Pretty much slap bang in the middle of Yorkshire is this Victorian spa town with fine architecture and glorious open spaces. It is also right on the doorstep of the steep-sided valleys and high moorlands of the Yorkshire Dales. But it is the call of a hot steamy Turkish bath that is a must. Of all the things to do in Harrogate, this has to be one of them.
Between 1880 and World War I, Harrogate was the north's leading spa town, with nearly 90 medicinal springs. The medicinal quality of the waters, containing iron, sulphur and salt, were first discovered as far back as 1571 and those in the know started bathing there during the 17th and 18th centuries. The iron especially was prized and many wealthy but ill people came to the town to partake in the waters in the hope of a cure. It became known as 'The English Spa' and was one of the great Harrogate attractions, with the rich drinking the water inside the octagonal building, now called the Royal Pump Room Museum and the poor able to use the pump outside.
The naturally welling spa waters may no longer be in use but the strong sulphur waters can still be tasted. And there's always that Turkish bath, one of the Harrogate activities to savour, at the Royal Bath Assembly Rooms. Built in 1897 and restored in 2004, inside the steamy interior is a visual feast of tiles from the Victorian era. Two of the old wells are situated at the Royal Pump Room Museum and in the Valley Gardens. The site of the first well to be discovered, Tewitt Well, is marked by a dome in The Stray.
Whilst staying here, one of the things to do in Harrogate is take a stroll through The Stray. This stretch of common ground, south of the centre, covers 200 acres of multi-coloured flower beds, towering trees and wide expanses of grass, ideal for kite-flying, kicking a ball and picnicking. On a balmy day or evening, it is where a lot of people spend their time taking part in Harrogate activities. During the summer, one of the popular things to do in Harrogate is attend the annual funfair that comes there twice a year.
Other events in the town throughout the year include the Winter Antique and Fine Art Fair in January, the International Youth Music Festival in April and Party in the Park in July, where live bands converge on Valley Gardens to play their hearts out.
For one of the more sedate things to do in Harrogate, a wander around the Montpellier Quarter is a must where you can find sought-after antiques or unusual gifts. It is also the area with the liveliest nightlife, so after an evening out you can make your way back to your Harrogate accommodation. Being a popular spa town, there are plenty of places to stay, from luxury B&Bs complete with four poster beds to lodges close to the city centre. Harrogate accommodation is in such abundance, you will be spoilt for choice.
It was the lucky place to be for the two people who were metal detecting back in 2007. They discovered what became known as the Harrogate Hoard, a find of over 700 Viking coins and objects from the 10th century that at the time was said to be the most significant discovery for 150 years. The treasure is now housed in a museum in York.
Even though you can't see those nearby, there is the Mercer Art Gallery that stands out as one of the great Harrogate attractions. With over 2,000 works of 19th and 20th century art, there will be something for everyone to enjoy from Sir Edward Burne-Jones to Dame Laura Knight. It's one of the best things to do in Harrogate so don't pass it by.