Having grown up in South West London, Wimbledon holds a special place in my heart. I have returned to my old stomping ground many times over the years, not only to watch tennis, but also to make the most of Wimbledon’s other attractions.
In addition to a downtown area brimming with shops and restaurants, Wimbledon has a wonderful old theatre, a quaint historical village, over a thousand acres of woodland and some fascinating museums. Wimbledon offers the best of both worlds – a touch of country living combined with big city vibes.
What to see and do in Wimbledon?
1 Experience the thrill of attending the most famous tennis tournament in the world
There’s nothing quite like the experience of watching the likes of Serena Williams or Rafa Nadal play on the finest grass courts in the world.
The Championships kick off at the end of June each year but securing tickets in advance is no easy feat.
Tip from Sue: Join the line and camp overnight at Wimbledon Park. There’s a fun atmosphere amongst the fans and you might just get yourself a seat on centre court.
2 Immerse yourself in tennis history at Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum
This excellent museum opened in 1977, the year that British player, Virginia Wade, won the championships. Exhibits date from 1555 to the present day, the most recent being in the form of interactive state of the art displays.
A virtual reality room transports you to centre court and numerous screens show interviews with past champions. Watch a holograph of John McEnroe talk about his classic matches and take a selfie with one of the trophies.
An impressive museum whether you are into tennis or not, but for tennis aficionados, it’s an essential stop when in London.
3 Take a tour of the All England Tennis Club
If you are a tennis fan but aren’t lucky enough to be in town when the championships are on, the next best thing is to take a tour of the prestigious All England Club.
Apart from visiting the centre court, the tour includes a glimpse into the private facilities of the Millennium Building which is reserved for high-profiles players, the press room and trophy room.
The tour also includes entrance to the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum.
4 Treat the kids to an inspiring show at the Polka Theatre
What makes this lovely theatre so special is that it is dedicated exclusively to children. The theatre has entertained and inspired children since 1979 with a programme of innovative and exciting shows.
It has a café, garden and playground as well as a foyer with enough toys and books to keep the kids happy for hours. As well as shows, frequent events and workshops are held.
Tip from Sue: If you haven’t got tickets for a show, you can still enter free of charge and enjoy use of the facilities.
5 Gain spiritual enlightenment at Buddhapadipa Temple
This Thai-style Buddhist temple was the first of its kind to be built in the UK. It’s a peaceful sanctuary situated a stone’s throw from Wimbledon Common.
The temple is home to monks and nuns and if you visit, you will notice them quietly going about their daily business.
The temple is the ideal place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and take a stroll or meditate in the idyllic gardens. A pretty pond adds to the air of tranquillity.
Tip from Sue: On Thai festivals, such as Songkran, food stalls fill the temple parking lot, offering an opportunity to sample some authentic Thai street food.
6 Enjoy a shopping spree at Wimbledon Village
You could be mistaken for believing you are in the depths of the English countryside when you arrive in leafy Wimbledon Village.
With its period buildings and quaint vibe, the area is full of traditional pubs, quality restaurants and boutique stores. There’s not a McDonalds in sight here.
It’s the perfect place for a browse around the shops followed by a bite to eat and glass of wine.
Tip from Sue: Check out the wonderful Gail’s Bakery for the most scrumptious cakes, scones and freshly-baked goods south of the Thames.
7 Step back in time at Cannizaro Park
This park consisting of ornamental landscaped gardens with ponds, sculptures and rare plants has an impressive history and is a fine example of the gardens which surrounded London mansions in the nineteenth-century.
Back in the day, Cannizaro house, which is now a hotel, was visited by such luminaries as Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Lord Tennyson and Emperor Haile Selassie.
It’s a serene spot for a stroll or a picnic on a sunny day. Entrance is free.
8 Get active at Wimbledon Park
Not to be confused with the sprawling Wimbledon Common, this park was transformed in the eighteenth century by English landscape architect, Capability Brown.
The focal point is one of the largest lakes in South London where a water-sports/outdoor centre is located. At the centre you can take lessons or hire equipment.
Sailing, kayaking, archery, climbing and orienteering are some of the activities offered.
Additionally, the park has tennis courts. a bowls green and a beach volleyball court – an abundance of choices for fitness fanatics.
9 Wander around Wimbledon Saturday Farmer’s Market
Every Saturday morning, around twenty stalls set up at Wimbledon Park Primary School trading in everything from Norfolk organic honey to fresh veggies from the Isle of Wight.
The friendly stall-holders happily explain how the produce was grown or made.
It’s mostly a local affair and although it’s small, the food is varied, and you are bound to come across something you haven’t tried before. The stalls tend to change on a weekly basis.
Tip from Sue: Check out the Kent-produced wine which is often available – it’s a winner.
10 Visit the Windmill Museum
Located on the common, this cute little museum in a windmill is more spacious inside than you’d think. Built in 1817, the windmill received new sails in 1999.
The ground floor exhibits relate to the construction of windmills, while the first floor examines how they work. There are opportunities for children to try their hand at milling.
The founder of the scouting movement, Robert Baden-Powell, wrote ‘Scouting for Boys’ in the windmill in 1908 and there is a cabinet of memorabilia about the book.
