Unless you live under a very heavy and large rock, you’ve heard of Wimbledon. It’s a famous tennis championship, the oldest one in the world in fact, and the only one of the big four in the Grand Slam to be played on grass courts.
Wimbledon is named after it’s host suburb and while you might know everything about the game, chances are you don’t know a whole lot about where it is hosted and the sights and sounds in the immediate surrounds as well as greater London. Keith Prowse Travel knows how to serve up the best Wimbledon travel packages so here is some info to wet your appetite.
Wimbledon is located in the southwest of London at the end of the District Line in the city’s Zone 3. About a half hour public transport journey from central London, the population of Wimbledon consist of local young professionals and families, as well as many expats especially from the antipodean countries – South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. South Wimbledon also has a lot of Polish expats and Wimbledon village houses the well-to-do. Wimbledon is a green, friendly, safe and vibrant but relaxed borough. There are loads of restaurants with cuisine from all over the world, and various shops such as TKMaxx, Elys, Marks ‘n Spencers, Mango, Accessorize, Boots, Debenhams, H&M, River Island and GAP, all located along the high street and in the aptly named Centre Court Shopping Centre right near the Wimbledon train station. If you want your theatre fix while you’re in town, the New Wimbledon Theatre provides a reasonably priced and convenient space to watch off-West End performances.
Beyond Wimbledon, you have the shopping and clubbing hotspot of Kingston (ten minutes on the train south). You also have easy access to the centre via the overground train that takes you to Waterloo Station, which is the central hub for trains and forms the bottom edge of the centre city. A quick walk over Westminster Bridge will take you past the London Eye and slap bang into Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Or you could choose to walk over the Waterloo Bridge and come out at Covent Garden with Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square and the West End on your left.
Not sure what all these things are? Never fear. Here is your guide to the sights and sounds of London Town.
Population: 8.6 million – predominantly British, but a survey from 2011 showed that 36.7% of London’s population were born in foreign countries, making London an incredibly multinational and diverse culture.
Languages: English is the official language, but it is estimated that 300 languages are spoken by the inhabitants of London.
The Must-see sights:
There’s a load, so to break it down, if we’re looking at a map of London and start on the right in the east and work our way left, we have:
Located in southeast London, the Greenwich Meridian Line determines the world’s clock setting and divides it into east and west. You’ve heard of GMT – this is where it comes from. This line runs all the way from the North to South Poles. You can stand with one foot on either side of it and officially be in the east and the west at the same time, plus it’s situated in the beautiful and vast Greenwich Park.
Opening hours: 10am-5pm
Tower Bridge & Tower of London
The tower of terror, torture and treasures. You can go here to view the crown jewels including the biggest diamond in the world – a whopping 530 carat beauty called the Cullinan Diamond that sits pretty in the royal sceptre. You can also view torture instruments in the White Tower as well as many other interesting trinkets.
Opening hours: 10am – 5:30pm
‘All the world’s a stage’ according to this famous playwright, but this particular stage is worth a visit. You can go to nightly performances of Shakespeare classics performed in the Globe which is modelled on his original Globe Theatre. If you’re feeling thrifty you can stand in the yard like a pleb for a fiver – definitely gives the best atmosphere. If you’re willing to shell out a bit more, you can get a seat in the galleries, but be sure to book well in advance.
St Paul’s Cathedral
A competitor to Westminster Abbey for the oldest and most iconic church in London, St Paul’s has housed many a royal ceremony and wedding and has been featured in multiple movies including Mary Poppins, two Harry Potter movies and Star Trek Into Darkness to name a few. The interior is exquisite if you’re happy to fork out the £18 entrance fee.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 8:30am-4:30pm
This vibey area just north of Waterloo station along the south bank of the Thames is a great place to go for dinner and a wander to get some perfect pictures of the skyline of London.
Also called the Millennium Wheel, it’s a giant Ferris wheel that will give you breathtaking views of the city, as well as a healthy dose of vertigo.
Opening hours: 10am-8:30pm
A fruit and flower market turned 18th century red light district turned shopping, cultural and arts centre, this area of London is renowned for being hip, creative, fashionable and a little naughty. A walk through the markets followed by a tipple in one of the many pubs would be an afternoon well spent.
This public square in the centre of London has been the site for all manner of communal gatherings from political protests to demonstrations to celebrations to concerts. The most famous feature is Nelson’s Column built in honour of Admiral Horatio Nelson who met his end at the Battle of Trafalgar.
Founded in the year 960, this 1056-year-old church is the christening, baptism, marriage and final resting place of 3300 royals and celebrities. It also became the coronation church in 1066, meaning that the all the monarchs since then have been crowned and taken their oaths here.
Check out the website for specific opening times. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/visit-us
Generally known as the big clock tower that is an iconic feature of London, Big Ben is actually the bell within the tower that chimes. This bell provides the theme song to London and has done so every quarter hour for the better part of 157 years, even surviving a bombing during WWII. It is housed in the Elizabeth Tower of the Parliament Buildings.
Parliament Buildings opening hours: Mon-Sat 9am-5pm
Leicester Square is the centre of Theatreland and the place where loads of good stuff happens. If there’s a movie premier, it will be at the Odeon Theatre here. All of the West End theatres offering brilliant musicals, comedies and dramas are within walking distance and the main ticket booth for said theatres is located in this square (Insider’s tip: It’s often better to go to the theatre box office directly for the best prices). Another interesting element of the area is Chinatown, where you can get all sorts of delicious Chinese food and ancient medicinal remedies set amidst red pillars and dragon art.
A short walk from Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus is the Times Square of London. And just beyond it is the gay-friendly and very quirky suburb of Soho with night clubs and bars on every corner, plus a few sex shops and questionable massage parlours.
If you are a hard core shopper and brilliant at using your elbows to get through crowds, you’ll be in your element here. An excessively busy street that just so happens to have every shop imaginable including a giant Primark, Selfridges, John Lewis, Debenhams, House of Fraser and the Disney Store to name a few. Be prepared to bob and weave though.
The funkiest place in London. Grungy, punky streets filled with markets selling anything and everything, staffed by mohawked vendors and sandwiched between tattoo parlours and goth clothing stores, Camden takes cool to a whole new level. Worth a visit for sure.
Market opening hours: 10am-6pm
The home of the Queen of England when she’s in town, but also a working palace that serves as administrative offices. There are tours running from July to October, but if you’re around outside of these months, be sure to visit at 11:30am any day of the week to see the Changing of the Guards – an interesting and very British spectacle.
Insider note: When the Queen is in, the flag is flown above the palace.
Just through Green Park from the palace, you’ll reach the famous Hyde Park. This is a perfect spot to take a picnic, go for a long walk, soak up the rare summer sun and view another palace – the Kensington Palace.
All England Club in Wimbledon
The home of the oldest tennis tournament in the world, The Championships, Wimbledon, which has been held here since 1877. As their patron they have none other than Queen Elizabeth II herself and just for good measure, the Duke of Kent is the President. Be sure to keep with tradition and try a Pimms and lemonade and some strawberries and cream while watching the games.
For Wimbledon tickets and travel packages to this amazing Grand Slam and London, go with the leader in event travel, Keith Prowse.