If you’re visiting England’s North Yorkshire, don’t miss the chance to experience Harrogate Turkish Baths. Mere moments down the hill from the famous Betty’s Tearoom, the Baths are one of Yorkshire’s most overlooked but best attractions. Dating back to 1897, the Turkish Baths in Harrogate are the last complete working Victorian Turkish Baths in Britain and one of the very few 19th-century baths that survive today!
Harrogate’s Turkish Baths evoke a time of opulence and grandeur, and they have long welcomed visitors from around the world, including royalty. Some Cabinet meetings were even held in Harrogate’s Pump Room so government ministers could enjoy a massage in Britain’s most beautiful Turkish Baths afterwards.
Now you too can visit and enjoy the luxurious spa facilities once favoured by British and European Royals. Here is what to expect from a visit to the luxurious Turkish Baths in Harrogate.
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What happens at a Victorian Turkish Bath?
Visiting a Turkish Bath is not something to rush! It’s a place to relax and sweat out toxins such as heavy metals, salt, alcohol and even nicotine. Heat therapy also improves blood circulation and clears the respiratory tract.
Just a few hours in the extreme heat is also a great way to deal with stress, and the spa treatments often available (at extra cost) are a wonderful touch of luxury to ensure you leave feeling completely rejuvenated.
What’s the difference between a Victorian Turkish Bath and an Islamic Hammam?
Turkish baths or Hammams became popular in Europe during Victorian times; however, there are two main differences between traditional Hammams and a Victorian Turkish bath.
- Victorian baths are heated by hot, dry air, whereas Hammam’s typically use wet, steamier air
- Immersion in a cold pool follows bathing in Victorian Turkish Baths – in a Turkish Hammam, you splash yourself with cold water as there are not usually plunge pools
The Harrogate Turkish Baths Experience
While the original grand entrance to the Royal Baths is now home to a rather posh Chinese restaurant, don’t be disappointed by the rather underwhelming basement entrance to the Harrogate Turkish Baths in use today! It would be easy to think that the baths are merely a swanky modern spa within a Victorian building. In reality, the modest entrance belies the magnificence, luxury and fascinating history within.
Arrival and Check In
The sleek and modern glass-ceilinged reception with its brushed velvet chaise longues and artfully appliquéd cushions is a complete contrast to the Moorish design of the rest of the baths.
Opened in 1897 with no expense spared, the Islamic arches, vibrant glazed brickwork, and arabesque painted ceilings, were the height of the Victorian trend for exotic spas. Leading Italian artisans installed the terrazzo floors, and every aspect of the baths was finished to an exacting standard.
From the moment you walk past the original Victorian ticket booth, you’ll feel like you’ve taken a step back in time to a bygone era.
The stillness and quiet will gently embrace you, and the Moorish influence will make it easy to imagine that you’re far from Yorkshire. A trip to the Turkish Baths in Harrogate is like being spirited away to an exotic Hamman in Turkey for a few blissful hours.
After checking in, the attendant gives a brief introduction to explain the rules of the baths and then provides you with a couple of towels to use. Next, it’s time to enter the restored Victorian changing rooms to don your swimsuit.
Tip: Most sessions are mixed, but you can also book single-sex sessions (swimsuits are optional at these sessions!)
Step 1: The Cool Room (Frigidarium)
Your experience starts and ends in this opulent and beautifully tiled relaxation room. It’s heated by a continuous flow of hot, dry air which helps you to get warm and to build up a light sweat.
Once you feel suitably warm, it’s time to brave the plunge pool! This pool is said to improve circulation, flush out toxins in the muscles and provide a toning effect. Gird yourself for the shock!
“Refreshing” is how one hardy bather described it on my first visit but be prepared for it to feel far colder than 20 degrees. Some plunge straight in and swim gentle lengths, others inch their way in gingerly before dipping their shoulders under the waters!
Tip: Take your towel with you when you leave the changing area. In the hotter rooms, the seats get steamy, and the tiled floors are surprisingly hot!
Step 2: The Warm Room (Tepidarium)
After your cold dip, you’ll head to the first of the three heated rooms. The Tepidarium has a gentle heat of 45 degrees to warm the body, getting you ready for the hotter rooms.
You’ll see people read, chat quietly or (my preference) close their eyes and just drift for a while. No one will rush you – find a comfy spot and let the heat warm you right through to your bones as rivulets of sweat run down your face and body. It’s like a very zen version of a Nordic sauna with gorgeous Middle Eastern ceramics instead of pine.
Tip: If you’re planning to read, take a book not a Kindle!
Step 3: The Hot Room (Caldarium)
After another icy plunge, it’s time for the hot room where the 55-degree heat will warm your body, having a therapeutic effect deep within your muscles. You’ll start to feel relaxed and calm in this room as the heat seeps into every pore and fibre of your body.
