Famous for its healing springs, fancy tea rooms and historical architecture, Harrogate certainly packs a punch on the fun/size ratio.
The affluent Harrogate is a modest-sized town in North Yorkshire, England, with a population of approximately 82,000 people. It is also home to the Royal Horticultural Society’s Harrogate Flower Show…another of the many claims to fame this little beauty of a town holds.
The town centre is located in a valley between two hills, and the town is surrounded by plush countryside. There are no shortages of parks, gardens, and green spaces as you can imagine, as well as museums, art galleries and shops.
If you’re on the search for interesting places to visit in this part of the world, then you’ll be pleased to discover there are plenty of fun things to do in Harrogate and close by, hence its mass appeal as a popular tourist destination.
Whether you’re visiting for the rich history of castles, ruins, and stately homes, or for the tea, shopping, and spa pampering weekend, I’m pretty sure you’ll find this jewel of a town is as pretty in the flesh as it is glowing in this blog post.
Ready? Let’s discover the best things to do in Harrogate for your visit.
The Rich History Of Harrogate, Yorkshire
Harrogate’s history goes back to the middle ages when it was a small market town in the county of Yorkshire. It became known for its sulfur springs, which were discovered in the 16th century. The springs attracted a number of visitors to the town, and by the early 20th century, Harrogate had become a popular tourist destination, particularly among aristocrats, industrialists and the rich and famous all wanting to take a plunge into Harrogate’s iron, sulphur and salt-rich thermal waters
The town has also retained its historic charm, with its medieval streets and buildings. visitors can explore Harrogate’s history at its many museums and galleries, or simply enjoy wandering around its picturesque streets.
Today, Harrogate is still a popular tourist destination, with its beautiful gardens and tranquil countryside at its doorstep. The town has also retained its historic charm, with its medieval streets and buildings. visitors can explore Harrogate’s history at its many museums and galleries, or simply enjoy wandering around the picturesque street of this quaint old town.
Best Things To Do In Harrogate, UK
1. Unwind At The Emblemic Turkish Baths Harrogate
The Moorish-styled Turkish Baths Harrogate date back to the 19th century
with ornate arches, Arabic-style ceilings and Moorish tiles sprawled across the floors and walls of this entire Victorian building.
The history of Turkish baths can be traced back to the Ottoman Empire, where they were first used as a way to cleanse the body after a day of battle. Today, Turkish baths are still widely used for their health benefits, which include relieving stress, improving circulation, and promoting detoxification.
You can book to use the Turkish Baths here for as little as £20 for a 150-minute session, with the option to add extras such as facials, massages and other holistic therapies.
Whether you’re looking to relax or invigorate your senses, a visit to the Turkish Baths Harrogate is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Just make sure you book up in advance…with limited capacity, spots can go fast!
How To Get Here: Turkish Baths Harrogate, Parliament St, Harrogate HG1 2WH
2. Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms
Established in 1919 by Swiss confectioner and baker Frederic Belmont, this institution is draped in as much fame as the history of this town itself.
Although it’s open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, Bettys is world-renowned for its afternoon tea sessions, which come in a range of different styles to suit every taste. From the classic Bettys tea with finger sandwiches and scones to the more indulgent Royal Tea with champagne, there’s something here to tantalize everyone’s taste buds.
If you’re not in the mood for tea, Bettys also serves up a range of sweet and savoury dishes, as well as a selection of wines, beers, and spirits.
Everything from the cake trolley all comes beautifully presented, as you might expect from a world-famous name such as Bettys. From the clotted cream scones to the many handmade cakes and tarts, it actually makes my mouth water just at the thought of it.
All elegantly delivered with silverware and bone china crockery, of course.
Prices start from £34.95 for an afternoon tea session, which comes with its iconic tower including a selection of sandwiches, miniature cakes and hot drinks. You can book your afternoon tea session from Betty’s Official Website.
