nordic Heritage and the fabulous Fishing Industry (and eats!).
Don't miss:
Golden Gardens Beach and park, Ballard Ave—an avenue full of great restaurants, quirky shops and bars. In Ballard, definitely visit Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery, a devilishly delicious sweets shop, and Velouria, a newly redesigned clothing shop featuring independent designers. In Phinney Ridge/Greenwood, take a taste of some sweet designer icecream at Bluebird Creamery & Brewery, several fabulous Farmers Markets, and well, obviously Green Lake is there too!
Transit: These neighborhoods are pretty dominated by cars, but bus lines and bicycles are used as well.

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Wallingford and Fremont

Types of rentals: Multi-unit apartment buildings and single-family houses.
Known for: Fremont is known for the beautiful Lake Washington Ship Canal and its free spirited, hippie ways. Wallingford is nearby and great for shopping and yummy restaurants.
Don't miss: The best mochas in town at Milstead Coffee Co., The Fremont Troll (an odd destination, but people love it), deliciousness personified at Trophy Cupcakes, and kayaking on the canal. And don't forget the Fremont Sunday Market, one of the best outdoor/indoor flea markets around!
Transit:
Like above, these neighborhoods are pretty dominated by cars, but bus lines and bicycles are used as well.

Resources

Neighborhood blogs are a great way to gauge which neighborhood you would like the best. Check out a few below:
Queen Anne View
Magnolia Voice
My Ballard
Fremont Universe
Phinneywood
My Wallingford
My Greenlake
Maple Leaf Life
Wedgwood View
U District Daily

Seattleites, share your tips in the comments!

(Images: Images 1-4, 6 by Andie Powers Photo 5 + 7 Shutterstock)

Originally published 3.19.13 - JL

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