A visitor’s guide to The Championships, Wimbledon
Wimbledon is one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments and the only major still played on grass. Held at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, it’s the oldest tennis tournament in the world, and widely regarded as the most prestigious too.
Since the first Championships over 120 years ago, SW19 has been associated with rules and tradition, something that continues to this day.
So, if you’re planning on going this year, whether you’ve got tickets for Centre Court or you’re watching the action from Murray Mound, here’s your guide to all things Wimbledon.
When is Wimbledon?
The Championships run for a fortnight at the end of June or early July. The 2019 Wimbledon tournament runs from Monday 1st to Sunday 14th July.
There are five main tournaments – gentlemen’s singles, ladies’ singles, gentlemen’s doubles, ladies’ doubles and mixed doubles – played across 18 courts. There are also junior tournaments for boys and girls, as well as wheelchair tournaments.
The ladies’ singles final takes place on Saturday 13th July, and the men’s singles final is on the last day, Sunday 14th July.
A potted history of Wimbledon
If it’s your first time at Wimbledon, it’s good to go armed with some knowledge of the event. Here’s a selection of facts from its 125-year history:
- The first Championships took place in 1877. These were for men only; women’s matches started in 1884
- Wimbledon was first televised in 1937
- Yellow balls were used for the first time in 1986
- The tournament was once “open”, meaning anyone who paid the entry fee (one guinea) could take part
- A total of 256 men and women compete in the singles competitions
- Wild cards entries allocated for each tournament and in 2001, Goran Ivanisevic became the only person to win the men’s singles title as a wildcard entrant
- The total attendance in 2018 was 473,169 people
- The most aces served during a Championships was 214 by John Isner in 2018 and 102 by Serena Williams in 2012
- Global news access audience is estimated at over 1bn people in 200 territories
- There are 14,979 Centre Court seats
- 290 million tennis balls could fit into Centre Court
- The fastest serves of all time go to Taylor Dent at 148mph in 2010 and Venus Williams at 129mph in 2008
- The longest match was 11 hours and 5 minutes
- There’s a resident hawk named Rufus who scares away other birds that might interrupt a match
- After the retractable roof is closed on Centre Court, it takes 30 minutes for the internal environment to be stabilised before play can continue
- The grass on the courts is precisely 8mm high and is mowed every day to ensure consistency for each match
- The second Monday of the tournament is known as Manic Monday, with the final 16 players all competing for a place in the quarter finals
- Used balls are sold daily (subject to availability) with proceeds going to the Wimbledon Foundation
- The strawberries are picked at 4am, collected at 9am and enjoyed by spectators the very same day
How can I get tickets for Wimbledon?
Since 1924, there’s been a Public Ballot for Wimbledon tickets, which is open from September to December of the previous year. If you’re successful, you’ll be offered the chance to buy tickets. You can’t request specific dates or courts – these are randomly selected by a computer – and ticket prices range from £33 to £225.
If you’re a member of a Lawn Tennis Association-affiliated club, you may also be able to apply for tickets through your tennis club.
Another way to get Wimbledon tickets is via The Queue. Wimbledon remains one of the few major sporting events in the world where you can turn up and buy tickets on the day.
From early in the morning each day (sometimes even camping over the night before), people start queuing to try and obtain a ticket for that day’s play. The Grounds open at 10.30am, but you need to arrive a good few hours before that to secure your place in The Queue.
When you join The Queue, you’ll be given a Queue Card which notes the date and time to show your position in The Queue. When you reach the turnstiles, you’ll be able to purchase a Show Court ticket (if you were early enough) or a Grounds ticket. Show Court tickets are available for matches on Centre Court and Courts 1 and 2; Grounds tickets gives you entry to the Grounds where you can watch matches on unreserved seats on minor Show Courts (No. 3, 12 and 18), the outside courts and on the big screen at Aorangi Terrace, more commonly known as Murray Mound (formerly Henman Hill). Once capacity is reached, you’ll only be able into the Grounds as others leave. Returned Show Court tickets are available to buy from 3pm for a reduced price.
Getting to Wimbledon
With up to 39,000 people expected each day, it’s important to plan your journey to Wimbledon. All visitors are strongly advised to use public transport wherever possible as the roads get very busy.
Use the Transport for London journey planner to check your route, see how long it will take and get updates on any delays. We’d hate for you to miss any of the action!
There are lots of ways to get to the Grounds:
By train – Direct trains from London Waterloo run frequently (16 per hour) to Wimbledon mainline station.
By tube – Take the District Line to either Southfields or Wimbledon tube stations. Southfields is a 5-minute walk to the entrance of Wimbledon Park (where The Queue is) and 15 minutes to the Grounds. A shuttle bus service operates from Wimbledon station to the Grounds, which costs £5 for a return ticket.
