Fremont: A Quirky Center
of the Seattle Universe
It may be one of the most quirky and eccentric neighborhoods in the U.S., and it certainly takes the cake for the most eclectic in Seattle. Fremont is a very unique and artsy neighborhood located just north of Downtown Seattle with attractions, restaurants, and something for everyone.
There’s a guidepost indicating the neighborhood’s spot as the self-proclaimed “Center of the Universe”, a 16-foot tall bronze statue of Communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, and the Fremont Troll — an 18-foot tall public sculpture lurking under the Aurora Bridge and clutching a Volkswagen Beetle. Richard Beyer’s “People Waiting for the Interurban” sculpture sits along the south border of the neighborhood, commemorating the light rail line that used to connect Downtown with the various Seattle neighborhoods. Across the street, the northwest tower of the iconic Fremont Bridge holds a Rapunzel light fixture with long, neon hair.
In addition to these oddities, Fremont is home to an artsy culture and a fantastic mix of coffee shops, breweries, restaurants, bistros, and boutiques that are very accessible simply by walking through the neighborhood.
2019 Data at a Glance
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Pros of Living in Fremont
There is so much to do in Fremont, from its wide range of options for eating, imbibing, and entertainment to shopping, outdoor activities, and more.
There’s the MiiR Flagship store, with espresso, craft brews, and light fare, as well as cyclist gear. Yellow Dot Café offers a daily brunch (with bottomless mimosas), Flying Apron is a gluten-free vegan bakery with lunch items, and Silence-Heart-Nest is a vegetarian place with delicious breakfast, brunch, and lunch. Seattle’s only mobile Tandoori food stand, Tandoozy operates from the Fremont Sunday Market as well as other markets around the city on other days of the week.
From acclaimed restaurateurs Renee Erickson, Jeremy Price, and Chad Dale (the partners behind Ballard’s The Walrus and The Carpenter), The Whale Wins highlights local seafood, produce, and other goods on its fresh menu. For a more casual approach, Norm’s Eatery & Alehouse features classic bar bites, sandwiches, salads, burgers, and even Belgian waffles, plus weekend brunch — they’re even dog-friendly and offer a special menu just for man’s best friend. If you’re looking for something to do while you enjoy brews and snacks with friends, Ballroom is the place to go, with numerous pool tables and an outdoor patio where you can sip your beers and chow down on pizzas by the slice or a whopping 28-inch pie… or choose from their menu of bar dishes.
Fremont is also quite “green,” with approximately 20 parks and green spaces. This includes the popular Burke Gilman trail, which extends to Golden Gardens Park in Ballard at its westmost point, and to the University of Washington and along Lake Washington up to Redmond to the east. Gas Works Park is another popular outdoor space in Fremont, and has a gorgeous view of the Seattle skyline from the north as well as a large hill that’s popular for flying kites.
Cons of Living in Fremont
One of the downsides of the neighborhood is its limited size in contrast to the attraction of living here. There are only a handful of larger apartment buildings, and those are nearer to Aurora Avenue North. Most of the living spaces in Fremont are single-family homes and smaller apartment and condo buildings with only a few units. The more recent addition of “micro studio” units (also called “apodments”) has created more opportunities to live in this interesting neighborhood, but at the cost of reduced square footage. These conditions have also put a strain on parking in the neighborhood, which despite drawing an abundance of tourists and city visitors year-round, doesn’t even really have parking to support its residents. And with the Fremont Bridge rising somewhat often, particularly during the summertime, traffic can get hairy.
History of Fremont, Seattle
It took a few decades for settlers to move into the Fremont area after the Denny party’s November, 1851 arrival at Alki. In 1888, settlers L. H. Griffith, E. Blewett, and Dr. E. C. Kilbourne were the first to plat the area that would become Fremont. They named their new neighborhood Fremont for Griffith and Blewett’s hometown in Nebraska.
Originally, Fremont was centralized on the north shore of Lake Union and was a hub for the lumber and shingle industry, with an iron foundry. Railroads and trolleys brought more economy and residents to the neighborhood, although this faded during the mid-1900s as passenger transit declined. Fremont had a resurgence in popularity and its categorization as an artistic and eclectic Mecca began in the 1960s. Low rents made it an attractive neighborhood for artists, students, and bohemians to congregate, triggering somewhat of a renaissance for the area. Locals began to call Fremont an “Artists’ Republic” and proudly stated that it was “the community that recycles itself.”
