It was in 1840 that the Duchess of Bedford shared her guilty secret of enjoying tea and snacks a few hours before dinner, setting a trend that would evolve to become a national tradition complete with a new set of afternoon tea etiquette rules. Today, afternoon tea in London enjoys celebratory status. Flutes of Champagne and pretty pastries are a given, while exotic nibbles and potent cocktails mean that what now constitutes this most genteel of refreshments might well shock the Duchess of Bedford. We’ve sat down to countless cups of tea, finger sandwiches, scones and macarons to bring you our editors’ reviews of the best afternoon teas in London – from the traditional spreads to the modern interpretations that roll on into evening drinks.
How we choose the best afternoon tea in London
Every afternoon tea spot on this list has been selected independently by our editors and written by a Condé Nast Traveller journalist who knows the destination and has eaten at that afternoon tea. When choosing London afternoon teas, our editors consider both high-end and affordable options that offer an authentic and insider experience of a destination. We're always looking for stand-out dishes, a great location and warm service – as well as serious sustainability credentials. We update this list regularly as new afternoon teas open and existing ones evolve.
What is the best time for afternoon tea in London?
While traditionalists are more inclined to aim for a 3pm or 4pm sitting, some high teas in London are so extensive (think multi-course platters and unlimited sandwiches) that lunch can be skipped altogether, and a 12pm or 1pm booking is just fine. Always check the serving times as some of London's best restaurants and most elegant hotels may squeeze afternoon tea in between lunch and supper – whereas for other venues it may be the busiest time of the day.
Best afternoon teas in London at a glance
- Best for classic afternoon tea: The Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason, from £70
- Best for royalists and traditionalists: Afternoon tea at The Goring Hotel, from £60
- Best for a taste of London: Afternoon tea at The Wolseley, from £36
- Best for fashion fans: Prêt-à-Portea at The Berkeley, from £80
- Best for old-school glitz: Afternoon tea at The Ritz London, from £67
- Best for a French flair: Cédric Grolet's Goûtea at The Berkeley, from £85
- Best for timeless elegance: Afternoon tea at The Lanesborough, from £68
- Best for affordable treats in an iconic setting: Afternoon tea at the British Museum, from £24
- Best for views of the London skyline: Afternoon tea at Oblix West in The Shard, from £49
- Best for tea connoisseurs: Afternoon tea at Claridge's, from £75