Many people ask us what are the best things to do in Harrogate since we live here. We're so proud to call Harrogate our home town and we love it so very much. It's often named the happiest place to live in England and rightfully so.
Harrogate is a spa town in North Yorkshire, known for its leafy avenues, gorgeous gardens, art galleries and independent boutiques. Harrogate has been long frequented by aristocrats who came here for its special waters. Harrogate’s development as a prosperous and flourishing spa town dates back to the 16th century.
Harrogate is an elegant town with gorgeous tea rooms, galleries and theatres. Visit Harrogate and sip a cup of Yorkshire Tea, a well known and beloved tea brand founded in Harrogate in 1886. Enjoy a scrumptious afternoon tea at Betty's, a local institution since 1919. Shop in our independent boutiques, founded by Harrogate locals, and stroll through the many graceful gardens in our city.
We're so excited you picked our town, Harrogate, for your next visit. Let us tell you all the wonderful things you can do in Harrogate. You're going to love it here.
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1. Valley Gardens
The Valley Gardens Harrogate are English Heritage Grade II Listed gardens situated in regal Low Harrogate. The Valley Gardens are open year-round, 24 hours a day and it features different areas with different plants and relaxation spots.
The gardens are beautifully landscaped and in the summer you'll see the loveliest blooms, with tree-lined avenues and mental wrought benches.
At the heart of Valley Gardens is Bogs Field where it is believed that a greater number of different mineral water springs (now wells) come to the surface than any other place on earth. The floral displays are spectacular and include magnificent seasonal dahlia and bedding flowers, that are re-planted throughout the year. We especially recommend a stroll to the New Zealand garden.You can get a map of the gardens here. It features the famed New Magnesia Well Pump Room originally built in 1895, the Sun Pavilion which can be rented for events that date from 1933 and the relaxing Japanese Garden created in the 1930s.
2. Bettys Café Tea Rooms
In 1907 a young Swiss baker and confectioner, Fritz Bützer, left his home to travel to England with a dream of establishing his own business. It was Fritz that opened Betty's on the 17th of July in 1919. It is now a Harrogate legacy, a place where travellers from afar come to see and marvel at.
Betty's is renowned for its afternoon tea, delicious baked goods and gift boxes. Every foodie in Harrogate appreciates Betty's and many from the whole of the UK order gifts from this very tea room.
Needless to say that Betty is a must when visiting Harrogate, however, it's worth mentioning that it's one of the most popular things to do in town. It is strongly recommended that you book a table in advance. But if there's no availability, prepare to queue for your table outside of Bettys.
3. RHS Garden Harlow Carr
Harrogate locals love their gardens, so naturally, the next best thing to do in Harrogate is to visit the place everyone adores: the Harlow Carr Gardens.
This garden is a delight every season. It features sculpture trails, garden sparkles, dazzling displays and magical adventures. The garden is vast with 14 different highlights including some of our favourites: sub-tropical garden, woodland and the alpine house.
There is an entrance fee for the RHS Garden Harlow Carr and you can prebook for your visit online. If you are a member of The Royal Horticultural Society, then you can access the gardens free of charge.
Whether you decide to visit the gardens or not, you can still access the small Betty's cafe available on site as well as the vast gift shop and the garden centre which features many gorgeous plants. We bought most of our plants from this garden centre.
4. Montpellier Quarter
One of our favourite spots in Harrogate: the Montpellier Quarter. Visit the Montpellier Quarter which looks gorgeous and it's perfect for your travel photos. Furthermore, the Montpellier Quarter is also home to over 50 exclusive independent shops and boutiques.
For visitors who want to experience that independent spirit of Harrogate, we recommend adding the Montpellier Quarter to the list. There's art and antiques, fashion, food and drink with indie spirits crafted in Harrogate, gift shops with unique local products and jewellery shops. For when you get hungry, head to the Drum & Monkey for some sustainably sourced seafood or Jenny's Tea Shop for a toastie and a hot brew.
5. Cold Bath Road
You're going to love Cold Bath Road so much. It's beautiful, clean and lined with independent shops, restaurants and cafes. We used to live just 2 minutes from Cold Bath Road and had everything we needed at our fingertips.
Head to Cold Bath Road to shop for fashion, kid's clothes, toys, hardware equipment, antiques and groceries. Once you are in need of a great bite, head over to the Tilly Peppers and Cold Bath Deli or grab a local ice cream made with Yorkshire dairy from the famed Vanilli’s ice cream parlour.
