Beautiful UK cafés that are simply stunning

Timeless tea rooms



Cafés can be basic little hole-in-the-wall spots – or they can be gilded, glamorous beauties. The places on our list fall elegantly into the latter category, with decadent decor and opulent surroundings matched only by the fancy cakes and fine china. Here are some of the world’s most beautiful historic cafés, where each cup of tea or coffee comes with a slice of the past.

Read on to discover stunning cafés and tea rooms everyone should see at least once. Have you visited any of the spots on our list?

The Apothecary, Rye, England, UK

<p>The Apothecary/Facebook</p>

The Apothecary/Facebook

Cute and cosy, The Apothecary is housed in an 18th-century building in the heart of the old town of Rye in Kent. Tables are surrounded by shelves of books and dark-wood furniture, while the menu is also very classic, with traditional British teatime treats like Welsh rarebit, quiche and freshly made cakes.

Sally Lunn’s, Bath, England, UK



Nestled down one of Bath's cobbled streets, charming tea room Sally Lunn’s dates back to 1482, and is where baker Sally invented the ‘Bath bun’ in the late 17th century. Her kitchen is now part of an on-site museum. Those famous buns are still the main menu event and made to the original recipe, with a texture and taste somewhere between a brioche and a burger bun.

The Wolseley, London, England, UK



The beautiful building that now houses this grand café-restaurant was built in 1921 as a prestigious car showroom, complete with marble pillars and archways with Venetian and Florentine–inspired details. It retains the glamorous details, but now it's brilliant breakfasts, lunches to linger over and the most delectable afternoon teas that are on sale. The latter is a real event at The Wolseley, with delicate finger sandwiches, pretty cakes, perfect scones and proper pots of tea.

Bettys Café Tea Rooms, Harrogate, England, UK



Bettys was established by a Swiss confectioner back in 1919 and, though it’s branched out into a small Yorkshire chain with an online shop, its flagship Harrogate location is the real draw, with its old-fashioned charm and impeccable bakes. Afternoon tea was first served here in the late 1920s and remains a favourite. Another must-try here is the fat rascal – Bettys’ signature plump and extra fruity scone.

Now let's take a look at some equally beautiful cafés from around the world...

Majestic Café, Porto, Portugal



Dating back to 1921, Café Majestic is a Belle Époque gem with mirror-lined walls and opulent period features. People come here to soak up the charming, elegant ambience with a coffee, more than for the food. There are some decent options if you are looking for something more substantial, though, with dishes like the huge Francesinha sandwich – stuffed with meats, cheese and special sauce – and French toast served with dried fruit.

Balzac's, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

<p>Roozbeh Rokni/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</p>

Roozbeh Rokni/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Balzac's Coffee Roasters has a number of fine cafés in Ontario but it's the Distillery District branch that really impresses. Housed in an old Pump House dating back to 1895, it's been gloriously transformed into a grand, Parisian-style café, complete with a huge Vaudeville-style chandelier with candlesticks. The café, with mezzanine seating, is known for great coffee, pastries and people-watching.

New York Café, Budapest, Hungary



Considered by some to be the most beautiful café in the world, New York Café is an Italian Renaissance-style masterpiece. Opened in 1894, it was popular among writers and intellectuals, with newspapers edited in the upstairs gallery. It fell into disrepair after the Second World War and operated as Hungária from the 1950s until being restored to its former opulent glory – and original name – in 2006.

Antico Caffè Greco, Rome, Italy



Antico Caffe Greco opened in 1760, making it Rome's oldest café. It's hosted luminaries from Casanova to Charles Dickens, and William 'Buffalo Bill' Cody even swung by with his cowboy entourage back in 1890. Today it retains a stately elegance, complete with waiting staff in a uniform of bow ties and pinafore aprons, and is a must-visit when in the city.

Café Tortoni, Buenos Aires, Argentina

<p>Ian Carvell/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0</p>

Ian Carvell/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Café Tortoni dates back as far as 1858, and stepping through the door feels like being whisked to a Parisian coffee house – not so surprising, given that it was founded by a French immigrant and inspired by the French capital's cafés. It's been visited by countless famous names including writer Jorge Luis Borges, a sculpture of whom still sits at his regular table. It’s also known for hot chocolate, churros and evening tango performances.

Crew Collective & Café, Montreal, Québec, Canada



Once the Royal Bank of Canada, Crew Collective & Café is now a coffee shop and co-working space, though it retains its original splendour with vaulted ceilings, marble columns, elaborate chandeliers and intricate tiling. The stunning building was built in the 1920s and is also often used for special events such as weddings.

