Considering a weekend in Harrogate? Look no further, this guide is all you need.
Harrogate is a charming Victorian spa town located in North Yorkshire. If you love beautiful architecture, historic sites and unique shops and eateries, Harrogate is an ideal getaway for you.
My husband and I spent a weekend in Harrogate celebrating my birthday. We fell in love with this quaint town and can’t wait to go back.
This comprehensive two-day Harrogate itinerary will help you to maximise your time and see the town’s highlights. You will spend the first day learning about Harrogate’s past and visiting its most famous historic attractions, including the Royal Pump Room Museum.
The second day will offer a more relaxing experience. You will get to immerse yourself in the tranquillity of a historic spa and indulge in an exquisite afternoon tea experience at Bettys.
Without further ado, let’s delve into the nitty-gritty of this Harrogate itinerary.
Weekend in Harrogate Itinerary: Day 1
I recommend arriving in Harrogate on Friday night to ensure that you can enjoy the whole of Saturday there.
10.30am – Free Guided Tour with Harry
Embark on this free walking tour for an engaging introduction to Harrogate’s key attractions and fascinating history – a cultural icon in its own right.
Harry, the guide, offers a wealth of knowledge delivered in a fun, engaging manner. His infectious passion for the town and its inhabitants will likely spark a similar sentiment in you. It’s hard not to be charmed by Harrogate after this tour.
When I travelled to Harrogate, I didn’t really know much about it. The tour helped me learn about why the town developed in the way it did and the stories behind its many elegant facades. I also got to spot other interesting places to visit later including independent shops and cafes.
The tour starts at the War Memorial located on Parliament Street, opposite Bettys Tea Rooms. It lasts approximately 90 minutes and is suitable for all fitness levels. Tipping is not obligatory at the end, but if you enjoyed the tour, it’s a nice gesture to tip an amount you deem fitting.
12.00pm – Mercer Art Gallery
After getting to know Harrogate, make your way to the Mercer Art Gallery located on Swan Road. Harry will introduce you to this spot as part of the walking tour.
The beautiful period building that houses the gallery once served as a social space for spa visitors. Today, it is home to one of the most dynamic art spaces in Yorkshire.
Exhibitions at the Mercer Art Gallery change regularly, featuring everything from 19th-century fine art to provocative contemporary pieces. I would recommend checking what’s on before your visit.
During our visit, the gallery was showcasing works by Turner Prize-winning artist, Martin Creed. While not necessarily to my personal taste, his work certainly challenged my views on art.
I also recommend checking out the shop at the Gallery. Although small, it is a treasure trove of beautiful prints, cards and books that can serve as unique souvenirs from your Harrogate trip.
1.00pm – Lunch
Head over to the Montpellier Quarter, a stone’s throw away from the Mercer Art Gallery, to recharge and refuel. Renowned for its superb restaurants, bars, and shops, we’ll revisit this area as part of this weekend itinerary.
For a light lunch, head to FIK, a boutique café nestled on Montpellier Gardens. Inspired by Swedish coffee and cake culture, FIK offers a mouth-watering array of open sandwiches on sourdough bread.
Also on offer are a variety of scrumptious homemade pastries, including classic Swedish cinnamon rolls. Don’t worry, you’ll burn the calories later.
2.00pm – Royal Pump Room Museum
Let’s continue exploring Harrogate’s fascinating past. The next stop is the Royal Pump Room Museum, just a short stroll from FIK.
Discover what life in Harrogate was like at the height of its fame as a renowned spa town. Explore the stories of various individuals, from European nobility to everyday spa workers, who left a mark on the town’s history.
The museum is housed in a building constructed in 1842 and functioned as a spa water pump house. Wealthy visitors would congregate here to socialise and take the renowned sulphur water, famed for its alleged medicinal properties.
Outside the museum, a sulphur water tap remains. It was originally offered to the less privileged so they could take advantage of the ‘medicinal’ waters without charge. Although the tap remains functional today, consuming the sulphur water is not recommended.
3.00pm – Part 2 of Free Guided Tour with Harry
While two walking tours in one day might seem daunting, I assure you it’s worth it. On Saturdays, Harry offers a second part of his Harrogate walking tour at 3.00 pm.
While the morning tour is more focused on the architectural highlights and key historic events, the afternoon tour showcases the stories of the people of Harrogate. The tales behind local brand names, memorials and heritage plaques will come to life as part of this experience.
From successful entrepreneurs and Russian royalty to war heroes and great medical minds, Harrogate has had a fair share of fascinating residents and visitors. Unfortunately, not everyone had a happy ending, but knowing these adds a personal dimension to your Harrogate experience.
