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As an American expat in the UK, “queuing at Wimbledon” was a cultural phenomenon that I had never heard about.
People talked about “the queue” as if it was some otherworldly thing, much like the monsters from Stranger Things, and you basically sign your life over to it for 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 hours and possibly make it out alive.
Whether you’re like me and not too familiar with what the Wimbledon queue entails, or you’ve been dreaming of participating for years and have finally got your chance, I’ve put together an American girl’s guide to queuing at Wimbledon to help us all get through this classic British experience in mostly one piece, as it’s one of the quirkiest things to do in London.
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How Does Queuing at Wimbledon Work?
Wimbledon is one of the only sporting events in the world where you can simply line up the morning of play and secure yourself a great ticket.
In addition to the main courts (Centre Court, Court 1, Court 2), you can also get “Grounds” tickets, which basically let you into the Wimbledon grounds and into any unreserved seat on courts 3 through 18.
You can’t get tickets to Centre court on the last four days of the tournament by queuing, but grounds tickets are still available (with it being only 8 pounds to get a grounds ticket the final Sunday of the tournament.)
A Guide to Queuing at Wimbledon
When my husband told me we needed to get there early to queue, I was like “Oh, right, okay, so like 8am then?”
Um, excuse me. 5:00am to go stand in a LINE!
This seems like the ultimate British pasttime, but I’m American and we just barge through things so I am not used to this level of order.
I checked Wimbledon’s official guide to queuing (because of course) to check what he was saying, and it seemed he was correct.
If we were going to go enjoy a day out in the (hopeful) sunshine watching people smack a ball back and forth for hours, we were going to need to start the day early.
We ended up getting to the bus stop near our hotel at around 4:46am, as evidenced by my husband’s knock off Fit-Bit.
I had never been on a bus in London so early, nor had I seen the roads so empty.
If you’re not from London, you might look at that picture and go “Empty! There are plenty of cars!”, but trust me, that is empty.
In some ways, despite being super tired already, this was the perfect time to explore London by bus for a bit of a blurry sunrise view.
Anyway, on to the bit where we wait in line for our entire lives.
So when you first get to the queue (it was about 5:50am at this point), you are greeted with a jolly sign that talks about collecting your “queue card” and following Wimbledon on Twitter so you can tweet all about your queue experience.
You can also follow the live scores and interviews and photos and videos so it’s LIKE YOU’RE THERE.
But you’re not.
You’re in a field.
We queued on the middle Saturday, which meant that there were people who had already started to camp in an attempt to be in the queue for show court tickets for Monday.
There were also people who had camped overnight in order to get show court tickets for the Saturday, as well as the rest of us who had just journeyed through London to wait in line that morning.
The whole thing was a very well oiled machine and it was the calmest and most impressively organized line I had ever seen.
I have no question about how the British were able to run an Empire after seeing this military precision.
When you first come in, you’re given a “queue card” which is helpful as you can leave the line for a couple of minutes to go line up in other places (more on that in a second).
People take great pride in their numbers (the lower the better – shows your dedication), and I was happy to get 4427 as I feel like 4427 says “interested in learning more about this whole queuing experience, but not interested in camping,” which was exactly how I felt about the whole thing.
To find your spot in line, you had to seek out this guy holding a “Q” sign, as he was at the very back, welcoming you into its long and slightly itchy (if you didn’t have a blanket) arms.
Once you find your spot, you then can laugh at all the people arriving after you and how you’re going to get in before them.
Now, we were in our spots in the queue at 6:00am and didn’t get into Wimbledon until 11:20, so what did we do for those 5 and a half hours, you ask?
Well, we waited in line for food.
We waited in line for coffee.
And we waited in line to go to the bathroom!
You could also sit on a couch made of grass and watch people play tennis “for fun,” but we all knew that we weren’t there to watch tennis for fun, we were there to watch people’s dreams be crushed while others come true.
As the morning wore on, we tried to sleep (TOP TIP: bring a picnic blanket to lay out on. No one stands in the queue the whole time unless you have a death wish) and take in the atmosphere.
Finally, things started moving a little once the front of the line (4,426 people in front of me) were slowly let in.
In the spirit of orderly queuing at Wimbledon, people piled their trash up delicately.
Soon, our line was moving! It was now time for us to enter the grounds!
I had assumed we must be close to the entrance, but I am a dumb American who knows nothing about sports and severely underestimated how much British people love to queue, so obviously there was much more queue left.
First we went back on ourselves past where we had come in.
Then we entered under some important looking arches – we’re so close, I thought!
We walked past a lake that looked pretty great sparkling in the sun.
We waited in line next to another “tennis for fun” experience where they promised people they could go back to their place in line if they wanted to play some tennis-related games.
We were given free coffee, juice, and a sticker that is basically the whole reason I came in the first place.
We also got to take pictures of a Wimbledon hashtag sign made of grass so that we did not forget to Tweet.
And then we waited some more to get into the security tent where you go through airport-style security and bag checks.
I didn’t take pictures of us waiting inside the security tent because I wasn’t allowed, but rest assured there is plenty of queuing to be had there as well.
Finally, the promised land.
After an entire morning in the baking sun, we stumbled to the green pearly gates where we could hand over 25 pounds in exchange for a ticket to the main event.
There were about 10 windows open, but everyone was lining up at the same 3-4 because they hadn’t had enough of queuing.
We spotted an open window on the end and raced to it, thrusting our money in his hand before walking through.
We, along with about 8,000 of our new closest friends, had made it.
We had persevered through the highs and lows.
We had laughed, we had cried, we had fallen in love and out of love with the queue too many times to count, and we were finally there.
The day of tennis had only just started, but we had already lived another life in the 5 hours before, so we wandered into the food tent to gear up for our new adventures.
But first, we had to queue.