The gorgeous town of Harrogate in North Yorkshire, England, is best known for its elegant architecture, picturesque surroundings and therapeutic spa waters - but it’s also jam-packed with fun things to do.
Whether you plan on spending a day, a week or the rest of your life in Harrogate, rest assured that there’s something for everyone to do - rain or shine.
Below you’ll find 25+ fantastic things to do in Harrogate, including free activities, things to do in Harrogate when it’s raining and what to get up to in the city centre. Let’s dive in!
Best things to do in Harrogate
Our top selection of the best things to do in Harrogate - whatever your age, interests or hobbies!
1. Explore Harrogate’s Quirks by Playing an Outdoor Escape-Room Game
Starting our guide to the best things to do in Harrogate, the Peek Into The Past trail curated by CityDays takes willing explorers around Harrogate’s streets; its history, monuments, secret nooks and hidden gems included.
Players of the Peek Into The Past trail complete the game by solving clues, untangling riddles and interacting with their surroundings.
A unique opportunity to absorb the history of Harrogate and take breaks in hand-picked pubs and cafés along the way, this inimitable adventure is one that everyone can enjoy.
2. Visit the Famous Turkish Baths
Immerse yourself in Britain’s best fully-restored Victorian Turkish Baths. Relax, rejuvenate and soak in the healing waters of Harrogate. While only 7 baths remain which date back to the 19th century, their importance lies in their decoration, elaboration and rarity.
The baths feature Moorish design, Islamic arches and screens, vibrant glazed brick walls, arabesque painted ceilings and terrazzo floors.
“A Turkish Baths ritual is the journey of heating, cooling and cleansing the body, promoting a sense of relation and a clear mind.”
3. Relax at The Parliament-Protected Stray
Often cited as one of Harrogate’s best known landmarks, the Stray is 200 acres of grassland that wraps around the southern half of the town centre.
Protected by an act of Parliament, the Stray is a sprawling area of grassland that belongs to the public’s imagination.
Ideal for picnics, ball games, or admiring the gorgeous cherry blossom trees in the springtime, the Stray is the ideal venue for spending a lazy or active afternoon - whichever you prefer.
4. Visit The Pump Room Museum
For three years running, Harrogate was considered the happiest place to live in Britain. Could it be something in the water?
Once upon a time, over 15,000 people used to visit the town each summer to ‘take the waters’ of healing Harrogate.
People would ‘take the waters’ for all kinds of ailments, but its popularity diminished after the Second World War and the creation of the National Health Service. In 1953 the Royal Pump Room was reopened as a museum.
Insider Tip: On the side of the Pump Room is an old water fountain (now with a don’t drink sign) that people used to come and ‘take the waters’ from. The tap still expels sulphuric water, known for its distinct, eggy smell.
Free Things to Do in Harrogate
Some free things you can do in Harrogate that cost absolutely nothing at all.
5. Stroll Around Albert Terrace Gardens
Tucked away just off a busy street are the gardens of Albert Terrace. A quintessential Victorian street, the houses on Albert Terrace are the embodiment of opulent, 19th century grandeur.
The lucky Albert Terrace homeowners of today live just a stone’s throw away from the gorgeous square gardens where visitors and residents alike can take a break, relax and watch the world go by.
Keep an eye out for the raised plant bed filled with various herbs, each labelled in braille.
6. View the Tour de France Tree Carving and Stain-Glass Window
In 2014, the legendary cycling race of Tour de France celebrated its 101st edition.
The Tour started in Yorkshire with two stages, the first from Leeds to Harrogate (190.5 km / 118 miles) and the second from York to Sheffield (201 km / 124 m). The first two stages were informally nicknamed “Le Tour de Yorkshire” and the success that followed the routes led to the formation of the Tour de Yorkshire cycling race.
Just up the hill from the chainsaw carving is a stained-glass window which also pays tribute to the race.
7. Go For a Picnic in Crescent Gardens
Right beside the former headquarters of Harrogate Borough Council, Crescent Gardens offers a verdant, sweet-smelling spot to admire nature’s bounty.
If you’re looking for things to do in Harrogate that invoke a bit of romance - this is the place. The beautifully-kept rosebeds which surround the sculpture of Cupid & Psyche, created in 1861 by Italian artist Giovanni Mar are an ideal backdrop to any date, and the plentiful benches in the area mean you don’t even have to bring a picnic blanket.
8. Explore Harrogate’s Carnegie Library
Our list of free things to do in Harrogate wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Harrogate’s incredible library.
