Pretty, delicious – and, of course, bubbly. No wonder we can’t resist the allure of afternoon tea. Perhaps the most quintessential of British customs, the ritual was popularised in 1840 by Anna, the seventh Duchess of Bedford. She would become hungry at around four o’clock in the afternoon and couldn’t wait for her late evening meal, so requested tea, cake and bread and butter to be brought to her room. This soon became a fashionable event and spread across the country. Today you can experience some of the best afternoon tea in Europe, in some of the grandest surroundings – just like Anna herself. Here are our favourite exponents:
Best afternoon tea in Europe for arty bites:
The Merrion: Dublin, Ireland
Image source: Merrion Hotel
Merrion Hotel’s tantalising ‘Art Tea’ is a feast to behold. It’s undoubtedly the quirkiest and grandest afternoon tea in Ireland: 19th- and 20th-century art superbly served on fine china as edible miniature creations. Sweet treats are inspired by the works of J.B.Yeats, William Scott and Louis Le Brocquy. They’re almost too beautiful to eat, but we’ll let you take that as a challenge. You’ll dine in the five-star hotel’s Drawing Rooms, an exquisitely gracious setting before wandering the 18th-century-style gardens.
Best afternoon tea in Europe for a mix of classic and contemporary:
St George’s Hotel: Llandudno, Wales
From the candy-coloured seaside views and pretty place settings to the perfectly baked scones dripping with strawberry jam and clotted cream, St George’s Hotel has perfected the art of afternoon tea. Pick at everything from traditional poached salmon and cream cheese finger sandwiches to the more unusual Baileys and mint Swiss roll. The regal afternoon tea vibes extend to rooms – this scrumptious four-star stay even has its own Grade II listed Wedgwood Room.
Best afternoon tea in Europe with a story to tell:
Naas Fabriker Hotell & Restaurant: Gothenburg, Sweden
Set within an old cotton mill on Sävelången Lake, this 19th-century building is truly unique. Visitors are not only wowed with the old-world interiors (especially the rooms, which reach ceiling heights of up to five metres) and majestic surroundings, but the classic afternoon tea which is immaculately presented. Naas Fabriker Hotell & Restaurant is perfect for a special occasion – or even a weekend break – this is the place to while away many a pleasantly indulgent hour.
Best afternoon tea in Europe with a garden:
Hunter’s Hotel: Rathnew, Ireland
Settle into a snug country house with a truly unique ambience for a gorgeous afternoon tea in Ireland. Hunter’s Hotel is renowned for its splendid afternoon teas, which you can savour in the hotel’s picturesque gardens and feel like you’re living in a real painting. The time-warping coaching inn is the oldest in the country, ran by the fifth generation of the same family.
Best afternoon tea in Europe for seaside views:
Holm House: Penarth, South Wales
When only a classic option will do then Holm House – where leisurely travellers have sipped tea and champagne since 1926 – is the ultimate dream. Served on dainty china in the hotel’s chic dining room with coastal views galore, the delightful surrounding complement the traditional menu. Expect savoury treats such as finger sandwiches and homemade fruit scones topped off with a whole range of teeny desserts and freshly baked cakes. Add some bubbles if you’re celebrating – or even if you’re not.