Seattle City Guide

by Jose Marc Castro on August 18, 2008

USflagIMAGE200It’s hard to decide which of its outstanding features Seattle is best known for: the stunning natural landscapes, the towering Space Needle, the vibrant nightlife, the rich cultural heritage or the coffee. The truth is all of these elements are integral parts of what makes this city so special. A gorgeously picturesque city that is as sophisticated as it is traditional, Seattle stands proudly among the best cities in the United States.  The city is the county seat of King County and has made itself into one of the hubs for economy, culture and education in the United States.

Residential Places in Seattle

Seattle has recently been heralded as the third most popular city that people want to live in, according to a new poll conducted by a Rochester, New York research company. Unfortunately another survey has also ranked it as the 54th least affordable real estate market in the industrialized English-speaking world. Between these two extremes however is a city that may not exactly be the cheapest option, as far as affordable houses go, but one that presents a number of good reasons to make the investment anyway.

The city of Seattle grew from a confluence of smaller neighboring communities namely Magnolia, Wallingford, Greenlake, the University District, Ravenna, South Park, Columbia City, Ballard and West Seattle. The list increased with the annexation of Georgetown, Pinehurst, Maple Leaf, Lake City, View Ridge and Northgate.

The real estate market in Seattle is actually a bit different than the rest of the country. Some areas enjoy a remarkably fast turnaround rate for houses, with most properties never staying on the market for very long before they are snapped up, and some areas have several houses that are on the market for several months before being sold. This has made it a bit hard to assess whether the city is experiencing a buyer’s market or a seller’s market right now. One thing is clear though, and that is the number of available housing options in most parts of the city have been increasing over the last few months of 2007, and it would seem by all indications that the trend is set to continue well into the future.

The beauty of Seattle as a residential area was shared in a post at the America Expat Forum last January 24, 2008:

Seattle is a very hilly town, where it rains a lot. The Pacific North-west is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. It is also near an Ocean. It’s a higher quality of life in my opinion, though slower moving. There’s loads to do there if you like the outdoors (esp. skiing). There’s a pretty decent sized IT industry in Washington.

Hospitals and Universities of Seattle

Seattle has some of the best health care facilities in the country, and there are many options for affordable and even free health care all over the city as well. In addition to the many public and private hospitals, there are also several long term health care facilities as well as specialized clinics and treatment centers for a wide variety of medical needs. A partial listing of the hospitals in the city include: Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Harborview Medical Center, Highline Community Hospital, Kindred Hospital Seattle, Northwest Hospital and Medical Center, Swedish Medical Center, University of Washington Medical Center, and Virginia Mason Medical Center.

Seattle has some of the most respected universities in the country, which is hardly surprising given the city’s extremely high rate of literacy and educational attainment of its residents. Almost 50% of the city’s over 25 population has a bachelor’s degree or higher, and more than 90% have a high school diploma or equivalent educational qualification.

Some of the better-known colleges and universities in the city are the University of Washington, Seattle University, Seattle Pacific University, City University of Seattle, and the world famous The Art Institute of Seattle.

Commercial Places in Seattle

Seattle has been known all over the world for many years for its coffee, and the number of coffee shops in the city is ample evidence of this proud legacy. The coffeehouses alone are a culinary adventure in itself, with some of the best places in town being Caffe Ladro, Caffe Vita, Monorail Espresso, and who can forget the ubiquitous Starbucks. In fact, you can hardly turn a corner in Seattle without running into a branch of the world famous coffee giant.

Of course, given the large number of different cultural and ethnic groups in Seattle, it is only natural that the city would have a rich and multifaceted culinary scene as well…and it does! Seafood lovers will find a lot to enjoy in Alki Crab & Fish and Chinook’s at Salmon Bay, while Brasa and the Ibiza Dinner Club are the best choices for Mediterranean cuisine in the city.

An expat shared things to do while in Seattle at the America Expat Forum last August 20, 2009:

Hi there… I was born and raised in the greater Seattle area and I must say that it is a beautiful area of the world. There are of course the given touristy things to do: Pike Place Market is a must and a ferry ride is a great way to spend a few hours. There is also Deception Pass on Whidbey Island which is one of the most picturesque places in my opinion. It is either a 2 hour drive from Seattle or a half hour drive to Mulketio and then a ferry ride to the island. I would skip the Space Needle as it is over priced and you can get a GREAT view of the city from Kerry Park on Highland Drive in the Queen Anne area (Your friends may know where this is). This is a wonderful spot for photos of the city. Snoqualmie Falls is easy to get to and a wonderful place for a day trip. The weather is usually still pretty good in September as Seattle gets what is called an “Indian Summer” so day hikes, etc are not out of the question…

You said that you love food as well… You are certainly in luck where this is concerned. Seattle is chalk full of wonderful restaurants for every price range from holes in the wall to fine dining, you will not be lacking in options. There is a little place in Pike Place Market called Mee Sum Pastries which has the best humbow I have EVER had for $3. We are known for having great fresh seafood so be sure to visit the Brooklyn! It is expensive but I still think, in all my years, that this is by far the best restaurant in Seattle for seafood.

Hope this helps! Enjoy your stay in Seattle…

Service Establishments of Seattle

Two utility departments primarily provide public utility services in Seattle: Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities. Seattle City Light provides electric power to the entire city as you may have guessed, while Seattle Public Utilities is in charge of providing water, sewer, and solid waste management services. There is also Puget Sound Energy for natural gas, Seattle Steam Company for steam, Waste Management Inc and Allied Waste for curbside recycling and solid waste removal and a host of communications companies offering telephone, Internet and cable television services.

In addition to these two departments, the city also has the Office of Cable Communications, which is primarily responsible for providing cable related services.

Seattle City Light has been in continuous operation ever since the first group of customers was serviced in 1905. Today the company provides environmentally safe, reliable and affordable electric service to the entire city as well as to the neighboring suburbs. Seattle City Light is considered one of the main energy providers in the country.

For account information you can call them at 684.3000. To speak to an account executive of City Light, you can call 684.3331. You can send bill payments to the Department of Finance at PO Box 34017, Seattle, WA 98124-1017, or you can go to any one of the many payment centers all over the city. A list of these can be found on the company Web site at www.cityofseattle.net/light .

Seattle Public Utilities can also be reached through the city government Web site at www.cityofseattle.net/util/services/ . Their mailing address is PO Box 34018 Seattle, WA 98124-4018 and you can also speak to a customer service representative at (206) 684-3000. For emergency service regarding water, sewer and drainage the number to call is the 24-hour line at (206) 386-1800.

Embassies in Seattle

British nationals who are in need of consular assistance while in Seattle can contact the British Embassy in Washington D.C. They can be reached at 3100 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC 20008, and you can call them at the following numbers: (1)(202) 588 6500 for the embassy, (1)(202) 588 7800 for consular assistance, and  (1)(202) 588 7830 for the British Council. You can also fax them at (1)(202) 588 7870 for the chancery, (1)(202) 588 7866 for management related concerns, (1)(202) 588 7901 for UKTI, and at (1)(202) 588 7850 for consular assistance.

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