Harrogate Library was actually part of a much bigger ‘municipal palace’ project, funded by the beneficent Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish-American businessman. Designed by Henry T Hare and opened in 1906, Harrogate Library is just one of 2509 Carnegie libraries built between 1883 and 1929.
Psst: Free group meetings are also regularly held here, such as English language classes, coffee and conversation, games groups, crafty ladies and code club.
9. Explore The Nearly-One-Hundred-Acre-Wood of Pinewoods
Just 1 km from Harrogate town centre lies approximately 96 acres of semi-natural woodland, aptly-named Pinewoods.
This gloriously green space caters for all - walkers, wheelchair users and pram pushers are all welcome to follow the delightful footpath that winds through the entirety of the woods.
Insider Tip: Looking for things to do in Harrogate on a sleepy, summer afternoon?
Start at the entrance of Valley Gardens, walking steadily uphill. Continue through the woods and cross the road leading to the second part of the woodland. Enjoy fantastic views of the countryside and finish at Betty’s Tearoom at Harlow Carr for a well-earned drink and cake.
10. Enjoy a Circular Walk Around Swinsty and Fewston Reservoir
As much as we love urban life, an injection of fresh countryside air never did anybody harm.
This circular trail slightly west of Harrogate is just under 11 kilometres in length and is rated as a moderately challenging route. Taking just under 3 hours to complete on average, the walk takes in some incredible views as well as offering a chance to get some exercise!
The area is also popular with cyclists and horse riders, as well as nature enthusiasts - perfect for birdwatchers.
Find out more here.
Things to Do in Harrogate City Centre
Here are some options if you find yourself looking for things to do in Harrogate city centre.
11. Let Loose in Valley Gardens
Valley Gardens is far more than just a green oasis. It’s a place steeped in history, packed with activities and plenty of things to do in Harrogate.
Located in grandiose Low Harrogate, Valley Gardens is an English Heritage Grade II listed space that covers 17 acres. Valley Gardens contain more mineral springs than any other known place; head to the area known as Bogs Field (near the wishing well) to see where 36 mineral wells were discovered.
If you have little ones with you (or just fancy being a big kid yourself), make the most of the wide variety of outdoor games available at Valley Gardens, including tennis courts, a pitch and putt golf course, crazy golf, boating pool, paddling pool and children’s play area.
The gardens are open all year round, 24 hours a day. During the summer months bands play each Sunday afternoon in the band stand.
12. Pay a Visit to The Fat Badger
Although the Fat Badger only opened its doors in 2010, this fantastic pub in Harrogate has managed to capture the essence of a quintessentially old-fashioned British pub. It’s so successful, in fact, that a sister pub bearing the same name opened a few years later in the historic city of York!
Of course, it helps that the premises of the Fat Badger is located in a glamorous Georgian building in the Montpellier Quarter of Harrogate - but its extensive food and drinks menu is thoroughly modern, offering its patrons hearty portions and top-notch beverages.
Head here for unbelievable décor, delicious food and drinks - the perfect spot to recharge your batteries after exploring Harrogate.
13. Catch a Show at Royal Hall Theatre
Looking for things to do in Harrogate that has something for everyone? Head to Royal Hall Theatre.
The grade II Edwardian performance hall is located just on the outskirts of the town centre, an easy walking distance from other Harrogate landmarks and attractions. With a 950 seat capacity and jaw-dropping décor, this is one of the best ways to experience theatrical splendour at its very best.
Royal Hall Theatre was reopened in 2008 by the then Prince of Wales (now King Charles III) after an £8 million restoration. Check out their programme of live events before you visit here.
14. Visit Harrogate’s Oldest Pub: Hales Bar
After the discovery and establishment of sulphur wells in the city, posh people from all over the UK started turning up in Harrogate to receive spa treatments for their various ailments.
Those people needed somewhere to stay - and the first place they went was Hales Bar.
As the oldest and most historic pub in Harrogate, Hales Bar is at the top of any visitors' must-see list. The main lounge bar still has original features and fittings from the Victorian era (including gas lighting and cigar lighters!) and sulphur springs still flow underneath the cellar.
If you happen to visit Harrogate on a beautiful summer’s day, head to the back of the premises to enjoy the ‘secret’ garden where you can sip your drink surrounded by verdant flower displays.
15. Experience Incredible Art at Mercer Art Gallery
Looking for things to do in Harrogate that invoke some creativity? Look no further!
