Seattle is a bookish city; it regularly tops lists of most book-buyers per capita, has a well-loved library system, and is home to dozens of quirky, independent bookstores. In 2017, the city was even designated a UNESCO City of Literature. Faced with long, drizzly winters, Seattleites are big fans of the Danish notion of “hygge” — seeking out warmth, coziness, and community during the dark months. How better to get through these cold months than sitting with friends, sipping a glass of wine, and curling up with a book?
Here’s a selection of cozy bars that aren’t too boisterous — even on a weekend — and offer comfortable places to read the latest novels by local talents like Donna Miscolta, Matilda Bernstein Sycamore, or Kristin Hannah. These places are all relatively well-lit, have a mellow vibe, and are quiet enough to have conversation with a friend without having to shout over the music.
The Velvet Elk
Tucked away in the Mount Baker residential neighborhood, this funky space with its leg lamps and antique furniture feels like a cross between your great-grandmother’s sitting parlor and a hipster art gallery. Upstairs you’ll find overstuffed couches, board games, and a guitar for serenading. To sustain you as you turn the pages, sip the house Manhattan made with Punt e Mes and the Velvet’s homemade bitters, or snack on a variety of okazu pan, savory Japanese pastries filled with barbecue pork, lentils, and other goodies. 3605 S McClellan St., Seattle; (206) 717-2902; velvet-elk.com
Venture to this cozy bar in West Seattle with its creative cocktail menu. A recent concoction is the Banana Bread Old Fashioned, a comforting mix of banana whisky and walnut liqueur spiked with chocolate and burnt cinnamon bitters. Living up to its name, there are plenty of nooks adorned with armchairs and couches perfect for reading, nibbling on snacks, or hosting a book club discussion. 206 California Ave SW Suite A, Seattle; (206) 420-7414; thenookseattle.com
The Sitting Room
This little watering hole in lower Queen Anne has a quiet, relaxed ambiance and serves as a living room away from home. Nestle into a couch with a book and sip a fig-infused old fashioned, one of many house craft cocktails. The Sitting Room gets extra points for playing the Keira Knightley adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on its big-screen TV during a recent visit. No Monday Night Football here. 108 W Roy St, Seattle; (206) 285-2830; the-sitting-room.com
White Horse Tavern
This tiny English-style pub off Pike Place Market’s pedestrian Post Alley has the feel of a village public house in rural Yorkshire. The bar offers a selection of imported English ales — served at room temperature, of course — as well as a respectable collection of blended and single malt whiskies. Grab a pint and sit with your copy of “Wuthering Heights” on one of the velvet couches or browse the tavern’s shelves stocked with collectible books. 1908 Post Alley, Seattle; (206) 441-7767; white-horse-tavern-seattle.business.site
Sol Liquor Lounge
At this intimate craft cocktail bar hidden in one of the quieter corners of Capitol Hill, you’ll find a host of craft cocktails. Tiki Nights on Tuesdays come with scratch Mai Tais and flaming punches. Quiet corners in the bar provide perfect spots for whispered conversations or . Sol’s connection to local distiller Sun Liquor means the mixologists frequently highlight artisanal spirits such as Gun Club Gin and Sun Liquor’s barrel-aged rum. 607 Summit Ave E, Seattle; (206) 860-1130; solliqour.com
Blue Moon Tavern
It’s not exactly quiet or cozy, but the Blue Moon has literary credentials that make it a must for book-loving drinkers. Founded in 1934 the Moon has long been a favorite of local writers, who made the trek from campus because of a ban on bars within a one-mile radius of the University of Washington. Poet and creative writing teacher Theodore Roethke famously held court here, and other regulars included Richard Hugo, Carolyn Kizer, and David Wagoner. Allen Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas once paid visits, so go ahead and open a book of Beat poetry or the latest issue of Poetry Northwest (founded by fans of the Blue Moon in 1959) as you sip a Rainier tallboy. 712 NE 45th St, Seattle; (206) 675-9116; thebluemoonseattle.com
The Fireside Room/ Hotel Sorrento
No list of bookish bars would be complete without the Fireside Room at Hotel Sorrento , which hosts its Silent Reading Party on the first Wednesday of each month. Join other bookworms to sip Manhattans, nibble on a charcuterie plate, and quietly turn pages amid wood-paneled walls, leather couches, and a roaring fireplace. Literary trivia extra credit: Alice B. Toklas, famous for her relationship with Gertrude Stein in Paris, once spent her childhood in a home near the site of the hotel and is honored with an annual dinner at the hotel. 900 Madison St, Seattle; (206) 622-6400; hotelsorrento.com