Hero guide to….The Wimbledon Championships

There’s so much more to do in and around Wimbledon than watch the tennis, but the Grand Slam tournament, known simply as The Championships, is probably the main reason for your visit so let’s focus on that first and I’ll tell you all the other great stuff later.

When and where do the Championships take place?

The Championships will be held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) in the southwest London suburb of Wimbledon (SW19), from 1 to 14 July 2019.

The AELTC is actually quite a trek outside Wimbledon town centre, the closest tube station is Southfields on the (green) District Line (NOT Wimbledon, which is 2 stops further down the line). From Southfields, it’s about a 15-minute walk or a two-minute bus ride. Buses are laid on to take visitors to and from the station. You can also take a taxi.

How do you get tickets?

Oh dear, you’ve obviously missed the public ballot (which closes in the December before the tournament), and you clearly aren’t fortunate enough to have debenture tickets, but, here’s the good news – you still have 3 choices. You can buy a package, including Wimbledon tickets and accommodation for the Finals weekend from Newmarket Holidays, buy Wimbledon tickets online, or join The Queue (yes, it’s now so famous it deserves to be capitalised).

Ticketmaster has several hundred Centre Court and Court 3 tickets available on its website every day during the championships. Returned tickets go on sale 48 hours before the day of play and reserved tickets can be booked in the morning for the following day’s play. They sell out super fast so you’ll need to jump online very early in the day to stand a chance of getting lucky.

For further information about buying tickets online, join mywimbledon.

If you’re unlucky and don’t get tickets online, you’ll have to join the The Queue.

This is not as bad as it sounds, even though you’ll have to pitch up the day before and camp overnight to be in with a realistic chance of getting Centre Court and Court One tickets at the turnstile. However, long gone are the good old days when tennis fans used to sleep on the street, these days Wimbledon Park opposite the AELTC has been transformed into a giant, well-ordered campsite with porta-loos, showers and even posh burger vans to keep you sustained.

The site is quite well managed, and the atmosphere is usually pretty festive and congenial, but I’ve heard stories of some groups getting a bit rowdy late at night and keeping others awake (and last year I found an empty NOS canister on the ground the next day, which suggests someone was having a high old time…)

There are also lockers where you can leave your gear once you’ve packed up in the morning (£5 for camping equipment, £1 for other items) and nice friendly marshals will come along and give you a numbered ticket so you know where you are in the queue if you want to nip off for a quick shower. Someone else can save your space in the queue for up to 15 minutes while you do.

If you aren’t too fussed about getting Centre Court or Court One tickets, there’s no real need to camp, you can rock up early in the morning and join The Queue for a (cheaper) ground ticket to watch the matches on the outside courts. I actually prefer these as you can get so close to the players you can smell their sweat and the atmosphere is stupendous. Sometimes you can get in even if you don’t turn up till lunchtime, and you don’t always have to queue, sometimes you can just walk straight in – and there’s still a chance to buy Centre Court and Court One tickets once inside, read on for the lowdown.

NOTE – you no longer need to pay with cash. The AELTC has caught up with the century and now takes debit and credit cards too.

The Queue rules

Don’t be disheartened if The Queue is already mammoth when you arrive, once the turnstiles open it moves very quickly. And there are lots of vans selling refreshments to keep you going until you get inside the AELTC for the obligatory strawberries and cream and Pimms.

Top Tip: Once inside, you can queue (yes, again) at the Ticket Resale Kiosk to buy Centre Court and Court One tickets from visitors who have left before the end of play. You’ll find the kiosk on Henman Hill and it opens at 3pm, not before. Sometimes the queue is quite long, but you can watch the matches on Centre Court on the giant screen on Henman Hill while you wait – and once I only had to queue for 15 minutes. The marshals will give you an idea of how long you’re likely to be standing there when you join the queue.

Here is further information about how, when and where to queue, including left luggage details and ticket prices.

Top Tip #2: tickets are cheaper after 5pm and on a fine evening that will still leave you plenty of time to see some great matches as play often continues until 9pm or even later. I’ve often joined The Queue at 3.30pm and got in just after 5pm  – the only problem is, if it suddenly starts to rain as soon as you arrive (that’s happened to me more than once) you might not see any matches and you won’t get a refund. D’oh.

Local postbox painted gold to celebrate Murray’s 2012 Olympic medal

“I understand how much everyone wanted to see a British winner at Wimbledon and I hope everyone enjoyed it. I worked so hard in that last game. It’s the hardest few points I’ve had to play in my life. I don’t know how I came through the final three points… that last game … my head was kind of everywhere. That last game will be the toughest game I’ll play in my career, ever.”

