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Wimbledon without tennis: 10 things to do
Wimbledon isn’t just a tournament, it’s a village. Here’s what to do when you’re not wondering who's going to win it all
For the thousands of fans who descend upon the All England Club every summer, Wimbledon means one thing: tennis, namely The Championships, where the world’s top stars slug it out on the lawns of the All England Club (June 23-July 6).
But few realize that the charms of this chic southwest London “village” extend beyond the ball courts.
What’s there to do in Wimbledon when you’re not watching tennis?
1. Cannizaro House
Oscar Wilde, Henry James and Alfred Lord Tennyson are among the illustrious guests who’ve stayed at this opulent but friendly 300-year-old country house hotel.
The historic property alone is worth visiting, but it also contains the new Orangerie restaurant, with gorgeous views of the manicured lawns and flowerbeds of Cannizaro Park through its floor-to-ceiling windows.
Completing the quintessentially English scene is the afternoon tea on the menu: scones, pastries, finger sandwiches and strawberries, served with tea or champagne.
Cannizaro House, West Side Common, Wimbledon; +44 20 8879 1464
2. Wimbledon Common
An oasis of woodland, heath, ponds and bird life, the vast common -- all 460 hectares of it -- is the green lung of Wimbledon and a great place to spend a few hours getting mildly lost.
In the middle of the park is the cheap and cheerful Windmill Café, with coffee, ice cream and snacks; next door is a museum devoted to windmills and local history.
3. Buddhapadipa Temple
Few Londoners know of this Buddhist temple on a leafy residential road in Wimbledon, the first to be built in the United Kingdom.
Inside (it’s open to all) you’ll find gardens -- with a “philosophy path” meandering across wooden bridges and through stands of trees -- and a white gabled temple filled with murals depicting episodes in the life of the Buddha.
Buddhapadipa Temple, 14 Calonne Road, Wimbledon Parkside; +44 20 8946 1357
4. Wimbledon Books
This small, independent bookshop -- the only one in Wimbledon -- has a strong selection of mainstream and specialist fiction, a nice range of children’s books and stationery and comfy chairs to curl up on.
The latest titles are temptingly displayed, so it’s an excellent place to discover new authors.
Wimbledon Books, 40 High St., Wimbledon; +44 20 8879 3101
5. Diane Von Furstenberg and Question Air
Wimbledon Village high street is stuffed with desirable fashion boutiques.
Sample merchandise at high-end DVF includes a “Jessi all over sequins” dress at £1,689 ($2,610), a Tonda Crustal Clutch bag for £280 ($433) and bestselling lace frocks.
A little further down the street, Question Air has plenty of designer denim among its hip fashion finds.
Diane Von Furstenberg, 38B High St., Wimbledon: +44 208 605 9156
Question Air, 77-78 High St., Wimbledon; +44 208 946 6288
6. The Lawn Bakery
The Lawn Bakery opened in 2012, a sibling to the pricier Lawn Bistro a few minutes walk from it.
Aside from the decent range of freshly made snacks, light meals and pastries, the bakery does a good breakfast -- everything from fry-ups to boiled eggs and soldiers, porridge, croissants and muffins.
The pistachio meringues and rhubarb tart crumble make for terrific dessert.
Unusual for a bakery, the shop sells wine and beer, but only the good stuff -- this is Wimbledon Village, after all.
The Lawn Bakery, 9 High Street, Wimbledon; +44 20 8946 3774
7. Bayley & Sage
You’ll find plenty of ingredients for a gourmet picnic on the Common at this up-market delicatessen, including artisan breads and cheeses, pates, wine and old fashioned lemonade.
For dessert, the hazelnut cannoli and Apolline pastries from the charcuterie counter are especially good.
Bayley & Sage, 60 High St., Wimbledon; +44 20 8946 9904
8. Wimbledon Village Stables
Taking a riding lesson at this Wimbledon stables is an exciting way to explore the Common. No need to buy or bring along gear: you can hire boots, gloves and helmets.
Wimbledon Village Stables, 24A/B Wimbledon High St., Wimbledon; +44 20 8946 8579
9. The Mint Source
Fragrant soaps, bath oils and hand washes, alongside jewelry, gardening kits and scarves, are among items on sale at this shop in an old artisan’s cottage, which has been likened to an over-stuffed English drawing room.
Jazz plays while you browse.
The Mint Source, 23 Church Road, Wimbledom; +44 (0)20 8944 9580
10. Polka Theatre and New Wimbledon Theatre
Polka is one of the few theaters in the UK to stage plays uniquely for children.
A few minutes’ walk to the north, the New Wimbledon Theatre (which opened in 1910) stages crowd-pulling musicals and dance performances.
The standard rivals the West End but without West End prices.
Polka Theatre, 240 The Broadway, Wimbledon; +44 208 543 4888
New Wimbledon Theatre, 93 The Broadway, Wimbledon; +44 844 817 7646
Originally published June 2013, updated July 2014.