Home to some 2000 works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries, Mercer Art Gallery is the ideal place to wile away a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the town.
The gallery’s name came from the watercolour artist Sidney Agnew Mercer, who lived in Yorkshire for most of his life. His sons pledged £50,000 towards the new art gallery so that generations to come could see art up close.
16. Meet Alice at Harrogate Theatre
Yet another addition to Harrogate’s flourishing arts scene, Harrogate Theatre is home to all manner of popular shows, festivals and tours.
Harrogate Theatre is a fully restored, late Victorian theatre that has a seating capacity of 500. Shows run throughout the year, including Shakespeare, pantomimes, stand up comedy shows and much, much more.
But even if theatre isn’t really your bag, there’s still plenty to see and do in Harrogate theatre. Occasionally, the theatre opens its doors offering a cream tea tour, where visitors are invited to go on stage, backstage and even above the stage to hear the theatre’s history. Budding ghost hunters can also find out about the theatre’s resident ghost, Alice.
Find out what’s on here.
17. Read The Names on Harrogate Cenotaph
The Cenotaph in the centre of Harrogate is a chilling reminder of the sacrifices made by the people of the town who gave their lives during the World Wars.
The monument, which faces Parliament Street and is flanked by Cambridge Road and Cambridge Crescent, has a front facing plaque of three panels, each with three columns containing the names of the 641 people who lost their lives during the First World War.
A further 238 names who died during the First World War can be seen on the rear plaque on the monument, as well as the 314 people who died during the Second World War.
This peaceful but harrowing monument offers a glimpse into the destructive nature of the World Wars and how very recent history shaped Harrogate.
Quirky Things to Do in Harrogate
Harrogate is where CityDays’ story started. We know how many popular things to do in Harrogate there are - but we wanted to highlight the stuff that people often miss as well. Without further ado, here are some quirky things to do in Harrogate!
18. Explore the Restored Japanese Gardens
Built in the 1920s, the Japanese Gardens in Harrogate was a rather late nod to the ‘Japanisme’ craze that had started in Paris in the 1860s.
Over the years, however, the craze slowly died down and the Japanese Gardens of Harrogate were neglected. In January 2017, local volunteers of The Friends of the Valley Gardens lovingly restored the gardens back to their original splendour.
In 2018, the Japanese ambassador to the UK visited Harrogate to officially open the Japanese Garden. Koji Tsuruoka, the ambassador, unveiled a boulder carved with the name of the garden: Shijima no niwa (garden of serenity).
This delightful and serene garden is located slightly uphill from the duck/boating pond, and is well worth a visit if only to marvel at its beauty.
19. Have a Cuppa at Bettys Tea Room
No trip to Harrogate would be complete without visiting the local rags-to-riches legendary hotspot, Bettys Tea Room.
In 1907, Fritz Bützer left Switzerland an orphan, penniless and without a word of English. After a brief spell in Bradford, Yorkshire, Bützer settled down in Harrogate. He changed his name to Frederick Belmont, fell in love and married his landlady’s daughter, Claire Appleton, and together they opened the first Bettys.
Within a few years, Bettys became renowned in Yorkshire for its excellence - both the venue and the cakes. Today, despite its roaring success, Bettys has retained its original charm and remained the place to get the perfect afternoon tea in Harrogate.
20. Mosey Down Montpellier Mews
Reinvigorate your love for a local high street by popping down to the Montpellier Quarter.
Formerly known as the ‘Antiques and Art Centre of the North’, Montpellier Mews is jam-packed with established galleries, antique shops, health and beauty salons, pavement cafés, bars and award-winning restaurants.
An eclectic cluster of independently-owned shops, window shoppers and shopaholics alike will be in heaven as they dip in and out of the very instagrammable storefronts of Montpellier Mews.
Insider Tip: We recently discovered and love Jenny’s Tea Shop in the Montpellier Quarter. Complete with an outdoor seating area and a quintessentially British red phone box tucked beside it, this is an excellent place to catch up over a cuppa and a sweet treat!
21 Bargain Hunt on Beulah Street
Feel as though you’re stepping through to another world as you pass under the arched entrance to Beulah Street, another of Harrogate’s shopping districts.
A blend of independent and chain shops and cafés, Beulah Street contains a lot of charity shops which are perfect for snapping up clothes and books at bargain prices!
The street is also entirely pedestrianised so you can really take your time wandering around without worrying about interfering traffic.
