Things To Do In Harrogate: A Yorkshire Spa Town

Last Updated on 28/04/2021

Harrogate is a Yorkshire town that isn’t afraid of showing its face to the world. Most recently, cycling enthusiasts will have spotted it as the backdrop for the Road Cycling World Championships in 2019. However, few people know about this pretty town as a booming spa resort.

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Today, you can still explore the town’s history, which is intertwined with its modern comforts. If Harrogate isn’t already on your Yorkshire bucket list, I’m going to tell you why it should be!

Things To Do In Harrogate

Here is my guide to the tops things to do in Harrogate. This itinerary is perfect for seeing the best of the town in one day. So if you want to make the most of your visit, get ready to unearth this town’s rich spa history.

What You Need To Know

Where: Harrogate, North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Why visit: Despite the town’s modern and thriving outlook, if you scratch below the surface, it’s prosperity has grown from its spa history. If you know where to look, you can step back in time to explore Harrogate’s roots and appreciate where this town has grown from.

How to get there: Harrogate is connected to the East Coast mainline and trans-Pennine route via regular services. Regular bus services and taxi links connect the town to the nearby Leeds Bradford Airport.

Where to park: One of the most central and easy to access car parks is the Jubilee multi-story car park on Union Street. You can find the opening times, directions and prices here.

What to do in Harrogate

I’ve listed the top things to do in Harrogate below, which you won’t want to miss on your visit. They explore the town’s history as a popular spa resort, showcase the beautiful green, open spaces and feature some of the best culinary highlights.

Turkish Baths

Harrogate earned its place on the map when William Slingsby discovered the first spring in the town in 1571. The town became known as ‘The English Spa’ due to its water containing sulfur, iron, and salt. The water was a popular health treatment and for centuries, Britain’s aristocracy would flock to Harrogate for treatment of various ailments.

Turkish Baths Harrogate

The best place to get an introduction to Harrogate’s history as a spa town is at the Turkish Baths. The baths were founded in 1897 and still operate as a spa to this day.

Turkish Baths Harrogate

The baths offer guided tours on various weekday mornings at 9am. The tour is guided by their resident historian, who will explain the history of Harrogate as a spa town. They will also give you an overview of the Turkish baths, right up to the present day.

Turkish Baths Harrogate

The tour lasts approximately 45 minutes and costs £3.80* per person. It is a great opportunity to explore the baths before they are open to the public for treatments. The interior has been beautifully restored thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Harrogate Turkish Baths

On the tour, you will see the original changing rooms complete with Thomas Crapper toilets, the steam room, the three heated rooms, and the plunge pool.

If you haven’t experienced Turkish baths before, the tour will give you an overview of the session, which involves moving between the heated rooms and the plunge pool. It’s a great way to get an understanding of the process before signing up for a session.

Turkish Baths Harrogate

The hottest of the three rooms was a rather cozy 64 degrees Celcius when we visited on a freezing February morning. By the end of treatments on some days, it can be well into the 70s! The plunge pool is around 14 degrees Celcius, but will probably feel much colder in contrast to the surrounding rooms so prepare for a bracing dip!

Turkish Baths Harrogate

The tour is guaranteed to inspire you to try out one of the sessions to experience the benefits of the treatment for yourself. The baths also have spa treatments such as massages and facials available if you want an even more luxurious experience. You can find out more about the sessions and treatments that the baths offer here.

Turkish Baths Harrogate

Tours do need to be booked in advance so if you want to explore the history of the baths further, be sure to contact them to book your slot.

Betty’s Tea Rooms

The first Betty’s tea room was founded by Swiss-born baker and confectioner, Fritz Bützer. It opened in Harrogate in July 1919. The fact that Betty’s celebrated their 100th birthday in 2019, is a testament to their persistent appeal.

Bettys Cafe Harrogate

Inside the tea room is like taking a step back in time. Everything from the classic decor to the traditional tailored staff uniforms is reminiscent of the grandeur of bygone eras. This has probably aided Betty’s timeless appeal.

The tea room in Harrogate consists of the traditional Café Tea Room, the relaxed Montpellier Café Bar, and the historic Imperial Room. You can queue for a seat in the Tea Room or Cafe Bar but the Imperial Room needs to be booked in advance.

The menu features a range of cooked breakfasts and main meals, with a unique mix of continental classics and British favorites. If you want an authentic taste of Betty’s though, no trip to Harrogate is complete without sampling their traditional afternoon tea.

You can guarantee you are getting an authentic taste of Yorkshire with a trip to Betty’s. To this date, Betty’s have refused to open a café outside of their home county. As a result, there are only 6 establishments in the Betty’s estate, allowing each to uphold the company’s high standards and attentive service.

If you have space for more following your meal, there is also a traditional shop selling chocolates, biscuits, cakes, tea, and coffee. There is also a delicious patisserie counter where you can get additional treats to take away. It is a great place to pick up some gifts.

Royal Pump Room Museum

Following your fill at Betty’s, the Royal Pump Room Museum is the ideal next stop to further explore Harrogate’s history. As suggested by the name, this building also links to the town’s spa roots.

