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Afternoon tea in Edinburgh
Photograph: The Ivy on the Square

The 13 best afternoon teas in Edinburgh

Looking for copious amounts of tea, cake and maybe some fizz? These are the most elegant places for afternoon tea in the Scottish capital

Written by
Niki Boyle
Kirstyn Smith
Arusa Qureshi
Liv Kelly

Edinburgh is dripping with grandeur. Given the castle towers majestically over the city’s splendid buildings, and there are gorgeous palaces and galleries dotted throughout the streets, what better place is there to get a flavour of high society?

And thankfully, Auld Reekie boasts a splendid roster of cafes, hotels and moving vehicles (we’ll explain later) offering posh sandwiches, scones, and even some fizz, if you’re feeling really fancy. So without further ado, here are the Scottish Capital’s finest spots of a drop of tea and a slice of cake.

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At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines. 

Best afternoon teas in Edinburgh

Colonnades at the Signet Library

1. Colonnades at the Signet Library

What is it? A sumptuous oasis in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Why go? Housed within the Signet Library – home of the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet, a prestigious legal association – the open-to-the-public Colonnades proclaims it serves ‘Edinburgh’s finest afternoon tea’ amid serene and elegant surroundings. The silver stands feature sandwiches made with seasonal ingredients, as well as a selection of cakes and amuse-bouches, while the extensive tea list is topped by the Colonnades’ own Signet Blend.

£65pp. Wed to Sun, 11am–4.30pm. The Signet Library West Parliament Square, EH1 1RF. 

The Café at the Palace
Photograph: John Freeman

2. The Café at the Palace

What is it? Complete your visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse or The Queen’s Gallery with homemade cakes and tea.

Why go? There are plenty of reasons to visit Holyrood Palace – the history, grandeur and regal architecture. But you can’t possibly go without booking yourself in at the Café for the afternoon tea. Served in the Mews Courtyard in specially commissioned chinaware, you can expect local ingredients and produce with your choice of loose-leaf tea (or a gin cocktail if you’re feeling fancy).

From £30pp. Daily, from 12noon. The Royal Mile, 98 Canongate, EH8 8DX.

  • Hotels

What is it? A chance to enjoy a classy afternoon tea in the opulent surroundings of this Edinburgh institution. 

Why go? If you’re looking for an afternoon tea experience to remember, this is the one. Enjoy leaf teas, home baking, hot savouries, scones and more either by a roaring log fire, in the gothic tea house or in the rose-filled gardens at Prestonfield, depending on the season.

From £50pp. Daily from 12noon. Priestfield House, EH16 5UT

Mimi’s Bakehouse

4. Mimi’s Bakehouse

What is it? A mini-chain of cosy Edinburgh bakeries.

Why go? Mimi’s is famous first and foremost for its cakes, so bear that in mind when you’re considering an afternoon tea here. In other words, save some room for the sweet stuff, and don’t fill up purely on the scones, sandwiches and savouries. Vegetarian and gluten-free menus are also available.  

From £25 pp. From 12noon every day. Mimi's Leith and Mimi's Corstorphine in Edinburgh. 

The Dome
Photographer: Eleni Laparidou

5. The Dome

What is it? An ostentatious landmark in Edinburgh’s New Town.

Why go? The Dome is famous in Edinburgh for its OTT Christmas decor, including massive, tinsel-wrapped columns and a towering indoor tree, but it’s still pretty impressive at other times of year. Their afternoon tea menu – served in the crystal-chandeliered Georgian Tea Room – features finger sandwiches, scones, pastries and nine varieties of loose-leaf tea. It also offers a Tipsy Tea, with a cocktail to accompany each tier. 

£32pp. (Tipsy Tea £60.50pp.) Daily, 12noon-5pm. 14 George Street, EH2 2PF.

6. Grand Café

What is it? An elegant café located in the stylish Scotsman Hotel.

Why go? With its interior dating back to 1905, this delightful space is inspired by the ‘grand cafés’ of Europe, offering a relaxed and stylish setting in which to enjoy a menu of modern food and drink. The afternoon tea is handmade by the in-house pastry chef, with hand-cut finger sandwiches, savoury bites, miniature desserts and homemade scones and jam. To enhance your experience at the Grand Café, pop by on Saturday between 2pm and 5.30pm to enjoy your afternoon tea with a live pianist.

