The Wimbledon Championship is one of those sporting events that just has to be experienced at least once in life. There’s simply no better way to watch the best tennis players in the world battle it out than sitting court-side at Wimbledon’s All England Lawn Tennis Club with a glass of Pimms in one hand and a palette of strawberries and cream in the other.
This year, Wimbledon runs from Monday 23rd June – Sunday 6th July 2014. We’ve left no stone uncovered in compiling our guide to this year’s championships, from tips on queuing to advice on what to do while it’s raining. Enjoy!
No intention of queuing for tickets? Find out where to watch Wimbledon in London
When to go
The best time to go to the championships is the first week as this is when the most matches are on and presents your best opportunity to catch one of the seeds in action. Failing that, early in the second week is pretty good but in truth the tennis is well worth a visit on any of the days throughout the championship as there is always tennis being played. Whether its singles, doubles, juniors or the wheelchair championships that you end up watching, you won’t be disappointed.
The only day to avoid is the middle Sunday of the tournament (2nd July) as this is a rest day for all of the players and there is no tennis! The final Sunday is another to be avoided as there’s very little tennis being played beyond the finals on Centre Court. However, saying that, at £5 it’s worth considering as a venue to watch the Men’s Final as thousands will congregate on Henman Hill to watch it on the big screen.
What to bring to the ground
The key thing to remember is to pack a mac! English summers are notorious for being damp squibs and more often than not and it rains at some point during the course of the championships. So, unless you’ve managed to get hold of a seat on Centre Court you run a great risk of getting wet and miserable while you wait and pray for the rain to stop and play to resume.
If you’re on a budget, packing some home-made sandwiches and a palette of strawberries is an option well worth considering as food prices aren’t cheap inside the grounds. However, don’t go berserk! Picnic hampers and cool boxes are not permitted inside the ground.
Getting to the All England Tennis Club
It’s a common misconception that Wimbledon is the nearest tube station to the grounds. Southfields is considerably closer and is actually a couple of stops before Wimbledon on the District Line. From the station it’s an easy 15-minute walk up the hill to get to the ground.
The route is well sign posted though the chances are you won’t need them – just follow the crowds! If you’re feeling lazy you can also grab the shuttle bus but by the time you’ve queued up for the bus you might as well have walked. If you do get off at Wimbledon, it’s not the end of the world as special double-decker buses will be in operation throughout the championships to ferry you to the grounds. Indeed, if you’re coming from Waterloo on an overground train it’s actually preferable.
How to beat the queues
Sadly, the days where you could wonder in off the street and catch a bit of the action are long gone. Queuing up for entry is now a Wimbledon right of passage and is inescapable. In most cases you have to be prepared to queue for anything up to three hours or more – especially in the first week.
However, there is one sure-fire way to reduce the queuing time, but it requires a fair amount of dedication – namely camping in a field overnight! It’s not actually as daft as it sounds and is becoming really popular amongst diehard tennis fans and students. The atmosphere and camaraderie more than make up for the discomfort of having to spend a night in a field.
Facilities like port-a-loos and lighting have also begun to crop up in recent years which make the experience that bit more bearable – just don’t forget to bring your own toilet roll! If camping’s not your thing make sure you get to the ground 3-4 hours before the start of the play (around 8am) to ensure you don’t spend your entire day staring at the back of somebody’s head as opposed to the tennis!
Which ticket should I get?
Once you finally find yourself at the front of the queue there are four possible ticket types for you to choose from: Centre Court, Court Number One, Court Number Two and your standard Ground Pass. If you get offered any of the first three ticket types (highly unlikely) – bite their hands off! These tickets are pricier (£40+) than the standard Ground Pass but get you access to the best courts and players.
Most of you, however, will have no other choice but the standard Ground Pass. This gets you access to all the outside courts and in many respects is better – you won’t get the opportunity to see the likes of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal in action but you will still see some quality tennis at much closer quarters. During the early rounds, in particular, you’ll also see many of the seeded players slogging it out against some of the so-called lesser players with a point to prove.
Many of the better games in the first week are on the outside courts. If you’re really, really desperate for a show court ticket, head to the resale ticket office next to Broadcasting Centre in the corner of the complex to see if you can pick up any returned tickets. For full list of ticket prices check out the official Wimbledon website.
Where to watch the action
If you’ve got a ticket to any of the show courts then you don’t really have anything to worry about as you’ve already got a guaranteed seat and hours of tennis to look forward to. However, the vast majority of you won’t have a prime time seat opposite the Royal Box or next to Boris Becker and will be left with the unenviable task of having to choose one of the outside courts. With 15 to choose from and no allocated seating this can prove tricky if you don’t know what you’re doing.
The key is to read the order of play in advance for the day you’re planning to go and look for the court that’s scheduled to have the highest seed or you’re favorite player on. On the first two or three days of the tournament, this could be anyone beyond the top 4 or 5 in both the men’s and the women’s draws. If you’re not too bothered who you see but want to sample a big crowd head straight for Court 18. This attracts the biggest galleries by some distance on the outside courts and for that reason often sees some big names on it. Alternatively, you can just wonder round the grounds and dip in and out of matches as and when you please. This is a great way to soak up the general atmosphere.