By bus – London General also operates a bus service direct from St Pancras, Euston, Baker Street, Marble Arch and Victoria to The Championships, departing every 30 minutes. You can book tickets on their website.
By tram – Trams run every five minutes from East Croydon to Wimbledon during the day, which takes around 26 minutes.
By car – The postcode for the on-site car park is SW19 7HT, which is on Home Park Road in the grounds of Wimbledon Park Golf Club. It’s then a 5 to 10-minute walk to the gates. You can pre-book your parking for £25 or pay £30 cash on the day.
There’s also a park and ride option from Morden Park (SM4 5QU). It’s £15 per car, which includes parking and the shuttle bus transfer for all passengers. The shuttle bus takes around 30 minutes and there are four per hour. Accessible parking is available for Blue Badge holders closer to the grounds on Church Road, SW19 5AB. You can pre-book your Wimbledon parking before 28th June.
By taxi – Ride to Wimbledon in true London style by flagging down a black cab.
Is there a dress code at Wimbledon?
The all-white dress code for players is infamously strict, but what about visitors? Whilst there is no set dress code for Wimbledon spectators, it’s best to opt for something smart. It’s a day out after all! This means no torn jeans, running vests, dirty trainers and sports shorts.
If you’re dining at The Winglefield Restaurant, the dress code is Smart Casual (so no jeans and trainers), and you might not be allowed in if your outfit is deemed too casual. The dress code is also stricter within the Member’s Enclosure, where men must wear a lounge suit or tailored jacket, shirt and tie.
With temperatures expected to hit the mid-twenties during this year’s tournament, it’s important to dress for the weather. For gentlemen, a shirt and lightweight suit or blazer with jeans, trousers or tailored shorts looks smart but relaxed. For ladies, it’s best to avoid anything too tight or too short.
White is obviously a key colour for many outfits, but it’s probably not the best choice if you’re going to be sitting on grass! Comfortable footwear is a must – the Grounds are quite hilly and you’ll be doing a lot of walking (flip flops are not advisable). Bring an extra layer even if it’s hot as you may be sitting in the shaded areas of the stands. Make sure you check the weather on the day of your visit – we’d advise packing sun cream, sunglasses and a sun hat as well as a mac so you’re not caught out by the British weather.
Eating and drinking at Wimbledon
There are numerous dining options available at Wimbledon. It’s the largest annual sporting catering operation carried out in Europe with a range of eating and drinking options that reflect the history and heritage of the event.
There are plenty of choices on offer, ranging from gourmet sandwiches and homemade salads, to seasonal dishes prepared by chefs. You can even book a picnic to collect on the day, and there are vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options available.
You’re welcome to bring your own food and drink to Wimbledon, though hard-sided containers and items, such as hampers, cool boxes, flasks and camping chairs are not allowed. Champagne and other alcoholic beverages are permitted, but they are limited to one bottle or two cans per person. And of course, a day at Wimbledon would not be complete without a glass of Pimm’s and a bowl of strawberries and cream (there’s even a plant-based vegan friendly cream alternative).
Each year, Wimbledon serves on average:
- 320,000 glasses of Pimm’s
- 234,000 meals
- 230,000 bottles of water
- 110,000 pints of draught beer and lager
- 86,000 ice creams
- 76,000 sandwiches
- 35,000 litres of milk
- 30,000 pizzas
- 29,000 bottles of champagne
- 190,000 portions of English strawberries
- 10,000 litres of dairy cream
- 110,000 scones
- 17,000 portions of fish and chips
- 2,200 afternoon tea hampers
- 2,200kg of bananas
Shopping at Wimbledon
So, you’ve watched some tennis, you’ve sampled some strawberries – now for some shopping! There are 10 retail outlets at The Championships, selling a range of Wimbledon-branded and other tennis products. Alongside clothing, towels, mugs and rackets, you can also buy actual Wimbledon grass seed, a freshly cut grass fragrance diffuser and a teddy bear dressed in a tennis outfit.
Etiquette and queuing tips
Everyone knows the British LOVE a queue. In fact, there’s actually a Guide To Queuing for The Championships. To ensure you don’t commit any faux pas during your visit, here are a few rules to observe:
- Don’t leave The Queue for longer than 30 minutes at a time
- Do keep your Queue Card or ticket with you at all times
- Don’t bring a gazebo or barbeque into The Queue
- Do clap when your favourite player wins a point, but don’t applaud a double fault
- Don’t use a flash when taking photos (and definitely don’t take a selfie stick)
- Do bring a picnic if you like, but don’t bring a bulky hamper
- Don’t enter or leave the court unless there’s a break in play
- Do record the match at home then watch it back to see if you can see yourself!