The starting point for Part Two is the same one as for the morning tour (War Memorial opposite Bettys Tea Rooms). Again, tipping is not obligatory but is appreciated.
5.00pm – Drink at the Pub
At first glance, visiting The Winter Gardens, Harrogate’s Wetherspoons, may seem like an odd recommendation, but it’s more about the aesthetics than the drinks.
Located on Parliament Street, this Wetherspoons is easily one of the prettiest in the country. It occupies a section of the former Royal Baths that used to be a place for visitors to relax amid greenery and shelter from unpredictable weather.
Once you’ve taken in the beautiful architecture, it’s time to get a proper drink. I suggest going to the nearby Hales Bar, the oldest pub in Harrogate and part of the Montpellier Quarter. Enjoy a traditional atmosphere and period features such as Victorian gas lighting while sipping on your favourite tipple.
7.00pm – Dinner at Montpellier Quarter
Wrap up the day of sightseeing with a sumptuous dinner at the Montpellier Quarter. The area is home to a great range of independent eateries, from sophisticated bistros to cosy gastropubs.
I recommend booking a table at FISK, a stylish establishment offering a creative menu that combines delicious seafood and pan-Asian flavours. Chef patron Kanyana Williams is originally from Bangkok and brings her wealth of international experience to the heart of Harrogate.
My husband and I celebrated my birthday at FISK and we thoroughly enjoyed our experience. Just a word of advice – if you’re considering the seafood platter, come with an appetite. Its size is not for the faint-hearted.
Weekend in Harrogate Itinerary: Day 2
The second day of this Harrogate itinerary will reveal the town’s more serene and indulging side.
9.30am – Valley Gardens
Once you’ve enjoyed breakfast, either at your hotel or at one of Harrogate’s excellent cafes, head back to the beautiful Valley Gardens. You would have got a glimpse of this area during yesterday’s free walking tour, but it certainly deserves another visit.
Valley Gardens, an English Heritage Grade-II listed park, spreads across 17 acres and features a delightful mix of themed gardens, remarkable floral arrangements, historic architecture, and open-air game spaces.
If you’re in need of a break, drop by the Magnesia Well Café, nestled in an elegant pavilion. Be sure to treat yourself to a scoop (or two) of the delightful Ripley ice cream while you’re there.
11.00am – Shopping
Take some time to browse Harrogate’s eclectic mix of shops, which offer everything from antiques and artisan foods to fashion. The Montpellier Quarter houses a variety of unique boutiques. Despite some being closed on Sundays, there are still many great places to explore.
Check out the Olde Sweet Shop on Montpellier Parade. This retro sweet emporium offers a range of traditional sweets including the iconic Farrah’s of Harrogate toffee. Allegedly a favourite of the late Queen Elizabeth II, this brand has been around since 1840.
For antique enthusiasts, a visit to the Montpellier Mews Antique Market is a must. This marketplace is filled with independent antique dealers, offering a wide range of fine art, ceramics, glass and jewellery.
Outside of the Montpellier Quarter, another shopping hub is the area surrounding Cambridge Street and James Street. This district is dominated by British and international chain stores. However, you’ll also find a scattering of unique independent shops around there.
12.00pm – Lunch
After lunch, the plan is to visit Harrogate’s iconic Turkish Baths. To have the best experience there, I would recommend having a light lunch.
If you end up shopping in the Montpellier Quarter, consider stopping at the delightful Jenny’s Tea Shop. This charming establishment presents a delectable lunch menu along with homemade cakes.
If you are in the Cambridge Street area, check out the Nomad Cafe and Deli on Beulah Street. Here, you’ll find an assortment of delightful Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
1.30pm – Turkish Baths
For our next activity, let’s indulge in a relaxing afternoon at the Turkish Baths. This period spa experience alone is worth a trip to Harrogate.
These baths are the most fully restored Victorian Turkish Baths in the country. The design brings together traditional Moorish elements with a stunning tilework, elegant Islamic arches, and terrazzo flooring. Despite the authentic historical feel, the baths also offer contemporary facilities and treatments.
For a classic Victorian spa experience, choose the traditional Turkish Baths session. This 90-minute ritual, which consists of alternating between hot and cold environments, helps improve circulation and encourages deep relaxation. You can also enhance this experience with additional treatments such as massages and manicures.
You will move though the heating chambers with varying temperatures and then cool down in the plunge pool. The temperature changes promote better circulation and relaxation. You can complement this experience with other treatments such as massages and manicures.
Pricing for a Turkish Baths session starts from £25 (approx. 32 USD) per person, with extra charges for additional treatments. Remember to secure your spot in advance via the Turkish Baths website.
4.30pm – Afternoon Tea at Bettys
Complete your incredible weekend in Harrogate with an exquisite afternoon tea at Bettys Tearooms.
