While thinking about the big picture of renting in Seattle—tenant protections, rent prices, that kind of thing—it can be easy to forget that each of the city’s neighborhoods have their own quirks and apartment styles and rental landscapes. About half of Seattleites are renters, and if you’re new in town, chances are you’re looking to become one.
One size doesn’t fit all in Seattle or anywhere, and your perfect neighborhood is going to depend on what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look around and see which neighborhoods renters might want to focus on depending on what's important to them, like price, walkability, and lifestyle.
Best Seattle neighborhood if you want cheap rent
Sometimes it just comes down to what you can afford, plain and simple. To find the cheapest rent, you’re going to want to head as far north or south as you can.
Rent Cafe and Rent Jungle both rank Seattle neighborhoods by average rent, and while their rankings differ a little bit, both clock neighborhoods farthest from the city center as the cheapest. Rainier View, just barely within the city limits to the southeast, ranks lowest out of neighborhoods within Seattle, according to Rent Cafe. Rent Jungle’s lowest tiers are to the north, in Bitter Lake and Lake-City-adjacent Victory Heights.
The problem here is being a little further away to amenities, like quick transit to downtown and walkability to grocery stores. Fortunately, Seattle has launched a responsive shuttle to connect southeast Seattle communities to light rail stations and the northend neighborhoods have better transit access—but it’s hard to avoid car ownership in these areas, which adds another expense.
Best Seattle neighborhoods if you want a cute, low-key place to live
Wallingford, Phinney Ridge, and Green Lake all have a good selection of rentals available, and have adorable, relatively quiet mini-downtowns with plenty of coffee shops, boutiques, cafes, and neighborhood nightlife. All three are relatively popular for families, too.
If you’re looking to live lakeside, appropriately, Green Lake is a great choice, and has some bonuses for cyclists: protected bikeways in the main thoroughfares and a multi-use trail around the lake. Phinney Ridge is just uphill from Fremont, and has some of the same amenities and arty vibes in a smaller, quieter package. Wallingford has almost a small-town feel in its walkable center on 45th, which includes music venues, ice cream shops, and even an all-local-business mall in a converted school building.
AreaVibes throws categories such as cost of living, crime, education, employment, housing and weather into a blender and determines where living is the easiest in the city—but apparently affordability and rental availability doesn’t weigh too strongly on their ranking, because the three neighborhoods they ranked the highest were upscale beach community Laurelhurst, the pricey lakeside neighborhood Denny-Blaine, and arboretum-adjacent Montlake, all high-cost areas without a decent selection of rentals.
Best Seattle neighborhood if you’re looking for transit and walkability
If you want the easiest time living car-free, you have a few options. Downtown, Belltown and Pioneer Square technically top the Walk Score list (a generally well-regarded ranking of walkable neighborhoods) with 98 each, but they’re missing one crucial thing: access to a normal grocery store. Pike Place Market is great and all, but chances are if you’re a normal human being, you’ll need something they don’t have at DeLaurenti or even the downtown IGA.
First Hill, with a WalkScore of 97 and a transit score of 98, has ready access to a huge QFC, plus easy access on foot to Downtown employment centers—and with art museums, pocket parks, and cute bars, you don’t have to worry about getting a cab to have fun. Just to the north of the city center, the neighborhood that’s sometimes called either Uptown or Lower Queen Anne is walkable to both South Lake Union and downtown, and includes the arts-rich Seattle Center area.
The International District is another great option, with a Walk Score of 97—and, with ready access to buses, light rail, and heavy rail, a perfect transit score. Uwajimaya is readily available for all grocery needs. It’s also one of the less expensive downtown-adjacent neighborhoods, with an average rent of $1,967 across apartment sizes, according to Rent Cafe.
If you want to get a little farther away from the downtown core, Beacon Hill is wonderful and right on the light-rail line—and if you’re far north enough, it’s still a long, leisurely walk to downtown. It has great neighborhood amenities, too: family-owned restaurants, one of the city’s best produce stands, and a two-acre edible forest. A neighborhood greenway means pretty walks and bike rides, and the massive Jefferson Park covers 52 acres, including a skate park, spray park, and golf course.
Best Seattle neighborhood if you want renters to be in the majority
Renters vs. owners can be a tricky battle, fraught with hand-wringing homeowners and rising gentrification throughout the city. It can be especially tough if you’re vastly outnumbered as a renter. While it’s not the cheapest place to live, tenants rule Capitol Hill, where, according to the Capitol Hill Community Council, renters make up around 80 percent of the population.
It’s also one of Seattle’s more walkable neighborhoods, despite being situated on a steep hillside, with plenty of grocery stores, nightlife, and parks that are easy to reach on foot. While it depends on where you live in the area, there’s also a rich transit landscape, including a light-rail station.