22. Check Out The Army Apprentice’s Sundial
Just opposite Bettys Tea Rooms is an underrated Harrogate monument that often goes unnoticed by casual visitors to the town.
The Army Apprentices Sundial was constructed in 1999 when the Army Apprentices College closed down. Made by the apprentices, the partially circular sundial is made from granite. The Army Apprentices College operated in the borough from 1947 until 1999 and was a parting gift to the town.
Stop and admire the handiwork of a past Harrogate legacy and see if you can tell what time it is!
Things to Do in Harrogate When it Rains
Some handy tips of things to do in Harrogate when it rains - though, of course, you can tick them off your bucket list whatever the weather!
23. Visit The Historic Coach & Horses Pub
When it opened in 1827, ‘The Coach’ was one of eight public houses in the area. At the end of the 19th century the pub had expanded so much it had no fewer than seven external doors at the front!
These days, it’s a cosy, well-run pub on the edge of Tower Street. Expect friendly Yorkshire hospitality, real ales, malt whisky, themed food nights and occasional pub quizzes!
24. Get Lost in Literature at Imagined Things Bookshop
There’s just something about being inside bookshops when it rains, and Imagined Things in Harrogate certainly doesn’t disappoint.
Tucked inside Montpellier Parade, the delightfully blue shopfront that greets you as you enter this veritable feast of literature is just a taste of the fun to come.
Shelves upon shelves of books await you, catering for kids, young adults, fiction and nonfiction lovers alike. They also hold a variety of author events including book signings, so be sure to check out their website before you visit.
Insider Tip: If you do visit Imagined Things bookshop with kids, beware of the bookshop dragon inside… that’s all we’ll say!
25. Take a Sip At Cold Bath Brewery
A relatively new bar/pub in Harrogate, Cold Bath Brewery is located on Kings Road (not Cold Bath, confusingly).
Inside, you’ll find fantastic craft beers made onsite and accompanied by tasty dumplings. A large selection of the beer is brewed onsite with the brewery never ceasing to improve their range!
Cold Bath Brewery gets exceptionally busy on sunny days, so if you’re looking for things to do in Harrogate when it rains, here’s a spot you can almost guarantee to have space for you!
26. Get Some R&R at Majestic Spa
You’d be wrong to assume that Harrogate has let its spa town past die.
Built in 1900, The Majestic Spa is part of the palatial Victorian hotel that bears the same name. The Majestic Spa has a wide range of spa activities, including a gym, fitness studio, an indoor heated swimming pool and thermal experiences, including a Eucalyptus-scented steam room.
If you don’t fancy getting a sweat on with much effort, you can always just make use of the steam rooms, sauna and bathing facilities at your leisure by booking a spa package.
27 View Art at Sutcliffe Contemporary Gallery
When it’s tipping it down outside, there’s no better place to be than in the dry and viewing beautiful art pieces.
Opened in 2005, the Sutcliffe Contemporary Gallery is located in the heart of the Montpellier Quarter where it exhibits a range of contemporary art made by British and European artists.
Sutcliffe Contemporary Gallery also hosts regular solo and group exhibitions, meaning you can get the chance to meet artists and meet like-minded art enthusiasts!
Find out more here.
28. Wash Away Your Worries at Rudding Park Spa
Rudding Park Spa is located just outside of Harrogate - but it’s well-worth the effort it takes to get there.
Spa enthusiasts will adore the wide variety of leisure facilities available at Rudding Park Spa, including a swimming pool, Juniper log sauna, rooftop spa and garden.
What is most exceptional about Rudding Park Spa is that the natural spring water, straight from the grounds at Rudding Park, actually provides the premises with water, meaning you too can soak up the benefits of mineral rich water just like the town’s Georgian forebears!
Find out more here.
Discover More about Harrogate
Discover more about Harrogate the best way - by seeking out its hidden secrets, cultural curios and concealed nooks yourself!
By far the most fun and efficient way to learn about the spa town is by taking on CityDays’ original urban exploration game, A Peek Into The Past.
The best way to discover more things to do in Harrogate is to take your time exploring and, ideally, have a pre-planned route that takes you past all the noteworthy nooks and hidden gems.
We can help you there!
Our trail, A Peek Into The Past, combines the fun of an outdoor treasure hunt with the historical facts and whimsical trivia of a walking tour.
This route will have you solving riddles, untangling puzzles and learning more about Harrogate’s fascinating history in a new and interactive way.
Take the stress out of planning your visit to Harrogate and book your adventure today!
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