Harrogate is a beautiful spa town on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales that brims with history, upmarket boutiques and great places to eat. Just 30 minutes from Leeds and 45 minutes from York, Harrogate is an enticing place for a day trip or a relaxing weekend break.
Surrounded by some of Yorkshire’s most beautiful towns including Skipton, Knaresborough, and Boroughbridge, Harrogate is a lovely town to explore and the perfect base for you to discover the wider attractions of the Yorkshire Dales.
Voted “Best Place to Live in the UK” several times, Harrogate is also a very dog-friendly town – perfect if you’re visiting with your four-legged friend.
This travel guide shares all the best things to do in Harrogate town and in the local area.
About Harrogate Spa Town
Harrogate has welcomed well-heeled visitors and European royalty since Victorian times, thanks to the town’s natural spring waters. Visiting Harrogate’s impeccable tearoom, acres of superb parks, and open green spaces are just some of the things to do in Harrogate.
‘Harrogate is the queerest place with the strangest people in it, leading the oddest lives of dancing, newspaper reading and dining.’Charles Dickens
The Best Things to Do in Harrogate
Put your comfy walking shoes on and get set to explore, as today will include a healthy mix of walking and relaxing! You might be surprised how much you can see in Harrogate in a day!
1. Enjoy Afternoon Tea at Bettys Café and Tea Rooms
First opened in 1919, Bettys is a Yorkshire institution. Afternoon tea here is a treat and definitely one of the best things to do in Harrogate. Think starched white linens, immaculately dressed waiting staff and the most scrumptious cakes.
Add in silver service tea or coffee from a vast choice of blends or a cheeky glass of fizz and sit back to relax. Ask for a window seat overlooking Montpellier Street – it’s the best location for people-watching!.
There’s ALWAYS a queue, but it’s worth it for the food and the experience.
Top Tip: On a tight budget? Forget about eating in the tea room! Pick up a fat rascal (like a huge fruit-filled scone) from the bakery and a cuppa from Caffe Nero to enjoy in Montpellier Gardens (opposite Bettys).
Location: 1 Parliament Street, Harrogate and at Harlow Carr
2. Relax at Harrogate Turkish Baths (the best spa in Harrogate)
The Victorian Turkish Baths is one of the most iconic attractions in Harrogate, with the only complete fully working Victorian Baths in Britain. This is so much more than a luxury spa in Harrogate.
Set aside at least two hours if you plan to try the baths out (recommended) or visit early for the inexpensive 45-minute guided tour! Prepare to be wowed by the fabulous Moorish architecture.
Location: Parliament St, Harrogate HG1 2WH
3. Visit the Royal Pump Room Museum
The Royal Pump Room was where people came to drink from Europe’s strongest sulphur spring, known as the Old Sulphur Well. It was also a place to meet and to be seen, as it offered protection from Harrogate’s changeable weather!
Inside you can discover Harrogate’s connection to Russian royalty, see displays of old-fashioned shops, explore life in a bygone era. and learn why the Harrogate spas became so popular.
Smell the waters for yourself on a tour of the well (but don’t drink them – the water is vile!)
Location: Crown Place, Harrogate HG1 2RY
4. Amble Through the RHS Gardens at Harlow Carr
The 68-acre 19th-century gardens of Harlow Carr were taken over by the Royal Horticultural Society in 2000, and they have transformed the gardens into an oasis of delight for garden lovers.
Highlights include the Edwardian garden which celebrates the gardening skills of Gertrude Jekyll, the kitchen garden, and the sensory delights of the scented garden – best seen in summer when billowing roses and summer-flowering perennials scent the air. After your visit, nip into Bettys for top-notch refreshments.
Tip: It’s a very pleasant 1.3-mile stroll to Harlow Carr from the Valley Gardens, through the pine woodlands of Harlow Hill (approx 1 hour). Alternatively, take the bus from Harrogate Train and Bus station – it’s a 10-minute journey.
Pop into Harrogate Tourist Information Centre on Crescent Road for a map and a discounted entry ticket for Harlow Carr.
Location: Crag Lane, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate HG3 1QB
5. Go Gin Tasting at Spirit of Harrogate
Visiting this superb independent gin distillery is consistently rated #1 of the best things to do in Harrogate, on TripAdvisor.
The Spirit of Gin package will help you learn the fascinating history of gin, including the original styles of gin, the misery of the London gin craze and how gin has developed today.
Alternatively, the fabulous Master Distiller experience offers a guided tasting session to find your preferred style of gin – one you’ll make in the session.
If you love gin, you’ll relish the chance to select your own botanicals, distil on your own mini copper still and take your personally labelled creation home. You’ll also get to try different gins from the Slingsby range, including their fabulous Yorkshire rhubarb gin and the incredible marmalade gin!
Location: 5-7 Montpellier Parade, Harrogate
Best Free Things to Do in Harrogate
6. Discover the Stray (the “Two Hundred Acres”)
The Stray is a 200 acre park moments from the bustle of Harrogate town centre. It’s been the place for the people of Harrogate to relax since it was created in 1778 from the forest of Knaresborough.
Nothing can be purer than the air at HarrogateGranville’s Spas of England, 1841
Over the years the Stray has been used to graze livestock, turned into allotments and wheat fields during WWII, and it’s even been used as an airfield for light aircraft. Protected by an Act of Parliament, today it’s open grassland, crisscrossed by tree-lined paths.
