Top Things To Do In Harrogate: Essential Guide to the Town's Best Attractions

7 months ago   •   10 min read

By More Yorkshire
Table of contents

Things to Do in Harrogate

Nestled in the heart of Yorkshire, Harrogate is a charming Victorian spa town that offers a delightful blend of history, culture, and natural beauty. Surrounded by picturesque landscapes and brimming with enticing activities, this delightful town caters to a variety of interests and is an excellent destination for a weekend away or a leisurely exploration.

As you wander the quaint streets of Harrogate, indulge in the rich history of its Victorian heritage by visiting the Turkish Baths, where you can relax and rejuvenate in an authentic and luxurious spa setting. For the culturally inclined, the charming market towns of Boroughbridge, Knaresborough, Masham and Pateley Bridge are close by, each offering a unique selection of attractions and experiences. With a variety of activities to choose from, such as brewery tours, outdoor spaces and cultural events, there is no shortage of things to do in Harrogate.

Throughout your stay, venture into the stunning countryside for leisurely walks and scenic hikes, or take part in more active pursuits such as cycling and golf. Whichever way you choose to explore Harrogate, you will be captivated by its inviting atmosphere and beautiful surroundings.

Historical Landmarks

Ripley Castle

Ripley Castle, a 14th-century Grade I listed building, is steeped in history and charm. As you explore the castle's impressive rooms, you'll discover the role that it played in the English Civil War and the Gunpowder Plot. Don't miss the chance to wander through the castle's beautiful gardens, featuring a Deer Park and a Tropical Plant House.

Royal Pump Room Museum

The Royal Pump Room Museum is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Harrogate's rich spa history. This fascinating museum showcases the history of Harrogate's famous spa treatments and the people who frequented them. Here, you can learn about the Victorian era's spa rituals and even see the original sulphur wells where visitors sought relief through healing waters.

Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is a magnificent UNESCO World Heritage site, which stands as one of the largest and best-preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. Founded in 1132, these ancient ruins provide a glimpse into the lives of monks who lived and worked there. Wander through the tranquil grounds of the abbey to experience the serenity and beauty of this historic site.

Harrogate Royal Hall

The Harrogate Royal Hall, a stunning Grade II listed building, features stunning architecture and a rich history. Originally built in 1903 as a multi-purpose entertainment venue, it has hosted concerts, dances, and even a visit from the Royal Family. Today, you can still attend performances and events in this beautifully restored venue, embracing its century of history and entertainment.

In addition to these landmarks, you can also explore fascinating sites such as Nidderdale Museum, which offers a look into the social history of the Yorkshire Dales, and discover other historic houses in the area, each with their own stories and treasures to uncover.

Outdoor Activities

Yorkshire Dales Exploration

The Yorkshire Dales offers a wide variety of breathtaking landscapes and outdoor activities. You can immerse yourself in the beauty of Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with its rolling hills, hay meadows, and drystone walls. This is an ideal place for hiking, cycling, and enjoying the British countryside at its finest.

Horticulture Enthusiasms

If you're interested in horticulture, RHS Garden Harlow Carr is a must-visit destination. It features stunning floral displays, tranquil water features, and impressive architectural installations. As you wander through the gardens, you'll be inspired by the variety of plants and innovative garden design, all designed to thrive in the challenging, local climate.

Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks, a National Trust site, offers a unique photographic opportunity for both amateur and professional photographers. With its dramatic and unusual rock formations, set against the background of Yorkshire's stunning landscape, it provides a perfect setting to practice and hone your photography skills.

RAF Menwith Hill Air Force Base

For those interested in military history, RAF Menwith Hill Air Force Base can be an intriguing place to visit. Although access to the base itself is restricted, you can still see the iconic white spherical structures (known as "radomes") from the surrounding public areas.

Remember to respect the boundary restrictions and refrain from attempting to enter the base or photograph any restricted areas. This experience offers a glimpse into the fascinating world of military and intelligence operations in the UK.

