Pioneer Square offers a striking clash of cultures. High-end art galleries, Oriental-carpet stores, and sidewalk cafés are nestled between corner missions; executives in tailored suits and young couples out for a night on the town pass Occidental Park’s homeless residents.
Pioneer Square is the oldest section of Seattle , although the center of activity has long since migrated north a half mile or so. After the great fire of 1889, the area was rebuilt in magnificent brick buildings, many of which are still standing.
In spite of frequent complaints about the aggressiveness of the panhandlers and drunks who reside in nearby flophouses and missions (or on the street), the 20-block restored historical district along 1st Avenue, Yesler Way, and S. Main Street, south of downtown, is also home to upscale boutique hotels, fine restaurants, galleries, and a busy nightlife.
When you walk around Pioneer Square, be sure to take a gander at the towering Tlingit totem in the middle of it all. This is a replica of a pole destroyed by an arsonist in 1938. The original pole was stolen on a fateful night in 1890 from Southeast Alaska’s Tongass Island by a group of Seattle’s  leaders who believed the village deserted.
Legend holds that after the original was burned, the city sent a check for $5,000 to carve a new one; the Tlingits cashed the check, and then sent a note saying, "Thanks for finally paying for the first one. A new pole will cost another $5,000."
The center of Pioneer Square activity—for better and worse—is at Occidental Square Park (Occidental Ave. S and S. Main St.), a cobblestone space with several totem poles and park benches shared by tourists waiting for the Underground Tour, suited people noshing on lunch, cooing pigeons, and a rotating crew of street musicians and homeless folk.
The neighborhood is also home to one of Seattle’s  most tranquil urban parks, Waterfall Garden (2nd Ave. S and S. Main St.). Tucked away between several buildings, visitors find a secret cascade of water that provides a break from the street noise.
The southern edge of the Pioneer Square area abuts the International District  and the sports stadiums; to the north are the downtown skyscrapers.
Get to Pioneer Square from town center by riding one of the free buses along 1st Avenue.