How To Get Here: Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms, 1 Parliament St, Harrogate HG1 2QU
3. Valley Gardens
Valley Gardens is one of Harrogate’s most popular attractions, especially when the sun makes an appearance. This Grade II listed park is home to a number of beautiful gardens, including the historic Pinewoods Garden which dates back to Victorian times.
Walking through Valley Gardens is like a glimpse of how things were back in its heyday, oozing with style and opulence, and sprawling across 17 acres of well-kept grass, flowerbeds and meandering footpaths.
If you tire of the vintage appeal, there are plenty of modern facilities at hand too, including a paddling pool, skatepark, kids playground, boating lake, crazy golf, and a little pitch and putt course for the golf lovers.
Wandering through the Valley gardens is a wonderful way to pass an few hours and definitely one of the nicest places to see in Harrogate during your visit here
How To Get Here: Valley Gardens Harrogate
4. Royal Pump Room Museum
The Valley Gardens are also home to the Royal Pump Room Museum…a must-see for any history lover.
The museum tells the story of the town’s famous spa industry, which began in the late 18th century. Visitors can learn about the original pump room, which was built to house the town’s sulphur well and see how it became a fashionable social hub for the wealthy during the Victorian era.
The museum also houses an impressive collection of Roman artefacts, which were unearthed during the construction of the town’s railway. Once you had finished with all of the exhibits, you can grab a coffee and snack from the cafe inside the building.
With its fascinating displays and interactive exhibits, the Royal Pump Room Museum is sure to provide an enjoyable and educational experience for everyone looking for quirky and fun things to do in Harrogate during their visit.
5. RHS Garden Harlow Carr
Just a 20-minute walk west of Valley Gardens and you’ll find RHS Garden Harlow Carr – one of only 4 gardens that the Royal Horticulture Society manages and definitely one of the best things to see in Harrogate during your time here.
Previously the home of a Victorian spa, this garden centre and 30 acres of managed garden scapes are open to the public for everyone to enjoy a stroll through.
Give yourself a couple of hours to wander through the different varieties of gardens and environments, such as the Sub-Tropicana Garden, Kitchen Garden, Lakeside Garden, the Alpine House, the Queen Mother’s Lake, Sandstone Rock….the list goes on, but you can check the full list of highlights from the official website.
You can even find a line of Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms beverages at the cafe here, which is always a welcoming treat after a long walk around the grounds. The gardens are some of the most popular places of interest in Harrogate, and no visit to this town would be complete without a trip to RHS Garden Harlow Carr.
- RHS Members – Free
- Adult Ticket – £12.95
- Child Ticket (5-16) – £6.55
- Under 5s – Free
- You can save on ticket prices if you travel by foot or take public transport to the RHS Garden Harlow Carr (£8.95 for adults and £4.53 for child tickets)
How To Get Here: Crag Ln, Beckwithshaw, Harrogate HG3 1QB
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6. Montepellier Quarter, Harrogate
The Montpellier Quarter is one of Harrogate’s most fashionable districts and a great place to do some shopping, whether you’re looking for high-end designer labels or more unique boutique stores.
Bettys Cafe Tea Rooms are located within this quarter and makes for a great start or finish point to your exploration and/or shopping.
The quaint little cobbled streets are home to a range of independent shops, cafes, bars, and restaurants, as well as the famous Montpellier Chapter hotel.
There’s a real sense of community here, with many of the shopkeepers taking time to get to know their regular customers by name.
And even if shopping isn’t really your vibe, then you’ll still appreciate the grand Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture perched all around this neighbourhood.
It’s an incredible place to explore and one of the best free things to do in Harrogate if you’re budget is tight. And if it’s not, then you can go mad in the shops!
7. Mercer Art Gallery
The magnificent building that now houses the Mercer Art Gallery was built as the Promenade Rooms 200 years ago as a meeting place for spa guests. It became a theatre a few decades later, then the Town Hall, before being reborn as the Mercer Art Gallery which now stands here proudly since 1991.
