Photo: David Doan

Multicultural Seattle: Scandinavian & Nordic

In the late 19th century, Nordic immigrants gravitated toward the Northwest’s farms, fjords, and forests, which reminded them of home. Many found jobs as loggers, fishers, and boat builders in Ballard, a town northwest of Seattle, which joined the city in 1907. Today the Ballard neighborhood is crammed with hip bars, boutiques, and indie music venues, but the old-timey charm survives.

Larsens Bakery |Natasha Reed


Community stalwart Nordic Heritage Museum showcases everything from the only Danish woman’s knitted nightshirt outside Scandinavia to art by Finnish American artist Helmi Dagmar Juvonen. Each spring, Seattleites celebrate Syttende Mai (pronounced “Soot-n-duh My”) on May 17, with the largest Norwegian Constitution Day parade outside the old country.

Explore Ballard of bygone times to see how the original Scandinavian fishing town has shaped the area of today. Download a free walking map from Ballard Historical Society.

And in the Fremont neighborhood, a more subtle connection looms in the dramatic 18-foot-tall Fremont Troll sculpture, which has roots in the Norwegian folktale Three Billy Goats Gruff.



Ivar’s, a Seattle classic for chowder and fish and chips, traces its roots to Nordic folksinger Ivar Haglund, who loved PR stunts like octopus wrestling. Today Haglund’s empire spans 24 eateries, including the newly refurbished icon Acres of Clams on Seattle’s recently revamped waterfront.

Danish pastry aficionados can stock up on sweet, pretzel-shaped kringles at Larsen’s Bakery or Nielsen’s Pastries. Or grab a cup of yellow pea soup as you browse at Scandinavian Specialties for lutefisk (whitefish jellied in lye), flatbread, and a lifetime supply of merchandise blazoned with “Uff Da,” an expression of sensory overload. But perhaps the best place for homecooking from the motherland is Swedish Club, which celebrates Scandinavian cuisine on Lake Union’s shores each Friday. Meatballs and smörgås (open-face sandwiches) start at noon, then continue into happy hour and a more extensive dinner menu (cash only).


Ballard Historical Society | Fremont Troll 3405 Troll Ave N | *Ivar’s Acres of Clams 1001 Alaskan Way (Pier 54); | Larsen’s Bakery 8000 24th Ave NW; | Nielsen’s Pastries 520 Second Ave W; | *Nordic Heritage Museum 3014 NW 67th St; | Scandinavian Specialties 6719 15th Ave NW; | Swedish Club 1920 Dexter Ave N; | Syttende Mai | *Visit Seattle Partner

Nordic American Heritage Guide





Learn more about Seattle’s Nordic American heritage:
Nordic American Cultural Heritage Guide to Seattle



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