11 of the best places for afternoon tea in Edinburgh
The early forerunner for what would go on to become brunch, afternoon tea became hugely popular in the UK in the early 1800s.
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 Signet Library, Parliament Square, Edinburgh EH1 1RF)
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.
Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian
(Princes St, Edinburgh EH1 2AB)
Enjoy a relaxing afternoon in the historic surroundings of the Waldorf Astoria’s Peacock Alley.
To the tune of gentle harp music, diners can relax and look forward to the hotel’s latest afternoon tea offering, which has a cocktail theme.
Starting with a glass of Pierre Jouet champagne, guests are then served their choice of tea (from an extensive menu including green, fruit and black tea) before tucking in to the savouries and sandwiches which included: gin-cured salmon with Campari crème fraîche; Bloody Mary prawns in brioche bun and a cheddar, onion and almond tart.
Then it’s on the main event, the cakes and pastries. From white Russian inspired scones served with a moreish passionfruit and pineapple jam to the mini mojito jellies, blue lagoon mousse, tequila sunrise macaron and pina colada domes, this afternoon tea is an imaginative and delicious way to catch up with friends over a few hours.
Priced at £35 per person or £45 per person for afternoon tea plus a glass of Champagne.
Forth Floor Restaurant – Harvey Nichols
(34 St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh, EH2 2AD)
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.
The Cafe at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
(Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX)
For a taste of true decadence, a trip to the café 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.
The Tower Restaurant
(Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF)
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.
(14 George St, New Town, Edinburgh EH2 2PF)
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.
The Vintage Red Bistro Bus
(23 Waterloo Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3BH)
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.
(1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD)
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.
(63 Shore, Edinburgh EH6 6RA and 277 St John’s Rd, Edinburgh EH12 7XD)
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.
(1A Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DE)
For the “sophisticated man about town”, Brewhemia have created a novel twist on the afternoon tea offered daily at 12pm, 2pm or 4pm in their Bothy, with “hearty fayre, strong tea, fine beer and good company”.
Finger food has been swapped out here homemade pies, sausage rolls and thick sandwiches, while the prosecco and gin has been replaced with tank beer. Don’t worry though, you can still enjoy a cuppa.
(131-133 George St, Edinburgh EH2 4JS)
Brown’s, which recently re-opened its doors following a major refurbishment and is nestled among the neo-classical town houses and pretty Georgian squares of New Town, offers afternoon tea between 3pm and 5pm.
Guests are offered savoury specials including smoked salmon & cream cheese on whisky & thyme oat cakes and pulled salt beef & wholegrain mustard brioche rolls and sweet treats such as home-baked buttermilk scones and summer berry pudding.
Those looking for something heavier than just tea can also upgrade with a glass of Moët & Chandon Impérial or a Hendrick’s Midsummer Solstice G&T.