The Mercer Art Gallery is a hidden gem located in the heart of Harrogate town centre, with forever-changing displays on exhibition. You can revisit this quaint art gallery just a few months apart and find something completely different inside.
This free-to-enter public gallery is often overshadowed by some of the bigger tourist attractions in town, but it really is worth a visit if you’re looking to explore Harrogate’s culture and history. From abstract pieces to contemporary artworks, there is always something interesting here and shouldn’t be missed if you’re looking for interesting and fun places to visit in Harrogate.
8. Harrogate Theatre
Harrogate Theatre has a long and rich history dating back to the early 19th century. The theatre was originally built as a Music Hall, and it soon became one of the most popular venues in the town.
In the 1920s, the theatre was remodelled into a cinema, and it continued to operate as such for many years. In the late 20th century, the theatre was renovated and reopened as a live performance venue.
Today, Harrogate Theatre is a thriving cultural hub, hosting a variety of events throughout the year. From musicals and comedy shows to dance performances and live concerts, there is something for everyone at Harrogate Theatre.
If you’re visiting town with your partner, it’s one of the best things to do in Harrogate for couples, so get those tickets booked.
To see what is on and to book tickets, visit the Harrogate Theatre’s offical website
How To Get Here: Harrogate Theatre, 6 Oxford St, Harrogate HG1 1QF
9. Harrogate Royal Hall
The history of the Royal Hall in Harrogate dates back over a hundred years since it first opened its doors to the public in 1903. Built as a concert hall and meeting place for the Yorkshire town, the Royal Hall soon became a popular venue for touring musical acts from all over the world.
Today, the Royal Hall continues to be a popular destination for live music and entertainment, as well as being a popular conference and events venue.
The Royal Hall has undergone a number of refurbishments over the years, but it has retained its original Edwardian architecture and style. The grandiose interior is decorated with gilded plasterwork, crystal chandeliers and stained glass windows, creating a truly unique and inspiring setting.
Whether you’re visiting for a live event or simply to admire the building’s stunning features, the Royal Hall is definitely worth adding to your ‘best things to do in Harrogate’ travel list.
Visit the official website for a full list of what’s on.
How To Get Here: Royal Hall, Ripon Rd, Harrogate HG1 2SY
10. Crescent Gardens
Crescent Gardens may be small but they certainly pack a lot of colours and distinct character. From the blooming flowers to the characteristic statue of Cupid and Psyche at the centre of the gardens.
If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Harrogate for couples, then a little wander through these formal and old-fashioned gardens would be a lovely way to pass a couple of hours with a picnic and a short walk.
The 1890s garden is just by the Mercer Gallery and Royal Hall making the meticulously neat gardens the perfect little escape regardless of the time of year.
How To Get Here: Crescent Gardens, Harrogate HG1 2SG
11. Space Vintage & Retro Shop
If vintage and retro is your vibe, then you cant afford to miss out on a visit to Space Vintage & Retro in the heart of town.
This treasure trove is crammed full of all things vintage, from clothes and furniture to homeware and art. It’s the perfect place to find a unique souvenir or gift for a friend back home…or just treat yourself of course!
You’ll even find some designer retro such as Chanel and Dior, so keep your eyes peeled and ready to pounce if you see your dream buy pop up before you.
The shop has been open since 2011 and has become something of an institution in Harrogate. If you love all things retro, then this is definitely one of the best things to do in Harrogate for you.
How To Get Here: Space Vintage & Retro, 1 The Ginnel, Harrogate HG1 2RB
12. The Fat Badger Traditional English Pub
If the sun is out and you fancy a proper meal and a drink on the terrace of a fantastic, traditional pub, then you will want to head to The Fat Badger.
In particular, if you’re visiting town on a Sunday, then you’ll most definitely want to stop by for a bit of Sunday Lunch, whipping up a mean roast dinner with all of the finest Yorkshire ingredients at a very reasonable £14.95.