6. Photography session with a local
Capture the most amazing moments with your loved ones and book a local photographer to take you around Harrogate and photograph you in key locations. This is a fun activity to support local businesses and also get the chance to learn more about the town.
Visit the Valley gardens and have your picture taken with a background of hydrangea blooms and colourful roses or venture into the Pinewoods and take photos in the countryside. Meander around the historic town and document your unique narratives, frozen in time.
7. Royal Pump Room Museum
The Royal Pump Room is a Grade II* listed building in Harrogate. Visit it to learn about the town, as today it houses the town's museum. It is located in Crown Place, just opposite the Valey Gardens. You'll love the original 1842 stone rotunda as well as the gorgeous glazed annexe from 1913.
See the Old Sulphur Well where visitors could drink the sulphur water, pumped from the natural spring. The building also had a social element to it as it provided guests with a place to meet friends and get to know others.
8. Royal Hall
The Royal Hall is a Grade II* listed performance hall and theatre right in the heart of Harrogate. The building opened in 1903 as the Kursaal, designed by Robert Beale and Frank Matcham, one of the most prolific theatre architects of his time.
Kursaal is German for "cure hall" which was deemed as inappropriate given the World War. It was therefore renamed to a more patriotic "Royal Hall". The Royal Hall is an important national heritage building, with Harrogate acknowledged as a top UK event destination.
Book to get a guided tour and learn more about the history of the Royal Hall from one of the locals.
If you love the outdoors, you're going to love the Pinewoods in Harrogate. One of our favourite places in our town, Pinewoods is a gorgeous trail through the woodlands. It takes you from the Valley Garden to the RHS Garden Harlow Carr.
Along the way, there are benches where you should relax for a moment and admire the local flora. Just over halfway through the trail, there's a binocular viewpoint to admire the gorgeous Yorkshire countryside. Add it to the list as it's one of the most wonderful places to visit in Harrogate.
10. Mercer Art Gallery
The Mercer Art Gallery is known for it large collection of 19th and 20th-century fine art, plus temporary exhibitions. It was built 200 years ago as the Promenade Rooms, where spa visitors came to socialise. It later became a theatre, then a Town Hall and it's now a gallery since 1991.
We especially love the ever-changing exhibitions, usually rooted in the history of Harrogate. For example, the current exhibition is called Dive In, and it's about artworks chosen to celebrate 450 years of Harrogate’s famous mineral springs.
Admission to the Mercer Art Gallery is free, although a donation is much appreciated.
11. Harrogate Turkish Baths
Harrogate is a spa town and a visit to the Turkish Baths is a must. Relax and unwind at the fully restored Victorian Turkish Baths.
Admire the Baths' Moorish design with Islamic arches and screens, walls of vibrant glazed brickwork, the arabesque painted ceilings and terrazzo floors. The Turkish ritual consists of a journey of healing, starting and ending in the Frigidarium. After relaxing surrounded by the gorgeous tiles, you'll go to the steam room, followed by the heat chambers, before experiencing a plunge in the pool to immerse your body into a cold invigoration. Rinse and repeat.
12. The Stray
One of Harrogate’s best-known landmarks, the Stray, is 200 acres of grass parkland. It's an ideal space for walks, public games and relaxation. You'll find many locals enjoying a picnic here in the summer.
The Stray dates back to 1778, and over the year it has been used for different purposes such as grazing fields for livestock, allotments and wheat fields during the second world war and even used as an airfield for light aircraft.
Today, it's used as a wonderful open space for residents and visitors alike who want to enjoy a patch of the countryside right in the heart of Harrogate.
Did you know: The Stray is protected by an act of parliament and its total area must remain constant.
13. Knaresborough Castle
Just 10 minutes by car from Harrogate city centre, is the Knaresborough Castle, a ruined fortress overlooking the River Nidd. It may seem peaceful now, but Knaresborough Castle was once a mighty stronghold of medieval kings.
Walk around the ruins and admire the gorgeous Knaresborough viaduct that opened in 1851. Right below the castle ruins find the Bebra Gardens and sit down with a cup of coffee to admire this hidden gem, which provides a haven from the hustle and bustle of the town.
To get to Knaresborough from Harrogate centre you can take a train for 18 minutes, drive for 15 minutes, walk for an hour or take a bus for 20 minutes.
14. Crescent Gardens
The Crescent Gardens were developed in the 1890s on the site of the old Crescent Inn. It is located next to The Pump Rooms. There is a distinctive statue of Cupid and Psyche in the centre of the garden under the gorgeous glass dome. In the summer, you'll find these gardens full of colours. They are formal and well-manicured with lovely flower beds.
