Seattle: City of Literature and Our Bookworm’s Guide to Enjoying the City

The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced in October that Seattle has been designated a City of Literature. After five years of attempting to secure a bid, Seattle City of Literature finally achieved its goal. Seattle now joins an exclusive group of culturally creative cities across the globe and is the second city in the United States to be classified as a City of Literature, the other one being Iowa City (home of the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop).

What Is a City of Literature?

A City of Literature is a city that has demonstrated fervent enthusiasm and passion for literature, publishing, and other forms of written expression. UNESCO designates cities in seven different fields: Crafts and Folk Arts, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music. Essentially, all creative cities seek to enhance a deeper understanding of history and culture through creative endeavors. Furthermore, they wish to implement creativity and culture into  policies and industries specific to their respective cities.

What Does This Mean for Seattle?

As Stesha Brandon, literature and humanities director of Seattle Public Library said, “What it does is that it allows us to connect with networks all over the world, in multiple disciplines, to find opportunities to build understanding through the literary arts and other arts. We look at it as an opportunity, especially in this very divisive time, for us to help build bridges to people through the literary arts.”

Exploring Seattle as the City of Literature:

If you are visiting Seattle or showing visitors around, Seattle is the perfect city for booklovers. With hot mugs of coffee or tea waiting on every corner, and the perfect reading weather at all times, Seattle was made for readers. Here at eNotes (located right here in Capitol Hill!), we’ve compiled a list of must-see places to enjoy Seattle as a bookworm. (You should also download a handy map we made of must-visit Seattle-area bookstores.)

Elliott Bay Book Company

Elliott Bay Book.png

Perhaps the most famous independent bookstore in Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company is located in the eccentric neighborhood of Capitol Hill. With towering cedar shelves, numerous levels with countless titles, selections, and exciting events happening every day, Elliott Bay Book Company is a delight to visit. Stop by Little Oddfellows, the cafe located in the store, and enjoy a cappuccino or, my personal favorite, their kombucha on tap.  

Open Books: A Poem Emporium

Open Books

Open Books is brimming with over 100,000 used, new, and out-of-print poetry books. Situated in the charming neighborhood of Wallingford, Open Books maintains a peaceful and calm ambiance as shoppers browse the titles and even read a couple of poems. Open Books hosts readings, workshops, and discussions in-store as well.

Seattle Public Library: Central Location


Just a few blocks away from the famous Pike Place Market, the Central Location of Seattle Public Library is a modern and towering building with the capacity to hold more than 1.45 million books and other materials. Currently, they have a million items in their collection. In addition to their impressive collection, the architecture is unique and modern. Pro Tip: Head straight to the top and you can catch amazing views of the interesting windows and sights of downtown Seattle. With countless events, talks, and discussions hosted at the location, as well as innovative technological adaptations, the Central Location embodies Seattle’s intersection of tech and literary arts.

University of Washington: Suzzallo Library Reading Room


A literary trip to Seattle is not complete without visiting University of Washington’s famed “Harry Potter Room.” Suzzallo Library’s Reading Room features vaulted ceilings, leaded-glass windows, and long wooden tables and shelves full of books. Step in and you feel like you’ve been instantly transported to Hogwarts—perfect for hiding in the rain and reading the day away.

Ada’s Technical Books & Cafe


What would a Seattle exploration be without some good coffee? Ada’s is part-bookstore, part-cafe centered around computers, mathematics, and physics. It’s a nerd’s paradise with themed decorations, eclectic used and new gifts, toys, and an impressive vegetarian-food and coffee menu.

Book Larder

Book Larder

For the foodie and cookbook fanatic, Book Larder is the destination to visit. Self-proclaimed as a “community cookbook store,” Book Larder hosts many cooking classes and visits from cookbook authors. Selling an extensive collection of cookbooks including new, used, and imported from different countries, they will leave you hungry and ready to cook!