The English Premier League season may be over, but that just means there’s more time to appreciate some of the other sports beloved by the British. Major summer events like Polo in the Park, Royal Ascot and Wimbledon offer a great opportunity for London visitors to immerse themselves in the excitement.
Attending a whole day of matches or races is a chance to really get to know a new sport, or gain deeper insights into one you’re already familiar with. Plus, there’s all the fun that goes along with these sorts of spectacles, from sartorial experimentation to strawberries and cream.
Polo in the Park
Get down to Hurlingham Park, which adjoins the posh country club of the same name, for Polo in the Park June 3 through 5. It was at the Hurlingham Club that the rules of the modern game of polo were drawn up in 1874 after the British brought their version of this ancient Persian pastime over from India.
With teams from six cities from around the world competing, Polo in the Park is the largest polo tournament in Europe — this year’s event also features an exciting England international match against South Africa on June 3.
The rules of polo have been tweaked to enable faster game play and to bring spectators closer to the action, making this a great spot for your first taste of polo. The dress code is smart casual (no shorts or sneakers allowed), but the atmosphere is informal, with food and drink courtesy of a fun Great Polo Food Festival.
Families should bookmark June 5 as there’s a children’s party that includes giant slides, face-painting and plenty of games.
This premier event on the U.K.’s horse racing calendar — which the queen herself has never missed since she ascended the throne in 1952 — is worth $9.5 million in prize money. Thirty races take place between June 14 and 18, with each day of the competition offering its own unique atmosphere.
While the opening Tuesday is a serious one of racing, the next day is more relaxed. Thursday’s “Ladies’ Day,” famous for its fashions, presents the chance for race-goers to push the boat out with their extravagant headgear choices and potentially gets a lot of coverage in the U.K. media. On Friday and Saturday, the focus returns to the racing itself.
Your Royal Ascot experience will depend on the enclosure you opt for — the Royal Enclosure is by invitation only but tickets are available for Queen Anne, Windsor and a few of the other enclosures. The former is the more formal of the two, both in terms of dress code and the etiquette expected. The views of the course are also better from this area, though it is possible to catch a glimpse of the queen wherever you watch from when the Royal Procession passes each day.
The world’s oldest tennis tournament will take place at the All England Club June 27 through July 10, attracting defending champions Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and the biggest names in the men’s, women’s and double’s games, plus legions of passionate spectators. Total prize money to be awarded this year will top out over $41 million, making it the highest-paid tennis competition in the world.
Lots of Wimbledon tickets are sold by ballot well in advance, but there are plenty to buy on the day, too, with ground passes and show court tickets (which give you access to matches on courts 3-19 and the major matches, respectively) available in person.
To make a day of it, you’ll need to get in line as early as 6 a.m.; alternatively, take advantage of the tickets released after 5 p.m. each day. Once you’ve gotten in, celebrate with classic Wimbledon treats like strawberries and cream and a Pimm’s cocktail.