A well-heeled residential district in Southwest London, Wimbledon has a fame that goes well beyond British borders for a certain tennis tournament in July.
The Championships is unlike any other event in the ATP or WTA tours, standing for history and tradition, and strawberries and cream.
If you miss the tournament you can always come for the museum and tour, to see the inner workings of the All England Club and bask in the reflected glory of past champions.
True to its leafy reputation, Wimbledon is home to London’s largest patch of common land, which has fiercely resisted development and is like open countryside in the middle of the city.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Wimbledon:
1. The Championships, Wimbledon
The world’s oldest tennis tournament unfolds at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in the first two weeks of July.
The Championships, as they’re known, date back to 1877, while the All England Club was founded in 1868, initially for croquet.
One of the four grand slams, Wimbledon is the only one to be contested on grass, and upholds a few distinct traditions.
The most obvious is the near complete absence of advertising, while players are required to wear all white clothing.
The men’s and women’s final is played at the famous Centre Court, seating 14,979 and fitted with a necessary retractable roof in 2009. Tickets can be bought by entering a domestic or overseas public ballot, but, unusually for a major sporting event, you can also queue overnight for a premium seat.
2. Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
For the remainder of the year, the All England Club is a posh members’ tennis club, but there’s an exceptional museum open daily and recounting the history of the Championships and lawn tennis as a sport.
The museum was founded in 1970 and its collection includes a mid-16th-century tennis rulebook, the balls from the men’s final in 2014, Championship trophies, antique rackets and gear worn by players like Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal.
Included in the price is a 90-minute tour of the grounds, in which you’ll hear anecdotes about famous players, face the press in the Media Centre, visit the BBC studio and interview room and step onto Centre Court.
3. Wimbledon Common
At more than 1,100 acres Wimbledon Common is the largest tract of heathland in London.
The Common merges with Putney Heath to the north, while Richmond Park is just across the A3 to the west.
So if you wanted you could easily spend several days walking or cycling in heath and woodland, which is remarkable given you’re in the middle of a city.
Two lakes, Rushmere and Kingsmere can be found in the higher part of the common, and are old, flooded gravel pits.
Thanks to the ample space and seclusion horseback riding is a popular activity on the common, while to the south is the prestigious, members only Royal Wimbledon Golf Club.
A public footpath runs through the centre of the course, and takes you to Caesar’s Camp, which is actually an Iron Age hillfort, built around the 5th century BC and later stormed by the Romans.
4. Wimbledon Windmill
The windmill in the heart of Wimbledon Common was raised in 1817 and has been open as a museum since it was restored in 1975. This four-sail smock mill is clad with local weatherboard and produced flour until the end of the Second World War.
The museum was extended across both floors in 1999 following a Heritage Lottery fund grant.
The lower level covers the general history and development of windmills, with antique millwright tools, models and a video room.
Upstairs you can find out in more detail how this particular mill worked, and there’s a saddle stone, mortar, hand quern and grain, so kids can try making some flour of their own.
Pop into the shop, which has books and souvenirs, and pay a visit to the tearooms next door.
5. Wimbledon Park
Bordering the All England Club, Wimbledon Park is another accommodating outdoor space, once attached to Wimbledon Manor House.
The mansion’s grounds were landscaped by Capability Brown in the 18th century, and this project created the lake, one of the largest to be found in South London.
Wimbledon Park is packed with facilities, like a watersports centre on the lakeshore, a paddling pool, beach volleyball courts, tennis courts and a cafe.
Wimbledon’s Guy Fawkes fireworks display takes place in the park at the start of November, while the 18-hole Wimbledon Park Golf Club is available for guests Monday to Friday.
6. Wat Buddhapadipa
The first Thai Buddhist temple to be built into the UK, Wat Buddhapadipa was inaugurated by the King and Queen of Thailand in 1966 and can be found a couple of streets east of the Common.
The temple, affiliated with London’s Royal Thai Embassy, was originally in East Sheen before moving to its current site in 1976. There are resident monks and nuns but you’re welcome to visit the temple and its wooded grounds provided you pay attention to etiquette.
There’s a lake and stream for a few minutes of peace, while the main temple has beautiful interior frescoes.
Check out the black bronze Buddha, presented by the King in 1966, and the gold Buddha, brought here from Bangkok’s Grand Palace in 1990.
7. New Wimbledon Theatre
An enduring landmark on the Broadway, the Grade II New Wimbledon Theatre is a palatial Edwardian Baroque venue that opened in 1910. Cresting the dome above the entrance is a gold statue of the Roman goddess of gaiety, Laetitia.
