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Holiday High Tea: Where to Sip Among Twinkling Lights and Historic Architecture

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The Fairmont San Francisco decked out for the holidays (Courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco/7x7)

This time of year, some of the Bay Area's most beautiful historic homes and hotels take on the tradition of afternoon tea.

These extravagant architectural beauties are worth a visit in any season, but crustless finger sandwiches, scones with Devonshire cream and lemon curd, and an uplifting, aromatic tea make the trip even better. After all, everyone deserves to indulge in a little tradition around the holidays.


86 Cañada Rd.

Filoli decked out for the holidays
Filoli decked out for the holidays (Courtesy of Filoli via Facebook/7x7)

Filoli, the 19th century English manor in Woodside, takes the holidays very seriously: Musicians play special engagements, Santa makes a visit, and the property's manicured gardens magically light up. One of their best winter traditions, however, is a holiday high tea—a special version of their year-round tea service where they pull out all the stops. Alongside a special tea blend, guests are served delicate holiday treats with their scones and finger sandwiches.

When the meal is finished, check out the house's Drawing Room, where tea was traditionally presented to honored visitors. High tea is held every Tuesday and some Sundays from 1:30pm to 3pm, between November 26th and December 17th.

Garden Court at the Palace Hotel

2 New Montgomery St.
San Francisco

Finger sandwiches, scones and tea at the Palace Hotel (Courtesy of the Palace Hotel/7x7)

The Palace's sumptuous Garden Court, with its stained glass dome and Austrian crystal chandeliers, was the hotel's crowning jewel when it opened in 1909. Over the years, it has hosted presidents (Warren G. Harding died in a room upstairs) and starred in movies (1997's The Game). For over a hundred years, it has also been the site of an elegant tea service.

Presented on fine china and silver, holiday tea in the Garden Court ($90/adults, $60/kids) includes a special festive menu of finger sandwiches, scones, and sugar plum tea. On December 12th, 19th, 23rd, and 24th, the Palace will also offer tea with Santa ($95/adults, $65/kids). For those who want a little bubbly along with their tea, try the sparkling wine tea ($76). // Tea is served Monday through Saturday afternoons in December; reservations are preferred.

Pardee Home Museum

672 11th St.

High tea at the Pardee Home Museum in Oakland
High tea at the Pardee Home Museum in Oakland (Courtesy of Pardee Home Museum via Yelp/7x7)

This cream-colored Victorian built in 1869 in Oakland celebrates its roots with oh-so British high teas. Served either in the house's elegant dining room or its manicured garden, the Pardee Home pairs their brew with platters of sweet and savory treats for between six and twelve guests ($35 for high tea, $25 for dessert tea, $40 for garden tea).


When you've cleared your plate, take a tour of this beautifully decorated house museum. Teas are private and must be scheduled in advance.

Fairmont San Francisco

950 Mason St.
San Francisco

The Fairmont San Francisco does Christmas right (Courtesy of Fairmont San Francisco via Facebook/7x7)

Afternoon tea has been served at the Fairmont San Francisco since 1907, so they've had time to perfect their skills. Presented in the Laurel Court restaurant and bar, the centerpiece of the hotel's lobby opens again after waiting six decades to be restored. the Fairmont's tea includes scones, pastries, and teas with locally sourced ingredients. Tea here is served on Saturday and Sunday afternoons year-round (between 1:30 and 3:30pm) but during the holidays, the lobby is extra festive—dressed to the nines in trains, trees, and a massive gingerbread house.

Get festive by attending their signature Gingerbread Holiday Tea, from November 30th through December 31st ($129/adult, $89/kid). // Reservations recommended.

Top of the Mark

999 California St.
San Francisco

Afternoon tea at Top of the Mark
During the holidays, Top of the Mark serves two versions of afternoon tea—one for adults, another for kids. (Courtesy of Top of the Mark/7x7)

High above the city, perched on the penthouse level of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, Top of the Mark has been charming guests since 1939. During the holidays, this iconic San Francisco eatery serves two versions of afternoon tea—one for adults, another for kids.

At the Children's Magical Tea ($80), finger sandwiches, scones and pastries are served buffet style in a delightful afternoon of face painting, cookie decorating, and balloon animal making. There are two seatings—at noon and 12:30pm—Fridays and Saturdays between November 29th and December 26th. If you can't make these times, swing by on Thursday, December 19th or Wednesday, December 26th.

For an extra holiday treat, be sure to schedule your teatime around Santa himself: Santa Claus will be in the lobby on Saturdays December 7th, 14th, and 21st between 12:30pm and 4:30pm. // Reservations required.

This article originally appeared on 7x7 Bay Area.

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