Café de Flore, Paris, France



Believed to have opened in 1887, Café de Flore has long been a celebrity haunt, attracting the likes of André Breton, Simone de Beauvoir, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Brigitte Bardot, Kate Moss and Karl Lagerfeld. The classic decor of wood-panelled walls, tiled floors and tan leather booths is complemented by a menu of bistro classics like French onion soup.

Angélina, Paris, France


There's plenty of historic cafés in Paris, and one of the most famous is the original Angélina, located on Rue de Rivoli. Coco Chanel was a regular at this patisserie, which opened in 1903, and you can request to sit at her table (45). The place is also known for its decadent hot chocolate, served with whipped cream on the side, and delicious desserts like the Mont Blanc (meringue, chestnut cream and whipped cream).

Café Hafa, Tangier, Morocco



Café Hafa, which was built in 1921, is the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing glass of fresh mint tea. This pretty, open-air café is a Tangier institution. Its terraces are staggered down the hillside, gazing across sea views; you can see Spain on a clear day. The pretty tables are topped with intricate mosaics, adding to the (already abundant) beauty of this breathtaking location.

Caffè Florian, Venice, Italy

<p>Botond Horvath/Shutterstock</p>

Botond Horvath/Shutterstock

One of the oldest cafés in the world, Caffé Florian has been serving coffee, wine and sweet treats since 1720. Set in in the heart of Venice’s buzzing St Mark’s Square, the bar was used as a makeshift hospital during the Revolutions of 1848, and was also a regular haunt of legendary womaniser Casanova because it wasn't men-only – a rarity in the 18th century. It’s still wonderfully opulent, with red velvet seats, frescoed ceilings and gilded mirrors.

Café Imperial, Prague, Czechia



Prague is home to plenty of fabulous pre-war cafés, and the Imperial is one of the most beautiful. This Art Nouveau jewel dates back to 1914 and still retains its ornate decorations, with Moorish-inspired pillars and walls covered with ceramic tiles. The place is famous for its hand-decorated cakes and the Imperial, made with dates, is a must-try. It also serves salads, sandwiches, soups and more substantial dishes such as wild salmon and beef tartar.

A Brasileira do Chiado, Lisbon, Portugal



An institution in Lisbon since the turn of the 20th century, A Brasileira is an Art Deco treat. It opened in 1905, in a former shirt shop, and initially attracted artists, intellectuals and writers with free cups of coffee. The plush café is famous for being the first place to sell a bica, which is similar to an espresso, and for being a meeting place for revolutionaries. It boasts a fabulous patio area perfect for people-watching, too.

The Russian Tea Room, New York City, New York, USA



Established in the late 1920s by members of the Russian Imperial Ballet, The Russian Tea Room has undergone numerous transformations over the past century. Today, it’s still suitably glittering, glamorous and wonderfully over the top. People head here for the very special afternoon tea featuring blinis and caviar, enjoyed in some of the most sumptuous surroundings in town.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus, Naples, Italy



Founded in 1860, Gran Caffè Gambrinus boasts lavish interiors of the time including artwork, statues and glittering chandeliers. Like many historic European cafés, it's hosted well-known writers and intellectuals, including Oscar Wilde and Ernest Hemingway. Today, it’s still a decadent spot to sample its coffees, ice creams and pastries.

Baratti & Milano, Turin, Italy



Café, chocolatier and confectionary shop Baratti & Milano was founded in 1858, and is a model of gilded elegance. The surroundings, with dramatic chandeliers and counters that showcase the impeccably hand-crafted confections, perfectly complement decadent treats like its famously thick, bittersweet hot chocolate. The company is also known for its Gianduiotti – little hazelnut chocolates.

Café Gerbeaud, Budapest, Hungary

<p>Fabio Michele Capelli/Shutterstock</p>

Fabio Michele Capelli/Shutterstock

Café Gerbeaud has been going since 1858, and has occupied its current, prestigious position on Vörömarty Square since 1870. The interior boasts red velvet drapes and high ceilings with twinkling chandeliers. The desserts are simply beautiful, too. Try the Dobos Torta, a sponge cake layered with chocolate cream and topped with caramel.

Bewley's, Dublin, Republic of Ireland



Bewley's has been in operation since 1840, though this legendary Grafton Street coffee house was established in 1927. The café, which pretty much has landmark status in Dublin, reopened in 2017 after a major refurbishment, including restoration of the façade and the striking windows, designed by famed Irish stained-glass artist Harry Clarke. There’s an array of cakes and pastries to enjoy with a hot drink, though the signature slice is the square Mary Cake, filled with chocolate fondant and topped with a thin layer of marzipan.

