If you're ready for a break after one of our free London walking tours, an affordable afternoon tea should hit the spot.
Sometimes called ‘High Tea’, Afternoon Tea refers to the experience of attending a hotel or restaurant in one’s finery, sipping tea, and indulging in scones, sandwiches, and petits fours.
Here are some of our favorite locations to enjoy this traditional meal on the cheap:
In addition to these details, the rest of this post will explain what this meal is all about and what you can expect to eat and drink.
We do our best to remain unbiased, which is why this post also includes a selection of tips and suggestions from locals and travelers who have enjoyed Afternoon Tea during their time in London.
While it originated as a selection of goodies to tide one over between lunch and dinner, this meal has become more of a tradition over time. For more on the origins, see below.
Today an Afternoon Tea can be considered a meal in its own right. When you factor in how much food is often included, it's not difficult to see why!
Don’t be surprised if your server brings ‘refills’ of sandwiches, scones, and sweets until you are bursting at the seams.
Think of it as an opportunity to take a break and do a lot of snacking on delicious treats!
The Food at Afternoon Tea
While different establishments will include specialty items, there are a few items that you will find at nearly every Afternoon Tea.
Tea - You will be asked to choose from such teas as English Breakfast, Assam, Lapsang Souchong, or Darjeeling.
Scones with Jam (traditionally strawberry jam) and Clotted Cream – No Afternoon Tea can be considered complete without scones served with preserves and clotted cream.
Sandwiches – Delicate sandwiches will be served on your tiered platter, cut into triangles with the crusts removed, of course!
The most common fillings are cucumber, Coronation chicken (curried chicken salad), egg and cress or egg mayonnaise, and smoked salmon.
Cakes and petit fours – You will find a selection of French pastries on your platter, including cakes, tarts, and other house-baked sweets
What Price Range Can You Expect?
There are hundreds of restaurants, tea shops, museum cafes, and hotels across London that serve Afternoon Tea at all different price ranges.
Some hostels and simple tea shops have options at £15-20 per person. Look on Groupon or similar discount sites to find Afternoon Tea deals in this range as well.
There are also excellent and affordable afternoon teas in the £20-25 range.
If you are really looking to splash out, Afternoon Tea at big-name hotels like Claridges, The Savoy, The Ritz, and the Mandarin Oriental will set you back more than £80 per person, with additional costs for a glass of bubbly. See below for details.
Do You Tip For Afternoon Tea?
These days, most locations will include a service charge on your bill as standard - particularly at higher-end locations.
What you may wish to tip beyond that is entirely up to you.
It is not expected for you to tip more but it is also not considered an insult if you do!
When Does Afternoon Tea Take Place?
As the name suggests, Afternoon Tea is typically enjoyed in the afternoon, usually between 2 pm and 4 pm, though earlier and later sittings may be available.
Don’t schedule a lunch or dinner too close to your Afternoon Tea, as it is much more filling than you might think!
Afternoon Tea can take place any day but note that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday tend to be the most popular days so consider booking in advance once you've decided where to go.
This will depend entirely on where you have booked!
Most people dress smartly/nicely for afternoon tea, but almost never formally.
Different locations will have different requirements, so make sure you check the details before arriving.
Particularly in finer hotels, you may find rules against trainers and jeans.
As local London tour guides, it's part of our job description to know where to find the best and most affordable afternoon teas.
We've based our recommendations on our extensive experiences as both tour guides as well as being locals ourselves.
It's not easy living in an expensive city like London on a tour guide's income, so knowing where to get an affordable afternoon tea is vital.
All of these Afternoon Teas cost less than £25 per person and are excellent as well.
For those of you who can spend twice as much for a dressed-up tea at one of London’s historic hotels, see below.
The Floral Hall, Stoney St, SE1 1TL – Closest Underground: London Bridge
This famous British butchery offers a very good Afternoon Tea.
Enjoy your fill of gourmet sandwiches and scones in the middle of one of the world’s great food markets, and make sure you admire their gorgeous preserves.
One of the best options for location, history, and a picture-perfect setting.
This is an excellent choice for a budget Afternoon Tea at just £35 per person - or, if you really want to indulge, you can have your afternoon tea with bottomless Prosecco for £55 per person!
41 Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3PE – Closest Underground: Holburn
This cozy tea parlour is in the basement of a bookshop selling Asian and African titles.
It is a perfect spot to relax after a visit to the British Museum as it is located across the street.
For £19 you get one tea, sandwiches, cake, and a delicious scone with clotted cream and jam.
Better still you can get a discount on the bill if you have a tourist discount pass.
To find out the benefits of purchasing a tourist discount pass, read below.
55 Aldwych, Holborn, WC2B 4BB – Closest Undergrounds: Temple or Holborn
The Delaunay is known for serving up a great value Afternoon Tea in luxurious surroundings.
