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shopping seattleIn Seattle, shoppers will find everything from mega-malls and trendy boutiques to independent art galleries and traditional fresh food markets. The downtown area is a bustling hub for shopping -- that's where you'll find the Nordstrom flagship store as well as several major malls -- but you'll also find more unique places in Seattle's other neighborhoods, including the quirky offerings of Capitol Hill and the art and antiques of historic Pioneer Square.

Pike Place Market, the home of "those fish-throwing guys," is a must-visit. The south end of the market houses the edibles, including the fish stalls, the original Starbucks, fresh meats, and fruit and vegetables. The north end is filled with artists' wares and freshly cut flowers (pick up a nice bouquet to brighten up your hotel room). Don't forget to go to the lower levels; you might find a weird collectible that you've always wanted, or you can get your palm read by a self-proclaimed psychic. (One gross local landmark worth looking for: the gum wall, which is exactly what it sounds like. It's located in Post Alley, right near the market.)

It is said that you can return anything at any time to Nordstrom and its salespeople will refund your money with a smile; the company's standard of customer service is taught in business schools around the world. What started as a simple shoe store in 1901 has evolved into the standard-bearer for class and sophistication. If you can't afford to shop here, pretend it's a museum and browse through the "exhibits" before enjoying a sweet treat in its cafe; then head for Nordstrom Rack at 400 Pine Street, where excess inventory is sold for a pittance. Just don't call it "Nordstrom's"; that's a big no-no. It's NORDSTROM.

Bibliophiles can't come to Seattle without making a pilgrimage to the Elliott Bay Book Company, the city's popular independent bookstore. It moved a few years ago from its longtime Main Street address to a new location in Capitol Hill, but the warm, homey atmosphere and 150,000-title collection remain the same.

Pacific Place is a downtown shopping and entertainment center where you'll find names like Tiffany & Co., J. Crew, Chico's and Williams Sonoma -- as well as an 11-screen movie theater. There's a sky bridge between Pacific Place and neighboring Nordstrom.

The historic Pioneer Square District is home to a number of art galleries and antique stores, as well as distinctive clothing boutiques and gift shops. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants here too for when you need a break.

Capitol Hill, home to Seattle's GLBT community, has some of the city's quirkier shops -- offering goodies like vintage clothes, new and used CD's, specialty bookstores, and adult items.

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