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If you ask any Londoner what they most look forward to during the day, chances are “high tea” will come up more than once. In the UK, afternoon tea is a cure all: a celebration, a chance to catch up with friends and family, a break from the day, and a cornerstone of society. It’s the quintessential experience for any visitor, too. While you’re sure to find plenty of great tea shops in London town, we propose you indulge in the tradition of afternoon tea the way it was intended to: served in the best fine China and surrounded by delicate cakes, flaky pastries, and dainty sandwiches. There are plenty of spots in London where you can enjoy “a good strong cuppa,” but few can surpass the ones listed below — they practically turned tradition into art. Pinkies up!
Admire Traditional Elegance at the Thames Foyer
The Savoy is the cornerstone of style and sophistication in London, especially during Afternoon Tea. Guests who partake will be serenaded by a pianist as they sip on more than 30 dainty flavors. The drinks are almost secondary to the bites though, and it's pure bliss as you nibble on scones, tea cakes, and pastries while reclining on plush couches and oversized chairs nestled in the Thames Foyer. Fashionistas shouldn't miss Salon Couture with Suzie Turner either. The show takes place the first Wednesday of every month and features at least a dozen 1950s inspired couture gowns created by Suzie herself. A welcome cocktail created by the head bartender of the hotel’s equally famous American Bar sets the tone for a classic afternoon.
Toast the Royal Family at The Orangery
Few places can top the historic and downright luxurious setting of The Orangery. Set inside a garden pavilion designed for Queen Anne in the 1700s adjacent to Kensington Palace, The Orangery is the only royal palace that offers a traditional afternoon tea. The delicate cakes, clotted cream, and rich beverages are suitable for royalty, which is convenient as Kensington Palace is the official Royal Residence of Kate, Wills, George, and Charlotte. Rumor has it Kate likes to walk the gardens, so you may even get lucky and spot her as you tuck in.
Fall in Love with Fine Details at Claridge’s
Located in Mayfair not far from Regent Street, Claridge’s is just as famous for its tea time as it is for its 1930s art-deco design. Claridge’s actually won the award for best afternoon tea in 2016 for its seasonal ingredients and tea-infused jams. For the full experience, be sure to splurge on the champagne service and treat yourself to a glass of Laurent Perrier.
Get Chic at the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon
Fortnum & Mason has been the official grocer to the Royal Family for at least 150 years (and in the tea business for at least 300) so it's safe to say they have perfected the tradition of afternoon tea over the years. The public can get the royal treatment in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, which is renowned for its elegant setting, gratuitous service and generous helpings. Before you leave, be sure to head downstairs to the grocer to purchase a canister of tea to go as the perfect souvenir to remember your time across the pond.