Harrogate: step into the garden of Yorkshire

Harrogate is officially the happiest place to live in the UK, and you’ll understand why when you pay a visit to this pretty North Yorkshire spa town. 


Here are our suggestions for the top places for sightseeing, eating, drinking and shopping, plus some of Harrogate’s lesser-known attractions.

Things to do in Harrogate

What could be better than unwinding at the town’s magnificent Turkish Baths and Health Spa on a cold winter’s day? They were originally built in 1896 but underwent a revamp in 2004 with the help of National Lottery funding. As you follow the ritual of healing, cooling and cleansing, you move through chambers that gradually get hotter, before cooling off in the plunge pool (you’ve got to be brave for this) and relaxing in the Frigidarium. You’ll come away feeling rejuvenated.

If you fancy a brisk walk in the winter sunshine, The Stray is the place for you. It’s a large area of parkland that surrounds Harrogate old town. A big bonfire night celebration is taking place there on 1 November, which all the family can enjoy.

Until 25 January, the Mercer Art Gallery is hosting a collection of works by some of the leading lights of British art – past and present – including David Hockney, L.S. Lowry, Walter Sickert and Paul Nash. 

Shopping in Harrogate

Once the destination of choice for Europe’s upper classes, Harrogate remains a fashionable place to visit, with its ornate architecture, tree-lined streets and elegant boutiques and cafes

When shopping you really shouldn’t miss the town’s Montpellier Quarter – a collection of antique dealers, art galleries, salons, and boutiques. Designer fashion store Morgan Clare and toffee specialists Farrah’s of Harrogate are just two of the shops you might want to check out.

Directly opposite the station is Victoria Shopping Centre, where you’ll find some of the major retail chains, such as WH Smith, HMV and H&M. Westminster Arcade and West Park are also good areas for shopping, while farmers’ markets will be held on Cambridge Street on 13 November and 11 December.

Looking for gifts? Try Butterfly Kisses; a potpourri of unusual cards, presents and accessories for the home, from shabby-chic signs to moose head advent calendars. Elsewhere, H2k offers a range of natural skincare products and beauty gift boxes. 

Food and drink in Harrogate

If you only eat in one place in Harrogate, it has to be Betty’s Café Tea Rooms. The elegant European design and dainty Swiss pastries have been the perfect match for Harrogate’s opulent streets since the early 20th century. And since its 1919 opening, Betty’s has become a full-blown Harrogate institution. 

Sit in the window and watch life drift past in Montpellier Gardens while tucking into a poached salmon sandwich and a speciality tea.

Timberlake’s Bistro is known for its attention to detail. Its extensive menu includes tiger prawn and saffron risotto, beef casserole and sticky toffee pudding, and it’s happy to cater for people with special dietary requirements.

If you’re looking for a cosy lunchtime pub with good old-fashioned Yorkshire hospitality, you can’t beat the Coach and Horses, which overlooks The Stray. Pop in for a fish butty, pork pie, peas and pickles or a delicious chicken curry.

Hidden Harrogate

Royal Pump Rooms Museum: Here you can discover Harrogate’s spa town history and marvel at the oldest sulphur wells in Europe. You can also learn about the town’s shops of yesteryear, as well as a collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

Royal Hall: A stunning Edwardian theatre built in 1903, at the Royal Hall you can admire fabulous architecture as you take in some culture. Moscow Ballet is performing The Nutcracker on 18 November, while Only Men Allowed will be hitting the high notes on 1 December.

Grove House: Open to the public all year round, this stately home is set in attractive surroundings. The great hall will give you an insight into the history of the building, while the dining room has wonderful views of the gardens.

Enjoy your trip to Harrogate.