“The Queue” 101: How to Get Centre Court Tickets for Wimbledon

Wimbledon 2013 is now in full swing (pun absolutely intended), and with all of the tennis on TV I am getting a huge dose of British nostalgia.  This time last year, I was sitting in a tent on those hallowed grounds in SW19 queuing for the chance to score some incredible tickets to Wimbledon.  It was one of the best sporting experiences I have ever had, and one that I would recommend to anyone with even a remote interest in tennis or British culture.  Wimbledon is one of the only remaining sporting events in the world where the average person can show up on the day-of and gain entrance to a world-class arena (without having to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to do so).  All you have to do is queue!

Here is my experience of the queue for Wimbledon tickets during the 2012 tournament:

Willem and I left our flat near Tower Bridge around 7:30am on the day before we wanted tickets (we wanted tickets for the second day of Wimbledon, a Tuesday, so we left for the queue on Monday morning).  We brought with us a cheap two-person pop-up tent we had bought for around £25, some water and snacks, a sleeping bag and blankets, and a change of clothes.  We couldn’t bring much more than was absolutely necessary because we had to carry everything by hand.  We took the District Line all the way across London to Southfields tube station.  From there, we walked about a 1/2 mile to the Wimbledon Park grounds, where stewards directed us to a place in line.

Wimbledon Queue Sign

We were in line by around 9:30am, and we unpacked our stuff.  We were happy to see that there were less than 100 people in front of us, which meant that we were guaranteed to get Centre Court tickets for the next day! The queue steadily grew behind us, and by late afternoon, there were over 1,000 people in the queue. If you want to guarantee yourself tickets to one of the show courts, definitely arrive prior to 5pm.

Wimbledon Queue, Tents, Wimbledon Park Wimbledon Queue, Tents, Wimbledon Park

The entire process is very organized and orderly, as is everything truly British.  There are nice stewards posted everywhere to answer any questions and to direct those in the queue to the right areas.  You have to stay where you are in the queue until at least 5pm, which is when the stewards come around and hand out “queue cards”.  These cards are your official “place in line”, and are there to prevent queue jumpers.  Guard them with your life! As long as you have your card, no one can steal your spot.

Wimbledon Queue, Tents, Wimbledon Park, Vamos Rafa

After we were handed out queue cards (we were #74 and #75!), Willem and I left our tent to be watched over by our tent neighbor and went on the hunt for food.  Luckily there are a few supermarkets nearby, so we bought picnic materials and made our way back to our tent for the evening.

Wimbledon Queue, Tents, Wimbledon ParkWimbledon Queue, Tents, Wimbledon Park

At around 10:30pm, the stewards went around once more to ask everyone to begin to quiet down for the evening.  Most people respected this, but it is worth taking along some ear plugs so that any rowdy crowds you are unlucky enough to have near your tent do not disturb your sleep.  Willem and I had a different problem.  We misjudged how cold it gets in England, even on a summer night.  Neither of us slept a wink the entire night because we were too busy shivering in a curled up ball, trying stay warm.  Oh well, who comes to Wimbledon to sleep anyway?!

Don’t plan on sleeping in, either! By 5am, the stewards begin asking everyone to wake up and pack up their tents in order to consolidate the line for those arriving to queue for general tickets in the morning.  We took turns washing up in the bathroom trailers and packing up our stuff.  The facilities in general were very good, considering the fact that the Wimbledon queue is just a bunch of tents stuck in a field.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were clean bathroom trailers for both men and women (with mirrors and sinks!) instead of just port-a-pottys.

Wimbledon Queue, Tents, Wimbledon Park

Packing our tent was a breeze, because I apparently have the magic touch when it comes to pop-up tents. I even helped a couple of guys who were at their wits end get their tent back in its bag.  And they weren’t the only ones.  The tent carnage on that field was appalling.  I saw dozens of tents that had just been abandoned when their owners couldn’t get them back in their bags. Does anyone actually learn how to put their tent away before camping?

Wimbledon Queue, Tents, Wimbledon Park

For those tent masters like me, Wimbledon provides a left luggage storage area where you can leave your large bags and tents. Anything bigger than a small (soft-sided) backpack is not allowed into the area (did they really think I would want to carry my tent around all day anyway?).  It cost £5 per item of camping equipment, and £1 per additional item to store for the day.

