Skip to Content

Top 10 Famous Buildings in Seattle

Seattle is the largest city in Washington State and the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. This bustling metropolis is also home to some of the most famous landmarks in the country.

The location on a relatively narrow strip of land between Puget Sound and Lake Washington is already marvelous, the background of the Olympic Mountains is simply breathtaking.

What’s remarkable is that the first settlers known as the “Denny Party” only arrived here on November 13, 1851. They named their newly established Seattle in honor of “Chief Si’ahl” of the native Duwamish and Suquamish tribes.

The logging industry of the 19th century boomed and it exploded the population of the city. Today, the metropolitan area of Seattle is home to over 4 million people.

No significant buildings in downtown Seattle survived the great fire in Seattle of 1889, yet, the city is home to a very diverse architectural landscape.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous buildings in Seattle.

1. Space Needle

The Space Needle is without a doubt the most famous building in Seattle. It defines the city’s skyline and has done so since it was completed as the centerpiece of the 1962 World’s Fair. It’s one of the most influential towers on the planet because of its futuristic design.

The tower stands 184 meters (605 feet) tall and was the tallest building west of the Mississippi upon completion. Although this is far from the case today, it’s still one of the best-recognized landmarks in the United States and a popular tourist attraction in Seattle.

Famous Buildings in Seattle Space Needle
The Space Needle / Wiki Commons

2. Seattle Central Library

The Seattle Central Library is the main library of Seattle Public Library and is the 4th building in Seattle that serves this purpose. The incredible Deconstructivist Building is located in downtown Seattle and replaced the former Carnegie Library and the modern Bindon and Wright library in the same location.

Art-Facts Youtube Channel

The design of the building was a collaboration between Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas and American architect Joshua Prince-Ramus. The structure was completed between 2002 and 2004 and the glass and steel landmark can be described as one of the most stunning library buildings in the world.

Seattle Central Library Facts
Seattle Central Library Mj / Wiki Commons

3. Columbia Center

The Columbia Center is a famous skyscraper in Seattle and the tallest building in the city. It reaches a height of 284 meters (933 feet) above the ground below and features the highest observation deck west of the Mississippi at a height of 275 meters (902 feet).

The building was constructed between 1982 and 1985 and cost $200 at the time, the equivalent of well over $504 million today. Although the building is mainly used as an office tower, its observation deck provides stunning views which also makes it a popular tourist attraction. The views from the deck are nothing short of astounding.

Columbia Center in Seattle
Columbia Center / Ron Clausen / Wiki Commons

4. Museum of Pop Culture

The Museum of Pop Culture is a non-profit museum that is housed in one of the most stunning buildings in the United States. As the name of the museum suggests, it’s dedicated to items related to contemporary popular culture. It was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2000.

The building was designed by renowned architect Frank Gehry, a man who also designed the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. It’s another popular Deconstructivist building and you can find it just northeast of the Space Needle.

Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle
Aerial view of the Museum of Pop Culture / EMP|SFM / Wiki Commons

5. Smith Tower

Smith Tower is the name of a historic skyscraper that is located in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. The building was completed between 1911 and 1914 and stands 148 meters (484 feet) tall. It was one of the tallest skyscrapers outside of New York City when it was completed.

Equally remarkable is the fact that it held the record as the tallest building in Seattle between 1914 and 1962, the year that the Space Needle was completed. This means it dominated the city’s skyline for multiple decades. The design of Smith Tower incorporates many Neoclassical architectural elements.

Smith Tower in Seattle
Smith Tower in Seattle / Christopher S. Maloney / Wiki Commons

6. King Street Station

King Street Station is a historic train station in Seattle which first opened its doors in 1906. Back then it served as a major union railway station for the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway. The building features an eclectic mix of architectural styles, including a distinctive clock tower.

This tower was inspired by Saint Mark’s Campanile, one of the most famous buildings in Venice. This tower was highly influential in the early 20th century because the original version collapsed in 1902 and was completely rebuilt by 1912. The station in Seattle was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and was completely renovated between 2008 and 2013.

King Street Station
King Street Station / Joe Mabel / Wiki Commons

7. St. James Cathedral

St. James Cathedral is the main Roman Catholic church in Seattle as it serves as the seat of the Archdiocese of Seattle and the city’s archbishop. It’s located in the First Hill neighborhood just east of downtown Seattle and it’s one of the most stunning landmarks in this part of the city.

This famous church was constructed between 1905 and 1907 and incorporated a remarkable Renaissance Revival architectural style. The building features an amazing dome but this isn’t the original one as it collapsed in 1916 due to heavy snow. Other notable features are the twin towers, the collection of stained glass windows, and the bronze doors on the west façade.

St. James Cathedral in Seattle
St. James Cathedral in Seattle / Joe Mabel / Wiki Commons

8. Amazon Spheres

The Amazon Spheres is the name of three famous greenhouses that are located in downtown Seattle. They serve as a meeting area and working space for employees of the multinational company Amazon. The fascinating structure was completed in 2018 and is definitely one of the most remarkable landmarks in Seattle.

The three domes have a height of between 24 to 29 meters (80 and 95 feet) and house an astounding 40,000 plants. These plants were imported from over 50 countries all around the world. The most fascinating feature inside is the so-called “Living Wall” which is home to over 25,000 plants. There are worse places to work, that’s for sure.

Amazon Spheres in Seattle
The Amazon Spheres /

9. Pioneer Building

The Pioneer Building is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Seattle and that’s because it was completed shortly after the Great Fire of Seattle which happened in 1889. It’s located in the Pioneer Square district and has dominated this area since it was completed in 1892.

It’s one of the most stunning Romanesque Revival buildings in the world, a type of revival architecture that became popular in North America because of American architect Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886). Many other architects adopted his style and Pioneer Building is one of the greatest examples of this.

Pioneer Building Washington State
Pioneer Building / Joe Mabel / Wiki Commons

10. Rainier Tower

Rainier Tower is a stunning modern skyscraper that is located in an area of downtown Seattle known as the Metropolitan Tract. The building was completed in 1977 and was designed by an American architect named Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986). He is best known for designing the original towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.

The building is a combination of International Style architecture and the New Formalist Style of which he was one of the leading exponents. What’s remarkable about the tower is that the actual building was constructed on top of a concrete pedestal that has a height of 37 meters (121 feet) that diminished in thickness as it lowers. That’s why it’s locally known as the “Beaver Building” (it resembles a tree being felled by a beaver).

Rainier Tower Seattle
Rainier Tower / Wiki Commons