Discovering Harrogate, the original wellness destination

Retaining the elegance and charm of a bygone era, Harrogate has plenty to see and do for visitors.

The northern English spa town of Harrogate has been a much visited tourist hub for centuries.  Located in the heart of North Yorkshire, the area has long been a favoured destination for those in search of rest and relaxation and was championing health and restorative getaways before the concept of ‘wellness breaks’ was even a thing.

It was late in the 16th century when it was found that water from the Tewit Well in High Harrogate possessed similar properties to that from springs in Spa, the eponymous Belgian town. And so began interest in Harrogate as a leisure destination, as over the following centuries it attracted the wealthy and leisured upper-classes, seeking out the supposed medicinal properties of the waters in search of all sorts of ailments from scurvy and epilepsy to eczema and rickets. 

The town’s popularity continued to grow and by the late 19th century, it had developed into an elegant spa destination with a vibrant social scene. Pump rooms, grand hotels, assembly rooms, shops and theatres sprung up in response the town’s popularity with visitors seeking the restorative powers of the mineral waters. The opulent Royal Baths opened in 1897, and by then, the town was frequented by the great and the good of English society, as well as esteemed visitors such as Charles Dickens and Tsarina Alexandra of Russia. It had well and truly established itself as one of the most sought-after spa towns in Europe.

These days, the town has evolved to become one of Northern England’s premier leisure destinations, with the legacy of its spa heritage very much in evidence. Here, are some of our must-see attractions in this picturesque Yorkshire town.

Royal Pump Room Museum

The Royal Pump Rooms date back to 1842 when it was built to provide shelter for those who came to the town in search of the healing powers of the famous springs. At its peak, during the summer months, the rooms attracted over 15000 visitors, but with the advent of the NHS, the interest in the therapeutic effects of the waters dwindled. Now, visitors to the Pump Rooms come to explore the history of what was once Europe’s most famous spa, attracting the glitterati of European nobility in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Turkish Baths

As a testament to its position as Europe’s premier spa destination, visitors can enjoy the exquisitely restored Victorian Turkish Baths, that provide the perfect opportunity to disconnect from the stresses of modern life. Here you can relax and unwind in the elegantly designed steam room, plunge pool and spa, and admire the restoration works showcasing intricate Moorish design, vibrant glazed brickwork, arabesque painted ceilings and Italian terrazzo floors. This beautiful interior space also offers a wide variety of treatments designed to relax and recharge, as well as an opportunity to find out more about the history of Harrogate and its spa origins. 


Knaresborough Castle
Knaresborough Castle

For the history lover, Harrogate and its surrounding areas will not disappoint. The area is home to several historic castles, all claiming their rightful place in the pages of English history books. Ripley Castle is a Grade I listed 14th-century country house located less than 3 miles from Harrogate. Home to the Ingilby family for over 700 years, the castle has welcomed kings and queens, witnessed clandestine affairs, and even played a part in the English Civil War. Visitors can delve into its rich and sometimes gruesome history with a guided tour or take some time out to wander through and admire the magnificent and serene grounds and gardens. A little further afield are both Knaresborough Castle, once a mighty stronghold of medieval kings, and the remains of Spofforth Castle, reputedly the site where the original Magna Carta was drawn up in 1215.

Montpellier Quarter

Located in the heart of Harrogate town, Montpellier Quarter was known as the art and antiques centre of the north of England, and is now home to over 50 of the town’s most stylish and sophisticated independent shops and popular restaurants. Beautiful examples of carefully restored nineteenth-century architecture, synonymous with the town, line cobbled streets, evoking the elegant charm of the Victorian era. Behind the elegant facades lie art galleries, antique shops, fashionable boutiques, and stylish cafes. It’s a great area to while away a few hours.

Betty’s Tearooms

Betty's Tea Rooms

A true Harrogate icon. For over 100 years, Betty’s Tea Rooms have attracted visitors, who are prepared to queue around the block to sample some of the mouthwatering delicacies on offer. This family-run business prides itself on the warmest of Yorkshire welcomes, as well as offering its customers an irresistible selection of cakes, chocolates and sweet treats. Book in advance or come prepared to get in line if you are looking to sample the legendary afternoon teas, elegantly served as if it was 1912, complete with a silver cake stand and staff in period costumes. 

Brimham Rocks

While much of Harrogate’s charm lies in how it has carefully preserved its places of historical significance, you would be hard-pushed to find an attraction that can compete historically with Brimham Rocks. Managed by the National Trust, these quirky 30-foot high rock formations were formed a staggering 320 million years ago. Visitors are free to explore the site and explore the intriguingly named ‘Dancing Bear’, ‘Eagle’ and ‘Turtle’ which are just some of the formations that have been sculpted having been subjected to millions of years of rain, ice and wind. Bring your walking shoes – a tour of the park takes approximately four hours. Naturalists, climbers, walkers and families alike will love the freedom of exploring and taking in the scenery of this unique site.

RHS Harlow Carr

As befits a spa town, much of Harrogate’s activities revolve around more peaceful and relaxing pursuits and the RHS Harlow Carr is no exception. These magnificent 58-acre gardens are a showcase of horticultural excellence. They have been thoughtfully designed to reflect the varied nature of the local terrain with growing landscapes that include woodland and wildflower meadows. There are also plenty of activities for younger visitors, including a treehouse and children’s playground, making it ideal for a family day out.

Experience the luxurious country house hotel

Rudding Park

Harrogate, United Kingdom