Essential Guide to the Edinburgh Festival

| July 25, 2018

Every year numerous cities around the world proclaim their annual arts festivals as the largest and best on the globe. Edinburgh’s summer festivals, however, really is the biggest on the planet. It is a colossal event that has been wowing locals and visitors alike for over seventy years. First launched in 1947 today’s ‘festival’ is five of separate events, which in 2018 will run from 26 July through to 27 August.

Crowds watching the street performers on the Royal Mile

Crowds watching the street performers on the Royal Mile (c) Jenny McKelvie

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Festival (3-27 August; – one of the original festivals and in its 71st year – is perhaps the most well-known today. Established as an alternative and open-access event it sees everyone from celebrity comedians and famous actors to the most chaotic of amateur performers take to the stage. With thousands of artists performing in hundreds of shows in a seemingly infinite number of venues, the scope of the Fringe can be mind-boggling for the festival first timer. Booking events in the main venues – Assembly, Pleasance and Gilded Balloon – adds an element of quality control. As does attending one of the BBC at the Edinburgh Festival events. Although many of the BBC’s free shows may officially be ‘sold out’ it is often possible to get standby tickets and gain entry due to no-shows.

BBC at Edinburgh Festival

BBC at Edinburgh Festival (c) Jenny McKelvie

Edinburgh International Festival

Quality assurance, meanwhile, isn’t an issue at the Fringe’s highbrow sibling the Edinburgh International Festival (3-27 August; ), which brings a wealth of classical concerts, opera, theatrical productions and big scale dance productions to the city’s theatres and other grand venues like the Usher Hall. Highlights from this year’s programme include recitals from the City of Birmingham and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras and the spectacular firework finale in Princes Street Gardens on Sunday 27 August.

Pop Up Dining at the Edinburgh Festival

Pop Up Dining at the Edinburgh Festival (c) Robin McKelvie

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo (3-25 August; is another of Edinburgh’s world-famous festivals. Each night during its three-week run thousands of people scale the steep stands and marvel at the spectacular of international military bands as they perform against the breathtaking backdrop of a floodlit Edinburgh Castle. If the date you want has sold out then keep checking back for returns.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The Edinburgh International Book Festival (11-27 August; is the biggest of its kind in the world. First held in the elegant Charlotte Square Gardens back in 1983, it has an annual event since 1997. This years’ festival will welcome in excess of a thousand authors and host nearly as many events, with hundreds of thousands of visitors expected to pour through the gates to listen to readings and take part in workshops and discussions. A programme littered with events for children also make this a firm favourite with local families.

McKelvie girls at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event

McKelvie girls at an Edinburgh Festival Fringe event (c) Robin McKelvie

Edinburgh Art Festival

The Edinburgh Art Festival (26 July -26 August; meanwhile brings world-class visual art to more than 45 venues including the city’s galleries, museums and outdoor spaces. It is not just art, however, that brightens the city’s streets during the festival. At this time of year they come alive with the fire juggling and sword swallowing antics of the street entertainers who pull in the crowds along the Royal Mile, on Hunter’s Square and down in the Grass Market. Numerous theatrical, singing and dance groups also promote their acts on a series of Royal Mile stages during the Fringe . These shows are great for those on a budget, as is the Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival (; 29 July – 26 August), which runs alongside the ticketed events. Bargains can also be had at the Virgin Money Half Price Hut (

Street entertainer at the Edinburgh Festivals

Street entertainer at the Edinburgh Festivals (c) Jenny McKelvie


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Category: Edinburgh, Features, See & Do

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