It makes an interesting stop for both adults and children and is open on weekends throughout the summer months.
11 Explore the fascinating history of Southside House
Built in the late seventeenth century, Southside House reflects the lives of the Pennington-Mellor-Munthe families who lived there in times gone by.
Slightly eccentric in style and crammed with paintings, furniture, artefacts and family photographs, the layout remains true to its original style.
Guided tours offer an opportunity to hear stories and learn about the lives and loves of the previous residents.
Tip from Sue: The surrounding gardens have a number of sculptures, hidden pathways and concealed surprises and are a delight to explore.
12 Take in a show at the New Wimbledon Theatre
This magnificent Edwardian theatre retains many of its original features and the auditorium is decorated in both Georgian and Italian renaissance style.
The theatre has a capacity of 1,500 and plays host to musicals, concerts, ballet, operas and plays. An array of great entertainers have taken to the stage at the theatre, including Noel Coward and Marlene Dietrich.
The theatre has a Victorian-style Turkish bath in the basement of the building (now a bar), but still has its original tiling.
13 Put your sleuthing skills to the test on Wimbledon’s Murder Mystery Treasure Trail
This self-guided trail is a unique way to explore Wimbledon.
Starting at the village, it continues to the common, before heading to the All England Tennis Club and it’s suitable for both adults and children.
Adding a unique dimension to exploring the area, the idea is to eliminate suspects by solving clues on various buildings and monuments.
14 Take a lesson in Japanese cooking at Hashi Kitchen
If you love Japanese food, why not join a cookery class with Reiko Hashimoto? The acclaimed chef and cook book author holds a variety of cookery classes in her Wimbledon home and caters for all standards from beginners to the experienced.
Reiko is welcoming and professional and demonstrates how to conjure up a range of delicious and healthy dishes for both carnivores and vegetarians. You even get to sample a glass or two of Japanese beer as you learn!
15 Saddle up at Wimbledon Village Stables
Escape from the city on horseback and explore the landscape of Wimbledon Common from the saddle. The horses at the stable are well-cared for and the friendly staff can arrange lessons.
They even have an equine simulator, a kind of mechanical horse, on which you can learn the basics of riding.
Skilled riders who are visiting the capital will find it hard to beat the quality of horses and surrounding countryside that the award-winning stables have to offer.
16 Learn about Wimbledon’s past at Wimbledon Society Museum of Local History
History buffs will enjoy this small museum which aims is to preserve the town’s heritage. Staffed by volunteers, Wimbledon’s history is documented all the way from the stone age in the form of artefacts, photographs and models.
You can listen to accounts of bygone eras from the town’s senior residents, an audio presentation which brings the past to life. The Norman Plastow Gallery which is attached to the museum exhibits work by local artists.
The museum opens every weekend from 2.30 pm – 5.00 pm.
17 Follow the Wimbledon Way
Celebrating the rich history of the area, the walk starts downtown and continues all the way to the All England Club via Wimbledon Common.
The Wimbledon Way takes in all the highlights including the buildings, monuments, green spaces and sport that makes the area the special place that it is.
Tip from Sue: Don’t forget to stop off for a refreshing pint at the Dog and Fox, one of the town’s most popular drinking establishments.
18 Make some furry friends at Deen City Farm
A great place for both kids and adults, this five-acre city farm is home to a menagerie of animals.
From farmyard favourites such as cows, sheep, pigs and goats to guinea pigs and rabbits, not forgetting Edna, the barn owl, it offers kids the opportunity to interact with the residents.
In addition to the farm there’s a riding school, shop and a café which serves up delicious farm-produced snacks and meals. Entrance is free.
19 Solve the puzzle of the Mystery Cube
The challenge is to discover the secret of the cube and find your way out. It’s perfect for a group of friends or family of two to five people who have to work together to solve the mystery within an hour of entering.
The games master, known as the professor, helps to make the experience entertaining and absorbing. With padlocks, puzzles and clues galore, it’s fun for all age groups.
20 Explore the wilds of Wimbledon Common
Wimbledon Common is one of London’s great green expanses. Covering 1,140 acres of heathlands and woodlands, it’s a wonderful place to get away from it all and re-connect with nature.
Whether you enjoy a picnic on a summer’s day or a long winter walk, there’s enough space for everyone to enjoy some solitude.
Tip from Sue: After exploring the common, there are some excellent pubs on the periphery to enjoy some lunch and perhaps sample a pint of Wimbledon Brewery Beer.
21 Take afternoon tea at Elys
If afternoon tea at the Ritz is beyond your budget, why not head to Elys restaurant?
Opened in 1876, Elys is Wimbledon’s oldest department store and their restaurant serves up a great value traditional cream tea.
Indulge yourself in finger sandwiches, scones, cakes and lashings of tea for a fraction of the price you would pay in the West End.
22 Catch a movie at Wimbledon’s arthouse cinema
This cool cinema is hidden away above the HMV store near the railway station.
With three intimate screens and plush, comfortable seats, the HMV Curzon plays host to foreign, indie and occasionally mainstream movies.
Special events include live showings of performances at the Royal Opera House, National Theatre and the Met, along with question and answer sessions with actors and directors. A bar serves wine, beer, coffee and food. A perfect night out for the discerning movie fan.