Afternoon tea is the quintessential British treat. Contrary to popular belief outside the UK, not all English people “take tea” in the afternoon. I don’t even drink tea myself, but I’m pretty sure that the most extravagant thing most people have with their cup of tea is a chocolate biscuit. However, when I visited York, a beautiful historic city in Yorkshire in the North of England, I wanted to see what I was missing out on! I sampled two tea rooms known for having the best afternoon tea in York – Betty’s Cafe Tea Room, and the Royal York Hotel – and loved them both! When I returned to York on my Yorkshire Foodie Adventure this summer, I decided to try a Chocolate Afternoon Tea from York Cocoa House, which was also scrumptious!
If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, here are my favourite options for the best afternoon tea in York, which I would also say are contenders for the best afternoon tea in Yorkshire too!
The Best Afternoon Tea in York: The Classic Option
Betty’s Café Tea Rooms
Betty’s Tea Room is probably the most famous café and tea room in England. With branches throughout Yorkshire, Betty’s Cafe has become an institution, and is consistently popular with tourists and locals alike. The staff wear delightfully traditional outfits and are very attentive, and the delicious selection of cakes, sandwiches and the ever-important scones all lived up to the hype.
The menu includes a selection of handmade sandwiches, a sultana scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream, and some delicious miniature cakes. As I don’t like tea, they brought me a yummy hot chocolate instead. Betty’s afternoon tea is served all day, and costs £18.95 per person, or £26.85 including a glass of champagne.
Top Tip: There are two Betty’s Tea Rooms in York; the smaller one on Stonegate tends to be quieter than the larger on St Helen’s Square so you have a better chance of getting a table without waiting for hours in the Yorkshire weather. Choose your tea time well too; a mid-morning ‘brunch’ time visit should see you avoid excessive queues too so you can enjoy your afternoon tea at Betty’s sooner!
For something a little more extravagant, you can reserve a Lady Betty Afternoon tea in the Belmont Room at the St Helen’s Square Betty’s, for £32.95 or £39.95 including champagne. This includes a wider menu selection, including an appetiser, savoury selection and two types of freshly baked scones – sultana and lavender – as well as more scrummy cakes.
For more information and bookings visit their website www.bettys.co.uk or call 0800 456 1919.
The Best Afternoon Tea in York: The 5 Star Treatment
The Principal York (Formerly the Royal York Hotel)
This is luxury tea time at its best. I visited when the hotel was the Royal York, and although it has re-branded as the Principal York I hear it is just as delicious. Here you can enjoy your afternoon tea in the Garden Room, a light-filled dining room with views of the gardens and the York Minster beyond. Conveniently located in York city centre next to the train station, you can also treat yourself to an overnight stay here if your budget allows!
The Principal York sources their tea from the Rare Tea Company, who supply the world’s best tea direct from farmers and their tea gardens, or you can upgrade your tea to include a glass of champagne to really push the boat out!
The setting here is lovely, and the afternoon tea is served in stages; first came savoury nibbles – we had a smoked salmon mousse, a blue cheese scone and ham & leek tart before the waiter brought out our sandwiches and cakes. One of my favourite parts of this tea was the plain scone – we each had a plain and a fruit scone which was perfect for those who like to pick out my sultanas!
The menu has changed, but the plain and sultana scones remain, and I love the addition of a children’s afternoon tea menu too.
The price is £23.50 per person, or £30.50 including a glass of champagne.
For more information and bookings visit the Principal York website
The Best Afternoon Tea in York: Afternoon Chocolate
York Cocoa House
As I don’t drink tea, I usually order hot chocolate with my afternoon tea anyway, so when I heard about an afternoon chocolate, I couldn’t resist! York Cocoa House used to offer an afternoon tea where everything on the menu has some kind of chocolate ingredient – hence the ‘afternoon chocolate’ name. While they are now running their chocolate workshops again, COVID appears to have put a stop to the chocolate afternoon teas, unfortunately.
Savoury items included the York Cocoa House Rarebit made with York Chocolate Stout, chilli peppers filled with goats cheese & white chocolate, and a chicken pesto wrap with chocolate dressing. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the savoury nibbles, as they really were savoury, with just a hint of chocolate – my personal favourite was the cheesy rarebit. The sweet items were a chocolate and cherry scone, a raspberry & macaroon chocolate cup, and a square of incredibly soft and gooey chocolate goodness – I’m afraid I didn’t write down the name of it, but it was heavenly, they all were in fact!
You can choose from a selection of hot chocolates to accompany your chocolate afternoon tea, or add a chocolate wine or a chocolate stout for an extra price. I chose the chocolate wine, but I have to admit I found it a bit bitter. Perhaps a hot chocolate with a shot of whisky in it would have gone down better (also an option if you fancy!)
