The clink of Pimm’s glasses, the subtle waft of strawberries and cream, the satisfying sound of ball hitting grass court and, usually, the entire gamut of English weather patterns – nothing says British summer quite like Wimbledon.
The oldest tennis tournament in the world is a firm favourite in London’s social calendar. Anyone who’s anyone attends: last year, the actress Sienna Miller and her boyfriend double-dated with her ex Tom Sturridge and his new girlfriend Alexa Chung, while the Princess of Wales blew a kiss to her parents from the Royal Box.
Taking place in July at the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club (AELTC) in the leafy suburb of SW19, the Championships are around half an hour from central London by underground or rail. The nearest stations are Wimbledon (for the train, District Underground line and tram) and Southfields (for the District line).
The area around the former is busy and a little scruffy, but climb up the hill towards Wimbledon Village and you’ll find some of the capital’s prettiest streets, with the butterfly-scattered stretch of Wimbledon Common beyond. This is a place of multi-million pound mansions hidden behind wisteria-topped fences, and where horse riders amble along roads lined with pavement cafés. Posh mums meet for rosé before school pick-up and joggers criss-cross the Common. In early July, however, it’s a constant street party as tennis fans fill the area’s bars and restaurants.
Tim Henman’s heyday may be behind us, Emma Raducanu may be ruled out this year and former men’s number one Andy Murray may now be 43rd seed, but the British come out in force for those two, tennis-packed weeks of the year (particularly after a jug or three of Pimm’s).
So, if you’re keen to make the most of a visit to the neighbourhood, let us show you how.
How long does Wimbledon last and how can I get tickets?
The tournament runs from July 3 to 16 in 2023, though public ballot ticket sales ended in December 2022 and hospitality tickets via Keith Prowse have sold out.
Debenture tickets (from holders who have purchased five-year access to seats on No. 1 or Centre Court) can still be bought from third-party sellers though you’ll need deep pockets: Wimbledon Debenture Owners has a few available from £1,045pp for matches on Court No. 1, rising to £6,945pp for the men’s final, women’s doubles final and another match on Centre Court.
Alternatively, you can join that most British of institutions, The Queue, for on-the-day tickets to the Grounds or the Show Courts; prices start from £27 for a Grounds Pass that allows access to The Hill and its big screen, as well as courts No. 3, 12 and 18 and this is reduced after day nine of play). The AELTC advises arriving well before 9am for the chance of getting one: some people camp out overnight to secure their places.
A strict dress code only applies to those in the Royal Box (as a barred Lewis Hamilton allegedly found out in 2015). However, dirty shoes, ripped jeans and vests are a no-no, as are clothes with political or advertising slogans.
Where’s the best place to watch the tournament if you don’t have tickets?
If you’re lucky enough to have bagged a ticket to the Grounds, you’ll be able to grab a coveted spot on The Hill to watch the action on the Large Screen. If not, the Rose and Crown pub by the Common transforms its garden into its very own ‘tennis club’ for the duration, complete with TV screens and live bands (book in advance).
Down the hill, the Piazza shows matches on a big screen for those who haven’t secured a place elsewhere – though the view of supermarket Morrisons may not be to everyone’s taste.
Far prettier is the setting for Strawberries and Screen at Duke of York Square near Sloane Square Underground station in Chelsea. On a deckchair-scattered green beside the Saatchi Gallery, there’s a pop-up bar from upmarket grocer Partridges serving Pimm’s, strawberries and cream and champagne.
Just as refined is nearby restaurant Stanley’s, where the big screens are accompanied by canopies of flowers under huge sun umbrellas and the drink of the tournament is a Courtyard Bramble (a sort of deconstructed take on a Pimm’s).
The best places to eat and drink in Wimbledon
For neighbourhood people-watching, Wimbledon Village’s branch of the Ivy chain is hard to beat. Grab a banquette seat in the garden for a Sunday brunch of buttermilk pancakes or lobster and prawn benedict and let the eavesdropping commence. Meanwhile, drinks at the aforementioned Dog & Fox are so popular during the tournament that you need to book tables for its big screen tennis and live music.