There are discussions about transforming the Crescent Gardens building into refurbished multiple occupancy office spaces.
15. Brimham Rocks
One of the best things to do in Harrogate is to grab your National Trust members card and head over to the Brimham Rocks. A must see biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and Geological Conservation Review site. It's located just 8 miles from the heart of Harrogate and it's an ideal place for a stroll with your loved ones.
Brimham Rocks are located on the Brimham Moor in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Brimham Rocks are an incredible collection of rock formations. There's a 3.6-mile loop trail ideal for any skill level. You can even book a climbing session if you'd want to try something different.Entry to the Brimham Rocks is free of charge for every visitor. However, there is a parking fee if you are not a National Trust member.
16. Harrogate Theatre
Harrogate Theatre is a Grade II listed performance hall and theatre. Harrogate Theatre was built in 1900 and it has two performance spaces. It is a full hemp house theatre that uses a theatrical rigging system to fly components like curtains, lights and scenery on and off the stage.
There's almost always something to see at the Harrogate Theatre and we do recommend that you reserve your tickets for a show in advance. Due to the current circumstances, shows are limited.
17. Fountain Abbey
One of the best things to see in Harrogate is the gorgeous Fountain Abbey and the Studley Royal Deer Park. The Fountains Abbey is famed as a filming location for the Netflix tv series The Witcher.
The medieval abbey is a focal point of an 18th-century landscape garden. The garden features an array of attraction points including statues and temples. The well-manicured garden looks stunning year around. Don't miss the Fountains Hall, a superb country house built around the 17th century. You'll love the formal gardens and the small glasshouse.
Studley Royal deer park is home to over 500 wild Red, Fallow and Sika deer. The Deer Park also contains a large variety of ancient trees – many are over 300 years old. Next to it, there's The Seven Bridges Valley Walk, a circular trail to see a more rustic and beautiful side of the estate.
We love Fountain Abbey so much, we recommend it as a must when you visit Harrogate. Do bring your wellies and your waterproofs though. This is the heart of the British countryside.
18. The Hydro
If you love to swim after a long day exploring Harrogate, we've got just the place for you: The Hydro swimming pool. The Hydro features an eight-lane 25 metre short-course competition standard swimming pool; a multi-purpose activity pool with moving floor, high board and springboard diving; a training pool for our learners.
You can book a range of activities and classes, swimming lessons or just pay for a one-off to enjoy swimming in the main pool.
19. Sunday Roast at the Fat Badger
One of Harrogate's most beloved pubs, the Fat Badger is a stylish English pub with a terrace and gorgeous interior hall and traditional food. Enjoy a pint of English ale followed by a traditional Sunday roast dinner from this AA rosette restaurant menu.
We love the Fat Badger and so does everyone else here in Harrogate and that's why booking a table in advance is essential.
During winter, you can book a private igloo with fairy lights, Christmas decorations, faux fur and a log burning effect.
20. Buy local Yorkshire soap
Everyone loves a nice English souvenir and we've got just the item for you here in Harrogate. Head over to the Yorkshire Soap company located on James St and purchase the most beautiful, whimsical soaps and bath cosmetics.
Usually, in the shape of sweets, cupcakes and other wonderful Disney-like ideas, you'll find the most beautiful smelling items that are bound to make someone's bath time more relaxing and special.
All products come with creative gift boxes. It's a special experience like no other.
21. Queen Victoria Monument
The statue is located at the entrance of Cresent Gardens Park, near the Harrogate station. The statue depicts Queen Victoria enclosed by four pillars. The garden is well kept and a known meeting point in Harrogate.
The statue looks lovely when lit up at night. This monument was the gift to the town of Mayor and J.P. Richard Ellis on the occasion of Her late Majesty’s Jubilee in 1887.
22. Victoria Shopping Centre
Victoria Shopping Centre is a mall inside a stately building. Head over to Victoria shopping centre and go to the top floor. From there head over to the overpass to admire Harrogate from above. You'll also get a chance to see the stone building in more detail, faced with gorgeous columns and topped by statues with twelve distinct arches along its upper floor.
23. Spirit of Harrogate
In 1571 William Slingsby discovered the unique properties of the natural spring water from Harrogate’s Tewit Well. Inspired by this story, the founders of the Spirit of Harrogate wanted to create a product that would celebrate the spa town heritage and bring to life the essence and restorative nature of Harrogate.