Inside, however, is a broad range of artifacts from clothing and jewelry to Egyptian relics, giving a flavor to the prosperity the town experienced as a result of the spas.

The Pump Room is home to perhaps Harrogate’s most famous well. Once described as the ‘strongest sulfur well in Europe,’ visitors would travel the length and breadth of the country to drink the water. You can take a tour into the basement of the building to see (and smell!) the well for yourself.

Other interesting articles on show include the needle shower (above) and a peat bath that both previously resided at the Turkish Baths. On the outside of the building, you can still find the tap from the sulfur well where people would come to drink.

Entry to the museum costs £3.50* per adult and £2.00* per child. The entry ticket also includes the tour of the well in the basement.

Valley Gardens

Just over the road from the Pump Room is Valley Gardens. Today, the stunning gardens are English Heritage Grade II Listed. In the past, however, they were just as vital in securing Harrogate’s place on the map as an iconic British spa town.

In the area of the garden known as Bogs Field, 36 different mineral wells were discovered. This is a greater number of mineral springs than any other known place.

Today though, the gardens are a place that can be enjoyed by locals and visitors in the lush, open space. During summer, there are band concerts and a wide variety of outdoor games such as tennis courts, pitch & putt golf course, crazy golf, boating pool, paddling pool and a children’s play area

That being said, the gardens still pay tribute to those historic wells with monuments such as the one below. If you keep an eye out, you will be able to spot the grates on the floor marking the location of the wells below.

The gardens are open 24 hours a day, all year round. It is the ideal location to stretch your legs and take in a breath of fresh air while enjoying the greenery.

Japanese Serenity Garden

One unexpected delight that we stumbled upon was the Japanese Serenity Garden.

This pretty, oriental garden was the last thing we expected to encounter during a freezing hail storm in Yorkshire! It is definitely a calming spot tucked away to the edge of the gardens. We’re keen to visit again in summer to see the place in bloom.

Major Tom’s Social

To round off your visit to Harrogate, we’d recommend exploring somewhere a little off the beaten track. Tucked on a side road called The Ginnel, and located above a vintage store, you will find Major Tom’s Social.

Major Tom’s Social is an independent café, bar, and pizzeria that was established in 2014. They specialize in selling craft beer, particularly from local Yorkshire breweries.

They also have an impressive menu of freshly baked pizzas, which, in our opinion, is the best way to warm up following your garden stroll. Depending on your choice, pizzas cost about £9.00* each, but if you’re still full from Betty’s you could definitely grab one to share. If you don’t manage to finish it all you can take it home in a box.

Don’t worry if you’re the designated driver, they have a bottle shop so you can take away a selection of beers to enjoy from the comfort of your own home. Why not have one of their delicious milkshakes with your meal instead? They are made with locally produced Northern Bloc ice cream and cost £4.00* each.

Other Ideas:

If you have some extra time and you would like to explore more of the local area, why not include day trips to the following neighbours on your trip:

  • Leeds – just 16 miles down the road is this vibrant city. Awash with high street shops, glamorous arcades, and numerous attractions, Leeds is definitely worth a visit.
  • York – York is a city that revels in history. From it’s well-documented Viking roots to its medieval city walls, you can soak up thousands of years of history in a couple of days.
  • Yorkshire Dales National Park – in complete contrast to the bustling Yorkshire cities, the Dales moves at a much slower pace. Take some time to escape to the remoteness of the Dales and get lost in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.

What are your top things to do in Harrogate?

So I’ve outlined all of our favorite attractions in Harrogate. Whether you’re planning a luxurious day at the Turkish Baths, a relaxing stroll through the park or just wandering the high street, you can appreciate this pretty town’s rich spa history. It’s made the town what it is today!

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*Prices as of February 2020

Are you planning a visit to Yorkshire, England? If you are, you don't want to miss the beautiful spa town of Harrogate off your bucket list. This pretty town has a rich spa history that you can still enjoy today. Unwind at the Turkish Baths, smell Europe's strongest sulphur well at the Pump House Museum and take a stroll through Valley Gardens to spot the well covers. Click the pin to start planning your Harrogate itinerary now! North Yorkshire Travel | England Travel | Things To Do In Yorkshire

Planning a visit to Harrogate, England? We’ve put together a guide to the things to do in this Yorkshire town. One of the must-see United Kingdom travel bucket list destinations, we’ve outlined all the places you need to visit including the Bettys Tea Room, Valley Gardens, and learning the history of the spa water at the Turkish Baths. Be sure to check out all our tips and ideas by clicking the pin! Yorkshire Travel | England Travel | Wanderlust | Things To Do In Yorkshire

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43 thoughts on “Things To Do In Harrogate: A Yorkshire Spa Town”

  1. Wow! This is a fabulous post. I will be adding the Turkish baths, Betty’s tea house and a milkshake at Major Tom’s to my to-do list. Harrogate screams my name all over it. Thank you for all of the lovely suggestions!

    Reply
    • We’re glad you like it! Harrogate is a fantastic town this is often lost between Leeds and York. We’re glad to show it some love and we hope you get the opportunity to visit soon!