Queue cards in hand and tents safely stored, we got back in line to wait.  At 7:30am, the stewards began to lead us down a very long path leading to the security area at the entrance to the park.  We were halted there to wait until the gates opened at 9:15am.  At 8am, were were issued our wristbands.  This is where your queue card is important. There are only 500 wristbands each for the show courts: Centre Court, Court 1, and Court 2.  A band for Centre Court allows you entrance into any show court, but Court 1, for instance, only allows entrance into that court and the ones below it.  A general admission ticket (given out to approximately 6,000-9,000 people in the queue every day who do not receive show court tickets) will allow access to the dozens of lower courts and Henman Hill, but not the show courts.

The bands are given out first come-first served according to your position in the queue.  As we were in the first 500 people, we received bands for Centre Court, which meant we were going to see Rafael Nadal play that day! The band then guarantees your ability to buy your ticket at the turnstiles.

An hour later, and the queue finally started to move. We slowly snaked our way through the airport-style security and to the entrance where we bought our tickets at the turnstiles.  Luckily we brought cash, because we found out that no credit or debit cards are accepted for tickets bought on the day.  This keeps the line moving quickly. We finally entered the gates of the All England Club at 10:15am.

Wimbledon, Centre Court, All England Club

We made it!

Wimbledon, Centre Court, All England Club, Order of Play

The earliest matches did not begin until 11am (and the first show court matches did not start until 1pm), so we wandered around the grounds and found seats at Court 17, where Mardy Fish (USA) was about to start his match.

Wimbledon, Mardy Fish

We watched the first set, and then decided to find something to eat before heading into the show courts.  If you are familiar with Wimbledon, you will know that “Strawberries and Cream” (washed down with champagne, of course) is the quintessential Wimbledon dish.

Wimbledon, Strawberries and Cream

We were tempted, but for £7 for a bowl of strawberries and cream, we decided to pass on that little bite of British culture. Instead, we took our food and made our way to Henman Hill to watch some matches on the big screen while we ate.

Wimbledon, Henman Hill, All England Club

After a rain delay (it is England, after all), we finally took our seats at Centre Court.  We were in the fifth row!

Wimbledon, Centre Court, All England Club

First up was Rafael Nadal against Thomaz Bellucci.  The match was much more exciting than we had anticipated.  Bellucci caught Nadal by surprise when he came out on fire, and won the first 4 games!  We thought we were in for the upset of the century, but Nadal kept his composure and battled back to win the set.  After that, Nadal cruised through the rest of the match, winning comfortably.  It was easy to see why Nadal is considered one of the greats of tennis. Click on the pictures below to enlarge.

 

The final match we saw on Centre Court was between Britain’s sweetheart, Andy Murray, and Nikolay Davydenko.  Andy Murray’s fans were out in force, which created a wonderful atmosphere on the court.  Murray did his fans proud, and won 3 sets to 0.  (Once again, you can click on the individual pictures to enlarge them.)

 

By this point we were exhausted.  It was after 9pm, and we had been going non-stop in the sun and rain the entire day.  We left the All England Club and returned to the left luggage to collect our bags.  It was after 10:30pm when we got back home, but the whole experience was oh-so-worth-it! For a few pounds and some patience in a queue, you can take part in one of the greatest British traditions, plus glimpse a few of the most famous names in tennis.

Wimbledon, Centre Court, All England Club, Order of Play

If you are ever in London for those two weeks at the end of June/beginning of July, do not miss the chance to queue for Wimbledon!

For more information, Britishtennis.com has published a page on tips and rules for the queue, as well as a useful map of the grounds and nearest tube stations.

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39 thoughts on ““The Queue” 101: How to Get Centre Court Tickets for Wimbledon

  1. Sarah, I also waited in queue for Wimbledon tickets 36 years ago. Your experience was a little different than mine. We did not have tents, we did have sleeping bags and we slept on a side walk against a brick wall. When we wanted to go to the bathroom we had to go to the train station. That is also where we stashed all our stuff. I’m not sure when we got there but I do know we slept out for two nights. I saw jimmy Connor and someone named Bjorne I think play on center court.
    Looking forward to seeing you in August, wish you were coming for the reunion.
    Aunt Patty

    Sent from my iPad

  2. I once stayed in Paris @ The Meridian during Roland Garros. Most players stayed at the same hotel but tennis doesn’t have my interest. So you can imagine what happened when I told friends I stayed at the same hotel with those players… I got scolded for not asking authographs. Just my luck!