It’s the kind of pub and restaurant that you wished you’d found earlier on in your trip rather than on the last day, with a real charming outside space that’s set up for all 4 seasons of Yorkshire.
Pull up a seat, grad a drink and watch the world pass you by. Expect a warm and relaxed ambience by day and a more lively one after 7 pm. And if you end up having a little too much fun late into the evening, they also have rooms at the adjoining hotel!
How To Get Here: The Fat Badger, Cold Bath Rd, Harrogate HG2 0NF
13. Major Tom’s Social
Major Tom’s Social is an unpretentious, relaxed and social drinking den that is proudly independent and passionate about all things food, drink, music and art.
It’s a place to kick back with mates, enjoy some good music and have a few drinks in a very cool setting.
The bar is located in a former public toilet block which has been given a new lease of life and is now one of the coolest places to drink in Harrogate.
The drinks menu features all sorts of things from cocktails and craft beer to real ales. And if you get peckish, they also serve some pretty decent pizza too.
Visit with friends of your partner, pull out one of the many board games, lounge about in plush sofas, and generally have a good time with some very cool company
How To Get Here: Major Tom’s Social, 3 The Ginnel, Harrogate HG1 2RB
Best Things To Do Near Harrogate, UK
14. Nidderdale Museum
A 25-minute drive will get you to the quaint and charming market town of Pateley Bridge where you will find the super interesting Nidderdale Museum. It is a local history museum which tells the story of Yorkshire, with the museum being completely run by the local community and volunteers.
The museum has three galleries which are full of interactive exhibits, paintings, wax figures and historic objects. And when you’re not being entertained by the sometimes disturbing wax works, the locals volunteering here will genuinely charm the pants off you with their authentic passion and knowledge.
The museum has a working watermill which is over 200 years old and different staged rooms demonstrating how things would have once been like here.
A super interesting museum, and definitely one of the best things to do near Harrogate when visiting with the famil, friends or partner.
How To Get Here: The Old Workhouse, King St, Pateley Bridge, Harrogate HG3 5LE
15. Ripley Castle & Gardens
If you fancy getting out of town for a bit and exploring some of the surrounding stunning countryside, then a visit to Ripley Castle & Gardens is one of the best things to do close to Harrogate.
Just a short 10 minute drive away, Ripley castle is a wonderful afternoon trip from Harrogate, and a great way to spend a morning or afternoon exploring these historical grounds.
The castle has been home to the Ingilby family since 1315 and is set in beautiful gardens which are perfect for a summer’s day stroll.
Inside the castle, you can explore different rooms which have been set up to look like they would have done centuries ago. You can also learn all about the castle’s fascinating history and the people who used to live here.
And if that wasn’t enough, Ripley Castle is also home to one of Yorkshire’s most popular falconry displays. You can watch these magnificent birds of prey put on a show as they fly high above the castle grounds.
How To Get Here: Ripley Castle, Ripley, Harrogate HG3 3AY
16. Knaresborough Castle
A short 17-minute drive to the east of Harrogate will get you to the picturesque town of Knaresborough. And sitting atop a craggy outcrop overlooking the River Nidd is Knaresborough Castle.
Knaresborough Castle is a Norman motte-and-bailey castle in North Yorkshire, England. The first castle on the site was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror. The current castle dates from the 12th century and was built by King Henry I.
Today, Knaresborough Castle is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can explore the castle grounds, including the keep, bailey and moat. The castle also has a small museum with exhibits on its history and the history of the surrounding area. In addition, there are often events and activities taking place at the castle, such as medieval fairs and jousting tournaments.
You can also wander down into town and explore all of the charming little streets and shops. Or if you fancy something a bit more active, there is also a forest Walk which takes you through Knaresborough Forest.