Soothing Spa Experiences

Victorian Turkish Baths

If you're looking to experience a piece of Harrogate's spa history, the Victorian Turkish Baths should be on your list. These traditional baths combine hot dry air with gentle steam to cleanse and relax your body. As you progress through the hot rooms, your muscles will start to relax, and tension will melt away. The stunning Victorian architecture adds an elegant touch to your experience, and you'll truly feel transported to another era.

Spa Treatments at Rudding Park

Rudding Park offers a range of spa treatments designed to pamper and revitalise your body. From facials and massages to body wraps and scrubs, you'll feel your stress dissipate as you indulge in these luxurious treatments. Their skilled therapists will ensure that your experience is tailored to your personal needs, helping to restore your inner balance. Don't forget to take advantage of their additional facilities, such as the Himalayan salt sauna, eucalyptus steam room, and spa pool, all of which are included in their packages.

Art and Culture

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Discover the captivating world of portraiture at the Mercer Art Gallery. As you explore the gallery, you'll come across an impressive collection of fine art, including paintings and sculptures from local and international artists. Immerse yourself in the visually stunning pieces that decorate the walls, from historical portraits to contemporary depictions of the human figure.

Performances at Harrogate Theatre

Experience the magic of live performances at the Harrogate Theatre. With an extensive programme that caters to a variety of tastes, you'll find something to pique your interest, whether it's comedy, drama, or music. The theatre boasts a selection of shows in its spectacular auditorium with over 950 seats, so make sure to check their schedule and book tickets for an unforgettable night out.

Exhibitions in Yorkshire

Art lovers visiting Harrogate shouldn't miss the opportunity to explore the diverse array of exhibitions across Yorkshire. Venture to nearby attractions such as Beningbrough Hall and Gallery, where you can marvel at the beautifully arranged gardens and art installations. For days when the weather isn't on your side, seek refuge in the Royal Pump Room Museum, where you'll learn about Harrogate's fascinating history as a recognised spa town during the Georgian and Victorian eras.

Overall, Harrogate has much to offer in terms of art and culture. So, enjoy your time delving into the creative world that unfolds in this charming town.

Culinary Delights

Afternoon Tea

When in Harrogate, you simply must treat yourself to a delicious afternoon tea. The town is renowned for its array of charming cafes where you can enjoy a selection of sandwiches, scones, and cakes. One such place is the famous Bettys, known for their mouth-watering pastries, including the well-loved Fat Rascal cake. Take a moment to pamper yourself and indulge in this quintessentially British experience.

Pub Hopping

Harrogate offers a delightful pub hopping experience for you and your friends. Grab your favourite pint and soak up the warm atmosphere in some of the town's finest establishments. Don't forget to pay a visit to Hales Bar, which boasts an extensive selection of beers, wines, and spirits for you to enjoy. The ambiance is cosy and perfect for a memorable evening out on the town.

Bettys and the Fat Badger

When it comes to quality, taste, and hospitality, both Bettys and The Fat Badger are must-visit spots. Bettys, as we've mentioned before, is your go-to place for an exquisite afternoon tea and intricate sweet treats.

On the other hand, The Fat Badger offers a delightful culinary experience, serving contemporary British cuisine alongside an array of tempting beverages. Located in a beautiful old building, the restaurant and bar offer a warm and inviting atmosphere where you can enjoy an unforgettable meal with your loved ones.

In conclusion, your taste buds will be thoroughly satisfied by the diverse culinary delights awaiting you in Harrogate, whether you're after a leisurely afternoon tea, a buzzing pub atmosphere, or a refined dining experience.

Shopping in Harrogate

Montpellier Quarter

When you visit Harrogate, make sure to explore the Montpellier Quarter, which is known for its unique boutiques and charming atmosphere. This historic area has a range of shops including jewellers, art galleries and antique stores. Stroll through the picturesque streets and discover exclusive items and treasures that you won't find anywhere else.