Bettys, a Yorkshire institution, has been a purveyor of fine pâtisserie and other delightful treats for over a century. While they have locations throughout Yorkshire, Harrogate is where the very first Bettys café was born.
For the ultimate experience, book a table at the beautiful Imperial Room. This elegant space, adorned with period features and accompanied by live piano music, provides the perfect backdrop for enjoying a traditional afternoon tea.
Bettys’ afternoon tea menu varies with the seasons, but typically includes a selection of scrumptious sandwiches, delicate cakes, and fluffy scones, all complemented by an excellent selection of teas. Both teas and cakes are refillable, ensuring you won’t leave with room to spare.
Please note that the ground floor café and shop close at 5pm. However, the Imperial Room remains open later, making a bookable afternoon tea the ideal option if you’re following the timings in this itinerary. You can book your table on the Bettys website.
If you prefer not to book in advance, I recommend visiting Bettys earlier in the day. Also, be prepared to queue as this is a popular spot with locals and visitors alike.
Evening – Home Time
Our journey through Harrogate concludes here. Hope you enjoyed exploring this charming town and are already planning your return visit.
When is the Best Time to Go to Harrogate
Harrogate is a year-round destination with many fun events taking place across the seasons. Given that this weekend itinerary includes several outdoor activities, a visit in late spring or early summer will increase your chances of getting the best weather. July and August are typically the warmest months; however, these coincide with school holidays, leading to the town being more crowded.
How to Get to Harrogate
Train: Harrogate is relatively well-connected to the rest of the UK via its railway station, offering direct trains from major Yorkshire cities like Leeds and York. For those journeying from London, Manchester, or Liverpool, a likely change at Leeds will be necessary.
Coach: Travelling by coach is often the most budget friendly option. There are direct coach services to Harrogate from Leeds. However, travelling from many other towns and cities is likely to require a change along the way.
Car: Accessing Harrogate by car is quite straightforward, with major routes like the A59 and A61 connecting it to various regions across the country. However, be sure to plan your parking in advance, as finding a spot can occasionally prove challenging.
Getting Around Harrogate
Harrogate’s compact town centre is best explored on foot, with all attractions in this weekend in Harrogate itinerary within easy walking distance. Public transport isn’t necessary unless you are venturing beyond the town centre.
Where to Stay in Harrogate
Harrogate boasts a great selection of hotels and B&Bs to suit different budgets and tastes. Many are located right in the heart of the town centre, so you won’t need to worry about travelling far after a long day of sightseeing.
My personal favourites are:
- The Franklin: nestled on a quiet residential street mere steps away from Harrogate’s main attractions, The Franklin is a charming, family-run B&B with oodles of charm and character. The delicious breakfast, served in an elegant dining room adorned with period features, was a particular highlight for my husband and me.
- The West Park Hotel: this luxurious boutique hotel has a modern feel and is overlooking one of Harrogate’s beautiful parklands, The Stray. The hotel features an on-site bar and restaurant where you can indulge in the best of Yorkshire produce.
I hope this weekend in Harrogate itinerary inspires you to start plotting your own trip. With its abundant charm and character, it is an excellent choice for a relaxing getaway.
If you’re planning to explore more of Yorkshire, check out this guide to the incredible things to do in York. This historic city, a haven for history buffs and architecture lovers, promises an unforgettable experience.
For a more modern urban exploration, be sure to check out Leeds. This city, once an industrial powerhouse, has evolved into a vibrant cultural hotspot and shopping destination.
FAQs: Weekend in Harrogate
Absolutely, Harrogate is a charming destination well worth visiting. This small but perfectly formed town offers a great selection of historic attractions, such as the Turkish Baths, which provide a unique historic spa experience. It is also home to a raft of independent shops and eateries. Harrogate also boasts gorgeous green spaces, ideal for leisurely strolls or picturesque picnics.
Indeed, Harrogate is an excellent choice for a weekend getaway. The town offers a raft of fun activities, and given its compact and walkable town centre, it’s quite easy to explore Harrogate’s highlights in just two days.
Deciding between York and Harrogate depends on your preferences. York, rich in history, boasts unique attractions highlighting the UK’s past and a vibrant city atmosphere. Being the smaller of the two, Harrogate offers a more relaxed experience. If you are after a city break, York is ideal. For a laid-back retreat with quaint charm, Harrogate is perfect.
Harrogate is situated in the historic county of Yorkshire in northern England. You will find that some of the historic architectural features in Harrogate’s town centre are reminiscent of those found in Scotland. However, this resemblance primarily stems from popular Georgian design trends rather than any direct connection to Scotland.
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