17 Reasons to Visit Edinburgh's Festivals
31 July 2019
Not sure whether you should come to Edinburgh for its famous Festivals? It's not too late - Eve Livingston gives us seventeen reasons why you should drop everything and head for the capital this August...
1. Weird and wonderful venues
Edinburgh has many a traditional theatre and art gallery to offer up, but festival season sees performances taking place in even the most unlikely of venues right across the city. Watch a play in Underbelly’s famous upside-down purple cow, catch a comedian in a pop-up yurt or bus, or squeeze into one of Cowgate’s converted vaults. It’s all part of the charm!
2. There truly is something for everyone
With thousands of performers, authors and artists descending on the city in August, visitors will truly be spoiled for choice. Whether you’re into books, dance, cabaret, politics, or space-themed improvised musical comedy with clowns (and who isn't?) you’ll find something to suit every taste and mood.
3. Mouth-watering street food and quirky pop-up bars
Between shows, visitors can sample some of the best-quality food and delicious drinks Edinburgh has to offer at an array of interesting bars, restaurants and food stands situated throughout the city. Choose between traditional Scottish produce and hearty world food at pop-ups situated in every nook and cranny, outdoors and in.
4. Catch some of the biggest names in the arts…
Edinburgh’s Festivals continue to attract the biggest stars in comedy, theatre, books and art. Whether they’re putting on an entire run or appearing for a very special one-off event, August provides a unique chance to hear directly from the world’s biggest names and all of your favourites.
5. ...and spot some rising stars
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe in particular is known for launching the early careers of some of comedy and theatre’s greatest success stories. The likes of Alan Bennett, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson and Bill Bailey all got their big breaks here. So take a chance on that unknown comedian flyering you for a free show in the back of a pub - you never know where they might end up!
6. It’s great for children and families
Edinburgh’s Festivals offer a unique experience for children and families, with a huge collection of events for young people of all ages and a range of facilities such as buggy parking, nappy changing and play areas. Check out the dedicated children’s programmes at the Fringe and Book Festival and plan a trip that’s fun for all the family.
7. The street performance buzz
Edinburgh in August is the kind of place where you can get stuck behind a masked man on stilts or run into a crowd watching an acrobatic magician and consider it normal. Not only do the festivals attract the biggest and best to their venues, but Edinburgh’s streets fill up with the world’s top street performers throughout the month too. You only need to wander down the Royal Mile to experience singing, dancing, magic, clowning, acrobatics, or quite possibly, a combination of them all.
10. You can find a good bargain
There are plenty of top-tier tickets available across Edinburgh’s festivals, but it’s also perfectly possible to stick to a budget and still see some of the biggest names and best shows. The Fringe programme includes a huge number of free and cheap shows, boasting plenty of famous faces, while almost everything at Edinburgh Art Festival is free, offering a huge range of cost-effective culture.
11. Accessible and inclusive festivals
Each of Edinburgh’s Festivals has worked hard to make all they offer as accessible as possible for people with disabilities. There are a huge range of performances available with BSL interpretation and closed-captioning, and there are plenty of events specifically for disabled children and adults. Just check in at the appropriate venue where the staff will be happy to help.
12. You can take a day out to explore one of the world’s greatest cities
A visit to the festivals is also a great chance to explore Scotland’s capital. From iconic spots like Edinburgh Castle and the Scott Monument to family favourites such as Edinburgh Zoo (complete with its famous pandas) and Mary Kings Close, there’s plenty to see and do beyond the festivals... if you somehow find yourself with a spare moment!
13. The city never sleeps throughout August
With shows starting early in the morning and venues open until the wee small hours, you can plan your days around a schedule that suits you. It’s possible to pack every waking hour with shows and events, or just to wander into the city at any given time and find something that takes your fancy. The festivals truly are what you make of them, day or night.
14. See some of Edinburgh’s most iconic spots in a whole new light
Edinburgh’s favourite tourist spots are open all year round, but in August they’re transformed into some of the festivals’ most interesting backdrops. Watch the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the iconic Castle Esplanade, catch a circus show on the Meadows, or enjoy the International Festival’s famous fireworks display from Princes Street Gardens.
15. Get hands-on with workshops and events
For those with a creative flair and energy to burn, many of the festivals offer a chance for audiences to get directly involved. Learn a new skill, do some arts and crafts, or take part in an open discussion or debate.
16. See one-off collaborations
With so many performers in one place at one time, the festivals offer a unique opportunity to see big and exciting names on the same bill. The Fringe includes a number of showcase events where you can find multiple comedians on the same line-up, while concerts and exhibitions taking place at the International and Art Festivals pride themselves on interesting collaborations between local and international artists.
17. It’s a truly unique experience
Unless you’ve visited, it’s hard to imagine the electric atmosphere and magical feeling that pulses through Edinburgh in August. These are the world’s biggest festivals, and the memories you make here will last a lifetime.
Eve Livingston is a UK-based freelance journalist writing for Festivals Edinburgh. You can find out more about all of Edinburgh's amazing festivals during August and year-round at edinburghfestivalcity.com.