Its dining room is paneled in sumptuous wood, inspired by the Grand Café, and the mood is very chic.
You can choose your own menu of sandwiches and pastries à la carte, or choose the three-tiered platter.
Make sure you sample their Gugelhupf, a traditional Viennese poppy-seed cake.
The cost is £19.75 per person (add £10 for a glass of Champagne).
5th floor, House of Fraser, 318 Oxford Street, W1C 1HF – Nearest Underground: Oxford Circus
You could be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered into an Alice in Wonderland-themed tea when you step foot into The Tea Terrace – it is a charming riot of colour!
While this is a full-service restaurant, the name gives away their true passion – tea.
They serve a gorgeous Afternoon Tea for £22.75 per person / £44.95 for 2.
14 Farringdon St, Farringdon, EC4A 4AB – Closest Underground: Farringdon
To A Tea knows about all things Afternoon Tea. While the cakes and finger sandwiches are delicious, it’s really all about the tea here.
They keep three boilers on at different temperatures, nicknamed Tom, Dick, and Harry.
This means that each type of tea gets the perfect water, and you get the perfect cuppa.
£25 per person (bottomless Afternoon Tea for £35).
You can reserve a table by either calling them at 020 7248 3498 or emailing them at email@example.com.
12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, SE10 8ER – Closest Underground: Greenwich
For £9 per person (plus £5 for museum admission) this is just about the cheapest Afternoon Tea in all of London.
While it doesn’t include sandwiches, it does indeed serve up scones, cream, and jam, and your choices of a selection of cakes, as well as your cup of tea, or in a rare twist, coffee!
If you are on a strict budget, you can do what the average Brit does when they have a hankering for a nice afternoon treat – go for a Cream Tea.
This is the cheapest way to enjoy the next best thing to a proper Afternoon tea.
A Cream Tea does away with the sandwiches and cakes, and instead includes a pot of tea, 2 scones, clotted cream, and preserves/jam.
This allows you to indulge in a truly British tradition in a less formal (and less expensive) way!
Are you looking for an afternoon tea that caters to specific dietary restrictions? Do you have kids in tow, and want an afternoon tea that they can enjoy?
No matter what your dietary requirement or your interests, you can find an Afternoon Tea suited to your needs.
Cutter & Squidge in Soho offers a delicious and innovative Harry Potter-themed Afternoon Tea, with a dedicated vegan menu available.
With fudgy cakes, vegan roast dinner sandwiches, and indulgent vegan creams, vegans are treated to a feast.
Likewise, since you are probably a Potter fan, you might be interested in our posts on Harry Potter locations and tours.
Savoury sandwiches and a Queen of Hearts cookie are playful, and tasty, and fit into the theme perfectly.
Cake Boy in Battersea is all about vegan cakes, cookies, and sweets, and so it is no wonder that they serve up a delightful vegan Afternoon Tea.
Dine on red velvet cake, macarons, and delicious savoury sandwiches.
Gluten-Free Afternoon Teas
Cutter & Squidge also offers a fully gluten-free Afternoon Tea menu, even offering wheat-free scones and sandwiches.
The 108 Brasserie Pantry in Marylebone may be a beloved spot for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but they also do a cracking Afternoon Tea.
All of their pastries and bread are available in gluten-free options – their tiered cakes are legendary.
The Royal Horseguards Hotel overlooks the River Thames and has an extensive gluten-free menu available for their Signature Afternoon Tea.
You’ll be treated to wheat-free finger sandwiches, scones, pastries, and cakes of all kinds.
Kid-friendly Afternoon Teas
This place is a beloved East End cat café, and they serve delicious afternoon tea.
If your little one loves cats (and is of an age that they can also treat them gently), then Lady Dinah’s is one of the best options out there.
A magical experience for the whole family, based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, served up at the ultra-posh Chesterfield Hotel.
Children are served the Oompa Loompa Afternoon Tea, featuring peanut butter and jam, a milkshake, and yummy pastries.
Served at the Grosvenor House Hotel’s Park Room, this Tea Service is a true pleasure for adults and children alike.
They won the award for the Best Family Afternoon Tea in London in 2016, and it is no wonder why, with kids enjoying mini sandwiches and a Grover stuffed toy to take home.
Afternoon Tea Bus Tour
Londoners are familiar with the whimsical sight of double-decker buses zooming down their streets, but one filled with tables of diners enjoying an Afternoon Tea?
It can only be the B Bakery Afternoon Tea Bus London Tour.
Combining a bus tour with a delectable selection of baked goodies, you can take in some of the most famous sights in London while sipping a freshly brewed cup of tea.
The tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. Prices start at £45 per adult, with optional bubbles and cocktails priced individually.
Find out about other London bus tours here.
Afternoon Tea Cruise
City Cruises offers a delectable Afternoon Tea served to you while the sights of London glide past and live commentary fills your ears.