Tip: This is the best of the hot rooms to apply a body scrub, oil or a conditioning hair treatment in. Just remember to shower before you head back to the plunge pool!
Step 4: The Hottest Room (Laconium or Laconicum)
The final of the three hot rooms has an average temperature of 75 degrees to purify and detoxify your body by opening the pores and stimulating the circulation.
When you can’t bear the heat any longer, it’s time for the final dip in the plunge pool. Traditionally, the thing to do next is to have a massage, which is available at an additional cost.
Tip: The steam room is free to use in case you don’t feel you’ve sweated enough!
Step 5: Cool Down
Once you have sweated, steamed and swum enough, you will need to cool down in the frigidarium, to relax and regulate your temperature before you leave the baths.
What does the Turkish Bath Experience cost?
Prices vary depending on the day of your visit, with weekends being more expensive—two to three hours of relaxing in the Turkish Baths costs from £18 to £30.
When are the Baths open?
Opening hours are 09.30 to 21.00 during the week, and 09.00 to 20.30 at weekends..
Tip: Don’t forget your refundable £1 coin for the lockers.
Spa Treatments at Harrogate Turkish Baths
The most popular choice is the traditional Turkish massage (the best-known hammam treatment) which costs £20 for 15 minutes. This quick and invigorating full body exfoliation is the perfect way to leave the baths feeling refreshed, rejuvenated and cleansed. You’ll walk out with the softest skin and a real healthy glow!
Other Spa Treatments
The baths offer an extensive range of treatments, day escapes and packages designed with relaxation and luxury at their heart.
- My favourite is the 60-minute Tranquillity™ pro sleep massage at £75.
- The Turkish day experience at £100 (including free time in the Turkish Baths followed by lunch and an afternoon with a relaxing back, neck and shoulder massage, express facial and manicure or pedicure) is excellent value too.
- There is also a list of NEOM treatments starting from £50.
What is the Harrogate Victorian Turkish Bath Experience Really Like?
I frequently retreat to the Harrogate Victorian Turkish Baths and always come out feeling rejuvenated, clean, and calm. The other significant benefits are that my skin glows and I sleep like a baby after visiting these baths.
The Turkish Baths are in the centre of Harrogate, on Parliament Street. Visit turkishbathsharrogate.co.uk or call 01423 556746 to book
If you plan to stay in Harrogate and fancy even more pampering, Rudding Park has a well-deserved reputation for excellence.
Take tea at Betty’s
The ultimate treat after a relaxing session in the Turkish Baths is a visit to Betty’s for afternoon tea. An institution for over 100 years, Betty’s is the place to go to in Yorkshire for the most luxurious, traditional afternoon tea experience.
Visiting Harrogate Turkish Baths is one of the most unique things to do in Yorkshire.
A Brief History of Washhouses and Public Baths in Victorian Britain
By the mid 19th century, washhouses and public baths expanded rapidly across the UK. In 1857 the first Victorian Turkish public bath opened in Manchester, and the Duke of Cambridge opened the Harrogate Turkish Baths on 23 July 1897. Named “The Royal Baths”, they offered treatments for conditions including arthritis and rheumatism through the healing powers of the local spring.
Soon there were over 600 Turkish baths opened in the UK. The Harrogate Turkish Baths are the only ones to have been restored to their former glory.
Delve further into the history of the Turkish Baths with the Baths’ resident historian
Limited time? Maybe you don’t fancy trying out the Turkish Bath experience, but would like to explore the magnificent Victorian architecture? Harrogate Turkish Baths resident historian runs regular 45-minute tours of the baths on several weekday mornings. Tours cost £3.75 per person and booking is essential.
Book a place by contacting the Harrogate Turkish Baths on 01423 556746. Tours are subject to availability.
If you’re planning a trip to England, the opportunity to see these historic baths is one of the many reasons to make sure you visit Yorkshire! Where else could you bathe in a Victorian Turkish Bath favoured by Royals more than a century ago?
Victorian Turkish Baths by renowned historian Malcolm Shifrin uncovers the hidden history of the Victorian obsession with Turkish Baths. Highly recommended.
Discover More Historical Baths in Britain
- Edinburgh: Portobello Swim Centre
- Glasgow: Arlington Baths Club
- London: Ironmonger Row and the Porchester Spa, London’s oldest spa
- Northampton: Mounts Baths
- Carlisle: Swim Centre
- Swindon: Health Hydro
Have you ever had a Turkish Baths experience? Where did you go, and what was it like? Would you recommend it? Maybe you’re planning a trip to a spa as a treat? As always, I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences.
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