Sir Andy Murray on becoming the Wimbledon men’s singles champion in 2013

Where to stay

There are a few hotels small hotels in Wimbledon town centre, which is a bus or taxi ride away from the Championships, plus there are also several Travelodges not too far away, including in Raynes Park, which is the closest, and in Vauxhall and Waterloo, from where you can easily hop on the train to Wimbledon.

The smartest hotel close to Wimbledon is Cannizaro House on Wimbledon Common, now part of the Hotel du Vin chain. In Wimbledon Village, the Dog & Fox pub has a few rooms.

Wimbledon Village

Rent a private house or room

Alternatively, there are lots of local properties or rooms available to rent. The cheapest but most conveniently located are in Southfields and Wimbledon Park, which are only a few minutes’ walks from the AELTC and very close to the start of The Queue, but the largest and most expensive are in Wimbledon Village, which is where the top ranking players tend to stay. (It’s not really a village, by the way, just a smart suburb of Wimbledon with some posh shops and pricey places to eat, but you do often see horses clip-clopping through the streets!)

If there’s a group of you or you’re looking to bring your family and you want an entire house, your best bet is to try some of the specialist letting agencies like Acer Tennis Lettings. Expect to pay from £2,000 for a 3-bed house. For rooms, check out Airbnb, which has lots available from about £30 a night.

You can grab a bite at one of the many cafes in Southfields on your way to The Championships or The Queue. My favourite is Chocolate and Coffee on Wimbledon Park Road, on the way to The Championships. If you want a picnic to take into the grounds (prices inside are steep) then pop over the road from Southfields tube to the tiny Chanteroy French deli (233A Wimbledon Park Road), which does great sarnies for a few quid.

Head up the hill to Wimbledon Village and you’ll find lots of yummy cafes, such as Maison St Cassien, which serves delicious Mediterranean and Lebanese food and is a favourite with the tennis stars (I once bumped into Maria Sharapova there), but it’s tiny so you might have to queue (this seems to be a Wimbledon theme!). Almost opposite there’s an Ivy Cafe (booking is advisable during Wimbledon Fortnight) and there are also plenty of restaurants, including the most highly-rated White Onion, and a couple of fine pubs. Walk further to Wimbledon Common and you’ll find the Fox and Grapes, a great pub serving excellent food.

What else is there to do?

Wimbledon isn’t all about tennis, it also has several golf clubs – including one public course where you pay to play, plus a riding stable, a public swimming pool, lots of lovely walks and of course plenty of retail therapy.

You can play tennis in Wimbledon Park

That said, if you fancy playing rather than simply watching the tennis, there are public courts in Wimbledon Park. There’s also a volleyball court (with sand from the London 2012 Olympics) and two children’s playgrounds plus a paddle-pool. Roger Federer’s missus was once spotted in the larger playground pushing her twins on the swings, true fact.

There’s a café in the park but, to be honest, it’s a bit unappetising. If you’re in need of refreshments, better to go out of the park and along Revelstoke Road to Coffee and Chocolate.

Golf in Wimbledon

If you want to play a round, head to the Wimbledon Common Golf Clubon Camp Road, which is open to members of the public. Just remember to bring a red shirt.

Horse riding in Wimbledon

To ride on the Common or in nearby stunning Richmond Park, where you can get close to herds of deer, book a hack at the Wimbledon Village Stables.

Swimming in Wimbledon

There’s a public indoor swimming pool, plus spa facilities, at Wimbledon Leisure Centre  on the way out of the town centre towards Morden.  There’s also an indoor pool at the Aspire Centre in Southfields, which is close to where you queue for entry to Wimbledon. If you have a car, you could drive to the lovely heated outdoor pools at Hampton, or to the non-heated – and significantly colder – Tooting Bec Lido.

Shopping in Wimbledon

The smartest shops are in Wimbledon Village, where you’ll find fashion outlets such as Matches, Whistles and Reiss, beauty brand Space NK, a lingerie store, shoe shops and several florists. For more high street brands, head down the hill into Wimbledon Town Centre, which has its own Centre Court (can get confusing) shopping centre, or hop on the train to Kingston, a southwest London shopping mecca.

Walks/sightseeing

Wimbledon is within a great green lung of southwest London, which consists of Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park. The latter two have some lovely walks or runs (sadly all the Wombles have gone) and, if you have a bike, there are some cycle paths. You’ll definitely spot deer in Richmond Park and, in July, you can catch largelate flowering rhododendrons in the south section of the Isabella Plantation, between the stream from the Still Pond and the main central stream.

 

 

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