Five ways to discover Seattle's legendary music scene

With its music festivals back in full force, it’s an ideal time to plan a trip to Washington state’s largest and most harmonious metropolis.

Jazz musician Chuck Mangione performing at Jazz Alley, a club in Seattle's Belltown neighbourhood.

Photograph by Alamy
By Zoey Goto
Published 10 Feb 2023, 11:25 GMT

Seattle is a city that dances to its own beat. Not only has it birthed one of the greatest guitar players in Jimi Hendrix, but it has also encouraged the underground sounds of Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice In Chains to bubble up into the mainstream. Post-grunge, in an exciting new musical landscape, a diverse selection of performers are stepping up to the mic. 

1. Make sweet music at the Museum of Pop Culture 

Seattle is no stranger to boundary-pushing architecture, and the Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) is almost worth visiting solely to admire its futuristic facade. But venture over the threshold of this shrine to popular culture and you'll find galleries dedicated to indie gaming, cult movies and sci-fi animations — as well as contemporary musicians. Catch a local band on the big screen at the on-site Sky Church, a concert venue featuring one of the world’s largest LED displays, or unleash your inner rock star at the Sound Lab, thrashing it out with real instruments before a virtual pit of moshing fans. 

2. Go dancing in the street at a city festival

In 2023, Seattle will prepare to host some of the most invigorating live music events in the US. In March, find your groove at the rhythmic Freakout weekender, while the multidisciplinary Bumbershoot arts festival will make a comeback in early September, with a packed schedule showcasing the best of the city’s comedic talents, visual arts, music, dance and theatre. Alternatively, keep things local at the Capitol Hill Block Party in July, where activism and community events take the spotlight alongside six stages of pulsating punk, pop and R&B. 

Statue of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell.

A statue of Seattle-native Chris Cornell, frontman of Soundgarden, outside the city's Museum of Pop Culture. 

Photograph by Jie Liu Yidianzixun

3. Add to your vinyl collection at Easy Street Records 

It may be synonymous with alt-rock, but Seattle has also given us renowned hip-hop acts, including the Emerald Street Boys and Sir Mix-a-Lot, and The Flavor, the first internationally distributed hip-hop magazine. Brush up on the city’s rap rhymes at Easy Street Records, a local icon and arguably one of the best independent record shops in the US. Browse its extensive hip-hop section or time your visit to see in-store visiting acts, which have previously included De La Soul. The low-fi cafe serves burritos and omelettes named after such musical luminaries as James Brown. 

4. See the light at Neumos 

Artists the calibre of Adele and Cat Power have performed at this low-key Capitol Hill music venue. The reason is apparently down to the world-class lighting and sound system. Neumos (pronounced ‘New Moe’s’) is a launchpad for touring musicians, where internationally recognised stars jostle for space across three stages with some of Seattle’s finest drag artists and local underground rockers. Pre-show, make sure to grab a drink at The Runaway, a music-centric hangout right next door where DJs serve up hot tunes to accompany plates of fiery fried chicken. 

5. Rock out in Belltown

Built on the storied bricks of Seattle’s grunge scene, The Crocodile first swung open its fabled doors in the early 1990s. This iconic live music venue and bar has been  swiftly supplying the soundtrack for the hip Belltown district ever since, showcasing everyone from Nirvana and Yoko Ono to Billie Eilish. It has now relocated to a new site, just a few blocks from the original, where you’ll find touring acts, dance parties and comedians entertaining the loyal crowd. An eccentric hotel above the venue offers the city’s most rock’n’roll sleepover, but be warned — earplugs are advised.

The skyline of Seattle, Washington state's largest metropolis.

The skyline of Seattle, Washington state's largest metropolis. 

Photograph by Getty Images

A local’s favourite hangouts

An award-winning saxophone player, Kate Olson has called Seattle home since 2010. She has toured globally, while closer to home she can be found performing in experimental jazz groups or directing a burlesque version of The Nutcracker.

Schmitz Park: A visit to this little-known West Seattle gem is a welcome escape from the city. Take a walk through the old growth forest, alive with giant ferns and towering trees. 

Shorty’s: Divey and full of pinball machines, Shorty’s bar in Belltown has an Old Seattle vibe, complete with Shiner Bock in bottles and late-night hot dogs.

The Fireside Room: Find great cocktails and burgers at this club local inside Hotel Sorrento, with a 1950s flair, dark wood and plush chairs. The live music often features a jazz crooner.

Alki Beach: The place to go for sunsets, beach fires and rollerblading. Rent a scooter or dip your toes in the Puget Sound, a system of interconnected waterways.

The Triple Door: Home to some of the best burlesque in Seattle, this cabaret theatre offers a complete dinner and entertainment experience.

Plan your trip 

Bon Voyage offers a seven-night stay at the four-star Mayflower Park Hotel in Downtown Seattle (B&B), plus direct flights from London with Virgin Atlantic and car hire from £2,650 per person. 

For more information, head to

Follow National Geographic Traveller (UK) on social media  

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram  


Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved