Areas and suburbs in Seattle
- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Seattle Guide (PDF)
There's a variety of areas and suburbs in Seattle for expats to choose from. The decision of which neighbourhood to live in will be influenced by a variety of factors, including lifestyle preferences, budget and proximity to essential services like public transport.
For parents, the Seattle public school system is often a deciding factor in choosing the right neighbourhood. Public school catchment areas are split geographically, giving preference to students within a certain radius of the school. A lot of families choose their neighbourhood based on the ranking of schools.
Seattle is largely a green, calm and peaceful city. The geography of Seattle can be largely divided into the following: City Centre, Central Seattle, North Seattle, South Seattle and Rainier Valley, and West Seattle.
Central Seattle is a diverse region with varied economic and cultural activities, once home to illustrious figures like Jimi Hendrix, Quincy Jones and Bruce Lee. Belltown is one of the closest areas to the city centre and housing here is mostly in the form of apartments. Owing to traffic congestion and a lack of parking spots in garages, people living in these areas often prefer commuting on foot or using public transport, which is easy and convenient thanks to its central location.
Capitol Hill, Lower Queen Anne, East Lake neighbourhoods are also close to Seattle’s city centre. These areas tend to be full of activity and have a good mix of different types of housing. Noise levels would be one of the factors to consider before moving here, however. For example, although Eastlake is particularly convenient, its proximity to the Interstate 5 highway means having to tolerate high noise levels.
Housing here is highly sought-after because of proximity to places of work and other leisure facilities. These neighbourhoods are popular with young professionals and executives who want to be within easy reach of their office buildings. Those that have a high disposable income tend to prefer city living as it gives them access to the best shopping, restaurants and nightlife.
Slightly further afield are neighbourhoods like the International District (formerly known as Chinatown), Madison Park, Madison Valley, Madrona and Montlake. Many of these are lakeside suburbs, offering picturesque waterside living while still being close to the action of Downtown.
North Seattle is popular with families because of the large number of schools in the area. There are plenty of single-family homes and townhouses in this area to accommodate those with children. Popular neighbourhoods in North Seattle include Ballard, Bryant, Wallingford, Ravenna and the University District.
The University District, or the U-District as it is popularly known, surrounds the University of Washington in North Seattle. This area has a diverse mix of urban shopping areas, historic architecture, excellent cafés and theatres. Because of the U-District's large student population, there are lots of big houses with multiple bedrooms that are rented out to students. Expats looking for budget accommodation and house-shares will find plenty of options here.
Those that enjoy outdoor pursuits will love living in North Seattle. Residents are often found kayaking on Lake Union or at Portage Bay, cycling on the Burke-Gilman Trail or catching a football game at Husky Stadium.
Recommended residential areas in South Seattle include Columbia City, Mount Baker, Rainier Beach and Seward Park. These neighbourhoods are diverse and those who decide to live in one of these areas will likely find that several of their neighbours are expats too.
Columbia City is the commercial hub for the South Seattle area. It is filled with retailers, dining establishments and entertainment options. The eateries found here are eclectic, with restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world. Seward Park and Mount Baker are close to Lake Washington and full of green spaces, which is great for those who enjoy outdoor pursuits such as jogging and cycling. That said, it's worth mentioning that while there are some public transport options available in South Seattle, some areas aren't as well-covered, meaning that residents may require a car.
West Seattle has some of the most naturally scenic neighbourhoods in Seattle. Areas such as Admiral, Alki, Fauntleroy and the Junction are home to some of Seattle’s richest residents. It is also popular with environmentally conscious dwellers, who enjoy being close to nature. While this is a lovely area to live in, expats set on doing so should be prepared to spend more than they would on housing in other parts of Seattle.
The area is made up of hilly suburbs strung along the western side of Duwamish River, and hosts several popular natural settings, including Alki Beach, Lincoln Park and Longfellow Creek Trail.