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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > Washington State > Seattle

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Local time Seattle

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Getting around Seattle

Public transport

Metro Transit (tel: +1 206 553 3000; http://metro.kingcounty.gov) operates Seattle’s excellent bus system. You can pay your fare in cash or buy a preloadable ORCA smartcard (available from numerous retailers and ORCA vending machines). It also runs the Seattle Streetcar (www.seattlestreetcar.org), linking Downtown to South Lake Union.

Seattle Monorail Services (tel: +1 206 905 2620; www.seattlemonorail.com) runs a high-speed elevated monorail linking Downtown to the Seattle Center. Sound Transit (tel: +1 888 889 6368; www.soundtransit.org) runs a light rail service between Westlake, Downtown and SeaTac Airport.

Washington State Ferries (tel: +1 206 464 6400 or +1 888 808 7977; www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries) links Seattle with the Olympic Peninsula, Bainbridge Island and other parts of Greater Seattle. Ferries depart from Pier 52, 801 Alaskan Way.

Taxis

You can hail taxis from the few designated ranks in front of hotels, cruise terminals and the airport or by telephone. A 10 to 15% tip is expected.

Recommended taxi firms include Yellow Cab (tel: +1 206 622 6500) and Orange Cab (tel: +1 206 522 8800).

Driving

Owing to heavy congestion, one-way streets and high parking fees, it's not recommended to drive in downtown Seattle. Renting a car, however, can be a great way to explore areas outside Seattle.

Drivers should be aware of the specially designated lanes for buses, bicycles and ‘HOV' or High Occupancy Vehicles - those carrying more than one person. Paid parking is available on the street and in car parks downtown (www.downtownseattle.com/downtown-parking); it's free after 2000 and on Sundays.

Car hire

The minimum age to hire a car is usually 25 years. A valid driving licence is usually acceptable but an International Driving Permit is preferred if the licence isn't in English.

Car hire companies in Seattle include Alamo (tel: +1 888 826 6893; www.alamo.com), Avis (tel: +1 206 448 1700; www.avis.com), Budget (tel: +1 206 682 8989; www.budget.com) and Hertz (tel: +1 206 903 6260; www.hertz.com).

Bicycle hire

Seattle is a great albeit hilly city for cyclists, with designated bicycle lanes. You can hire bikes from the Montlake Bicycle Shop, 2223 24th Avenue East (tel: +1 206 329 7333; www.montlakebike.com).

Alternatively, try out the city's bikeshare scheme, Pronto (tel: +1 844 677 6686; www.prontocycleshare.com); 24-hour and three-day passes are available.

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Housed in a spectacular Tom Kundig-designed building, the 12-storey Thompson is the hottest new addition to Seattle's hotel scene. The 158 guest rooms are the epitome of class – think dark-wood panelling with brass details – and the best rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views over Pike Place Market. There's a rooftop bar boasting a dazzling outlook towards the Olympic Mountains, a 'glam-rustic' restaurant and a spectacular events space for business travellers.

Fairmont Olympic Hotel

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel captures the elegance of a bygone era - without stinting on modern luxuries. Its 450 rooms have cosy furnishings with excellent amenities, and the service is impeccable. This Seattle hotel, built in 1924, also has a sumptuous health club with indoor pool and whirlpool plus an on-site spa. Other features include two superb restaurants.

Moore Hotel

Just a couple of blocks away from Pike Place Market, the Moore Hotel and Theater date back to 1907. Rooms are basic, but clean, and a good price for the location. The theatre itself (run separately by the Seattle Theatre Group) is Seattle's oldest operating theatre and has been renovated in 2013. All the grunge-era greats played there, including Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, Nirvana and Soundgarden.

The Maxwell Hotel

Wonderfully eccentric décor, friendly staff and an enviable downtown location combine to make this one of the city's top mid-range boutique hotels. Rooms are famously comfortable (some even boast views over towards the Space Needle) and guests have access to an indoor pool, fitness centre, café and 24-hour business centre. Outside, it's just a hop-and-a-skip to major attractions such as the Teatro ZinZanni, Seattle Center and Experience Music Project Museum.

Hotel FIVE

Modern and colourful, Hotel Five's guest rooms are all shiny hardwood floors, bright red accent walls and super-contemporary furnishings. It's the neat little extras that make this hotel stand out too – freshly baked pineapple cupcakes and coffee each afternoon in reception, golf umbrellas in every room (a Seattle essential), plus complimentary bikes and town car service. Max's Café is a great stop for breakfast or lunch.

Hotel Ändra

Hip Hotel Ändra's sleek décor is a tasteful nod to Seattle's Nordic heritage melded with Pacific Northwest contemporary design, featuring wood, water and stone throughout. Finnish architect's Alvar Aalto salon chairs and Arne Jacobsen's striking orange swan chairs make the living room loft a cool place to hang out. Guest rooms come with traditional Scandinavian patterns, alpaca headboards, striped chenille bedspreads, Lacava sinks and FACE Stockholm bath products.