The best places in Edinburgh for afternoon tea

Mimi's Bakehouse is something of an Edinburgh institution... and it's not difficult to see why. Picture: Greg Macvean
Mimi's Bakehouse is something of an Edinburgh institution... and it's not difficult to see why. Picture: Greg Macvean
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Seeking a sumptuous afternoon tea with friends and family in Edinburgh? Then look no further than our excellent list of the Capital’s best venues.

The early forerunner for what would go on to become brunch, afternoon tea became hugely popular in the UK in the early 1800s.

Cafe Portrait offers a great value afternoon tea.

Cafe Portrait offers a great value afternoon tea.

Originally the remit of Victorian Duchesses and ladies of privilege it wasn’t long before the country’s obsession with tea saw the practice spread to living rooms and dining rooms across the country.

Nowadays though, afternoon tea, a meal usually comprised of sandwiches (ideally cut into fingers or triangles), scones with clotted cream and jam, sweet pastries and cakes, is usually reserved for a special occasion or a spot of indulgence with friends.

Luckily, there are still plenty of places in the capital that carry on this tradition and are the perfect places for those who still enjoy a bit of afternoon socialising – with food and tea of course.

The Colonnades at the Signet Library

The Vintage Red Bistro Bus offers afternoon tea with a difference. Picture: Greg Macvean

The Vintage Red Bistro Bus offers afternoon tea with a difference. Picture: Greg Macvean

Afternoon tea in the Capital doesn’t come in much more elegant surroundings than this. Situated within the stunning Signet Library, the Colonnades is a book lover’s (and foodie’s) dream. The perfect start to an afternoon of frenzied shopping on Princes Street, afternoon tea in this secluded spot is great value and delightfully indulgent. Visit: The Signet Library, Parliament Square

Forth Floor Restaurant – Harvey Nichols

The perfect blend of shopping, afternoon tea and people watching comes in the form of the Forth Floor Restaurant at Harvey Nichols where you can enjoy a delicious light meal while taking in the spectacular view. Sample some marvellous mini cakes and pastries with the finest leaf tea or go all out with a boozy Champagne Afternoon Tea. Visit: 34 St Andrew Square

The Cafe at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Colonnades' afternoon tea is a book lover's and foodie's dream.

The Colonnades' afternoon tea is a book lover's and foodie's dream.

For a taste of true decadence, a trip to the cafe at Holyrood Palace, which lies at the foot of the historic Royal Mile, should be at the top of anyone’s list. Offering great value, with tea served in special chinaware, the cafe has a range of home-made dishes, sandwiches and delightful cakes, all of which can be enjoyed on its outdoor terrace on the historic Mews Courtyard. Visit: Canongate

The Tower Restaurant

For another iconic setting, why not try out spot of afternoon tea at the Tower Restaurant, this idyllic rooftop venue has panoramic views of the Castle, the Royal Mile and the Old Town. Located above the National Museum of Scotland, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a luxurious afternoon tea after a long stroll through the museum below, a favourite with celebrities like Joanna Lumley and Kate Winslet, you can enjoy sandwiches, warm savouries, fresh scones and a seasonal selection of home baking from the Tower’s pastry chefs. Visit: Chambers Street

The Dome

The Dome is a beautiful venue for tea.

The Dome is a beautiful venue for tea.

Enjoy afternoon tea in a dedicated Georgian Tea Room in one of the Capital’s most beautiful dining venues – particularly during the festive season – with a visit to The Dome. Take in the plush decor, crystal chandeliers and crisp white linen as you sample head chef Sue Snider’s sublime delicate finger sandwiches, scones and sweet pastries all supped down an array of loose leaf teas served up in bespoke Chardonnay Pattern Dudson Fine Bone China. Best of all they also do a version that includes no gluten-containing ingredients, is suitable for vegans and is dairy free. Visit: 14 George Street

The Vintage Red Bistro Bus

For one of the most unique afternoon teas on this list, you should try out the Vintage Red Bistro Bus. Sample a selection of sandwiches, cakes, savouries and warm home-baked scones with traditional preserves and fresh locally produced dairy cream, as you are whisked around some of the city’s most impressive sights on a vintage bus, including the Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Old Town. Visit: 23 Waterloo Place

Mimi’s Bakehouse

Mimi’s is something of an Edinburgh institution and their hugely popular afternoon tea is part of the reason why. Delicious sandwiches, scrumptious traybakes and the fluffiest scones make it perfect for an afternoon treat. And don’t worry if you have special dietary requirements, you don’t have to miss out. Mimi’s offer gluten free, dairy free and even a vegan tea – made specially by Mimi’s head baker Gemma. Visit: 63 Shore/277 St John’s Road

Cafe Portrait

Another distinctive venue is the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street, whose café does a great value afternoon tea in the surroundings of its stunning collection of world-class paintings and photography. Taste the trademark “cooked from scratch” soups, sandwiches and home-baking as you marvel at the stunning mix of modern and traditional fittings – and the awe-inspiring art that covers every wall. Visit: 1 Queen Street