Everybody loves a spot of afternoon tea. How could you not? Delicate sandwiches, fine tea and attractive cakes usually served in delectable surroundings, what’s not to like? There is nothing quite so quintessentially English as the Afternoon Tea – a traditional pastime that became fashionable among the English Elite in the mid-1840’s. Despite being uniquely English in its origin, the Afternoon (or High) Tea tradition has spread to all corners of Europe. From uber glamorous hotels to cosy tea shops here are a pick of our favourites…
The Landmark Hotel, London – best for traditional afternoon tea
Naturally, our first stop had to be in the heart of the English capital, London. The Landmark has built a steady tradition of offering a wide selection of English and French pastries, all types of herbal teas and an impressive selection of coffee from all over the globe. Enjoy a glass of Tattinger to really live it up in the beautiful surroundings of the glass atrium where afternoon tea is taken very seriously with a weighty leather-bound menu and authentic, traditional fare.
- The Landmark Hotel, 222 Marylebone Rd, London NW1 6JQ
The Adlon Hotel, Berlin – best for famous guests
Listen to the quiet splashing of the elephant fountain, the gentle piano music and indulge your inner Holly Golightly with the afternoon tea experience at the Adlon Hotel in the German capital. Choose from a delectable coffee range, tempting herbal teas and numerous pastries. Rub shoulders with some of the most famous people on earth in the lobby as the Adlon has counted the Dali Lama, Tom Cruise and U2 as guests. While the cost of these scrumptious delights are likely to burn a hole in your pocket, you will not feel shortchanged as the service is continually rated as among the finest in Europe.
De Bakkerswinkel, Amsterdam – best for low-key
De Bakkerswinkel embraces olde world Dutch elegance, the bakery itself is situated in an old narrow building with an old-style traditional bakery counter loaded with homemade cream cakes, pastries and breads. A more low-key affair, what this afternoon tea experience lacks in glamour it more than makes up for in taste, and the twist in the tale is that soup is offered as a course before an enormous cake platter.
- De Bakkerswinkel, Polonceaukade 1, 1014 DA Amsterdam, Netherlands
The Lodge, Argyll, Scotland – best for romance
Only an hour’s drive from Glasgow is The Lodge which was originally built in 1864. Occupying a truly spectacular position on the banks of Loch Goil this boutique hotel offers a really special place to take afternoon tea. You will be served your traditional afternoon tea complete with homemade chocolate cake in a…tree house. Surrounded by stunning mountains and the atmospheric loch this one is not to be missed by romantic types.
- The Lodge, Loch Goil, Argyll, Scotland PA24 8AE
Atrium Restaurant, Dublin – best for unusual menu
The Westin Hotel’s Atrium Restaurant is located in Dublin’s vibrant city centre surrounded by some of the most famous of the citys landmarks including, government buildings, iconic Grafton Street and Trinity College. The Atrium offers a salubrious respite from the city chaos and has two-afternoon tea menus – ‘A Most Peculiar Afternoon Tea’ where a Gin and Tonic cocktail is served in a teapot- a sort of uniquely Irish take on an English custom while the standard menu (meanings sans alcohol!) offers a vast selection of tasty delicacies, creamy coffees and herbal teas.
- The Westin, 35-39 Westmoreland St, Dublin, Co. Dublin City, Ireland
Dalhousie Castle, Edinburgh – best for medieval style
Definitely one for history fans here you can take afternoon tea in the stylish Orangery of Dalhousie Castle surrounded by the romantic 13th century fortress façade, luxurious furniture and a roaring fire. The menu consists of warm scones, clotted cream, homemade jam- for a Scottish twist add a selection of shortbreads. Soak up the history and pomp of the tradition with a glass of sparkling champagne or a glass of scotch.
- Dalhousie Castle, Bonnyrigg, Midlothian EH19 3JB
Julieshouse, Ghent – best for cosy surroundings
Julies House’s claim to fame is that they were the first Belgian teahouse to serve cupcakes in 2009 and have established themselves as the go-to for all things tea-related. A specialised teahouse with a cozy interior and all kinds of yummy treats to choose from, it is the perfect haven from Ghents busy centre. Meet the vibrant Julie herself who is always on hand with a tasty suggestion but get there early to ensure a table as it is quickly becoming THE place to be!
- Julies House, Ghent, Belgium
Georges V Hotel, Paris – best for glamour
The only place that does afternoon tea better than the English, is France and where better than Georges V Hotel in Paris. This uber-sophisticated joint has a long-standing reputation for exceptional service and an afternoon tea menu that’s not to be missed. Use my tip and take the time to wait for the perfect table next to the pianist to truly embrace the experience. The hotel offers an unequalled offering of traditional English and French pastries, but the ultimate coup de foudre is that they import first-rate Mariage Freres tea and blend it themselves.
