December 29, 2009

A Seattle landmark, Pike Place Market is over 100 years old and one of the most famous farmer’s markets in America. Crammed with tourists and bustling with energy, the market stretches nine acres. It’s nine acres of nooks and crannies bursting with history and surprises for visitors to discover.

We countdown the top 7 items for your Pike Place must-do list:

7.  Sample the free food

Pike Place Market was built to cut out the middlemen that often engorged prices for farm goods, as it allowed farmers to sell directly to consumers.  Today, the main arcade, the cobbled street, and some corners are still filled with farmers, their produce on display.  In order to both grab attention and promote their products, stalls will often tempt you with free food. In half an hour, I’d had a Washington apple, some tart blueberries, four different types of balsamic vinegar, and two types of pepper jelly.

6.  Be privy to the local charm

Pike Place Market’s location as an established tourist venture invites a whole host of local artists to showcase their talents. Coffee shops display original pieces of artwork, and musicians strategically position themselves throughout the market to receive small change. My favourites included an African-American quartet that invited others to clap hands and join along, and a hula-hooping, guitar-strumming man with a sign: “Take my picture, pay me money.”

Inside Left Bank Books. Photo: Mariya Karimjee

Inside Left Bank Books. Photo: Mariya Karimjee

5.  Visit the anarchist bookstore

Left Bank Books is a fully functioning independent bookstore located on the corner of 1st and Pike. It is both operated and owned by its workers and has no bosses and managers, yet still the Left Bank sells a remarkable variety of books, and even bumper stickers. I’d recommend venturing to the third floor, if only for the view of the t-shirts that hang from the railings.

4. Watch the salmon-throwing fishmongers

It’s hard to miss their stall in the main arcade. Partly because the workers are so loud, and partly because they’re flanked by crowds of spellbound tourists, workers at the Pike Place Fish Market toss three-foot salmon (and crabs, lobsters and other fish) to each other instead of simply passing them by hand. They claim to have the freshest fish in the market as well.

3.  Check out the waterfront

Because Pike Place is located on the Seattle waterfront, make sure to venture out from the market and over to Puget Sound. Watch the ferryboats as they shuttle to and from the loading dock, and enjoy the view of the Olympic peninsula in the far distance.

2.  Sip a latte at the Starbucks

Now a household name, the original Starbucks opened its doors in 1971 in Seattle, and quickly relocated to Pike Place. Their original goal was to sell high-quality coffee equipment and beans — they didn’t begin making and selling the freshly brewed hot drink that has now become their most popular, if not recognizable, product until 1987. I’d even vouch that the coffee at 1912 Pike Place tastes much better than the company’s usual java.

1.  Eat a well-prepared Piroshky

Piroshky Piroshky is a crammed bakery that specialises in the Russian Piroshky, a hand-held pie. You can choose from a variety of fillings (I picked potato, cheese and onion) and grab the palm-sized pie to go, all while watching elderly Russian women rolling the dough and making the pie in front of you. The perfect blend of flaky piecrust and melt in your mouth fillings, the Zagat-rated joint is a Pike Place must.

Editor’s Note: Pike Place Market even has a twitter page where you can follow the happenings of the market.