There’s so much to see and do in Harrogate that it’s no wonder this spa town is always a popular choice for a short break to Yorkshire. From exploring the gorgeous Nidderdale countryside to sipping a Slingsby gin cocktail in town, take a look at our top ten things to do in Harrogate.
If you are looking for a gorgeous place to stay, have a browse through our portfolio of holiday cottages in Harrogate below:
1. Take afternoon tea at Bettys
Bettys is a bit of a Yorkshire institution and their Fat Rascals are legendary (and very tasty too). We always love to get a Bettys afternoon tea when visiting Harrogate. Dainty sandwiches, plump scones and a selection of their delicious miniature cakes make this a real treat. Great for a girlie catch up or treating your mum! The tearoom is right in the heart of Harrogate too, and just a short walk from the beautiful Valley Gardens as well as The Stray, great for picnics or a quick walk with the dog.
Our favourite afternoon would have to be a little pampering at the Turkish Baths (see number 3 below), followed by a spot of shopping in the elegant Montpellier Quarter, finishing off with a scrumptious afternoon tea at Bettys.
Highlight of an afternoon at Bettys: Without doubt, the bookable Afternoon Tea - an immaculately presented table, with a pianist to serenade you. Our advice: book it with champagne for a touch of indulgence!
These beautiful gardens are open all year long and cover a whopping 27.5 acres. The garden is one of five public gardens run by the Royal Horticultural Society and is situated on the western edge of Harrogate. Explore all the different areas of the garden, with its variety of growing landscapes, from running to still water, pretty woodland and glorious wildflower meadows. The lavish Main Borders are simply bursting with plants and the Streamside area is another spot that's a popular one amongst gardeners.
There are six lovely areas to peruse: as well as the two mentioned above, you'll be able to look around the Lakeside Gardens, the Winter Walk, the Teaching Garden and the Woodland. A very relaxing day out that the whole family can enjoy!
Highlight of a trip to RHS Harlow Carr: We would say the hedgehog-friendly garden is a favourite, as well as the 24m glass Alpine House. Sitting majestically at the top of the valley, it has amazing views and a great collection of alpines.
Harrogate is a famous spa town so it seems only right to get a spa treatment during your visit. The Turkish Baths and Health Spa is a historic building over 120 years old and has a great selection of pampering and detoxing treatments to try. These stunning baths are known as the flagship Harrogate experience, offering genuine Victorian Turkish baths surroundings and modern treatments - a great mix of old style and new technology. Perfect the art of relaxation with a session in the baths, followed by one of the luxury treatments on offer.
You will start your pampering journey in the Frigidarium. Feel the warmth of the baths as you relax on beds, gazing up at the Islamic arches and Moorish design. Walk along the exquisite Italian floor and feel a century of elegant relaxation under your feet.
Highlight of a refreshing morning at the Turkish Baths: There's nothing that we can think of that is better than the steam room, heat chambers and plunge pool that make up the Turkish Bath experience.
4. Treat yourself to a cocktail or a bite to eat
There’s a wide selection of pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants on offer in Harrogate. Whether you prefer to go to a well-known chain or somewhere independent, you’ll be spoilt for choice. You’ll find everything from locally brewed IPA to decadent cocktails, so you can hit the town for a tipple (or three). You're never far from a real ale or a well-crafted cocktail in the bars and pubs of Harrogate - there are some excellent coaching inns which add character to any evening out as well as some more contemporary bars in the main town which are great if you want a bit of pizazz with your drinks.
A great cafe for a light lunch is The Wild Plum which offers a host of delectable delights including a range of pancakes. For a romantic dinner, try The Drum and Monkey that specialises in serving the finest quality seafood. Weeton's is a great upmarket café for breakfast or for a few bites to take for a picnic.
Highlights of Harrogate's food and drinks scene: While we are aficionados of the aforementioned Bettys, we also love Major Tom's Social, where rustic wooden floors and board games for guests make this dog and child-friendly restaurant one to visit.
Here at Gorgeous Cottages, we are rather partial to a Slingsby Gin and we especially like their rhubarb variety. This said, we would highly recommend booking the Slingsby Gin Experience if you are looking for something a little different. Taste these award-winning gins and vodka with your pals in this 2-hour experience - you will receive four drinks per guest and nibbles as you listen to the history of gin. You'll hear about the fascinating London gin craze up to how gin has developed today. This is the perfect birthday celebration, with bookings for up to 12 party guests.
