As the spiritual home of the game of tennis, it’s only right that Wimbledon should have its very own Lawn Tennis Museum. Many of London’s most famous football stadiums, including Twickenham and Wembley, have their own museums dedicated to their respective sports where you can learn about the history of each game, get to know legendary players of bygone matches and take a look at some famous memorabilia. At the Wimbledon museum, interactive exhibits and touch screens add a futuristic touch to a game that for many still evokes thoughts of genteel English aristocrats dressed in pristine white uniforms, sipping champagne between sets.
Wimbledon is located in west London, home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents. These leafy suburban neighbourhoods have proven just as attractive to the London hotel market, with a wide range of accommodation options for those who love their tennis as well as the opportunity to rub shoulders with a celebrity or two. Stars who move to London tend to have their homes in areas like these and they can often be seen out and about, enjoying some free time at a café or doing some shopping. If star-spotting is your thing, this is the next best thing to Leicester Square during a film premier – you just have to keep your eyes peeled.
Wimbledon is properly known as the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (Championships). You can get there by taking the District line of the London Underground to Southfields Station, or by taking a mainline train to Wimbledon Station. From there, take the 493 bus, which stops right outside the museum.
Entry costs from £24 for an adult, £15 for children and £21 for student or old-age pensioner concessions. For a little extra, you can also opt for a tour around the tennis club itself which includes restricted areas not usually open to the public. These tours are great for diehard tennis fans, but be aware that if you’re at Wimbledon around the time of the Championships, the tours won’t be running and the Museum will only be open at an extra charge to people holding Wimbledon tickets who are already in the grounds. Not that that’s a huge worry: you’ll have plenty of live tennis to watch instead!
Inside the museum you’ll experience the sights, sounds, triumphs and traditions of Wimbledon, all the way back to the very first championships in 1877. You can also get an audio guide from the front desk to provide anecdotes and facts throughout your visit to the museum, in ten languages including English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Japanese, Croatian, Portuguese and Mandarin.
The museum is open all year round, from 10.00am until 5.00pm with the last entry at 4.30pm. Why not get there early and give yourself time for a good long look around? In fact, if you arrive at Wimbledon around 9am, you might just catch a glimpse of Rufus the Wimbledon hawk and his handler. Rufus is a Harris hawk and his job is to fly around the grounds to scare pigeons away. He’s there at least once a week during the year and most mornings of the Championship before the gates open. Catch him at the right moment and you could score a rare photo with Wimbledon’s only bird of prey!
You don’t need to catch Wimbledon during the championships to get the full experience. Have a wander through the museum, then enjoy a picnic on the hill nearby – strawberries, cream and champagne highly recommended!