Confeitaria Colombo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

<p>Bernard Barroso/Shutterstock</p>

Bernard Barroso/Shutterstock

Confeitaria Colombo has been an elegant stop in Rio for a cup of coffee and a Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese egg custard tart) since 1894. The Centro café's interior is utterly lavish, with giant, brocaded mirrors and intricate stained-glass windows, including the pretty, jade-tinged ceiling dome. There are a few other locations, including in Copacabana and Ipanema, though they aren’t nearly so opulent.

Café Tomaselli, Salzburg, Austria

<p>Adam Fagen/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0</p>

Adam Fagen/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The pretty, flower-adorned Café Tomaselli dates back to the early 18th century, when a licence to sell chocolate, tea and coffee was granted to French-born Johann Fontaine, making it Austria’s oldest coffee house. The café, in the heart of the Old Town, moved to its current location in Alter Markt in 1764, and has been run by the Tomaselli family since 1852. It still serves perfect Viennese chocolate cake and Erdbeerschüsserl – a sponge loaded with jam, fruit, chocolate and cream.

Groundwork, Los Angeles, California, USA



The LA location of small chain Groundwork is housed in a North Hollywood Historic Train Depot, which has been carefully restored into a bright and beautiful little space. The depot was built in the early 1890s and is a registered State Historic Landmark Building. Groundwork kept most of the original features, including iron and brass work on the roof and windows.

Estate Vaucluse House, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia



Located in the grounds of the 19th-century Vaucluse House, this restaurant and tearoom provides a peaceful retreat from central Sydney. It’s the surroundings that really make this place, with fountains and lush planting that seems to burst through the windows. There are also outdoor tables, so people can enjoy a leisurely lunch or decadent high tea surrounded by native flora and birdlife.

Konditorei Buchwald, Berlin, Germany



Buchwald was founded in 1852 and is known for its Baumkuchen (tree cake) – a layer cake that’s cooked on a spit over an open fire before being coated in a thin layer of apricot jam followed by sugar or chocolate. It’s just one of around 50 cakes on offer at this timeless bakery and café, along with pralines and ice cream.

Pierre Loti Café, Istanbul, Turkey



Pierre Loti really is a café with a view. Named after the French naval officer and novelist who enjoyed the same spectacular view back in 1876, it's a little outside the city centre, but it’s well worth the journey. The gorgeous terrace overlooks the Golden Horn waterway and the interior of the café is pleasantly traditional, with small tables and dark-wood ceilings. The menu highlight is the Gözleme, a delicious filled Turkish flatbread.

Café de la Paix, Paris, France



As quintessentially Parisian as tiny jazz bars and strolls along the Seine, legendary Café de la Paix has been serving up classic café fare with a side of elegance since 1862. With a prestigious location on the Grands Boulevards and facing the Opéra Garnier, ordering breakfast, lunch, dinner or even just an espresso here is always a wonderful experience. Writers Oscar Wilde and Émile Zola are among the luminaries who have sat within the chic, colonnaded interior.

Pastéis de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

<p>Fernando Duarte Nogueira/Shutterstock</p>

Fernando Duarte Nogueira/Shutterstock

This bright and airy café and bakery may be simple compared to the more opulent entries on our list, but period details like grand archways, etched glass, a curved patisserie counter and striking blue-and-white tiles add up to a beauty that almost matches the sweet treats sold here. Famous for its custard-filled pastries, the 1837-established Pastéis de Belém is named after the delicacy, and is the only place that has the original recipe from Jerónimos Monastery.

El Fishawy, Cairo, Egypt

<p>Charlie Phillips/Flickr/CC BY 2.0</p>

Charlie Phillips/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

El Fishawy is the place to come to experience true Egyptian café culture. Tucked down an alley of Cairo’s Khan El Khalli market, this place can be noisy and cramped, but that just adds to the atmosphere. The beloved café has been open since the 1770s and is believed to be the city’s oldest coffee house. Though it's firmly on the tourist path, customers will also rub shoulders with local stallholders and shoppers, all here to recharge with a mint tea or a shisha pipe.

Café Central, Vienna, Austria



Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky are among the famous patrons of Café Central through the years. Established in 1876, it’s still considered the grandest of Vienna’s historic coffee shops, and is one of the best places for fine pastries, from traditional apple strudel to the café's famous torte. There's also live piano music adding to the ambience.

Now discover the world's most historic inns, bars and taverns