If you’re visiting England’s North Yorkshire, you won’t want to miss the chance to experience the Turkish Baths in Harrogate – the last complete working Victorian Turkish Baths in Britain and one of the very few 19th-century baths that survive today!
Washhouses and public baths expanded rapidly across the UK in the 19th century, with the first Victorian Turkish public baths opening in Manchester in 1897. That same year, the Duke of Cambridge opened the Harrogate Turkish Baths on 23 July.
Named “The Royal Baths”, visitors from around the world – including royalty – travelled to Harrogate to enjoy the “healing powers” of the local spring waters.
Fun Fact: Some (UK Government) 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.
The Turkish Baths in Harrogate are the only ones in Britain to have been restored to their former glory and they are fabulous to visit – either for a tour or for a luxury spa treatment.
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 Victorian Turkish baths.
- Victorian baths are heated by hot, dry air, whereas Hammams 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 – there are not usually plunge pools
Ways to Enjoy the Turkish Baths in Harrogate.
#1 Take a Tour With the Baths’ Resident Historian
The best introduction to the Baths is to join a 45-minute tour with the Harrogate Turkish Baths’ resident historian.
- Tours run on several weekday mornings, subject to availability.
- Cost £3.80 per person
- Call +44 (0)1423 556746 to book your place.
RELATED POST: Best things to do in Harrogate
#2 Enjoy The Luxurious Spa Once Favoured by British and European Royals.
Arrival at the Harrogate Turkish Baths
The original grand entrance to the Harrogate Spa Baths is now home to a posh Chinese restaurant and it would be easy to think that the baths are merely a swanky modern spa within a Victorian building.
Nothing could be further from the truth – the modest entrance in use today belies the magnificence, luxury and fascinating history within. 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.
The Islamic arches, vibrant glazed brickwork, and arabesque painted ceilings were the height of the Victorian trend for exotic spas. Leading Italian artisans installed luxury 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.
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Preparing for Your Turkish Baths Experience
After checking in, the attendant will brief you on the rules of the baths and provide you with towels to use. Next, it’s time to enter the restored Victorian changing rooms to don your swimsuit.
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 Harrogate Turkish Baths 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’re warmed up, it’s time to brave the plunge pool that’s designed 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 brave souls plunge straight in and swim gentle lengths, others inch their way in gingerly before dipping their shoulders under the waters! Which would you do?
Top 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 Harrogate Baths 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 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.
Top 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.
Top 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 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.
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 Harrogate Turkish Baths 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’s the Harrogate Victorian Turkish Bath Experience Like?
I love 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.
Visiting Harrogate Turkish Baths is one of the most unique things to do in Yorkshire.
The Turkish Baths are in the centre of Harrogate, on Parliament Street. Visit turkishbathsharrogate.co.uk or call 01423 556746 to book
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.
Recommended Reading: Victorian Turkish Baths by renowned historian Malcolm Shifrin uncovers the hidden history of the Victorian obsession with Turkish Baths.
Discover More Historical Baths in Britain
- Edinburgh: Portobello Swim Centre
- London: Ironmonger Row and the Porchester Spa, London’s oldest spa
- Northampton: Mounts Baths
- Carlisle: Swim Centre
- Swindon: Health Hydro
Yorkshire Travel Resources
If you’re headed to Yorkshire, do check out what to pack for Yorkshire and the best things to do in Harrogate. I also love York and Leeds! Check out the most Instagrammable places in Leeds and the best things to do in York to inspire your trip.
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Have you ever been to a Turkish Baths? 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.