Posing as if their lives depended on it, the selfie-brigade were swooning over Seattle's latest eye-grabber, as I clapped eyes on the three Amazon Spheres.

Opened in January, these four-storey faceted glass globes are creating huge buzz, created as a perk for Amazon's 40,000-strong downtown workforce.

Open-plan meeting spaces are surrounded by secluded seating nooks, jungle-style walkways and hundreds of plant species, including a 40-year-old fig tree transplanted from California.

The "Amazon Effect" is never far from the lips of local conversations — or Donald Trump's.

The Amazon Spheres in Seattle.
The Amazon Spheres in Seattle.

I noticed what used to be a five-storey downtown shopping mall is being completely demolished to make way for another shiny office tower to house Amazon's employees.

Across the road, the symbolism is even richer at the grand old Macy's department store in Seattle. The traditional retailer now only operates from the first two floors of its city flagship. Amazon has hoovered up the other five, to accommodate more of its staff.

The Spheres may well be rivalling the Space Needle in the city icon stakes, but the 1960s Space Age landmark is fighting back, with the final touches being applied to its major renovation.

Seattle's waterfront area.
Seattle's waterfront area.

Full floor-to-ceiling windows and glass floors are transforming the revolving restaurant and observation deck.

Another definitive city landmark is MoPop, the Museum of Pop Culture.

Designed by Frank Gehry and financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the façade's design aimed to capture the energy of rock-n-roll music.

Composed of undulating stainless steel, translucent metal and coloured glass accents, it's an urban dazzler.

Nearby, Chihuly Garden and Glass hooks them in with a wondrous world of artworks.


The massive installation piece featuring 1400 Chihuly Persians is a show-stopper, and the outdoor gardens ingeniously blend indigenous Northwest botanical finesse with glass art.
I made my way down to Chihuly, MoPop and the Space Needle on another signature Emerald City staple, the Seattle Center Monorail.

The elevated people-mover has been high-riding the streets since it opened for the World's Fair in 1962, along with the needle.

Elvis Presley hopped a ride shortly after opening. Central Waterfront is enjoying a major renaissance with freshly face-lifted piers and added new enticements, like the Great Wheel jutting out into Puget Sound.

If you've visited Seattle previously, you'll probably recall how Highway 99, the ugly roadway viaduct, brutally severs the city centre off from the harbour. That's all about to change, with the imminent completion of a multibillion-dollar cross-city double-decker tunnel.

Set to open later this year, the hulking overpass which is the nation's most dangerous stretch of highway, will be completely demolished, allowing Central Waterfront to seamlessly meld with the city centre.

In a city studded with knock-out landmarks, Seattle's sparkle is glowing ever brighter.

Get a bird's eye view of original heart of the city

Pioneer Square showing Smith Tower.
Pioneer Square showing Smith Tower.

In stark contrast to the contemporary bling, Pioneer Square, the original heart of the city, is all about atmospheric streetscapes and faded glory buildings, inhabited with a hive of eclectic businesses and eateries.

The smaller scale of the terracotta and brick Romanesque revival buildings provide a stirring contrast to the soaring heights of the glassy skyscrapers.

After the Great Fire in 1889, much of the original street network was filled in and built over, which has given rise to a host of underground tours, if you want to delve deep into the city's secrets and hidden surprises, along some subterranean passageways.

The view from Smith Tower.
The view from Smith Tower.

Pioneer Square is also home to an architectural peach, the Smith Tower.

When it opened in 1914, it was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi.

This 38-storeyed neo-classical blockbuster oozes pure grace, even though it's been dwarfed by so many contemporary high-rises.

A recent renovation project has added a Prohibition-era themed cocktail bar to the observation floor of this beloved landmark.

I joined a Smith Tower tour, which whisks you up to the open-air Observation Deck for heart-stirring skyline views, before enjoying a barrel-aged cocktail in the roofline bar.

This sky-high speakeasy exudes a heart-warming glimpse into the glamour and elegance of the age when Smith Tower first inspired Seattleites to reach for the skies.


Hawaiian Airlines offers one-stop flights between New Zealand and Seattle via Honolulu. For just NZ$145 per person, per sector, Extra Comfort Seating is a great-value way to accentuate the experience, particularly on the haul between Auckland and Honolulu. www.hawaiianairlines.co.nz