If you’re absolutely desperate to catch a glimpse of your favorite player but don’t have a ticket for the show courts there’s always Henman Hill which shows all the action on Centre Court on a big screen. The practice courts are also a good place to see the stars knocking up before they go out on court.
Top tip: Check the order of play the night before and head for the court where you think the best matches are on as soon as you’re let in the ground as there’s no allocated seating and all available vantage points fill up fast! Click here for a map of the grounds.
It wouldn’t be Wimbledon without strawberries and cream and a glass of Pimms. Here’s our guide to the top three refreshments and where to find them:
1. Strawberries and Cream
A palette of strawberries and cream is as much a part of the championship as the tennis itself. 28,000kg were consumed last year along with 7,000 litres of cream.
The strawberries are all homegrown and picked the day before to ensure the highest quality. Pricey but oh, so worth it! Where? The Tea Lawn & Aorangi Food Court (right next to Henman Hill).
2. Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea complete with all the trimmings like scones, tea cakes and pots of jam is another typically British pastime and where better to do it than at Wimbledon on the lushness of the Tea Lawn in the sunshine?
Few things are more quintessentially English than a glass of Pimms in the English sunshine. 150,000 glasses were guzzled by thirsty spectators last year along with 17,000 bottles of champagne. Lovely bubbly! You can get your glass of Pimms at both the Aorangi Café and the Pimms Bar at the Court Buffet. Beyond the tea and scones and glasses of Pimms there are a number of cheaper and more filling options to sink your teeth into at the Championships including stir fries, fish & chips, burgers and salad bars.
What to do if it rains
Back in 1996 before Centre Court had its retractable roof, Sir Cliff Richard famously sang in the rain to entertain the crowd as they waited, in vain, for play to resume. Sadly, Sir Cliff is unlikely to be on hand to keep you entertained if it rains at this year’s championships; but don’t worry, there’s plenty you can do if the heavens do open and stop play.
If it’s no more than a shower and there’s a chance of further play you won’t want to go off site. One option, of course, is to head for the cover of one of the numerous on-site restaurants and bars and have a drink while watching re-runs of classic matches introduced by Sue Barker.
Another option is to visit the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum. Opened in 2006, the museum gives you the opportunity to brush up on your Wimbledon knowledge and see how the game has developed over the years. Old rackets, a pair of Fred Perry’s – the last Brit to win Wimbledon until Murray’s victory last year – shorts and John McEnroe talking about his Wimbledon experiences alone are more than enough to keep you entertained while you wait for play to re-start.
If rain stops play
If it’s looking like a wash out or you’ve had enough of the tennis there’s plenty to do in and around the surrounding area. If you make the short walk up the hill and into Wimbledon Village you’ll find a number of bars and pubs for you to grab a beer. Alternatively, you can hop on the tube and go into Wimbledon town where you can catch a movie at the Odeon or an afternoon matinee at Wimbledon Theatre. Wimbledon also has Centre Court shopping centre which is well stocked with all manner of shops for your retail pleasure.
Where to go after the tennis
The only place to go afterwards is Wimbledon Village. This is where everyone goes at the end of play including the players themselves once they’ve been knocked out of the tournament. There are many pubs and bars to choose from but here are our top three:
1. Dog & Fox
Right in the center of the Village, the Dog & Fox is among the busiest of the bars once the tennis is over. It has a nice outdoor terrace with plenty of tables and chairs but the clientele often spill out into the street.
24 High Street, Wimbledon SW19 5EA
2. Rose & Crown
Just up the road from the Dog & Fox, the Rose & Crown is your classic English pub serving a range of quality ales and decent food. The huge beer garden at the rear is an added bonus while the comfy couches are a great place to relax after a day on your feet walking round Wimbledon.
55 High Street Wimbledon SW19 5BA
3. Hand in Hand
This one’s a bit of a walk but is well worth the effort. Next to Wimbledon Common opposite King’s College School, the Hand & Hand has a great lawn at the front where you’ll always find people sprawled out enjoying a pint in the sunshine.
6 Crooked Billet SW19 4RG
Where to stay
Given all the public transport links you can pretty much stay anywhere in London and get to the tennis without too much bother. However, if you want to stay somewhere which has easy access to and from Wimbledon your best bet is to stay somewhere close to the train links.
Dorms from €23pppn | Customer rating 91% | Book here
Closer still is Euro Lodge Clapham, which is just two stops on a National Rail train or a short bus ride from Wimbledon.
Rooms from €29pppn | Customer rating 68% | Book here
If you’re planning on coming on the tube then Southfields (the stop for Wimbledon) is on the district line so you could do worse than the Queen Elizabeth hostel in Fulham. Fulham Broadway is just four stops on the tube.
Dorms from €10.51pppn | Customer rating 88% | Book here For more ideas on where to stay in London, see our guide Help! I need some cheap accommodation in London. Or, click for a full list of hostels in London and use the map tab to locate cheap hotels and hostels close to tube stations.