The Victorian town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire has been a popular tourist spot for almost 200 years when it became the fashionable place for the high society of Edwardian and Victorian Britain to come and sample the therapeutic spa waters. Although the spa tradition continues to this day with the Turkish Baths, which is one of the only remaining spas of its kind to still be in operation, the town now annually attracts new visitors who come for relaxing weekends away, to attend some of the town’s significant events such as the Great Yorkshire Show or to use it as a base from which to explore the Yorkshire Dales.
If you’re planing on heading to this Victorian Spa Town for a day, it is worth having some idea of what you should do beforehand to make sure you make the most out of your trip. Keep reading find out what your One Day Itineray for Harrogate should look like.
Every visit to Harrogate must include a visit to Bettys. the traditional Victorian tea rooms that originated in this charming spa town in 1919. Having refused numerous times to branch outside of Yorkshire, Bettys has definitely become a tourist attraction, particularly in Harrogate where it all started. Going to Bettys is like stepping back in time to the town’s golden Victorian era, as the cafe and shop look like a set out of Downton Abbey, complete with the staff dressed in traditional Edwardian-esque clothing. Due to its popularity, it’s essential to get to Bettys early before the queues start forming, as by mid-morning there will be people lining up round the corner.
Go for early breakfast as a great way to start your day in Harrogate. Of course you must have a pot of Yorkshire Tea with you breakfast! Bettys products are handmade and use the highest quality ingredients that are usually sourced locally, so you can be sure that whatever you have will be delicious as well as giving you the best that Harrogate and the surrounding area can offer. After breakfast, make sure you have a look in the Bettys shop the adjoins the tea rooms before you go, particularly at their seasonal display, which always looks beautifully designed, like walking back in time to a Victorian bakery.
Turning right down to Montpellier Mews, you’ll find there are numerous small boutiques and cafes to explore at your leisure. Make sure you pop into the Farrahs Sweet Shop on the way, home to Farrah’s Original Harrogate Fudge established in 1840 and now recognisable for their distinctive blue & silver tins. Sampling the fudge is nonnegotiable, and it would be worth buying some fudge or other sweets for later.
After exploring some of the boutiques in the Montpellier district, make your way to the historic Royal Pump Rooms. Now the town’s museum, the Royal Pump Room originally operated as a spa water pump house, where locals and tourists would go to take the sulphur water which was pumped on site from a natural spring known as the Old Sulphur Well. The only remaining source of sulphur water can be found on the outside of the building from a tap, although if you are brave enough to try the water, make sure you do so at your own risk, and make sure you have some toffees on hand to get rid of the taste in your mouth afterwards!
Home of the strongest sulphur water in Europe, sampling these curing waters is definitely not for those with weak tastes. In the museum, you’ll be able to see the treatment baths and machinery of Harrogate’s spa history. You can also take a trip down to the surfer well accompanied by the museum staff every day at 11am, 2pm and 3pm Monday-Saturday, and 3pm on Sundays. Rather oddly, the museum also houses an internationally renowned collection of Egyptology, including a unique Anubis mask and a mummy case. Click here to find out about ticket prices and opening times for the Royal Pump Rooms.
After sampling the curing waters of this old spa town, take a stroll into Harrogate’s principal gardens, the Valley Gardens. These historic gardens are a great place to sit on a sunny day with an ice cream and a bite to eat. Along with woodlands known as The Pinewoods, Valley Gardens covers 17 acres of land to explore, with a wide variety of outdoor games available in the summer months including tennis, golf, crazy golf, and a children’s play area and paddling pool.
Early afternoon: 1pm
On your way back into the town centre, swoop via the Mercer Art Gallery where Harrogate’s fine art collection is now housed in what was the Promenade Room, which was built in 1805 as a site for the fashionable society of the town and its visiting population to socialise after taking the waters. You can also walk past the Royal Baths before walking back up into the town centre, which was designed to provide a luxurious setting for specialist hydrotherapy treatments to compete with other European spas, now a mixture of restaurants, bars, nightclubs and the Turkish Baths.
Late Afternoon: 3-4pm
Once fed and rested, you can spend the afternoon in whatever way pleases you, as there is a variety of options. You can explore more of Harrogate’s boutiques and shops by heading down West Park. Or head to Harrogate Theatre to watch some of the shows on offer, produced by a number of amateur societies that regularly perform musicals and plays throughout the year.
For a complete history trip of Harrogate, you could also treat yourself to a visit to the Turkish Baths. Turkish Baths used to be common in Victorian times, but only seven remain which date back to the 19th century, three of which are in England, including the one in Harrogate. The present Turkish Baths were only one of many facilities during the Royal Baths’ golden days, other services like a medicinal waters’ dispensary, hydrotherapy departments, mud baths and steam rooms were also available. As the only remaining arm of the original Royal Baths, the Turkish Baths is definitely part of any history trip to Harrogate. For under £20, you can experience the traditional ritual of heating, cooling and cleansing by moving from the Hot Room Chambers to the Plunge Pool to the Stream Room or Frigidarium to relax, then repeat, just as royalty such as the Princess Alix of Hesse and her sister, Princess Victoria of Battenburg regularly did in times gone by. If you’re feeling very luxurious, you can even treat yourself to an additional treatment at the spa like a full body massage or to one of their spa packages. Whatever you chose, you’ll certainly come out of the Turkish Baths feeling like a new person!
Evening: 6-7pm onwards
Home to a variety of restaurants and bars, for an evening’s entertainment you have a lot to choose from in Harrogate. As well as the standard chain restaurants, you can also find independent, high quality food havens located close to or in the town centre. For authentic, but exceptional Chinese dishes look no further than the Royal Baths Chinese Restaurant, housed in what was the Royal Baths Hall. For a taste of Spain, head to La Feria, one of Harrogate’s most recent additions on the cuisine stage, offering the taste of Spanish delicacies as well as accommodating, friendly service. Indian cuisine in the town centre is best found at Cardamom Black, while for Argentinian food head to Bodega Steakhouse, another recent addition to the Harrogate food scene. Graverleys of Harrogate is the place to go for traditional but good quality seafood, while the Brassiere down the road is the best place for a relaxed evening listening to some live Jazz music.
With so much to choose from, you can easily have an evening well spent in Harrogate to finish off you day.
If you have another additions you want to make to this One Day Itinerary in Harrogate then please share them in the comments below!