The cost of a 90-minute river cruise and a full Afternoon Tea starts at just £32 for adults and £22 for kids.
Feel like a glass of Champagne? Add £10 to your budget.
For other cruise and boat rides in London, read our post here.
There are a few ways to save money on an Afternoon Tea service. With a discount, you can experience a fancy tea at the same cost as a cheaper service.
Tourist Discount Passes
Tourist discount passes are one way to save on Afternoon Tea. Tourist passes bundle attractions and activities into one ticket which gets you discounts all over the city.
Some passes include discounts to select Afternoon Tea services.
Read our post on the best London Tourist Passes to see which, if any, pass if right for you.
Of course, if you are keen on tasting the most delicious Afternoon Tea that London has to offer, you likely have a passion for tasting local food and drink.
The best way to experience London’s storied East End is to taste all of its delicious and unique food.
Book a free food tour to really immerse yourself in the culture and flavours of this incredibly interesting area.
Borough Market is simply one of the best foodie experiences on the planet, a food market beloved by locals and tourists alike.
Use our handy guide to the market to go on a self-guided walking and tasting tour.
Soho and Chinatown are some of the most famous and storied parts of London, and this area has a rich and vibrant food culture that can rival any in Europe.
Use our self-guided Food Tour of Soho and Chinatown to get a taste of what this area is all about.
Be sure to check out our other free, self-guided London tours.
Afternoon Tea at these hotels will cost over £50. But these hotels are historic and stunning and exactly what you imagine having high tea in London as the Royals do.
Strand, London WC2R 0EU – Nearest Underground: Charing Cross
An absolute institution, The Savoy has been serving tea the traditional way for decades.
Taken in the breathtakingly gorgeous Thames Foyer, guests sit underneath a massive glass dome, letting in loads of natural light.
Music plays throughout the afternoon via the fingers of a pianist who is situated under a gazebo in the middle of the Foyer.
A massive choice of teas is presented to all guests and pots are consistently topped up throughout your visit.
You will be served a beautiful arrangement of finger sandwiches underneath a selection of scones, cream, and jam, underneath a top tier of tiny desserts.
This is served alongside a slice of cake of your choice from a sweet trolley laden with freshly made cakes and tarts.
181 Piccadilly, W1A 1ER – Nearest Underground: Piccadilly Circus
Located in Mayfair, Fortnum & Mason is a luxury shop trading in London since 1707.
Afternoon tea takes place upstairs, in their recently refurbished Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon (re-named in honour of the Queen’s 60-year reign).
Tea here is an event – one that guests must prepare for, in fact, as the dress code “leans more towards elegance” providing a good excuse to get yourself dressed into your finest, lending another layer to the feel of an event, rather than a meal.
Sandwiches served on a variety of hand-made bread (with vegetarian options being controversially better than the standard meat-based items) are served until you are full!
Delectable scones with nearly every jam under the sun are served underneath a beautiful plate containing tiny hand-crafted desserts that look too beautiful to eat.
In addition to all this, a slice of any cake from the cake trolley comes as standard (it’s worth noting that all items on the cake trolley are made from ingredients grown on the Prince of Wales’ Estate in Cornwall!).
Fortnum also offers guests the chance to try different teas if they desire and their house champagne is better than many well-known labels available on the market.
Gents Afternoon Tea at the Sanctum Soho Hotel
20 Warwick Street, W1B 5NF – Nearest Underground: Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Circus
Afternoon tea has somewhat of a reputation as being a ladies’ event but the Sanctum Hotel’s Afternoon Tea is setting out to change all that!
Instead of traditional cakes and sandwiches, this afternoon tea consists of a hearty menu with a focus on food and alcohol.
Seared steaks and mushrooms on toast, miniature smoked fish alongside roast beef and meat pastries.
For desserts, the tea finishes with a combination of chocolate treats and alcohol, and instead of traditional glasses of bubbly, this gent's tea is served with a side of Jack Daniels!
Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford, is credited with the invention of ‘afternoon tea’ as we know it today in 1840.
She is said to have mentioned ‘that sinking feeling’ during the late afternoon between meals.
To combat these munchies, Anna tended to enjoy a pot of tea and a sandwich or cake and began inviting her friends to join her.
Such a well-known and fashionable lady, Anna became an inspiration for all of high society and soon afternoon tea spread throughout the country!
Tips From Locals and Travelers
If you would like more recommendations for Afternoon Tea spots, check out this post in our London Travel Tips Facebook group.
We asked our roughly 120k members to share their choices.
You'll find recommendations for well-known locations like Fortnum & Mason and Kensington Palace but also little-known options like The Wallace Collection.
This group consists of locals, like our tour guides, veteran London visitors, as well as newbies to the city.
It's a public group, so there's no requirement to join to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.
So, check it out once you are finished reading this post.