In early Spring you’ll be treated to a carpet of purple as millions of crocus peep through the frozen ground. Weeks later, these fade and give way to nodding golden daffodils before the long lines of cherry trees burst into life to show off their iconic pink blossom in May.
Location: 16 West Park, Harrogate HG1 1BJ
Related Post: 8 Beautiful Places to Enjoy Beautiful Cherry Blossoms
7. Join Harry’s FREE Walking Tour
Take a gentle stroll with Harry whose 80-minute tour of Harrogate town centre will entertain and inform you. You’ll also discover the role that Harrogate played in defeating the Axis forces during WWII.
There’s no need to book for this gentle introduction to Harrogate spa town, but do be generous with your tip if you enjoy the experience.
Location: War Memorial, Opposite Bettys Tea Room. Tours run at 10.30, 12.00 and 13.30 from Friday to Sunday.
8. Browse the Stores at Montpellier Quarter
Once known as the “Antiques and Art Centre of the North“, today the Montpellier Quarter is home to over 50 exclusive, independent shops, health and beauty salons, pavement cafes, bars and award-winning restaurants.
Revel in the stylish surroundings, beautiful gardens, charming lamp posts, floral hanging baskets and cobbled streets. Pick one of the quaint street cafes for a bite to eat, or take your credit card for a serious shopping mission!
Location: Montpellier St, Harrogate HG1 2TQ
9. Relax at Valley Gardens
Valley Gardens is a relaxing and captivating place to visit, with differing styles of gardens and interesting garden buildings.
These colourful gardens are open 24 hours a day, all year round.
Check out the benches here (and throughout Harrogate) which feature cast iron serpents as the uprights. The town wanted an emblem to signify that it was a health spa – they chose serpents as they entwine the staff of Aesculapius (Greek God of Health)!
The part of the gardens known as Bogs Field is where 36 different mineral wells were discovered – more mineral springs than any other known place!
Most footpaths are suitable for manual and electric wheelchair users and there are disabled toilets.
Location: Between Valley Drive and Cornwall Road, Harrogate
Things to Do Near Harrogate
In addition to all of the attractions in Harrogate town centre, you might like to to get out and explore the glorious Yorkshire Dales. It’s the ideal location to combine urban sightseeing with an afternoon of “get away from it all” hiking, walking, cycling, or climbing.
Harrogate really does offer the best of both worlds, with plenty of places to visit around Harrogate in the wider North Yorkshire area.
10. Take the Train to Pretty Knaresborough
For some of the best views in the area (and a pretty stunning sunset if you time it right) take the train to the pretty town of Knaresborough. The journey lasts only a few minutes and offers a superb view of the town’s iconic Victorian Viaduct high above the River Nidd.
Related Post: Discover 17 Lovely Things to do in Knaresborough
11. Explore Ripley Castle and Village
The charming mellow-stoned village of Ripley is one of the easiest places to visit near Harrogate and it’s lovely! There’s a 14th-century country house known as Ripley Castle, super boutique shops, a friendly pub (The Boar’s Head) and “The World’s Best Ice Cream”!
You may also like: Visiting Ripley Castle and Gardens
12. Check Out Harewood House – Home of the “Yorkshire Princess”
The stunning English country house where some of the scenes from the Downton Abbey movie were filmed is only 10 minutes from Harrogate by bus. Harewood Castle is a real hidden gem to discover here too!
13. Stroll Along the Nidd Gorge & the Nidderdale Greenway
Amble back to Harrogate along the leafy traffic-free Nidderdale Greenway through the splendid Nidd Gorge along a dismantled railway line for a distance of about 4 miles. You’ll cross the Nidd Viaduct over the River Nidd surrounded by ancient woodland and a wide variety of wildlife.
You can also check out what’s on at the Royal Hall or Harrogate Theatre, or relax in a comfortable pub. Look out for the Fat Badger, Hales Bar or Major Tom’s Social – an excellent café, beer bar and pizzeria!
Where to Stay in Harrogate
If top drawer quality and a convenient central location, combined with a buzzing pavement café/bar are what you’re looking for, the West Park Hotel is an excellent, vibrant choice.
Check availability and rates here.
A lovely hotel that combines French style with Yorkshire hospitality. Hotel du Vin is very popular with locals and visitors and right on the doorstep of the best things to do in Harrogate.
The comfortable rooms are beautiful and there’s a pretty courtyard that’s perfect for al fresco drinks. You’ll definitely want to check out the excellent food (especially the very popular Sunday lunch) in the hotel’s bistro.
Check availability and rates here.
I can’t recommend a visit to Harrogate highly enough. Even with just one or two days to spare, you will have enough time to explore the the best things to do in Harrogate, experience some great restaurants and see some of the most beautiful places near Harrogate too.
For more information and articles about things to do near Harrogate please see below.
- Coldstones Cut: Take a trip deep into the Yorkshire Dales, to discover Britain’s largest public artwork
- Whittaker’s Distillery: Take a fascinating tasting tour of this award-winning craft gin distillery in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales
- Ripon: Discover the best things to do in Ripon – Britain’s oldest and third smallest city.
Pin the Best Things to Do in Harrogate for later
Have you ever been to Harrogate? What did you love most about the Harrogate spa town? If someone asked you “is Harrogate worth visiting?” what would you say? Maybe you’ve got a trip to England planned – which of the Harrogate things to do would you really enjoy? Do let me know! I’d love to hear from you x