Now’s the time for outings that would seem unthinkable at any other point in the year.

We know as well as anybody that there is a cost-of-living crisis on the go but – to misquote Little Women – Christmas won’t be Christmas without any treats.

When you’re weighing up what to book and what to leave for another year, spare a thought for the festive afternoon tea.

According to Fortnum & Mason, this delightfully English tradition dates back more than 200 years when, struck by hunger pangs somewhere between lunch and dinner, the Duchess of Bedford invited her friends over for tea and a light refreshment in her rooms at Woburn Abbey. Word of her teatime innovation spread, and on her return to London, afternoon tea was deliciously inescapable.’

An afternoon tea reservation lets you and your loved ones soak up central London’s festive atmosphere, gorge on dainty delicacies and luxuriate as one of the capital’s grand old dames envelops you in its charm.

Here, we have rounded up the best restaurants and hotels for an unforgettable teatime experience. Champagne is optional!


Finger sandwiches, Claridge’s Christmas pudding, scones and a selection of seasonal handmade pastries (including gingerbread and walnut praline tart) are the order of the day for afternoon tea at Claridge’s at Christmas. Even if the tea weren’t exquisite, a trip to this glamorous hotel is worthwhile just for a glimpse of its famous Christmas tree. Festive Afternoon Tea: from £95 per person. Book it.

Fortnum & Mason

It is difficult to award the prize of ‘quintessential establishment for afternoon tea’ to just one place but if we had to, it’d be Fortnum’s. Served in their dedicated Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, which was opened in 2012 by the late Queen herself, afternoon tea is a tradition prized like no other at the time-honoured store. Expect tiered stands of goodies accompanied by steaming pots of impeccably sourced tea. Gift cards available. Afternoon tea: from £75 per person. Book it.

The Berkeley

This Christmas, The Berkeley Hotel is offering customers a Festive Pret-a-Portea, showcasing seven couture cakes inspired by the world’s greatest fashion designers. Feast on little sandwiches – there is even a turkey, cranberry and stuffing one – and a couple of savouries before you get to the pinnacle of the event, the exquisite cakes. These works of art include Prada’s camel coat appearing as an iced chocolate biscuit, Jean Paul Gaultier’s denim couture gown as a bavarois with blackcurrant filling and many more. Festive Pret-a-Portea: From £92 per person. Book it.

The Ritz

The Ritz is the only hotel in the UK to have a certified tea master, Giandomenico Scanu, who travels around the world sourcing wonderful teas from various plantations. Afternoon tea in their former ballroom, accompanied by a harpist and pianist, is a truly unforgettable experience in which sandwiches, scones, pastries and teacakes are replenished on request. Afternoon Tea: From £67 for adults; £45 for children. Book it.


Harrods has been serving afternoon tea since 1869. Continue that tradition today, as you sit under the Art Deco skylight of their Tea Rooms, listening to the tinkle of a pianist and eating their freshly made tiny sandwiches, scones and pastries, which are all paired with the finest teas (or champagne or tea-based cocktails). Gift cards available. Afternoon Tea: From £65 per person. Book it.

The Wolseley

Though the space used to be a car showroom, the clever people at The Wolseley have arranged it so that every meal there feels like the glitziest and most glamorous experience ever. This is never truer than when afternoon tea is concerned. Expect exceptional service, crisp white napkins and baked goods aplenty. Gift cards available. Classic Afternoon Tea: from £36.75 per person. Book it.

The Goring

The Goring is the only hotel in the world to hold a Royal Warrant and it is where the late Queen Elizabeth II chose to hold her staff Christmas party each year, so it jolly well should put on a good spread at teatime. And it does. In fact, the hotel puts on such a good spread that it has won several industry awards for its afternoon tea, which is served on the veranda or in the dining room on Saturdays. Think delicious pastries, fruity homemade jams and high-quality tea blends. Festive Afternoon Tea: £90 per person. Book it.

By Becky Ladenburg
November 2022

Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.