This was removed in the Second World War as a possible waymarker for bombing raids, and was only replaced in 1991. The sizeable and richly decorated theatre can seat 1,670, putting it among the ten largest in London.
A great option for live entertainment, the venue hosts prominent stand-up comedians, touring plays and musicals fresh from the West End and no shortage of tribute bands.
8. Polka Children’s Theatre
This treasured “producing theatre” for kids goes back to 1967 and moved into its permanent home on the Broadway in 1979. The Polka stages performances for children up to 13 years at its 300-capactiy main auditorium, as well as productions for babies, toddlers and smaller children in the 70-seat studio.
If you’re in need of activities for kids during the school holidays, there’s almost always something going on, be it an award-winning show, a wide variety of workshops, educational theatre, storytelling and much more besides.
9. Museum of Wimbledon
This agreeable local museum on the Ridgeway opens on weekend afternoons and chronicles 3,000 years of history in Wimbledon.
Most of the artefacts on show are Victorian or from the 20th century, and give a sense of domestic, work and community life.
There’s furniture, tankards, bakery and farming equipment, posters for events in the 19th and early 20th centuries, historic maps, archive photographs and some valuable old manuscripts.
Among these is a grant of tithes to the Prior of Merton from 1354, and the deeds for Admiral Nelson’s purchase of the mansion, Merton Place, in 1801.
10. AFC Wimbledon
The local team plays its home matches just ten minutes away by train at the 4,850-capacity Kingsmeadow in Norbiton.
AFC Wimbledon were founded in 2002 and have rocketed up the leagues since then, now finding themselves in League One (third tier). This all came about after the former Wimbledon F.C. was suddenly moved 56 miles away to Milton Keynes in the early 2000s, becoming MK Dons.
A supporters’ group set up a new local club in protest, and after starting in the lowly Combined Counties League, AFC Wimbledon now play at a higher level than the team that departed for Milton Keynes 15 years ago! As it was founded by fans, AFC Wimbledon is prominent in the Merton and Kingston community, encouraging active lifestyles and running training courses for kids.
11. Cannizaro Park
Once the gardens for the country house (now a luxury hotel) on its east side, Cannizaro Park has a Grade II listing all the hallmarks of an opulent estate.
In 35 acres there’s an assortment of exotic trees and shrubs planted around the Mediterranean Garden, Azalea Dell, Rose Garden, Italian Garden, Sunken Garden and Water Garden.
The name Cannizaro comes from when the Sicilian nobleman Francis Platamone leased the house in the early 19th century.
The house and gardens were sold to Wimbledon Borough Council in 1947, but not before a profusion of rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas were planted by the last owners, the Wilsons.
Come for leisurely walks among the blooms in early summer.
12. South Park Gardens
Laid out right at the end of the Victorian era (1901) in the Beaux-Arts style, South Park Gardens is a cute, 2.4-hectare formal park that never fails to win the Green Flag.
The park was restored in 2009 with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, when its paths were re-laid, fountain was restored and new seating was added.
Those looping paths lead you next to ponds, shrubberies and expertly tended flowerbeds.
There’s a pretty kiosk in the park, while all kinds of classes take place at the Garden Pavilion, like pilates, yoga, art classes, reading groups and calligraphy.
13. Horseback Riding
The air of affluence and almost endless greenery puts horse riding on the agenda in Wimbledon.
The common is only separated from Richmond Park by the A3 road, so there’s a massive tract of greenery for hacks if you have some experience with a horse.
Wimbledon Village Stables, the oldest recorded stables in England, is on the edge of the common and accepts non-members for lessons seven days a week.
Absolute beginners will start on a horse simulator, while more advanced riders can take their mount into the ring or out across the open parkland on a training hack.
These can be done in a group with other riders or on your own, at a slightly higher price.
14. Jurassic Encounter Adventure Golf
One stop on the train at Raynes Park there’s a diverting family attraction with a dinosaur theme.
Jurassic Encounter is an imaginatively landscaped adventure golf course, with 18 holes among waterfalls, artificial caves and on island greens.
There are no half-measures when it comes to the Jurassic theme as bestriding the course are nine, near life-sized animatronic dinosaurs.
The course is open all year round, and has floodlights so you can play until late in the evening.
15. Wimbledon Farmers’ Market
Trading every Saturday morning at Wimbledon Park Primary School, the Wimbledon Farmers’ Market has been around since 2000 and picks up a fresh batch of awards each year.
The stalls here belong to regional organic producers, which means that the fruit and vegetables on offer will change with the seasons.
April means wild garlic, May brings strawberries and asparagus, while there are cherries in July and plums and apples in late summer.
You can also buy seasonal cut flowers here, while the choice of game, meat and poultry also varies throughout the year.