Whether you’re interested in history or just looking for a fun day out, Knarreborough Castle is definitely a fun place to visit close to Harrogate and well deserving of its place in my “fun things to do in Harrogate” travel guide
How To Get Here: Castle Yard, Knaresborough HG5 8AS
17. Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden
Fountains Abbey is a World Heritage Site just 20 minutes drive from Harrogate. It was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks who left St Mary’s Abbey in York to follow a stricter way of life.
The abbey flourished for 400 years, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539. Today, visitors can explore the ruins of the abbey, which include the cloisters, refectory, infirmary and mill. The site is also home to a picturesque water garden, which was created in the 18th century.
In addition to the abbey ruins and water gardens, there is also a fascinating museum on site. The museum tells the story of the abbey and its monks, as well as the history of Studley Royal Park.
Well worth the 22-minute drive north of Harrogate, and a beautiful way to spend a few hours outside of town.
How To Get Here: Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY
18. Brimham Rocks
Just a short 20-minute drive from Harrogate is the incredibly unique Brimham Rocks. This outdoor gallery of weird and wonderful rock formations is in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty (AOB) and is sure to leave you feeling inspired.
The rocks were formed around 320 million years ago and are made of Millstone Grit. They have been eroded over time by wind, rain and ice, leaving behind the strange and sculptural shapes that you see today.
There are many different walking trails to choose from, depending on how long you want to explore for. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, there’s even a climbing wall!
Brimham Rocks is definitely one of the most unusual and quirky things to do near Harrogate and a fascinating place to come to visit for a few hours.
19. Spofforth Castle
If you’re looking for places of interest in Harrogate, then Spofforth Castle could be just the ticket. It’s a medieval castle in North Yorkshire, England, and just a short 15-minute drive from Harrogate town centre.
The castle was built in the 11th century by Norman Lord William de Romilly, and since then it has been used as a dwelling, a fortification, and a prison.
Today, the castle is open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can explore the ruins of the castle, which include a keep, a great hall, and several towers.
They can also view the restored garden, which features ornamental plants and flowers, and it’s a great spot for a picnic if the weather is kind. Spofforth castle is a fascinating example of medieval architecture and history, and it is well worth the short drive to come and visit.
How To Get Here: Castle St, Spofforth, Harrogate HG3 1ND
20. Plumpton Rocks
Plumpton Rocks is a small, Grade II listed garden just 6km southeast of Harrogate. This very unique garden is made up of strange and unique rock formations, which were formed around 70 million years ago.
This 30 acres of parkland is filled millstone grit formations which have been eroded and weathered over time by wind and rain. This has left behind the strange and sculptural shapes that you see today, with suggestive names such as Lover’s Leap, Lion’s Den and Needle’s Eye.
in the middle you’ll find a man-made lake, pebbled with colourful plants and flowering blossoms, and surrounded by well-aged woodlands.
Looking north from the lake’s southern tip, the most romantic view is that of J. M. W. Turner in 1797, who painted it as a commission for Edward Lascelles, the estate’s owner.
How To Get Here: Plumpton Rocks, Wetherby Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG5 8NA
Is Harrogate worth visiting?
Harrogate is most definitely worth a visit, along with the surrounding areas of Yorkshire. The picturesque town centre is perfect for a spot of shopping or lunch, and yo can easily pass an afternoon visiting some of the many museums and art galleries on offer. And let’s not forget the all-important afternoon tea at Betty’s! A little further afield and you’ll find ancient castles and ruins to explore, and stunning national parks to hike. Harrogate is definitely worth a visit.
Why do people visit Harrogate?
People visit Harrogate for a number of reasons. Some come to enjoy the town’s many shops and restaurants, enjoy a relaxing spa weekend being pampered, or take an afternoon tea at the world-renowned Betty’s Tea Rooms. Others come to explore the surrounding countryside and national parks or to visit some of the area’s historic castles and ruins. And of course, many people come simply to enjoy the fresh air and stunning scenery that Yorkshire has to offer.