As well as purchasing some Slingsby Gin from their Spirit of Harrogate headquarters, you can also try a selection of experiences including ‘The Cocktail Master’ and ‘Just the Tonic’.
Highlights of the gin experience: The knowledgeable and fun hosts make this experience a real pleasure to listen to - that and the four different types of gin!
If you fancy catching a film, then Everyman in Harrogate is a cooler and more stylish option than your usual cinema chain. The cinema seats come with little wooden tables to store your food and drinks so that you don't have to balance your drinks and popcorn on your lap! You can even enjoy a glass of wine or a beer as you watch the film - not something you'd find at a normal cinema and a great option for an evening out. Don't discount afternoons though - on rainy days, there's nothing better than a lazy afternoon at the cinema, hot choc in hand (what you put in it is up to you) with just the sounds of the silver screen to keep you company.
Highlight of a trip to the Everyman: I think we will all agree that a glass of wine or two while watching a favourite movie makes a trip to the cinema an evening out.
7. Get some delicious food at Weetons
Weetons has to be one of our favourite Yorkshire delicatessens and is a must-visit when in Harrogate. You’ll find everything here from local meats and cheeses to artisan chutneys and jams. It’s a great place to stock up on goodies, especially if you are staying in a Harrogate holiday cottage, and there’s also a café inside where you can stop for lunch, brunch or just a quick coffee. Stop off for some Eggs Benedict made with Weetons roast ham and free-range eggs on a toasted muffin before heading out for the day, although if you have a full day of shopping ahead, best to pack in some carbs with one of their amazing sausage sandwiches on granary bread.
Highlight of a trip to Weeton's: Picking up some food straight from the farm to put in a lunchtime picnic at one of Harrogate's glorious parks.
We love a mooch around the Montpellier Quarter in Harrogate. Not only is this a very pretty part of this Yorkshire spa town but it’s filled with independent boutiques, cafes and antique shops. If you like to shop locally, you’ll find plenty of treasures around this historic area of Harrogate. The Quarter is home to over 50 exclusive independent shops, salons, bars and restaurants as well as cafes if you need to stop for a quick refuel. The infamous Bettys tearooms is only a short walk away if you want to experience as many of Harrogate's iconic sites as possible - you'll really find it hard to leave this elegant district with its pretty gardens, old-fashioned lamp posts and charming cobbled streets.
The area used to be known as the 'Antiques and Art Centre of the North' - though the Quarter is still home to some wonderful antique shops and art galleries, it now has a mixture of traditional and contemporary, with fashion shops, spas and interior design stores being added to the mix.
Highlight of a browse around Montpellier: The pretty pavement cafés for the shopper who likes to people-watch.
9. Explore the Nidderdale countryside
One of the best things about Harrogate is that it’s surrounded by gorgeous North Yorkshire countryside. You’ll find plenty of walks and cycle rides to try around Harrogate and it’s only around 7 miles from the centre of Harrogate to Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It is many people's favourite dale, with its stunning moorland scenery and lush green meadows. Bordering the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it is close to the breathtaking World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, the most complete Cistercian abbey remains in England.
There are plenty of pretty villages nearby including Pateley Bridge and Ripley – you can even go for a llama ride through the Nidderdale countryside if you so desire!
Highlight of a trip to Nidderdale: A nostalgic hour spent perusing the Oldest Sweet Shop in England and then a walk at Brimham Rocks to burn off the calories.
Discover what life was like in the 19th century with a trip to The Royal Pump Room Museum. You can take a walk along a row of ancient shops, discover some of the popular spa treatments of the past and browse ancient artefacts. This Grade II listed building is one of Harrogate's most iconic buildings and used to attract over 15,000 visitors to its sulphur wells. Built in 1842 to provide shelter for the town's affluent visitors when they came to taste the waters, it even had a visit from Tsarina Alexandra of Russia in 1911.
Sadly, as the curative waters of the Pump Room were overtaken by the emergence of the National Health Service, it declined in popularity and eventually closed down. It was reopened in 1953 as a museum which now has an interesting temporary exhibition programme which changes throughout the year, as well as permanent displays of Harrogate's spa history.
Highlight of a trip to the Royal Pump Room: The Ancient Egyptian treasures - find out how science is helping to find out more about them - an excellent educational attraction for children.
Gorgeous Cottages have a range of luxury holiday homes in and around Harrogate. Options include stylish apartments and elegant family houses near the centre of town, to chocolate-box cottages in the beautiful surrounding countryside - take a look at our full range of Harrogate holiday cottages.