To see if they are offering delicious afternoon chocolate teas again check the York Cocoa House website.
Other Options for Afternoon Tea in York
I didn’t personally try the following, but I definitely want to on my next visit to York!
The Best Afternoon Tea in York: Something a little Different
The Countess of York is a beautifully restored railway carriage in the National Railway Museum, creating a unique setting for your afternoon tea. Travel back in time to the era of high-class railway dining and enjoy a traditional English Afternoon Tea surrounded by opulent carriage décor and elegant furniture.
The menu includes a delicious selection of dainty sandwiches, fine leaf teas and scrumptious homemade cakes and scones, as well as a serving of warming soup during autumn and winter.
The afternoon tea is served daily at 12pm, 2pm and 4pm, and costs £22.50 per person, or £29 including champagne.
Reservation is recommended through the Railway Museum website or by phone +44 (0) 1904 686295.
The Best Afternoon Tea in York: Explore the City while you Eat
City Cruises York
Absorb the views of beautiful York from the River Ouse on a delightful two-hour cruise while enjoying afternoon tea. The menu includes a selection of finger sandwiches, fruit scones with jam & clotted cream and delicious finger desserts, and is served with freshly brewed tea and coffee.
The cruise also includes the captain’s commentary on sites you pass along the way. Pre-booking is essential for this, as they only operate on certain days during the spring & summer, so check the departure schedule online. Cruises board at 2.30pm, and last for an hour and 45 minutes.
The price starts from £28.50 per person. Check the City Cruises York website or call +44 (0) 1904 628324 for more information and to book your places.
The Best Afternoon Tea in York: The Quirky Option
The Grand Hotel & Spa
Offering lovely views of the historic City Walls of York, the relaxing atmosphere coupled with attentive and unobtrusive staff, all combine to provide an unforgettable dining experience at this five star hotel.
The standard afternoon tea starts from £25.50 per person, and can be upgraded to add sparkling wine, Hendrick’s Gin & Tonic or champagne. The children’s afternoon tea consists of a different more child-friendly menu, so the whole family can enjoy afternoon tea together.
However, what really makes the Grand Hotel stand out is the themed afternoon teas – a Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea Party! These are more expensive but are an extra special experience that I have to try when I go back to York! The themed afternoon teas are £39 per person, and £21 per child up to 12 years old. Children under 5 dine for £11 each.
For more information and bookings visit the Grand York website or phone +44 (0) 1904 380038
For afternoon tea in Yorkshire, York city centre has some of the best afternoon tea options, whether you’re looking for a champagne afternoon tea or a more simple afternoon tea for two then you will be spoilt for choice!
Where is your favourite afternoon tea shop in York? And what do you think is the best afternoon tea in Yorkshire? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to read your stories!
Where to Stay in York
Hostels in York
Hostels are opening up again now, and with the right safety protocols in place can be a great way to enjoy York on a budget, whether you are ready for a dorm room or prefer to book a private room. Check the details of what new procedures have been brought in and make sure you feel confident in the hostel before booking.
Astor York is a lovely hostel in a listed building about 10 minutes walk from the centre of York. It gets great reviews for the staff, amenities and social activities.
The Fort Boutique Hostel
The Fort is in a great location right in the centre of York. It gets great reviews for the location, comfy beds and cleanliness. It’s above a bar so could be noisy at the weekends, but a pair of earplugs should sort that out.
Hotels in York
There is no shortage of great hotels in York. I especially love the smaller independently run bed and breakfast style hotels in York, where the owners really go out of their way to take care of guests.
I stayed at the award-winning No.21 York Bed & Breakfast and loved it! Owners Simon and Andrea are so kind and welcoming it felt like home. The Bed and Breakfast is located close to the Museum Gardens, and the rooms are comfortable and spotlessly clean. Simon and Andrea use local ingredients for their delicious breakfast and homemade bread, and source as many of their produce & services as possible from within a 20-mile radius of York.
Tower Guesthouse is another popular choice when visiting York. It is slightly further out of the city than No. 21, about a mile away from York Minster, but the boutique style and luxurious decor makes up for the walk. Guests also loved the great breakfast and friendly staff.
If neither of those takes your fancy, you can browse all hotels in York here.
Airbnb in York
For a whole place to yourself, this riverside studio has onsite parking and gets great reviews for cleanliness and for its location 5 minutes from the Shambles. Of if you’re really looking to push the boat out, this stunning flat could be the one for you!
Alternatively, you can check out all the options for Airbnb in York.
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $52 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
If you’re looking for travel insurance for your trip to the UK, get a quote now from World Nomads.
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Thank you to Visit York for hosting my visit to York.
My afternoon tea experiences at Betty’s and the Royal York Hotel were complimentary, and the fact that I loved them both clearly influenced my review! All opinions are, as always, my own.
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