  3. Great stuff, thanks for sharing. One question – how much were the tickets for Center Court once you finally got the chance to purchase them?

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience! My husband and I are hoping to do a Europe trip summer of 2016 and Wimbledon is a must. Do you mind me asking much you paid for the Centre Court tickets?

    • Hi! When I went in 2012, it was only about 35 GBP for the centre court tickets, although keep in mind that the prices increase the longer the tournament goes on. The first couple of days of the tournament (I went on the 2nd full day) are the cheapest, and the queue ticket prices go up from there. Also, make sure to bring enough cash, because they don’t take any other form of payment from people camping out in the queue. This keeps the line moving quickly at the turnstiles!

  5. Sounds fab! My sister, my son Harry and me are doing it this year and are travelling from Scotland for a four day trip. We hope to get two days at Wimbledon. Can you answer this – if on the day of arrival, we are above 1500 in the Queue, can you refuse a ticket for that day, and just wait to be at the start of the next days Queue? If Andy is playing the next day we would rather wait for him.

    Your trip sounded great – good advice re cold temp at night! Thanks, Yvonne, Edinburgh.

    • Yes, you can! The only issue you could run into is not actually knowing what number you are. When we arrived in the morning, we set up our tent in line but they didn’t actually hand out the queue cards until about 5pm of the night before you plan to enter. So for that entire day, we just had to estimate what number we were in line. Just make sure you ask one of the stewards where to go if you want to line up for a specific day. They were all quite friendly to us and could always point you to where you need to go!

      • i may be going this summer, but dont’ want to sleep in a tent, if i arrive by 8 each morning, do you think i’ll be able to get a ticket if i join the queue?

      • You can probably get a ticket, but at 8am you definitely won’t be in time for the show courts. After the show courts sell out, they sell grounds tickets (meaning you can see any of the matches on courts 3-19, but not the main courts where the big names typically play). If you just want to come for the atmosphere, then the grounds passes are the cheapest way to do it. You can still watch the show court matches from Henman Hill if the weather is nice.

  6. Solid info here. I’m hoping to go this summer for the first week…few questions:
    I don’t plan on camping out. So if I get there around 8am, and wait on the massive queue, will I eventually get a grounds pass. I’m not concerned with getting a show court as I won’t camp, or pay hundreds of dollars.

  7. Thank you so much for this write up! I can’t wait to queue up for the tickets now.

    Can I ask, what is the maximum no. of tix one person can buy?

    • You can only buy one ticket per person–you have to show your wristband with your number in line to buy the ticket at the turnstiles, and there is only one wristband per person. So everyone has to stand in line for themselves. Hope this helps!

      • Technically there is a max. two person per tent rule, but when I went there were definitely people that brought 3 or 4 person tents as well. They try to limit the size of the tents allowed because there is not enough space to store huge tents during the day.

  8. Hi, I really found your article very helpful. I’m going for this years’ Championships, I have some questions:
    1- Once your are given the queue cards, can you leave Wimbledon or you have to spend the whole night there?
    2- Is it possible to queue without a tent? It would be almost impossible for me to bring one there.
    3- Can you watch all the matches of one show court with one ticket or is it just one match per ticket?

    Thank you very much!

    • You have to spend the whole night there. It defeats the purpose of queuing if you leave, and it isn’t fair to everyone else who did queue. It is possible to do it without a tent, but it probably wouldn’t be very comfortable. The ground gets very muddy and wet, especially if it has rained recently. I would recommend going to Argos or a sporting goods store and just buying a really cheap tent to use once. The two person pop up tent that we used only cost 25 GBP, and it was well worth it, even for one time use.

      Regarding the tickets, yes, you can watch all of the matches for that court! Your ticket is good for the whole day, so you can come and go as you please for whatever matches you want to see. We got centre court tickets when I went, and we watched the action on the other courts until it was time for Nadal and Murray to play their matches.

