On the second day of play at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’s Championships, as Serena Williams returned to center court after a year away from the sport she has dominated for so long, she battled the world No. 115, Harmony Tan, eventually lost in a marathon match in three sets. Still, during a moment of silence, the Brit yelled from the stands, “Come on, Serena, you’re the best!” and it was met with polite laughter and wide acclaim from the crowd.
That’s Wimbledon for you.
The oldest tennis tournament in the world is a bucket-list event for every tennis lover. Wimbledon is played every year on meticulously maintained grass courts – and remains one of the few prominent competitions that remains on a complex surface. The tournament is one of four Grand Slams on the tennis calendar, but Wimbledon has a distinctly different character to the competitions in New York, Paris and Melbourne.
Spectators yell at the players, but it’s more polite than you’ll find elsewhere. (See: “You’re the best!”) There is respect for the game, the players and Wimbledon itself.
This atmosphere is governed by a set of rules – including, famously, an all-white outfit for every competing player. Like the official rule book reads: “Competitors must be dressed in appropriate tennis attire that is almost entirely white from the moment a player enters the court area. White does not include white or cream.” This includes shoelaces, any underwear visible due to sweat, and any bandages.
Plus, there’s the royal aspect of the tournament: There is a royal cabinet on Center Court and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, is patron of the famous tennis club and a regular at Wimbledon. They even took their first trip together with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, to watch the women’s final in 2018.
Without further ado, here’s the unofficial T&C guide to Wimbledon: what to wear, how to meet the royals, and of course, what to eat and drink at the tournament (think strawberries).
How to get Wimbledon tickets
There are many ways to get tournament tickets. You can buy them in advance online through the so-calledPublic vote at Wimbledon.” However, unlike other major tournaments, Wimbledon sets aside a small number of tickets for fans who line up each morning – i.e. wait in line. Queuing for tickets is an experience, and you can end up with tickets for Center Court, Court No. 1 or Court #2 – Courts with three tickets Queuing is a fun experience with many people queuing as they wait to grab a ticket for the day.
What to wear to Wimbledon
When it comes to dress code, think smart casual. You don’t want to show up in workout clothes. Many women opt for sundresses or jumpsuits – something that will make you feel comfortable but still make you feel pulled together. Men can often be seen wearing Panama hats in the stands to stay stylish and keep the sun out of their eyes. Don’t forget to bring sunglasses too. (We can suggest some of favorite shades of the royal family?) Plus, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a celebrity – so you want to look your best.
The weather in London in late June and early July is usually in the 60s and 70s. It’s hot when you’re sitting in the direct sun, but it definitely gets cooler in the shade – so pack a layer. And of course it’s London so it can always rain; don’t forget to check the forecast and dress appropriately.
What to eat and drink at Wimbledon
Wimbledon is famous for its strawberries and cream snacks, and if you go there, you absolutely have to try them. However, for lunch we have to recommend a picnic at Henman Hill, where you can watch the matches on the big screen. You can pack your own picnic, or Wimbledon will let you book a picnic that they pack for you– which comes in a backpack with several courses (strawberries for dessert, of course) and wine. The picnic bag is designed for two and includes cutlery, plates, wine glasses, napkins and a gingham tablecloth. They do sell out, though, so definitely plan ahead.
As for drinks, Wimbledon is famous for the Pimm’s Cupbut recently the tournament has merged with Sipsmith, a London-based gin company, for a series of strawberry-inspired drinks available throughout the venue. The Strawberry Smash Spritz is the perfect refreshing drink for a day at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club – and goes great with your strawberries and cream snack. Our tip: Get it in a takeaway cup so you can take it to the side courts, sip and watch the tennis.
How to get to know the British royal family
Wimbledon is said to be Kate Middleton’s favorite event of the year and she often attends the entire tournament. Kate and other members of the royal family can usually be seen in the royal box at center court. As patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club since 2016, Kate has also attended almost every time Wimbledon final hand out trophies. So if you want a guaranteed royal sighting, your chances are higher later in the tournament.
Best time to buy Wimbledon merchandise
If you didn’t get a t-shirt or cap, did you even go to Wimbledon? The best time to stop by the store is actually during the start of the first game on Center Court, when everyone has rushed to their seats. Be sure to check out the beginning – but jump in the middle if you can and slip into the store to grab a t-shirt without the long line. Or simply shop online.
Where to see the best tennis
Last but not least, what you came to Wimbledon for: Tennis! Top players and British stars will be playing on Center Court and Courts 1 and 2. However, you can often see some incredible tennis if you wander around the side courts. They will be extremely busy in the morning – as people enter the grounds – so your best time to go see these games is in the mid to late afternoon. (Unlike other Grand Slams, Wimbledon has only one practice each day, no “day” and “night” sessions.)
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to enter or leave some courts during the game, but some courts don’t have official bleachers – you can just walk through and see all the action up close.
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