Photo: David Doan
Photo: Joe Mabel

Cultural Heritage

Immigrants from Nordic countries – Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland – settled in large numbers in the Pacific Northwest in the late 19th century, drawn to a landscape of saltwater fjords, farmland, forests and mountains that reminded them of home. By 1910, Scandinavians were the largest ethnic group in Washington State, comprising over 30 percent of the foreign-born population.

Many Nordic immigrants worked as fishermen and in canneries, as loggers and in mills, and as farmers, miners and boat-builders.

While Scandinavians settled throughout the Puget Sound region, Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood is most closely associated with Nordic heritage.

Now housed in a stunning new building (opened in May 2018), Ballard’s Nordic Museum is the largest museum in the U.S. that represents the cultural heritage of all five Nordic countries. Nordic fishermen rallied the Port of Seattle in 1914 to establish Fishermen’s Terminal, now home to one of the world’s largest fleets of fishing vessels.


Annual special events draw on a variety of Nordic traditions. The Syttende Mai Norwegian Constitution Day celebration (May 17) has one of the largest parades outside of Norway. Skandia Midsommarfest  (June) features traditional music and dancing, and the raising of a garlanded Midsommar pole. Viking Days (July) includes craft demonstrations, Viking re-enactments, and traditional foods. Saint Lucia’s Day (December) and other Yuletide celebrations mark the season of short days and long nights with candlelight and choral music.

We invite you to download the entire Nordic Heritage Guide to Seattle for more information about history, special events, heritage sites and museums.

Get the Guide to Seattle’s Nordic Cultural Heritage

Discover More of Seattle's Rich Cultural Heritage

Peter Boome's Chasing Shadows Photo: Jack Storms

Native American Heritage

Jimi Hendrix Memorial Jimi Hendrix Memorial. Photo: David Newman

African American Heritage

Dragon Mural in Seattle's International District Photo: Tracey Hunter

Asian American Heritage

South Park Bridge Mural Photo: South Park Neighborhood Association

Latino Heritage




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