Day Trips

Knaresborough Visit

Knaresborough, a picturesque town just a short drive from Harrogate, makes for a perfect day trip. With its stunning riverside views, historic castle ruins, and fascinating attractions, you'll have plenty to explore. Start your day with a walk along the River Nidd and admire the famous viaduct. Then, visit Mother Shipton's Cave, home to England's oldest tourist attraction and the legendary Petrifying Well. Feeling adventurous? Venture into the lush woodland trails of Nidd Gorge, a gorgeous natural reserve perfect for a leisurely stroll. Don't forget to stop at one of the local caf├ęs for a delicious cream tea as a delightful afternoon treat.

Ripon Day Out

A visit to Ripon, a charming cathedral city just north of Harrogate, promises a delightful day out. Begin your day at the impressive Ripon Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture with a rich history dating back to the 7th century. For a change of pace, explore the lush gardens at Studley Royal Water Garden, a stunning example of 18th-century landscaping adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Fountains Abbey. If you're a horse racing fan, consider spending an afternoon at Ripon Racecourse to experience the thrill of the races. Finally, before heading back to Harrogate, make sure to wander around Ripon's quaint streets and indulge in some retail therapy at its array of unique shops and boutiques.

Accommodation Suggestions

When planning your visit to Harrogate, it's essential to have a comfortable and convenient place to stay. There are various options available to cater to diverse needs and preferences. Here are some top recommendations to consider during your stay.

Travelodge Harrogate West Park is an excellent option for those seeking a budget-friendly yet comfortable stay. It offers a variety of room sizes and is conveniently located near many of Harrogate's popular attractions.

Rudding Park is a luxurious choice for those looking for a more indulgent experience. This hotel is situated in a beautiful parkland setting and provides free parking, making it ideal for guests with cars. The hotel has received positive reviews for its high-quality service and facilities.

If you prefer a more rural and peaceful setting, consider staying in one of the charming Nidderdale Villages. These villages are perfect for escaping the hustle and bustle of city life and offer excellent opportunities for hiking and biking, as well as a closer connection to nature.

For an unforgettable experience, the Hotel du Vin in Harrogate is a popular choice. This hotel boasts a unique atmosphere and is well-regarded for its high standards of service and stylish rooms.

Lastly, a visit to Harrogate would not be complete without experiencing the famous Turkish Baths Harrogate. Many accommodation options are available nearby, allowing you to enjoy the spa and wellness retreat in style.

When choosing where to stay, always consider checking for any available ratings and reviews to help you make the best decision. Remember to choose the lodging option that caters to your needs and will enhance your overall Harrogate experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

In Harrogate, young adults can enjoy a variety of activities like visiting the Harrogate Theatre for live performances, exploring the Montpellier Quarter's shops and bars, or pampering themselves at the Harrogate Turkish Baths.

Which outdoor attractions can I visit?

Outdoor enthusiasts can visit the Valley Gardens, Crescent Gardens, and Stockeld Park for picturesque green spaces and walking trails. You can also have a picnic or go hiking in the nearby Yorkshire countryside.

What can families do in Harrogate?

Families visiting Harrogate can enjoy a day at Stockeld Park, a magical destination full of enchantment and adventure. The Valley Gardens also offers a pleasant space for picnics and leisurely strolls. Additionally, the Royal Pump Room Museum provides engaging insights into the town's spa history.

What are some picturesque places nearby?

Picturesque places near Harrogate include the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Ripley Castle, and the historic city of York. All of these destinations are within easy reach and offer stunning scenery and architecture to explore.

What events are held in December?

In December, Harrogate comes alive with a calendar of festive events such as the Harrogate Christmas Market, a popular event showcasing local crafts, food, and drink. The town's theatres and venues also host an array of seasonal performances, carol concerts, and pantomimes.

What are the best evening activities?

For a memorable evening in Harrogate, catch a live performance at the Harrogate Theatre, dine in one of the town's many acclaimed restaurants, or participate in a themed walking tour. Alternatively, take a leisurely walk around the town to enjoy the atmospheric nighttime ambience.

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