Attending the Epsom Derby

Every year in the first weekend of June the eyes of the racing world turn to Epsom for the Epsom Derby Festival.  Cultural Wednesday Towers is walking distance from the course and every year we head up to watch the races.  Unlike Ascot the Derby is open to all, here is my guide to attending the Epsom Derby.

Attending the Epsom Derby with the grandstands, crowds and bunting
Derby Day

When is the Epsom Derby 2023

Derby weekend is always a special weekend in Epsom  Friday 3 June and Saturday 3 June 2023 are the dates for the Epsom Derby festival this year. 

Ways to attend the Derby

You can be like the Royal family and watch the Epsom Derby from the Queen’s stand but there are many other ways to experience the day.  Ranging from fancy hospitality packages to bring your own picnic on the hill.  There are food and drink stalls and bookies available in all parts of the racecourse.  Tickets are likely to sell fast and can be bought via the Jockey Club website.

Queen’s Stand 

As you’d expect from the name, this is stand that Queen watches the  races from.  She occupies the Royal Suite at the top of the building.  The Queen’s stand offers the best view across the course and the finishing post as well as offering access to the parade ring and winners enclosure.  Tickets for adults start at £140.  

Duchess’s Stand

Right next door to the Queens stand, also with great views across the racecourse but not quite so close to the finishing line. You also get access to the parade ring and winner enclosure.

Grandstand enclosure 

You don’t get a direct view of the course from the Grandstand enclosure but there are many big screens to watch the races, what you do get is to see the horses as they parade round before the race.  I used to think that taking a close look at them before hand would be the best way to ensure I picked a winner, but experience tells me that my preferred method of selecting the prettiest colours and nicest looking horse works just as well. Tickets start from £55

Lonsdale Enclosure

The Lonsdale enclosure stretches out along the track on the opposite side to the two stands.  You get no access to either the parade ring or the winners enclosure but a really good view of the Royal Box and the finishing line. There are many food and drink concessions or you can bring a picnic.

Upper Tattenham Enclosure

Right by Tattenham Corner, you get to see the horses as they turn for the final straight.  There is no access to the winners enclosure or parade ring but you can bring your own picnic. Tickets for the Upper Tattenham enclosure are £25.

Family Enclosure

The Family Enclosure is up on the hill with a view of the grandstands and the finishing line.  This is where the Cultural Wednesday family always go.  There are usually a merry go round and face painters.  You have no access to the parade ring or the winners enclosure but there are large screens so you can see all the action.  There are bookies within the enclosure if you fancy a flutter on the races.  You can walk around the rest of the hill, we like to stroll to the start line and then race back over the brow of the Downs to be back in the enclosure in time to see the  horses crossing the finish line. Tickets for the Jubilee Family Enclosure 2023 have yet to go on sale

Open Top Buses

Watching the Derby from an open top bus has been a thing since the horse drawn omnibus was first invented.  There are three areas for open top buses the Lonsdale, Upper Tattenham and Walton enclosures many different enclosure and prices are high.  Check your wallet and then make an enquiry about watching the Derby from an open top bus.

Derby Day 2017
Wings of Eagles winner of 2017 Derby getting ready to race

Watching the Derby for Free on the Hill

You don’t actually need a ticket to watch the Derby at all.  Anyone can access the centre of the course.  You can just pitch up with a rug and a picnic or chairs if you are feeling fancy and watch the pretty horses.  Many people bring gazebos and complicated picnics.  Drink is also bought to drink on the Hill, so much so in the past that now booze is only allowed when accompanied by a substantial picnic.  There are also many stalls selling both food and drink on the hill.

Betting at the Derby

Bookies Derby Day
Bookies at Derby Day

Even I, who won’t even do the lottery, have a flutter at the Derby meeting. In the Grandstands you will find the Tote, elsewhere there are bookmakers available in all parts of the course.

What to Wear to the Epsom Derby

The dress code for the Derby very much depends where about you are on the course.  If you have tickets to the Queen’s stand enclosure for Derby Day then it is morning dress for the men (grey or black) complete with top hat or full national costume. Ladies are expected to wear a formal day dress or tailored trouser suit accessorised with with a hat or a substantial fascinator. In the Duchess’s stand and other hospitality areas you are expected to be smart with men in a jacket, collar and tie and ladies wearing a hat or fascinator.  If you are out on the hill then anything goes.  What we wear on the Hill is casual clothes with comfortable shoes that we can walk in, as we walk the two miles from Cultural Wednesday Towers up to the Downs. 

Fairground merry go round horse
Carousel in the family enclosure

Epsom Derby fun fair

Travellers from all over the country converge on Epsom Downs for the Derby and have done ever since the race was first run.  The most visible reminder of the Gypsy/Traveller contribution to Derby Day is the big fun fair in the middle of the race course.  Here you will find dodgems, those fast spinning up and down things and merry go rounds, the rides remain open long after the last race has been run.

