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Best Afternoon Teas in London

Nothing could be more quintessentially British than high tea (the inimitable late sovereign Queen Elizabeth II was reported to observe the tradition religiously, with Twinings Earl Grey as her tea of choice)—and no London itinerary is complete without a visit to at least one of the city's best spots for a "cuppa." Whether you’re looking for classic offerings that are steeped in sophisticated tradition or a picture-perfect, see-and-be-seen hotspot, our current short list of the best afternoon teas in London will point you in the right direction.

Related: Why Now is the Time to Return to London: Fall 2022

Iconic Institutions for Afternoon Tea in London

In Westminster: Corinthia London

Housed in a historic Victorian building, this grande dame offers every amenity, including spacious rooms, one of London’s top wellness facilities and multiple dining venues. Afternoon tea is taken in the elegant Crystal Moon Lounge, underneath a Baccarat chandelier and accompanied by live piano. The presentation is a celebration of the individual elements of the tea ceremony—from the antique Champagne trolley to the specially commissioned, hand-painted china by Richard Brendon, the Corinthia London’s own house infusion (prepared by an expert tea sommelier) and a second heritage trolley dedicated to pastries and cakes of the day. Plus: Rumor has it that this is where Beyoncé prefers to take her tea (And her suite of choice? The Royal Penthouse).

In Westminster: The Goring Kate Middleton spent the night before her wedding at this stately boutique hotel near Buckingham Palace—and The Goring is the only hotel to have been awarded a Royal Warrant for hospitality services by Queen Elizabeth II. Served on the airy, floral-inspired Veranda and, on Saturdays, in the Dining Room, the tea service (which earned the "Top London Afternoon Tea Award" from The British Tea Guild Council) is totally classic.

In Mayfair: Claridge's If you want to see and be seen in Mayfair, Claridge’s is your destination. The afternoon tea is so popular that it often sells out months in advance (bookings can be made online). It is served in the delightfully Art Deco, Thierry Despont-designed Foyer and Reading Room, with signature mint green-striped china and a menu curated by tea connoisseur Henrietta Lovell.

In Mayfair: Brown's, A Rocco Forte Hotel Brown's is a mainstay of London life. Alexander Graham Bell placed the first phone call in Britain here, and Rudyard Kipling penned The Jungle Book in the guestrooms. During World War II, a special exit to the bomb shelter had to be built for Churchill, who liked to dine here for lunch. When Sir Rocco Forte’s hotel group took over the hotel, he brought in his stylish sister Olga Polizzi to give a more modern sensibility to the place. Though many of the antique details, including the grand front stairs, were preserved, the most special is the wood-paneled Drawing Room, where afternoon tea is served—it's the alleged favorite spot of Queen Victoria.

In St. James's: The Ritz London Gilded and glamorous, tea at the Ritz is held in the hotel’s former ballroom, on the ground floor. Live music from the resident pianist and harpist sets the tone for the occasion, which presents the chance to feel like you've stepped back in time. It is especially magical at Christmas.

In Covent Garden: The Savoy This grand, historic property serves one of the oldest afternoon teas in London—on since the hotel opened in 1889 (the custom itself was established just a few decades prior, in 1840). Tea is served in the Thames Foyer, around a glass-domed atrium and gazebo, featuring over 30 blends to choose from.

In Soho: Oscar Wilde Lounge at Hotel Café Royal In an ornately mirrored and frescoed room that has entertained every luminary from Oscar Wilde to the Beatles, tea time at the Oscar Wilde Lounge in the Hotel Café Royal is a storied affair that changes with the seasons, while always remaining true to tradition. And if your taste is more sweet than savory, you can opt for the Cakes & Bubbles program, curated by the Michelin-grade chef Albert Adrià.

In Piccadilly: Fortnum & Mason's Diamond Jubilee Tea A landmark in Piccadilly for over 300 years, Fortnum & Mason is England's iconic tea brand. Their Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon is located in the original apartment of the Fortnum family and is today so named to honor the late monarch’s visit in 2012. Expect a cheery, colorful space and a classic menu.

Related: Top Tables: London

Design-Focused Hot Spots for Afternoon Tea in London

In Mayfair: Sketch

This past spring, London's most sought-after reservation for a contemporary take on tea time made a surprising change to the famous bubblegum-pink interiors of its main Gallery space—which were originally only slated to stay for a few years, but have remained since 2014 due to their popularity. The deliciously feminine, Art Deco furnishings and gallery of David Shrigley works have been replaced by a new installation by British-Nigerian artist Yinka Shonibare and a copper and lemon-yellow look designed by Iranian-French architect India Mahdavi. The walls, which are now much less busy, are adorned with hand-painted wooden masks and framed quilts inspired by the African holdings of Spanish painter Pablo Picasso's own collection (in the artist Shonibare's words, these pieces were conceived to channel both European and African influences, to show that "Cultural appropriation can be a two-way street"). The textiles were created by acclaimed Senegalese designer Aissa Dione, with light fixtures by Inès Bressand, who partners with Ghanaian weavers. West African flavors are also present in the new menu.

