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Harrogate: 8 amazing things to do

Read about Harrogate, one of the most famous spa cities of the UK!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Harrogate is a lovely small town in Yorkshire which I’ve been lucky to visit a few times. The wells were discovered in the 16th century: there are 88 of them in total some of which are 20000 years old! Harrogate rose to fame in the 18th century as a spa town when its springs rich in sulphur became a place to go for the British noblesse from Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian periods.

Everyone was visiting Harrogate: aristocrats from Europe including Tsarina Alexandra of Russia, Charles Dickens and Agatha Christie.  You can simply walk around examining the pretty historical buildings or learn a bit more about it… 

I had Rudding park hotel as my ultimate destination for my last visit (PR-stay) right before the pandemic started and finally I was inspired by an Istanbul trip to cover it. 

Why Istanbul? Well, Turkish baths is one of the most famous venues of Harrogate. Moreover, this is not the only link connecting Harrogate to Istanbul. Agatha Cristi who wrote her Murder on Orient Express in famous Pera Palace hotel on the north bank of Istanbul hided in Harrogate after her marriage fell apart. 

1.Explore the story of Harrogate in Royal Pump Room Museum

Royal Pump Room Museum is a small but insightful museum of Harrogate as a spa town. Its building dates back to 1842 and used to be a real pump room, a site where people ‘took’ the rich sulphurous water.

Have a look at how ‘taking the waters’ became a fashionable thing for aristocrats looking to improve their health and transform the town! Probably, the benefit of drinking those waters was actually drinking more water (which as we know is quite a healthy habit) and of course no one ever denied the placebo effect of such treatment.

You also can go downstairs and explore the sulphur well for yourself (as a part of guided tour). It used to be served by glass on exactly this spot in the older days – and oh yes, it stinks 🙂

2.Admire the Royal hall

Plush Royal hall is a luxurious venue with a beautiful Beaux-Arts interior built in 1903 after the project of famous architect Frank Marcham. Initially it was called Kursaal (a nod to similar German venues) but was renamed as Royal hall once WWI started to keep the patriotic moods up. It was reopened by then Prince Charles (now King Charles III) in 2008 after an expensive restoration.

3.Stroll around the Montpellier Quarter

Montpellier Quarter is probably the prettiest pedestrianised part of Harrogate framed with historical buildings, galleries, shops and cafes.

4. Have an afternoon tea at Bettys Harrogate 

Betty’s is a must for everyone visiting Yorkshire (Betty’s in York is one of my favourite sites of the whole Britain!)  – and don’t miss the opportunity to visit this iconic tearoom once you’re in Harrogate! The chain was established in 1919 and celebrated its 100 just recently. 

Of course, the afternoon tea in their Imperial Room is what’s recommended the most however they serve other food as well. And as for me, it has more curative power than any sulphurous spring can bring.

5.Walk along the Valley Gardens 

Valley Gardens is the place to go for a picnic or for other activities like outdoor games and concert bands. This site also has the highest number of springs: 36 out of 88 Harrogate mineral wells are located here.

Would you love to see more of Harrogate city parks? There are many green areas around Harrogate. Other garden worth visiting are Horticultural Society’ Harlow Carr and Crescent Gardens, a nice green area in the very centre of Harrogate with beautiful lanterns dating back to the 1890s.

6.Explore the Royal Baths

Royal Baths designed by Baggalley and Bristowe in Moorish style with Islamic architectural elements were opened in 1897 by HRH the Duke of Cambridge. It was the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, by the way! In addition to the baths there were a group of doctors to consult to too.

They were once a gem of Harrogate but unfortunately with time it went into the decline. Now its lavish Turkish interior was revived: but it’s purpose has changed and there’s a Chinese restaurant! The owners brought the pieces of furniture from China, made an expensive restoration worth 1,5mGBP. And inside of it there are still Turkish Baths that serve their original idea (see below).

7. Indulge yourself at Turkish Baths 

Well, some sort of spa experience is a must for Harrogate, I think it’s obvious. One option you have is to visit restored historical Turkish Baths dating back to the end of the 19th century. It has a cold room, steam room, hot room, mud room and a pool. The renovation of the space took place in 2002-2004, and all the interiors including the mosaic floors were refurbished to let their Victorian elegance shine. Read more about the Turkish hammam experience in Istanbul! 


Stay at Rudding park 

I was lucky to be invited to the Rudding park to explore the best of the best of the Harrogate springs. It’s a modern and pretty hotel with a few restaurants (Clocktower Bar, Orto restaurant and Rudding house), 18 hole Hawtree and the 6 hole Repton Short Golf Courses.

Our stylish room overlooked the green spacious gardens and had a personal sauna inside.

For instance, we had a very lovely dinner there.

But the main feature of it is of course the spa complex with natural spring waters. Roof Top spa and garden is really a place you can spend the whole day because it has a wide variety of activities including open Infinity pool, panoramic sauna, a few steam rooms, foot spa, sundeck and light therapy room. I was most probably mostly impressed by the shower experience with changing lights, various music and water pressure regimes.

What else to see in Harrogate?

There are many other things you can explore around this city! Memorial is a stone obelisk unveiled in 1923 commemorating initially the WWI and with time WWII and other war conflicts by the plagues with names on them. St Peter’s Church is a parish church with the beautiful tower of Harrogate erected in 1870. The Hales Bar, the oldest pub of Harrogate, dates to 1827.

You might also like my other blogs about England:

Hope you liked me blog,
Yours, Anna

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