History of the Epsom Derby

Why is the Derby called the Derby?  Way back in 1780 two luminaries of the racing world came up with an idea of a horse race for three year olds run over a mile at Epsom.  It was decided that the race should named after whoever won the toss of a coin.  Sir Charles Bunbury and the 12th Earl of Derby watched the coin spin and fall in favour of the Earl.  Sir Charles Bunbury got some glory however, as it was his horse Diomed that won the first race.  Since then the distance has increased to one and a half miles (officially 1 mile, 4 furlongs and 10 yards).  The Derby has always been popular with Royalty but the last reigning British Monarch to win was Edward VII in 1909 when Minoru romped home.  Fingers crossed that the Queen can crown her jubilee celebrations with a win from Reach for the Moon.

Derby Day 2017
And they’re off!

Parking at the Epsom Derby

Parking is available on Epsom Downs outside the racecourse for £10 per car and is best booked before you arrive.  Parking is on grass and is best suited if you have tickets for the Queen’s Stand, Duchess’s Stand, Grandstand Enclosure, Lonsdale Enclosure or the Hill.

How to Get to the Epsom Derby

A train strike is planned for Saturday 3 June, Derby Day, which will mean no trains or replacement bus services.  From  Morden tube at the end of the Northern Line you can catch the 864 bus which takes 30 minutes to get to the Old London Road carpark right by Tattenham Corner. 

Three train stations serve the Epsom Downs.

Epsom station

Trains from London Bridge, London Victoria and London Waterloo take about 30 minutes to get Epsom station.  If you are heading in from Surrey the trains leave from Guildford and Horsham.  Epsom station is one station outside Zone 6, so your Oyster card will not work here, you will need to buy a ticket before you get on the train. Epsom station is just under two miles away from Epsom racecourse and quite steeply uphill.  Don’t worry are there are always a fleet of buses waiting to carry racegoers up the hill during the Derby Festival.  After the races it can be a bit of wait for a bus, but at least the walk is downhill on the way home!

Epsom Downs station

Trains take about an hour from London Victoria to get to Epsom Downs Station. There are no buses or taxis from Epsom Downs which is about a mile from the grandstands but it is in zone 6, so Oyster cards will work.   The walk takes about 20 minutes but is up and across the Downs rather than on a paved path.  Something to consider if you are planning this in high heeled splendour.

Tattenham Corner station 

Trains leave for Tattenham Corner from London Bridge and take about hour.  The station is right by Tattenham Corner which is handy if you plan to watch the race from here and in zone 6.  If the grandstands and the hill are your objective then you have a walk of just under a mile but on the flat taking about 20 minutes.

Will you be attending the Epsom Derby?

We walk on Epsom Downs at all times of year, one of our favourite walks is to the Langley Vale Centenary Wood at the back of the Downs.



  1. January 25, 2022 / 8:46 pm

    what an interesting event! did you bet on one of the horses? #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      January 25, 2022 / 8:48 pm

      We all choose a horse and place the smallest bet allowed

      • January 26, 2022 / 6:08 am

        So did you win?it must be fun though

  2. January 29, 2022 / 11:50 am

    It sounds like a picnic on the hill in the Jubilee Enclosure is the perfect way to enjoy the races? What a fun family day out. #CulturedKids

    • Catherine
      January 31, 2022 / 10:44 am

      We absolutely love it!

  3. January 30, 2022 / 5:48 pm

    What a great idea for a day out. I’ve been to races before without children but as teenagers I think they would really appreciate the excitement and working out the odds of winning. Great to find out about the various stands and dress codes. Thanks for sharing! #Culturedkids

    • Catherine
      January 31, 2022 / 10:44 am

      My two have loved the Derby from when they at junior school right through the teens

  4. February 6, 2022 / 9:56 am

    Jubilee Family Enclosure sounds feasible this year with my boys, will try our luck with the minimum betting as well and surely will pair it with Langley valle woods! Counting down to warmer sunnier days Catherine and Queen’s Platinum Jubilee! X

  5. February 11, 2022 / 10:20 am

    I’ve learnt so much about Epsom Derby from this post, I’ll confess it’s not somewhere I’ve considered taking the kids before but you’re definitely selling it to me! Thanks so much for joining in with #CulturedKids

  6. Cole
    April 17, 2022 / 3:40 pm

    Hi there! I have tickets for the Queen’s Stands and have purchase my morning attire, but other than that I’m pretty clueless about what to do on race day. Apparently the race is at 4:30pm; do you know when it’s customary/fashionable to show up to Epsom Downs? And how long after the race to people stick around? Thanks for your insights!

    • Catherine
      April 17, 2022 / 3:59 pm

      Hi! We always like to see the Queen arrive which she does shortly before the first race at 2pm. I would aim for just after 1. People begin to leave straight after the actual Derby race but there another two more races on the card. Some people hang around for the fun fair long into the night and other head off immediately. There will be a long queue for taxis immediately after the race, so be prepared to walk (not far but quite far in heels) or wait. Have fun!

  7. Warwick Lowe
    September 7, 2023 / 5:02 pm

    Good piece as ever, Catherine, but worth mentioning that the Oaks is on the Friday immediately before the Derby and is an excellent class 1 race with its own history. A slightly smaller crowd.

    • Catherine
      September 9, 2023 / 4:27 pm

      Oaks both cheaper and less crowded

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