Near Borough Market: TING and Aqua Shard at The Shard Located in Renzo Piano's landmark The Shard—which was inaugurated in 2012 as the tallest building in the U.K (and resembles a giant shard of glass)—TING and Aqua Shard are two prime places for a modern take on the tea tradition, and both have incredible views to boot. At TING, located in the Shangri-La hotel, guests can enjoy a pink-themed service, with "The Pink Shard" architectural cake being a highlight. At Aqua Shard (located on the 31st floor, with 360-degree, floor-to-ceiling views) currently on offer is a Peter Pan-themed afternoon tea sure to delight children and adults alike, with treats like the "Tinker Bell" biscuit and the "Fairy Dust" cocktail.

In Knightsbridge: Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley This discreet, elegant hotel with exceptional service also has one of the most unique afternoon teas in the city: Prêt-à-Portea features "couture cakes" designed after iconic pieces in fashion, which change every month. The current menu is inspired by the Spring/Summer 2022 shows, paying homage to designers from Lanvin and Gucci to Oscar de la Renta and Yves Saint Laurent. It's the perfect pairing with a day of shopping in one of the world's fashion capitals.

In Knightsbridge: Bulgari London In celebration of the hotel's 10-year anniversary, the Bulgari London afternoon tea is currently featuring a collaboration with the London-based artist Yinka Ilori—bringing sculptural, geometric forms and bold, bright colors to the sexy Bulgari Lounge, where tea is served. Another highlight here are the chocolates, thanks to the chocolatier-in-residence Gianluca Fusto (who is also an acclaimed pastry chef). Guests will find an extensive list of suggested tea, wine and spirit pairings to go with these decadent treasures—as well as a menu inspired by Italian cuisine, for those who prefer to depart from the traditional finger sandwiches and scones.

In Knightsbridge: The Lanesborough If your Netflix queue includes Bridgerton, the Lanesborough is the London location for you. Steps from Hyde Park, this former mansion, now an Oetker Collection property, brings the pastels, pomp and circumstance of the Regency era to an address that counts Buckingham Palace and the Duke of Wellington’s Apsley House as its neighbors (in fact, royals can often be spotted here). The new limited-edition afternoon tea service, only on through November 10, is held in the ornate Withdrawing Room and specifically plays on the Bridgerton theme, having been curated in collaboration with Netflix and Shondaland. Don't miss the pastries dedicated to your favorite Ton personalities—including Lady Whistledown herself.

In Knightsbridge: Holy Carrot Although most of the venues on this list cater to dietary restrictions—with gluten-free and vegetarian modifications available—the top spot for vegans and vegetarians to enjoy afternoon tea is undoubtedly Holy Carrot, a new-age restaurant that launched in 2021 and emphasizes ethically sourced, seasonal, plant-based ingredients (that means no refined sugar or preservatives in your pastries, too). The new tea service, created in collaboration with model and royal family member Lady Amelia Windsor, offers both sweet and savory plates, like mushroom paté on toast and a miso caramel trifle, accompanied by Champagne or a vodka gimlet (or mocktails)—and tea, of course.

In Bloomsbury: The Bloomsbury Hotel The Bloomsbury Hotel takes its inspiration from The Bloomsbury Set, a group of writers and artists including Virginia Woolf who congregated in the Bloomsbury neighborhood in the early 20th century. Afternoon tea here is a colorful affair and can be enjoyed on the floral-bedecked, outdoor Dalloway Terrace or in the more contemporary Coral Room lounge, designed by Martin Brudnizki (with high ceilings, jewel-tone velvet couches, sparkling chandeliers, crackling fireplaces and bright coral walls).

In Covent Garden: The Mirror Room at the Rosewood London Inspired by London's world-class art scene—and usually mimicking the exhibitions that are on that season—afternoon tea at the Rosewood London is served in the glitzy Mirror Room. The current menu from executive pastry chef Mark Perkins is inspired by Salvador Dalí and echoes the "Surrealism Beyond Borders" exhibition which recently concluded at the Tate Modern. Plus: Guests can also explore augmented reality with a special "NFTea" experience.

In Covent Garden: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Afternoon Tea at One Aldwych Taking the (tea) cake for whimsy and fantasy is the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-inspired service at the One Aldwych hotel. Adults will enjoy the Champagne-based "Fizzy Lifting Drinks," while children will remember to mind their manners as they indulge in the "Blue as a blueberry" tart.

Contact your Trip Designer or Indagare, if you are not yet a member, to start planning a trip to London. Our team can match you with the accommodations, reservations and activities that are right for you—including reservations at these venues.

Published onOctober 5, 2022

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