Top 5 Afternoon Tea Experiences in London
Yes, your grandma approves of this list
Afternoon Tea is the most quintessential of English traditions. This tea-related ritual is a delicious meal composed of sandwiches (cut delicately into ‘fingers’), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes. It evolved as a mini meal to stem the hunger and anticipation of an evening meal at 8pm and it has become the way of never making it to dinner.
Whilst the custom of drinking tea dates back to the 1660s (it was made popular by the Portuguese Catherine de Braganza, wife of King Charles II), Afternoon tea as we know it was introduced in England by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford, in the year 1840. Since then, afternoon tea has been associated with royalty and the upper classes.
London’s hotels, restaurants and cafés have been perfecting the spread and nowadays you’ll find plenty of great options to treat yourself — none of them cheap we must say. So if you’re splashing the cash on this experience, you might as well enjoy the crème de la crème.
Afternoon tea is an indulgent and delightfully decadent experience, best enjoyed with the kind of people who make you laugh for hours.
“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
We’ve compiled a list of the very top 5 places in London to enjoy the classiest, most reputed afternoon teas within the most beautiful of surroundings. Locations that have passed the test of time and that your grandmama would approve of. In fact, you shouldn’t try any other places until you’ve completed this list 😌
Ps. When you do, check page 301 📕 of our London Guide for the next options.
For more inspiration, get your Architectour Guide of London
1. The Ritz
The Ritz, a sumptuous palace of a building designed by Charles Mewès in 1905, is one of the world’s most prestigious and best known hotels. The Palm Court, an opulently decorated cream-coloured Louis XVI setting, is where afternoon tea takes place. It is by far the most glamorous, traditional and elegant experience of this list and the one you should try first. More on page 301 📕.
Perfect for: the most traditional Afternoon Tea seeker.
Claridge’s on Brook Street is one of London’s best known luxury hotels. It was constructed in the 1890s and debuted with 203 rooms. Royalty has long been associated with Claridge’s — Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s regular visits, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh’s ruby wedding party, and Charles and Diana’s wedding reception. Service at Claridge’s is impeccable, the menu is rich (and we’ve recently spotted surprisingly healthy additions like smoothies) and the atmosphere is grand, even grander during Christmas time. More on page 301 📕.
Perfect for: people who love history and are picky with their teas.
3. The Wolseley
The Wolseley is a gem of a building and it’s perhaps the best option of the list if you’re after the space — it’s unique. William Curtis Green, also architect of the five-star Dorchester Hotel, designed this building in 1921 as the Wolseley Motors car salesroom. In fact, the monochrome geometric floor is still as it was then. Afternoon tea proves to be traditional, generous and delicious and service is always friendly. More on page 301 📕.
Perfect for: the architecture lover.
4. The Savoy
The Savoy’s afternoon tea is the most expensive of this list (and perhaps of London too?). The Savoy was the first luxury hotel in Britain, in fact the first hotel that introduced electric lights, electric lifts, bathrooms in most of the rooms, constant hot and cold running water and many other innovations. The price is definitely outrageous without being better than others in this list. However, there’s one thing about The Savoy that beats the others: the atmosphere. Coming here is like being in a film surrounded by constant action, music and what seems like a rehearsed movie plot. It’s so much fun.
Perfect for: having a fun experience.
Squashy pink velvet sofas, a show-stopping cake stand and quirky tableware for afternoon tea at Sketch makes for an imaginative and fun twist. It’s not hard to see why it has hit cult status. And everything has become Insta-famous at Sketch, even the bathrooms! But despite the (AMAZING!) interiors, the food, its presentation and delivery is a 10 out of 10. Many restaurants have tried to do things ‘with a twist’ and failed, but not Sketch. It is often said that Picasso first mastered the techniques of the academic tradition before creating his unique style. Well then, we might also say Sketch is the Picasso of the afternoon teas in London. More on page 302 📕.
Perfect for: a creative and pretentious evening (is afternoon tea pretentious? Who said that?)