£37.95pp. Daily, 12noon-5pm. 20 North Bridge, EH1 1TR.

Harvey Nichols

7. Harvey Nichols

What is it? Afternoon tea at the top of the famed department store.

Why go? While there’s no shortage of places to take tea in Edinburgh, very few have views that can rival Harvey Nicks’. Take tea in the Fourth Floor Brasserie that has north Edinburgh spread out below to the River Forth, and you can indulge in the likes of duck spring rolls, traditional fruit scones and rosé champagne.

From £35pp. Daily, 2pm-4pm. 30-34 St Andrew Square, EH2 2AD.

Red Bus Bistro

8. Red Bus Bistro

What is it? As if you couldn’t guess, it’s afternoon tea on a vintage bus.

Why go? Since you’re a fan of afternoon tea, you’re probably into vintage things in general, and what’s more vintage than an old bus? While nibbling your sandwiches and sipping your Earl Grey (or a teapot-based gin cocktail should you fancy an upgrade), the Red Bus Bistro will take you around some of Edinburgh’s historic highlights including Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament.

From £43.50pp. Tue to Sun, 12noon & 3pm. Departs from Stance ZE, Waterloo Place, EH1 3BQ.

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés

What is it? Inventive afternoon tea located in the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Why go? For a luxurious afternoon tea experience, the Waldorf Astoria hotel provides the perfect ambience with its stylish interiors. You’ll be served finger sandwiches with fillings like gin-cured salmon or crispy duck, freshly baked scones, and cakes like meringue tart, macaron, baked cheesecake, strawberry choux and more.

£55 pp. Daily, 12.30pm-4pm. Princes Street, EH1 2AB.

Palm Court at The Balmoral
© Adrian Houston

10. Palm Court at The Balmoral

What is it? A touch of old-style glamour in the heart of the city.

Why go? A glass-domed, light-filled space fringed with exotic trees and cream-coloured frescoes, Palm Court at the Balmoral revives the notion of afternoon tea as a cool respite from inhospitable tropics. While Palm Court can’t in fact offer a tropical climate, it does offer sweets, sandwiches and a very respectable tea selection, plus occasional live harp accompaniment.

From £65pp. Daily 12noon-5pm. 1 Princes Street, EH2 2EQ.

Photograph: Tigerlily

11. Tigerlily

What is it? Incongruously enough, it’s tea and scones at a popular nightlife spot.

Why go? It may be far from the down-and-dirty rave caves on the Cowgate, but it still perhaps seems slightly incongruous that a boutique hotel, restaurant and bar would also offer an afternoon tea. But you’ve got to do something in the daytime, right? With delicate sandwiches, quiche, cupcakes and gateau, Tigerlily’s doing it well.

From £26.95pp. Daily, 1pm-4pm. 125 George Street, EH2 4JN.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Beer hall

What it is? A decadent treat in a chic venue across from Waverley railway station.

Why go? What could be better than winding down with a delicious and indulgent afternoon tea after a long and arduous train journey? Brewhemia's convenient location makes this pretty hard to resist but so too does their menu of bespoke versions of classic treats like sandwiches, savouries, cakes and fresh-baked scones. If you fancy something a bit different, try the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea, which swaps finger food and tea for homemade tarts, sausage rolls and a trio of tank fresh beers.

From £22pp. Daily at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm. Each sitting 90 minutes. 1A Market Street, EH1 1DE.

The Ivy on the Square
Photograph: The Ivy on the Square

13. The Ivy on the Square

What is it? Sister restaurant to the famed London celeb hangout.

Why go? This is one of a crop of London luminaries that have pitched up on St Andrew Square in recent years (it’s just a few doors along from the wonderful Dishoom). The Ivy on the Square offers sophisticated dining both indoors and out on its Parisian-style terrace. For afternoon tea, sample savouries such as truffled chicken brioche or sweet treats like almond macaron while sipping your favourite fruit infusion.

From £29.95pp. Mon to Sun, 3pm-4.45pm. 6 St. Andrew Square, EH2 2BD.

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