Harrogate is a popular and attractive spa town to the south of North Yorkshire, north of Leeds and close to Knaresborough.
Harrogate has an extensive partly-pedestrianised shopping centre, with a wide range of specialist and 'High Street' shops, galleries and antique shops, as well as the large indoors Victoria Shopping Centre (near the train station), the more quaint Montpellier Quarter shops (down Montpellier Hill from the cenotaph); westminster Arcade (near the Turkish Baths) and various out-of-town hypermarkets. There is a very wide choice of restaurants, pubs and cafes to suit all tastes and budgets, and a good selection of hotels (some very upmarket).
While there are several individual highlights, it is the general appeal of the town that is the big attraction, above all due to the Georgian architecture - a result of Harrogate's beginnings as an 18th century spa town - and the large expanses of open gardens and parkland (the 'Valley Gardens' and the 'Stray''). Be sure to spend time exploring the streets along the 'stray' and around the outside of the shopping centre to see many fine examples.
One unusual highlight for visitors to Harrogate is the chance to visit 'Bettys Tea Rooms', well known across Yorkshire as an 'experience' offering high quality refreshments and traditional teas made from top-quality ingredients in attractive surroundings (there are now several other Bettys Tea Rooms in other locations across Yorkshire including one in Harrogate's Harlow Carr Gardens). Open in Harrogate since 1919, you can visit Bettys in Parliament Street (near the Cenotaph).
Harrogate developed as a spa town in the 16th century and developed into the town we see today in the 18th century when 'taking the waters' was a key reason to visit. The waters here were the strongest Sulphur waters in Europe and attracted many visitors. The Royal Pump Room was built in the early 1800s to cater for the growing numbers of rich and aristocratic visitors. The Pump Room is now a museum commemorating the town's history as a spa town. In the basement you can see, and smell, the original wells. Be warned, the water smells of rotten eggs!
No visit to England's longest established spa town would be complete without a trip to the spa baths themselves! Beautifully decorated in authentic Turkish and Moorish designs, the Harrogate Turkish Baths and Health Spa now offer a wide range of relaxation and therapeutic treatments.
Close to the Pump Rooms on Swan Road is the Mercer Art Gallery which was established in 1806 and is Harrogate's best known art gallery. It features a very extensive collection of paintings spanning the last 200 years.
Also near the Pump Rooms is the Montpellier Quarter, one of our favourite parts of Harrogate with quaint streets and independent shops. Like the rest of Harrogate there are a wide selection of restaurants, bars and tea rooms around here.
For shoppers there are lots of independent boutiques in Harrogate, as well as designer shops and high street brands. James Street, Commercial Street, West Park are all shopping streets as well as the Victoria Centre opposite the bus station.
Evening entertainment includes productions at the recently restored Edwardian Royal Hall and also the charming Harrogate Theatre. There are also loads of restaurants and pubs and some clubs.
Another key attraction of Harrogate is its fabulous open spaces. All around town there are loads of flowers planted. The 'Stray' covers 80 hectares, a very extensive area defined and protected by law and is criss-crossed with paths. Especially attactive in spring when the trees are in blossom and flowers cover large aresa of the grass, or at night before Christmas when the trees are lit up. In the summer everyone is out soaking up the sun and having picnics.
The Valley Gardens is an extensive garden area laid out with beautiful planting. There is a small stream planted with water loving plants, a new Japanese garden, a New-Zealand garden as well as lots of areas of flowers and grass. The Valley Gardens are criss-crossed by paths, and with various children play areas and crazy golf a Sun Pavilion and a bandstand. At the top end of the gardens are an area of Pine Woods.
It is possible to walk through the pine woods and up to the Harlow Carr Gardens. A popular route for dog walkers. The Royal Horticultural Society maintain the Harlow Carr gardens, an extensive (50 acres) area containing a wide range of different garden styles and designs. There is another Betty's Tea Rooms here giving you yet another reason to visit.
Other smaller parks and gardens can also be found in Harrogate, including Crescent Gardens (next to the Royal Pump Room).
Places to Visit Nearby
Harrogate is close to the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors and both are wonderful walking areas and contain lots of beautiful villages. Knaresborough is very close and has a lovely riverside walk and the town of York is of course a big favourite.
Fountains Abbey nearby is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a beautiful site with a ruined abbey, extensive grounds and formal water gardens.
Photos of Harrogate
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Map of Harrogate and places to visit
Harrogate places to visit
See more places nearby in the North Yorkshire guide