The Wimbledon Championships is the world’s oldest tennis tournament, held at the All England Club since 1877. It’s the only one of the four international Grand Slam events played on grass, giving the competition a traditional feel enhanced by classic Wimbledon touches, such as Pimm’s Cup cocktails and strawberries and cream. Sports fans flock to London for the nearly two-week-long competition (June 23-July 6) that takes over the city from South West London, where the famous grounds are located, to pubs and green spaces all over the U.K. capital. With this guide, you will get the most of these areas and everything else surrounding this most British of sporting events.
What To Know
All eyes will be on British tennis player and 2012 Olympic champion Andy Murray, who took home the men’s singles trophy in 2013. Before Murray’s emotional victory, it had been 77 years since a British man won Wimbledon. While the home crowd hopes he can repeat his fine performance this year, the Scotsman’s got to face some serious threats across the net from players such as Novak Djokovic (whom Murray beat in the aforementioned ’13 final), world No. 1 Rafael Nadal and seven-time Wimbledon champ Roger Federer.
Last year’s women’s single’s champion, France’s Marion Bartoli, won’t be defending her title, having announced her retirement from the sport last summer. Instead, pundits will look to women’s No. 1 Serena Williams to rebound from an early French Open exit and serve as the tournament favorite. The American has won Wimbledon on five occasions, most recently in 2012. She’ll face fierce competition from the likes of China’s Li Na, Russia’s Maria Sharapova and Belarus’ Victoria Azarenka, who hopefully will have recovered from a foot injury.
What To Do
A large portion of Wimbledon passes is sold by ballot in advance of the contest, yet the tournament is one of few major sporting events where tickets are available to buy on the day of play. Grounds passes and show court tickets can be bought in person from the Gate 3 turnstiles, but they’re heavily oversubscribed so getting hold of them requires advance planning — and stamina. Some people begin lining up as early as 6 a.m., and many serious fans camp out on the street overnight to have the best chance of seeing their heroes up close. It’s often easier to gain access via the tickets released after 5 p.m. daily, though, you run the risk of many of the day’s matches that started at 11:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. already being finished by the time you get in. Once you’re on site, returned match tickets can be purchased at the resale kiosk from mid-afternoon. Or skip the ticket hunt altogether and simply join the crowds on Henman Hill (or Aorangi Terrace, as it’s officially known) to watch the matches on big screens.
To get a sense of this great event’s history, visit the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum or take an official tour of the famous club (closed during the tournament). If you can’t get to the All England Club around the event for some reason, no worries. Watch the competition elsewhere in the capital, namely at the free, live, open-air screenings on the banks of the Thames at Bankside. White picket fencing and striped deck chairs around the terrace set any additional mood that fans screaming at the monitors fail to do.
Where To Stay
For the ultimate Wimbledon experience, it’s got to be Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Belgraves – A Thomson Hotel, whose Warm Up to Wimbledon package includes a one-hour private tennis lesson with former pro John Johnson. Classes take place at nearby Avondale Park, a local green space dating back to 1892, and are followed by a Wimbledon Martini — the drink is leant a tinge of green from its secret ingredient, cucumber. The hotel is even offering full Fred Perry tennis kits for purchase (not included in the package) by those wishing to look the part.
Other properties where you can get into the swing of things during the tournament include Five-Star The Dorchester, whose Wimbledon Afternoon Tea features themed mini-cakes and, of course, strawberries and cream; and Four Seasons Hotel London at Canary Wharf, one of the few hotels in London with access to a tennis court (at the adjoining Virgin Active Health Club).
Photos Courtesy of The Dorchester and Visit London Images, Britain on View and Pawel Libera