On the second day of the play at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club's Championships, as Serena Williams made her return to Centre Court after a year away from the sport she's dominated for so long, she struggled against world no. 115, Harmony Tan, eventually losing in a marathon three set match. Yet, during a moment of quiet, a British man shouted from the stands, "C'mon, Serena, you are the greatest!" and it was met with polite chuckles and widespread appreciation from the crowd.
That's Wimbledon for you.
The oldest tennis tournament in the world is a bucket-list event for any tennis lover. Wimbledon is played every year on meticulously maintained grass courts—and remains one of the very few prominent competitions remaining on the tricky surface. The tournament is one of the four Grand Slams on the tennis calendar, but Wimbledon has a distinctly different character from the competitions in New York, Paris, and Melbourne.
There's absolutely cheers from spectators shouted to the players, but it's more polite than you'll find elsewhere. (See: "You are the greatest!") There's respect for the game and the players, and Wimbledon itself.
That atmosphere is curated by a set of rules—including, famously, all-white outfits for every player competing. As the official rulebook reads, "Competitors must be dressed in suitable tennis attire that is almost entirely white and this applies from the point at which the player enters the court surround. White does not include off white or cream." This applies to shoelaces, any visible undergarments due to sweat, and any bandages.
Plus, there's the royal aspect of the tournament: There's a royal box at Centre Court, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, is the patron of the famous tennis club and is a regular attendee at Wimbledon. She even made her first joint outing with Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, to watch the 2018 women's finals.
Without further ado, here's T&C's unofficial guide to Wimbledon: what to wear, how to spot the royals, and, of course, what to eat and drink at the tournament (think strawberries).
How to get tickets to Wimbledon
There are numerous ways to get tickets to the tournament. You can buy them online ahead of time, through something called the "Wimbledon Public Ballot." However, unlike other major tournaments, Wimbledon sets aside a small amount of tickets for fans who queue—i.e., wait in line—every morning. Queuing for tickets is an experience, and you can end up with tickets to Centre Court, Court No. 1, or Court No. 2—the three ticketed courts. The queue is a fun experience, with many people bonding in line as they wait to see if they'll snag a ticket for the day.
What to wear to Wimbledon
In terms of dress code, think "smart casual." You don't want to show up in workout clothes. Many women opt for sundresses or jumpsuits—something you'll feel comfortable spending the day in, but still feel pulled together. Men often can be spotted wearing panama hats in the stands, as a way to stay stylish and keep the sun out of their eyes. Make sure, too, to bring a pair of sunglasses. (May we suggest some of the royal family's favorite shades?) Plus, there's always a chance you'll run into a celebrity—so you want to be looking your best.
The weather in London in late June and early July is usually in the 60s and 70s. It's hot out when you're sitting directly in the sun, but it definitely gets cooler in the shade—so make sure to bring a layer. And, of course, it is London, so there's always a chance of rain; be sure to check the forecast and dress appropriately.
What to eat and drink at Wimbledon
Wimbledon is famous for strawberries and cream snacks, and if you go, you absolutely must try them. For lunch, however, we must recommend picnicking on Henman Hill, where you can watch the matches on a big screen. You can either pack your own picnic, or Wimbledon allows you to reserve a picnic that they pack for you—which comes in a backpack, complete with multiple courses (strawberries for dessert, of course) and wine. The picnic bag is meant for two, and includes cutlery, plates, wine goblets, napkins and a gingham table cloth. They do sell out, however, so definitely plan ahead.
In terms of drinks, Wimbledon is famous for a Pimm's Cup, but recently, the tournament teamed up with Sipsmith, a London gin company, for a series of strawberry-inspired drinks that you can get throughout the grounds. The Strawberry Smash Spritz is the ideal refreshing drink for a day at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club—and pairs perfectly with your strawberry and cream snack. Our tip: Get it in a to-go cup, so you can take it to the side courts to sip and watch tennis.
How to spot the British royal family
Wimbledon is reportedly Kate Middleton's favorite event of the year, and she's often a regular throughout the tournament. Kate, and other royals, can typically be spotted in the royal box at Centre Court. Also, as patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club since 2016, Kate almost always attends the Wimbledon finals to hand out trophies. So, if you want a guaranteed royal sighting, your chances are higher later in the tournament.
The best time to buy Wimbledon merch
If you didn't get a t-shirt or a hat, did you even go to Wimbledon? The best time to stop by the shop is actually during the start of the first match on Centre Court, when everyone has rushed to their seats. Definitely see the beginning—but pop out in the middle if you can to sneak into the shop to grab a t-shirt without a long line. Or, just shop online.
Where to see the best tennis
Last, but certainly not least, what you came to Wimbledon for: The tennis! The top-ranked players, and the British stars, will play on Centre Court, and Courts 1 and 2. However, you can often see incredible tennis if you wander the side courts. They'll be extremely busy in the morning—just as people are entering the grounds—so your time to go watch these matches is in the mid to late afternoon. (Unlike other Grand Slams, Wimbledon just has one session every day, no "day" and "night" session.)
Be mindful that you won't be able to enter or exit some court while play is happening, but some courts don't have official stands—you can just walk by and see all the action up close.
You Might Also Like