The party continues at St Mark’s Place (a few minutes’ stroll from Wimbledon station and around half an hour from the AELTC). Here, official tournament sponsor and gin maker Sipsmith has teamed up with local pub The Alexandra for music, burgers and drinks under swaying lanterns.
Far less raucous, the Hand in Hand pub is the place for cutesy dining beside the Common, its neat white picket fence offset by an explosion of pavement sun umbrellas. Go for the gigantic, homemade chicken, leek and mushroom pies. Canines are catered for, too, with free dog biscuits.
Keen for something special? Head to Takahashi, near South Wimbledon station on the Northern Line and a 20-minute bus ride from the AELTC (taxis during the tournament can be hard to find). Don’t be put off by its less salubrious location and anonymous, warship-grey facade: exquisite £140 omakase menus created by a Nobu Tokyo alumnus are served within. Competition for the restaurant’s eight seats is almost as fierce as for the Wimbledon title: check its Instagram for cancellations and call immediately.
What else is there to do in Wimbledon?
Since 2022, the tournament no longer has down time on Middle Sunday (when both the lawn and the players traditionally got a rest), but there’s plenty to do if match tedium strikes. For those with Grounds tickets, the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum is as good a place to start as any, giving tennis fans a chance to sit where Roger Federer once sat pre-match, or scan the pages of Arthur Ashe’s diary.
If you’re without tickets, make for Wimbledon Common instead. Mostly famous as the home of the fictional Wombles, it’s far less litter-ridden than they would have you presume. Experienced riders can saddle up for a morning trot courtesy of Wimbledon Village Stables, while cyclists can pedal on designated routes through the greenery. Meanwhile, on the lake at Wimbledon Park (adjacent to the Championships Grounds), you can book private paddle-boarding lessons for groups of up to five.
If you’re not that sporty, try a beer masterclass at the Hand in Hand instead. Once a month, landlord Andrew Ford takes drinkers through the brewing process and lets them try a few beers, too. Elsewhere, in Wimbledon town centre, there’s dance and comedy at the New Wimbledon Theatre, with tickets from £18, and – ahem – ace souvenirs from Ely’s, including “I’d rather be watching tennis” mugs and Wimbledon Brewery gin.
Enjoy a picnic in the overblown sprawl of Cannizaro Park, the remnants of a country estate at the edge of the Common. British Fine Foods has picnic lunches including British classics such as dressed crab, Scotch eggs, and gooseberry and elderflower fools (£85 for two).
You might eventually want to flee the tennis-induced crowds and chaos completely. If so, it’s a ten-minute ride by K5 bus (or a quick hop by taxi) to Morden Hall Park, a former deer park alongside the meandering River Wandle, and the ideal backdrop for a peaceful stroll far away from all the racket(s).
Where’s the best place to stay for Wimbledon?
You’ll pay an inflated price to stay within walking distance of the tournament and many places will now be booked. Around half an hour’s amble from the ground, the local outpost of the Hotel du Vin chain is housed in the elegant, 19th-century mansion of Cannizaro House at the edge of Wimbledon Common. It’s a little rough around the edges and double rooms in high season usually cost around £180, but nights during the Championships are available for upwards of £830.
A slightly cheaper option in Wimbledon Village is the Dog & Fox, a lively pub that’s said to have been a favourite with Boris Becker. It’s a charming little find, with double rooms from around £389 during the tournament.
You’ll get better value away from the action. A 20-minute train ride from Wimbledon station in Hampton Court, home to Henry VIII’s palace, The Mitre comes with a riverside terrace, the option to hire a boat, and doubles from £265 during the Championships. There’s even a Royal Tennis Court dinner mid-way through Wimbledon, during which guests can take a VIP tour of the place where Charles I played real tennis back in 1625. The elegant, arty bedrooms are a trade-off for the busy commute to the Grounds.
Further into central London, in refined Chelsea (a 25-minute Tube ride from Wimbledon station), you’re close to London’s shops and museums if you want to mix serves with sightseeing. Beaverbrook Town House is set in two converted Georgian townhouses, and has 14 suites with leafy views over Cadogan Gardens – and access to a tennis court if you’re tempted to have a go yourself. Though they start at an eye-watering £780 per night, they’re cheaper during Wimbledon than in the weeks preceding it.