The gins are crafted using 24 carefully selected botanicals. These include hand-grown local plants from Rudding Park Hotel kitchen garden in Harrogate and fruits from local Yorkshire suppliers that go into our flavoured range.
Buy the gin from the original shop located in Montepiellier Quarter or attend one of the experiences such as tasting sessions and history gin experiences.
24. Hunt for art
With so many art galleries in Harrogate, you'll always discover unique paintings, prints, ceramics and more. You can window shop and take an art gallery trail in pursuit of the finest art in Harrogate, or find the most incredible souvenir for your home.
We always stop to admire some of the new exhibitions here in Harrogate and we're so excited that our town promotes so many British artists and makers.
25. Grantley Hall
For an absolutely luxurious experience in Harrogate, head to the Grantley Hall, a stately 1600s mansion along the River Skell.
Grantley Hall is a hidden jewel found in the Yorkshire Dales, offering 47 exquisite bedrooms, four indulgent restaurants, including Michelin-starred Shaun Rankin at Grantley Hall, and five stunning bars. There's a spa and a luxury gym on-site as well.
You can stay the night and enjoy all facilities on-site or if you prefer you can indulge in the restaurants available at the Grantley Hall. Book a quintessentially British Afternoon Tea at Grantley Hall which uses the finest Yorkshire produce. You'll love the sophisticated ambience and rich surroundings of the Main Hall.
For a fantastic dinner, book your tasting menu at the Eighty-Eight and pair it with their scrumptious wines.
26. Westminister Arcade
A lovely shopping centre with independent shops and a lovely tea house. It's a small place but it's well celebrated by locals as it's how Harrogate used to be with its classy boutiques. It looks lovely on the inside and it's ideal for travellers who want to photograph a lesser know part of Harrogate.
It truly is a hidden gem. We recommend enjoying the afternoon tea At the Harrogate Tea Rooms, a small independent and family run business since 2012.
27. Hoopers and Porters
Established in 1996 in the spa town of Harrogate, Porters is a retail and clothing department store. You'll find an array of wonderful clothes and accessories here from premium quality, luxury brands.
The service is very good, well-tailored to your needs and the shopping experience feels much like an independent boutique. Next door, you'll find a larger department store called Hoopers with perfumes, cosmetics and two stories dedicated to luxury fashion. Hoopers is an iconic designer-led store with smart service that is second-to-none.
28. Harrogate Gin Making Experience
Harrogate Tipple is a family-run, small-batch gin distillery. Their botanicals are grown in the 750-year-old gardens within the Ripley Castle walls. When you dine in Harrogate, you'll find this local gin on most of the menus.
Take a distillery tour to learn about the history of the Harrogate Tipple or join the gin masterclass where you'll learn the art of creating your very own gin. The experience runs for around 3 hours and you'll be immersed in a gin-making experience while drinking gin tonics.
29. Harrogate Library
Visit the local library and borrow any book that tickles your interests. Alternatively, if you prefer, sit down with a fiction book and read for as long as you want while in the library.
We love our local library as it often helps us with travel plans thanks to the vast travel books available on the shelves. There are plenty of language books too, which come in handy as well.
The Carnegie Library House is a Grade II listed building in High Harrogate.
30. Ripley Castle
Ripley Castle is a Grade I listed 14th-century country house in Ripley, just 3 miles north of Harrogate. The house is built of coursed squared gritstone and ashlar with grey slate and stone slate roofs.
The Walled Gardens are a pleasure to visit at any time of year but it's especially gorgeous when you can see the wisteria and clematis on the south-facing wall. No visit to Ripley Castle would be complete without a stroll into the deer park. You'll see oak trees are one thousand years old!
31. Yorkshire Events Centre
Yorkshire Events centre is an award-winning centre mainly known to host the Great Yorkshire show. However, there are plenty of events held here year-round including flower shows, vintage sales, gifts and fashion fairs as well as the fine food show in the north! Not long ago we've enjoyed a magnificent Christmas fair as well at the beginning of December.
Right next door, there's Fodder - Farm Shop and Cafe. The farm shop has fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious cakes and bakes as well as a butchery and deli. Fodder works with more than 430 Yorkshire farmers and producers.
You've made it to the end of all the best things to do in Harrogate. You must be super excited about your visit and rightfully so, as Harrogate is truly extraordinary. We are so proud to call Harrogate our home and so happy to tell you all the cool activities you can do in our town. Let us know in the comments section below what are some of the activities you've decided to enjoy!