You don’t need to be a passionate expert of tennis to experience the Wimbledon Tournament More than just a sport event, Wimbledon became a quintessential moment of britishness and, when the weather is nice, can be a perfect day out.
From watching matches on small pitches, to having strawberries and Pimm’s laying on a meadow watching the big screens, here’s some suggestion on how to enjoy a day at Wimbledon.
How to get there
The Campionship is located at The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, SW19 5AE. Unlike the name might suggest, the closest station is not Wimbledon but Southfields, on the District Line. From both station there are shuttle bus services running every 30 minutes, however from Southfields is just a 15 minutes walk. How to get there? Just follow the signs… or the crowd!
If you’re coming from central London it might be quicker to take a train from Waterloo to Wimbledon and take the tube from there. Wimbledon is in zone 3, so make sure that your Oyster or Pass covers that area. For more detailed information check our article on the London Public Transport.
When to Go
If you’re aiming to a standard ground pass (£25-20) and don’t have any big match booked, then the best time to go is the first week. There will be matches on nearly all the courts and you might be able to see pretty much anything: singles, doubles, ladies, gentlemen and so on.
Even if you’re not interested in one or more particular players or matches, it’s worth having a look at the order of play that can be found on the official Wimbledon website. Also because you don’t just pop there pay a ticket and get in, you’ll have to go through the infamous queue.
If you really want to see some serious game you should know that some tickets are made available with short advance on Ticketmaster.
The Queue: Tickets and Bookings
An Englishman, even if he’s alone, forms an orderly queue of one [cit.]
Brits are quite famous for their queuing, and going to Wimbledon is like attending a class of the Queuing University. As an Italian I was shocked when I first got there: organised beyond my imagination, impossible to trick and… they even make it pleasant.
The earlier you get there the better: I wouldn’t recommend to join the queue after 8am, which is when the gates open.
Once there you’ll be given a queuing ticket with date and number, a leaflet and many other gadgets that you might need if you came un prepared.
Another option is camping at the fields the night before, the discomfort of a sleeping on a thin mat is balanced by a front row position when the queue starts building up. Only the first people will get a chance of getting tickets for the main course, the remaining few thousands will only get a ground pass, which costs £25-20.
What to take with you
As mentioned there is a long wait so you need to be prepared for that: bring a book, a friend, some music… whatever you need to keep yourself entertained. If you’re camping overnight you might also need a toilet roll. The tournament take place during the English summer, notorious for being unpredictable: expect sun, rain, wind, sun, wind and rain again. Sun screen and waterproof equipment are necessary.
The food in the Tennis Club is very expensive: you will just find average food for excessive prices. Make sure you take with you enough sandwiches, food and water. I am not sure about the alcohol allowance, I think it’s one bottle of wine or two cans (500ml) of beer per person.
It’s not a real Wimbledon experience without two of the most famous symbols of the tournament (well, and the tennis of course): Pimm’s and strawberries with cream. I’ve tried them both on my first visit, just to tick the boxes… ticks that cost me dearly. The strawberries are few with a splash of cream, the Pimm’s comes in a small cup, watered down with tons of ice, and with few lonely bits of fruit floating. Might have been good in the 30s but now you can get a much better drink in any pub.
What happens when it rains
You might think that the protagonist of this sport event is the tennis, right? Wrong, it’s the weather. Rain is very likely to happen at some point, and a sunny day is remembered for years. I still have a sticker at home celebrating a sunny start of the Championship.
If it rains lightly, the classic drizzle, the matches go on or they can be temporarily suspended to allow the staff to cover the courts with a protective plastic sheet. If the rain persists, the matches are cancelled and everyone is sent home.