Harrogate is one of my favourite towns in England. Even if you only have 2 days to spare, there’s a surprising amount to see and do here – with a bit of careful planning, you will be able to enjoy all the best things to do in Harrogate.
While relatively small, with a population of seventy-five thousand in 2019, Harrogate is filled to the brim with history, culture, smart shopping and exceptionally good food. No wonder this North Yorkshire spa town has been voted “Best Place to Live in the UK” several times!
A Brief Introduction to Harrogate
Harrogate has been welcoming well-heeled visitors since Victorian times, thanks to the town’s natural spring waters. Today, Harrogate is one of the most stylish destinations in the north of England, with stunning Victorian buildings, an impeccable tearoom, acres of superb parks and plenty of open green spaces. You’ll also discover classy boutiques and shops, plus restaurants and independent coffee shops to tempt all tastes.
‘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 Two Days in Harrogate: Contents
- The Stray
- Free Walking Tour
- The Royal Pump Room Museum
- Montpellier Quarter
- Harrogate Turkish Baths
- Spirit of Harrogate
Two Days in Harrogate: Day One
The Stray or Two Hundred Acres
Moments away from the bustle of the town centre, the Stray has given the people of Harrogate somewhere peaceful 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.
Visit in early Spring to witness the carpet of purple as millions of crocuses 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.
Free Walking Tour
Take a gentle stroll with Harry – his engaging 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.
I joined this tour a couple of years ago and it was awesome. Harry is incredibly passionate and knowledgeable! There’s no need to book for this gentle introduction to Harrogate, 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.
Royal Pump Rooms Museum
The Royal Pump Room was where the great and the good 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!
Visit to discover Harrogate’s connection to Russian royalty, to see the museum’s displays of old-fashioned shops, and to explore life in a bygone era. Smell the waters for yourself on a tour of the well!
Location: Crown Place, Harrogate
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 of lunch and people-watch, or take your credit card for a serious shopping mission!
Tip: Don’t miss out a visit to Farrah’s toffee and foods emporium.
Harrogate Turkish Baths
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. Set aside at least two hours if you plan to try the baths out (recommended) or visit early for the free guided tour! Prepare to be wowed by the fabulous Moorish architecture.
Spirit of Harrogate
Visiting this superb independent gin distillery is consistently rated #1 of the best things to do in Harrogate, on TripAdvisor.
Choose the Spirit of Gin package to learn all about 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, opt for the fabulous Master Distiller experience for 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! It’s an amazing, fun experience. Discover more here
Location: 5-7 Montpellier Parade, Harrogate
Two Days in Harrogate: Day Two
If like me you’re an early-rising lark – make Valley Gardens your first visit of the day, as 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 differing styles of gardens and the garden buildings themselves make Valley Gardens a relaxing and captivating place to visit.
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
The 68-acre 19th-century gardens of Harlow Carr were taken over by the Royal Horticultural Society in 2000, who 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). If you don’t fancy the walk, or the weather is not behaving well, take the bus from Harrogate Train and Bus station – it’s a 10-minute journey. More info here
Pop into Harrogate Tourist Information Centre on Crescent Road for a map and a discounted entry ticket for Harlow Carr. If you’re making an early start, pick your map and ticket up on day 1, before visiting the Turkish Baths.
Location: Crag Lane, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate HG3 1QB
Bettys Café and Tea Rooms
First opened in 1919, Bettys is a real Yorkshire institution. Afternoon tea here is a treat – think starched white linen tablecloths, immaculately dressed waiting staff and the most scrumptious cakes. Add in silver service tea or coffee from a vast choice of blends, or a glass of fizz and sit back to relax. Don’t forget to pick up a fat rascal (similar to a scone but packed with fruit) from the bakery on your way out. Expect a queue, but it’s worth it, for the food and the experience. Hop on the bus back into town, or walk off the calories
Location: 1 Parliament Street, Harrogate and at Harlow Carr
Catch the number 36 bus from the bus station for the short ride to the charming mellow-stoned village of Ripley. 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”!
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.
If you’re staying in Harrogate for a second night, 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 cafe, beer bar and pizzeria!
Where to Stay in Harrogate
Before I took the plunge and moved to Harrogate, I stayed in several different places! Here are some of my favourites:
Rudding Park Hotel and Spa
Simply the most luxurious hotel in Harrogate! Just three miles outside the town centre (you’ll need a car or taxi to get here) the parkland setting is stupendous and the facilities are just as good. Stay here to truly relax, play a round of golf or indulge in the spa, then feast in the award-winning Horto restaurant. For real escapism, this is the perfect place to stay for your 2 days in Harrogate!
Location: Follifoot, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG3 1JH
West Park Hotel
If top drawer quality and a convenient central location, combined with a buzzing pavement café/bar are what you’re looking for, this is an excellent, vibrant choice.
Location: 19 West Park, Harrogate HG1 1BJ
Hotel du Vin
This trendy hotel is popular with locals and visitors, with good reason. but manages to maintain an air of sophistication even when busy. The pretty courtyard is perfect for al fresco drinks and the bistro serves excellent food (especially the very popular Sunday lunch).
Location: Prospect Pl, Harrogate HG1 1LB
Harrogate also has plenty of quirky and interesting Airbnb accommodation to choose from, both close to the town centre and a little more rural. .
- Knaresborough: For some of the best views in the Harrogate 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.
- Harewood House: The stunning English country house where some of the scenes from the Downton Abbey movie was filmed is only 10 minutes from Harrogate by bus.
One thing that makes Harrogate perfect for a weekend break is that it’s right on the edge of 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. It really does offer the best of both worlds.
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Have you ever been to Harrogate or would you like to visit? Maybe you’ve got a trip to England planned – what would you most like to see in Harrogate? Do let me know! I’d love to hear from you x
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