First established as far back as 1399, Harrogate burst into popularity when it’s spring waters – purported to have healing properties – were discovered in 1571. Since then, droves of people have flocked to the town to experience its capabilities as a spa and health hub. The town has even seen royal visitors, hosting Alexandra, the infamous last Empress of Russia, for months as she took the waters. Such was Harrogate’s renown as a place of healing that the Royal Baths were established in 1897 to protect the waters from private buyers. What remains of those Royal Baths is now the Turkish Baths, where visitors can still enjoy spa treatments.
Today Harrogate is a bustling town, popular with an up-market crowd. According to a 2011 census the town has a population of over 75,000. According to estate agents Zoopla, the average value of property in the area is £405,249 as of December 2021, well above the UK average of £269,945.
Harrogate is the home of massive brand Yorkshire Tea, as well as Harrogate Spring bottled water (as one might expect with the town’s history). The town is also home to lots of famous destinations including of course Betty’s Tea Rooms, a renowned Yorkshire purveyor of afternoon tea and sweet treats.
Now a retail hub, Harrogate boasts big name brands on Parliament Street and in the centre of town. Or if smaller shops are of more interest, check out Commercial Street, which houses more than 25 independent shops along its length. Directly across from the bustling Harrogate train station you can find the Victoria Shopping centre, a grand Victorian building housing a mixture of large brands and smaller boutiques. Harrogate is also renowned for its antique scene. Both old-hands in the business and budding new antique enthusiasts can make their way down to the Montpellier Quarter, flush with cobblestone roads, iron street furniture, and plenty of greenery. The area is full of quaint antique shops, charming cafés, and independent boutiques.
Aside from shopping, Harrogate has plenty to justify the 290,000 visitors it greets every year. The 19th century Royal Pump Room museum offers insight into Harrogate’s history as a luxury spa destination, and if you go at the right time of day, you’ll be able to catch a tour that will take you underground to the famous springs and pump which put Harrogate on the map.
For those more artistically-minded, the Mercer art gallery is free to enter and holds a selection of 19th and 20th century pieces, as well as temporary exhibitions. Currently the museum has an exhibition on how Harrogate has been shaped by its legendary waters, featuring work from leading British artists.
The Valley Gardens offer a pleasant attraction for the outdoorsy type. Ranked third of the many things to do in Harrogate on TripAdvisor, the gardens are English Heritage Grade II listed and cover a total of 17 acres. The gardens hold many areas of interest, including the Bogs Field, where 36 different mineral wells have been discovered (the greatest number in any known place). For music lovers, concerts take place on Sunday afternoons throughout the summer at the bandstand, and the variety of paths and foliage mean there’s something to discover with each new trip to the gardens.
Harrogate is as versatile and lively a town as it has ever been, and with such a variety of activities and attractions there is something to please everyone, whether it’s for a first visit or for those who just can’t keep away