Exhilarating, wild and pleasingly unpredictable, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is a one-of-a-kind spectacle in the world of live entertainment. The event is the pride of the Scottish capital, renowned as the largest arts festival on earth, and there are over 50,000 performances of more than 3,000 shows taking place in over 300 different venues across the city. To help you make the most of this rich celebration of life, check out our Edinburgh Fringe guide for some top tips for planning your visit.
Come Well Equipped
Just because the festival takes place throughout August each year doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed sunshine all day long. Scottish weather is notoriously temperamental, with glorious sun one minute and a thunderous storm the next. Because you’ll most likely be queuing outside, our best advice would be to bring a compact waterproof jacket and umbrella with you. It can also get very warm inside some of the older venues, so be prepared to shed a layer or two once you’re inside.
With so much excitement and activity happening at all hours, it’s tempting to try and pack in as many shows as possible each day. While it’s definitely conceivable to visit eight shows or more in the space of 24 hours, rushing from show to show doesn’t leave you any time to relax. Aim to see three performances spaced out throughout the day, and bear in mind that most shows last about an hour; theatre usually takes place in the morning while comedy gigs tend to be at night.
Don’t Miss the Royal Mile
If there is one part of this colourful event you can’t miss out on, it’s the vibrant array of talent found along the Royal Mile. This historic street is full to the brim with buskers, bagpipers and entertainers of all shapes and sizes. Many of the cast members will be here dressed up handing out fliers, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere.
Talk to People
If you haven’t yet decided which shows you’d like to see, take the time to consult some reviews – or simply talk to the locals. Word spreads fast when a performance is particularly good, so this is a great way to gain info on some of the best productions. While there’s of course a small chance you’ll end up seeing a dud, many of the UK’s best loved comics have made their name at the Fringe, and besides, taking a punt on a show you’ve never heard of is all part of the fun.
Take the opportunity to enjoy some local specialties while you’re in Edinburgh, like the classic haggis, neeps and tatties, or a meaty Scotch Pie. Fans of the book and movie phenomenon Harry Potter will love a chance to visit the Elephant House. JK Rowling wrote her wizarding hero’s early adventures at this charming coffee shop, looking out on a beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle.
Pick up a Bargain
The average price for a show is a very reasonable £10, but if you want to visit more than three a day, it can quickly add up. For those looking to laugh on the cheap, you can swing by the Virgin Money Half-Price Hut, where many shows are offered at a 50% discount. For those on a very limited budget, there are plenty of performances that won’t cost you a penny. Many of the free shows in previous years have gone on to win numerous awards, so you never know what you’re going to get!
Escape the Festival
It’s easy to overdo it at the Edinburgh Fringe, so make sure to retreat to some of this UNESCO World Heritage city’s quieter spaces to help avoid festival fatigue. For a peaceful oasis, head to the Royal Botanic Garden at Inverleith Row, where 72 acres of stunning natural scenery await you. Of course, a peek at the sparkling Scottish Crown Jewels guarded in Edinburgh Castle is a must too, and – if you’re fit enough – climb up Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park for an unforgettable view of the magnificent Scottish capital.
Don’t be Late
While many of the venues are located next to or near to one another in the Old Town, some venues can take a while to get to. If you’re hoping to avoid being heckled by comedians, try to avoid being the last person through the door, lest you become the butt of the joke for the rest of the evening.