Over the last couple of decades, several tech companies have moved to or opened locations in the Fremont neighborhood in the wake of Adobe, which opened their offices here in 1998. Since then, giants such as Google, Getty, and Tableau have installed offices on the south area of the neighborhood bordering the Ship Canal. The influx of hundreds of tech employees has given rise to significant changes in the economics of the neighborhood, with numerous lunch spots, fitness centers, and other retail businesses opening to appeal to the weekday crowd. In addition to the full fitness centers such as Emerald City Athletics, Anytime Fitness, and Fremont Health Club, there are more specialty and boutique fitness spots like Bodycenter Studios and Yoga Tree.
The growth of tech companies in the neighborhood hasn’t diminished Fremont’s unique culture, however, which still flaunts itself proudly, particularly every June for the Fremont Solstice Parade, which begins with a procession of naked bicyclists that are often covered in colorful paints and (meager) costume features.
Home Prices in Fremont
Like most of the city, home values in Fremont have declined somewhat over the past year (-5.0%), and the median home value is currently $794,028. However, the average list price per square foot is higher than the Seattle average of $511, at $568 per square foot for a home in Fremont.
Most of the homes in Fremont have Craftsman-style architecture with a bungalow-type appeal, although there are more modern as well as colonial-style homes to be found as well.
New construction has produced some condos and new apartment buildings in Fremont; however, most of the residential options still remain as single-family homes and small apartment buildings with just a few units. The median rent price for a one-bedroom in Fremont is $2,995, which is more than $300 per month higher than the Seattle median of $2,650.
Walk Score & Transportation in Fremont
Fremont has a walk score of 84 and is the 14th most walkable neighborhood in the city. It has a transit score of 64, and is also quite bikeable with a score of 79.
There are three main bus routes that pass through Fremont, including the 31 and 32, which start in Magnolia and travel through Fremont to end in the University District. From the north, route 40 starts in Northgate and has stops in Fremont on its way to Downtown Seattle. Commuters can also access Downtown via routes 29 and 13, which have stops at Seattle Pacific University on Nickerson Street in North Queen Anne, across the ship canal from Fremont.
Unique Gems in Fremont
There are unique gems to find all over the Fremont neighborhood, including the odd sculptures and other oddities mentioned earlier. Visit the Fremont Sunday market each week (year-round) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for farmers market goods, antiques, handmade goods, and flea market finds. There are also several fun neighborhood events during the summer, most notably the Fremont Solstice Parade every year in June.
Gas Works Park: Seattle has made a green space out of the old Seattle Gas Light Company gasification plant on the north shore of Lake Union, and it now features a play area and a large hill with winding paved paths that is popular for cycling and flying kites. There’s no swimming or fishing from the park, but there is a gorgeous view of Downtown Seattle from the north side of Lake Union. The Burke-Gilman Trail also runs along the park’s parking lot for easy access by foot or bike.
Theo Chocolate: For something fun to do and a tasty treat, visit the Theo Chocolate Factory in Fremont. From chocolate making classes to daily tours (with free samples!), there’s something for the whole family, including a kids’ chocolate story time.
Paseo: Famous for its Caribbean sandwiches and roasted corn, Paseo has been a Seattle favorite for many years. There’s usually a line around the block for the slow-roasted pork sandwiches and mouth-watering Caribbean fare, but it moves relatively quickly and you’ll be savoring the best sandwiches in Seattle in no time.
Brouwer’s Cafe: One of Seattle’s most sought-after craft beer destinations is located in the heart of Fremont, with 64 craft beers on tap, over 400 bottles from the U.S. and abroad, a great selection of whiskeys, and a full-service bar, plus delicious Belgian-inspired cuisine. Don’t miss the in-house ground lamb burger, which is a Seattle favorite.
Nectar Lounge: There are lots of great bars and lounges in Fremont, but one of the best is Nectar Lounge, with live music from all genres, all over the world and an outdoor patio. There are three full-service bars at Nectar, featuring some tasty craft cocktails to enjoy as you catch the show of the evening.