Seattle’s Hidden Past Lies In Its Underground City

Seattle underground city tour tourist state Washington pacific northwest top attraction famous Pioneer Square skylight

The Seattle Space Needle, Safeco Field, Pike Place Market and the Washington Ferries are all places you probably have on your “must see” list when traveling to Seattle, Washington or the Pacific Northwest. But did you know that one of Seattle’s top tourist attractions is actually underground? That’s right, you have to go below the city to tour Seattle’s famous Underground City.


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It started back in June 1889, when Seattle experienced what is often referred to as the “Great Fire of 1889”. This fire was an unfortunate set of coincidences that brought devastation to the city of Seattle. Sad to say, at the end of it all, approximately 25-30 city blocks had all but burned to the ground.

Thankfully the citizens of Seattle were strong, so the city didn’t hesitate to start rebuilding. However, following a disaster of such proportions it was obvious that building construction codes would have to be changed. Luckily that didn’t take long. Soon the new brick and stone buildings were going up right on top of the ruins.

Now, if you’ve been to Pioneer Square in Seattle, you’ve probably seen the underground city’s “skylights”. You may have walked right across them without even realizing there was once a bustling city underneath your feet.

The first underground tours started back in 1965. They were given as part of a Jr. Chamber of Commerce’s “Know Your Seattle Day” and cost $1 each. An estimated 500 people were toured that first day. Since then, the underground tour has continued to delight curious visitors.

The tour lasts about 1 1/2 hours and takes you through what was once downtown Seattle. The passageways you travel down go past what used to be storefronts and thriving businesses. The tour also gives you a glimpse into the past with stories and anecdotes of the people who lived there. Although the tour is a little more than the original $1 charged in 1965, we recommend checking it out the next time you visit Seattle.


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15 thoughts on “Seattle’s Hidden Past Lies In Its Underground City”

  1. I have been there a few times, it was Seattle’s Skid Row. Some interesting topics come up on the tour and walking underneath the hidden city is very cool.

  2. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the underground city exists not because of the fire, but because the building code had buildings built below the water level and they were flooding every time it rained a lot, so the city just raised the streets and essentially forced all the local buildings to move their first floors up.

  3. It was both because of water levels and the fire. Gotta say, I took this tour. I like history. I didn’t like this tour. It was boring. I learned that Seattle had lots of whores back in the day and that toilets sometimes ran in reverse. That’s it. That’s the entire history of the underground. Don’t waste your money when the pictures show you all you need to know.

  4. Stephen, you are correct. It was not because of fire it was because of flood and raw sewage that the flood spread throughout the streets.

  5. I haven’t been through Underground Seattle since the late 1970s, but one thing I don’t see in these photos are the homeless. There were several drunks living in the Underground when I took my tour. the guide said they are mostly harmless, which is always true. Another tour, less well known, is of Seattle’s hidden parts of the International District. Old opium dens, etc. Fascinating. I wonder if that one is still available.

  6. Sadly, the pictures here are all you really need. The tour itself is rather uninteresting but worth it if you have time to kill.

  7. The pix above are all there is to see and even they make it look better than it is. Felt ripped off and lied to when done with tour.

  8. i am still not sure as to whether the other city does exist. There are many beliefs and myths surrounding this. But since many people talk of this, I believe it may be a truth.

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