  9. Hello, thanks for the post it was very helpful. I am going on my own 23rd-29 June for the first week. I am going down monday and will get there 5 or6pm. Do you think i can still get a ticket for Tuesday play at that time and also with me staying all week say i am watching tuesday play till 9pm will i get tickets for the next day? As ideally i want to watch play everyday camping and queuing. So do u think this will be possible or not? I am aiming to get the ground passes for a few days then maybe get show courts b4 i leave fri night? Your help would be much appreciated thanks

  10. Also can i ask when u set ya tent up and get in the queue can u leave it to go and get dinner or tea? As i will be on my own and will to get some food?
    -And is there plenty of food facilities on the ground for food? And what did you do for breakfast? Can you buy breakfast from the vans? And are the wash facilities really good too? Thanks sorry for all the questions just want to make sure i get everything spot on b4 i travel down 🙂

  11. I am going this year on several days with tickets already. I would like to queue up on the first day but not for show courts. What time would I need to arrive to guarantee outside court tickets?
    Thank You

  12. hi there! great article re the queue! i was just at roland garros last wk & am planning to go to wimbledon this yr =D i have some questions abt the queue i was hoping you could answer . . im after show court tickets too & i totally understand u have to go there early, days before the day ur actually after !

    but my question is once u arrive on the camp site, how do they distinguish btwn what days ppl are queueing for ? for example, say i want centre court tix for manic monday & am prepared to queue from the friday before, but there are others there (ahead or behind me) who are queuing for middle saturday or qtr-final wednesday, before queue cards are given, does the queue get distinguished btwn the days ppl are queuing for ? and if not, how is this managed to ensure you dont ‘lose ur spot’ before queue cards are given for the day ur after ?

    • Hi

      This year I plan to join the queue 3 times at least to get Centre Court tickets. For manic Monday (4R) and second Wednesday (QF), do you think it’s really necessary to queue for more than a day? For example for manic Monday to join the queue on Saturday.

      Thanks a lot. In fact your info was very helpful for the 2014 Championships, I was able to get CC tickets for the opening day.

      • Hi, sorry for the late response! In case this info is still helpful, I don’t think it is necessary to queue for more than a day. As long as you arrive by around 10am-noon on the day before (so on Sunday morning for the Monday events), you should be fine!

  13. What time does the queue actually open?
    I mean, if I want showcourt tickets for Tuesday, what is the earliest time on Monday that I can join the queue?

    • Yes, of course, but that defeats the fun of queuing! It’s all about the experience. Plus, a ticket bought through the queue is much, much cheaper for those of us who can’t afford tickets costing hundreds or thousands of pounds…

  14. Great post! It will save me a lot of money for hotel, because I want to get the center court tickets for the first serveral rounds. Could I say that it’s impossible to get the center court tickets two days in a row if I buy them through the queue?

    • Glad you found it useful! It would be really difficult to get centre court tickets from the queue two days in a row, because people will be lining up for the next day while you are inside viewing the matches on the first day.

  15. Great story! One question. it’s a detail, but 5 pounds per camping item. it means 5 pounds for your tent, 5 pounds for your sleeping bad and 5 pounds for blankets.. So 15 pounds for storage.
    It’s a silly question maybe. but I’m just wandering

    • I’m not sure if this is still the case, but when I went it was just 5 pounds for the tent (the largest item) and 1 pound for each additional item (like backpacks, folded blankets, coolers, etc). We spent about 8 pounds total in storage.

  16. Sarah, thanks for commenting your experience!!! I’m traveling this year to London and I want to go to quarterfinals. I’ve seen on YouTube that some people stay for two days to get centre courts for quarterfinals. How that’s possible? There are two queues??? One for Tuesday and one for Wednesday? Please answer me this if you know anything about my doubt.
    Best wishes

    Benjamin (from Chile!!!)

    • Hi Benjamin, yes they have two different queues in this case. When you arrive, there are stewards who show people to the correct area, depending on which day they are queuing for. Since there are people arriving for the day-of, as well as people arriving to wait days in advance, sometimes the queues overlap. But it is very organized and simple to figure out once you are there. If there is anything the Brits are good at, it is organizing a proper queue 🙂

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