      Reply
  2. My husband grew up in this town so it’s always been on my bucket list, but I had no idea about the Turkish baths! How neat!

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    • Harrogate is a lovely town. We’ve visited several times but only discovered the Turkish Baths on this trip! It’s definitely a fascinating town that is worth a visit.

      Reply
    • We’re glad you like the photos! We hope you get an opportunity to go back to Harrogate and explore some more. The Turkish Baths are gorgeous and a guarantee a warm welcome if you’re like us and visit on a cold day!

      Reply
    • It’s surprising isn’t it just how much you can do in Harrogate! When I first decided to write about the town I wasn’t convinced there was all that much to it but after some digging, we found it has a lot more to offer than first meets the eye! I saw it in a new light on this trip!

      Reply
  3. Harrogate looks like a great place to visit! I would enjoy spending some time at the Turkish Baths and the Valley Gardens look pretty interesting to! So many great things to do.

    Reply
  4. Love this post!! What an international delight … Turkish bath, English tea, Egyptian finds, Japanese Garden, Italian pizza. This place is so up my alley! I have been to a Turkish Bath in Istanbul and it was marvelous. I am still dreaming about it. This place sounds amazing.

    Reply
    • It is an incredibly international location surprisingly! The Turkish Baths were absolutely magical. I’ve never visited Turkey but I would love to go and experience an authentic Turkish bath in person! I hope you get an opportunity to visit Harrogate one day!

      Reply
  5. This is a perfect itinerary and completely right up my alley and is totally something I would do! My inner 12 yr old self giggles every time I see Thomas Crapper 🙂 Every place looks so scenic. I love Bogs Field! I hope on one of my trips back to the UK I can head north and make it some of your places you’ve described in Yorkshire!

    Reply
    • Haha! Your inner 12-year-old isn’t alone! Harrogate is a beautiful town and is a great place to spend a day. I hope you get an opportunity to visit Yorkshire on one of your visits, it is a beautiful area!

      Reply
  6. This is the first I’m learning of this town! Sounds like a nice place and a spa would be wonderful after such a stressful year haha.

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    • Harrogate is a beautiful town and there is so much to see and do to fill a day! And I completely agree, I’m going to be queuing outside the door for a spa day when they open!

      Reply
    • It is such an incredible place! We took the tour of the Turkish Baths but we haven’t tried out the experience. We were hoping to go back then we went into lockdown! I can’t wait for restrictions to lift so I can try it out!

      Reply
  7. I never would have imagined such an exquisite Turkish bath in UK. Now the tea rooms look like a dream. There aren’t a lot of high tea options here in Boston, and I would love to try it sometime.

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    • Me neither! I’ve visited Harrogate since I was a child and I never knew it was there! The tea rooms are absolutely stunning. We definitely do tea well in Yorkshire, I’d always recommend people visit Betty’s to experience it!

      Reply
  8. Harrogate looks lovely! I have yet to make it here, despite having relatives very close by. Those Turkish baths look amazing! Will have to check them out and pop to Betty’s tea room afterwards.

    Reply
    • Harrogate is definitely a beautiful town! You should definitely visit when you are in the area. I’m keen to go back and try out the Turkish Baths because we only took the tour. And Betty’s is a delicious treat that I’d recommend every time you visit Harrogate! I hope you get to go soon!

      Reply
  9. I’ve been to Harrogate a couple of times but never had a chance to explore properly. I honestly didn’t know there was so much there. Because I’ve not had the chance to explore, I fell a bit meh about the town. But I feel like I need to give it more of a chance. I would love to have a tour of the baths before they open!

    Reply
    • I completely understand what you mean, Harrogate definitely hides some of these gems away without much advertising! I’ve visited so many times and I never knew the Turkish Baths existed! I feel like I really see the town in a different way after digging into its history and learning about its spa past. It really changes your perspective of the town. I hope you get an opportunity to take a tour of the Baths after lockdown!

      Reply
  10. Wow I had no idea Harrogate had so much to offer! Those Turkish baths look to die for! Thanks for great suggestions, I can’t wait to plan a trip for the summer

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    • I know, right?! Harrogate seems to hide these gems well! The Turkish Baths are an amazing experience! I can’t wait to go back and properly try them out! I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you’re able to visit this summer!

      Reply
  11. Harrogate looks like a beautiful spot to visit. I’ve driven by it before but never stopped to have a proper look which I should have done!

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    • Harrogate is a fascinating town! If you’re ever in the area again I’d definitely recommend visiting for a day! I hope you get a chance to come back soon!

      Reply
  12. Okay, you’ve 100% convinced me to put this on my bucket list! A day at the Turkish baths, some tea and strolling around the gardens sounds like the perfect day! I wish I stopped by when I was in York. Oh well, just another reason to return 😉

    Reply
    • Harrogate is full of surprises, isn’t it! I’ve visited so many times and I never knew that the Turkish Baths even existed! What a great excuse to come back though! And there is so much stuff to do in York, you could plan an incredible trip to see them both! I hope you’re able to visit soon!

      Reply

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