- George V Hotel in Paris, 31 Avenue George V 75008 Paris, France
Prague Vltava River Cruise, Prague – best for river views
The river cruise along the Vltava river in Prague runs a regular route throughout the year and no trip to Prague is complete without sampling some traditional Czech desserts while watching its breathtaking monuments sail past. The cabin is heated in winter and air-conditioned in summer to offer maximum comfort and many of the cakes leaving you wanting more. Take in the National Theatre and famous Charles Bridge as you sip Darjeeling cruising along one of Europes longest rivers.
- Viator offer an Prague Vltava River Afternoon Tea cruise from £19.79 per person.
Victoria-Jungfrau, Interlaken – best for an idyllic setting
The Victoria-Jungfrau hotel is one of the most beautiful in Switzerland, not least because of its idyllic setting among the Bernese highlands. Immersed in 145 years of Swiss tradition, it is billed as an unforgettable luxurious experience for body and soul, in part due to its fine afternoon tea offering- including wafer-thin, crustless cucumber sandwiches. Everyone who is anyone has passed through its doors including the King of Siam and Mark Twain. Everything at the Victoria-Jungfrau is done with panache and afternoon tea is no exception- if it’s good enough for the King of Siam, it’s good enough for us!
- Victoria-Jungfrau Hotel, Höheweg 41 CH-3800 Interlaken, Switzerland.
Casa de Chá Raposa, Sintra, Portugal – best for quirky
At the heart of Vila Velha de Sintra, is this gorgeously quirky traditional tea house. Known for offering variety of teas, gourmet dinners and tastings by vinous, occupies a building dating from 1888. It’s an amazing, unexpected and enchanting tearoom with an ornate teapot chandelier, high stuccoed ceilings and interesting paraphernalia for sale, the Casa de Chá Raposa is an eclectic wonderland. With exceptional service, good cakes and shabby chic, vintage tableware (complete with scattered rose petals!) it is truly an unforgettable Mad Hatters Tea Party.
- Rua Conde Ferreira 29, 2710, Portugal.
The Ritz Carlton, Co. Wicklow, Ireland – best for stylish elegance
A personal favourite of mine is the Ritz Carlton, Powerscourt which offers a stunning afternoon tea, set in the unrivalled beauty of the Wicklow Mountains in the ‘Garden of Ireland’, it is the ultimate in elegance and style. The Sugar Loaf tea menu offers delicious homemade pastries, a medley of savoury choices and a friendly server will produce a leather-bound tea and coffee list- upgrade to the Powerscourt menu for a glass of champagne or Kir Royale to wash down your crustless prawn and smoked salmon sandwiches. A little off the beaten track for visitors to Dublin, but well worth the trip outside the city for the vista alone.
Powerscourt Estate, Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
The Pierre Chocolaterie, Tallinn – best for chocolate lovers
Probably the best option for sweet tooths is afternoon tea at Pierre Chocolaterie located in Tallinn’s Old Town. This cosy establishment is tucked away in a quaint courtyard with alfresco dining available in the warmer months. Decor is highly original with a bohemian style and decked out with kitsch furniture and flea market finds. Afternoon tea consists of handmade sweets, fresh cakes and of course lashings of hot chocolate.
- Vene 6, 10123 Tallinn, Estonia
Cliveden, Berkshire – best afternoon tea in Europe to impress loved ones or friends
One of the world’s finest luxury hotels, this grand stately home is set in the heart of the British countryside. Surrounded by 376 acres of Grade I listed formal gardens and parkland, Cliveden has seen the likes of Churchill, Chaplin, Lawrence and Lennon through its ornate doors. Take afternoon tea in the Grand Hall to scoff a fine selection of finger sandwiches, warm scones and miniature cakes in the opulate surroundings of the Grand Hall. Expect decor to include huge portraits, a roaring fire and the odd suit of armour.
Time for Tease, London – for something a little different
For something completely different from the many hotel teas offered in London, how about “a dollop of burlesque” with your tea, along with a glass of champagne, and in fabulously decadent surroundings. Afternoon Tease! is the original burlesque afternoon tea party. You sit down to a full spread of afternoon tea and are interrupted in the nicest possible way by stunning burlesque and cabaret performances. A unique and fun event for girls and guys alike.
- Afternoon Tease is held on the first Saturday of the month at Volupte (near Chancery Lane, London) email [email protected] to book tickets.
So get your teacups at the ready and indulge your inner sophisticate by sampling some of the finest tea, coffee and cakes our European cities have to offer.