For most of the year Edinburgh is a relaxed place, a city which enjoys capital city status without a huge population; but come August this peaceful city doubles in population as Festival season descends. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo, the Arts Festival, the International Festival and more, but there is one festival which eclipses the others.
With over 40,000 performances of 2,500 different shows in 258 venues across the city, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival. Taking place for three weeks each August.
Whether you want to laugh yourself silly with comedians, become engrossed in dance and theatre performances, or enjoy performances which from musicals, operas, music, exhibitions, or street performers; people from around the world – including big names and people looking to make their mark – will be showcasing their talents for all to see.
What to see and do at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
See a new performers show
Visit the Spiegeltent
See other festivals!
For more ideas about what to do in Edinburgh and Scotland
check out some of my recommended tours!
- Want something free (or cheap)? Check out Laughing Horse Comedy’s Free Fringe, which hosts shows from across all genres, and PBH’s Free Fringe, which is mainly Comedy.
- Visit the World Famous Spiegeltent for a night of cabaret-style performances, magicians and more.
- We may love big name comedians like Ireland’s Jimeoin, Australia’s Adam Hills and British Russell Brand, but they all had to begin somewhere. Make sure you support some of the up-and-coming talent by checking out their show.
- Check out the Half-Price Hut to see what shows are on offer for half their usual price, or take advantage of 2-for-1 deals at box offices, and don’t forget about the free shows! If you get into Edinburgh early be sure to save your money on the Five Pound Fringe – cheap tickets for the preview shows.
- Don’t forget to check out other festivals which are on at the same time. When I was there the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Art Festival, Book Festival and the International Festival run simultaneously. Prior to the Fringe the Film Festival and Jazz & Blues Festival are on and after the Mela Festival (multi-cultural festival) is on. Click here for more details on all the festivals in Edinburgh.
Getting to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
As Scotland’s capital, there are many to get to Edinburgh from around Europe and the world. Below you can find the options from London.
- Fly – Flying is by far the easiest option with a 1-hour flight time to Edinburgh. Flights start at around £29 one-way with EasyJet. Other airlines that include, Air France, British Airways, City Jet, and Virgin Atlantic.
- Rail – If you want minimal fuss transportation then taking the train with EastCoast, National Rail, or Virgin Trains may be the option for you. The journey is around 4 hrs 30mins and will cost upwards of £40 one-way.
- Bus – Save your pennies and take a bus with National Express (upwards of £20 one-way) and Megabus (upwards of £10 one-way). The journey takes between 9-10 hours with overnight options available.
- Drive -If you want the most flexible option drive! Edinburgh is about a 9hr drive from central London. With northern England’s big cities like Manchester along the way, as well as plenty of some idyllic Scottish towns so close by to Edinburgh, consider taking extra time to explore them on your way. Remember: there will be limited on-street parking in Edinburgh!
Luxe-on-any-Budget Digs at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Hotel Indigo Edinburgh
|St Christopher’s Edinburgh|
Hotels in Edinburgh get really expensive during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival so I suggest booking well in advance! My top picks for accommodation in Edinburgh include;
£400+ – The Balmoral
A luxurious, 5-star hotel located in the centre of Edinburgh. Located on Princes Street, the Balmoral Hotel is just a stone throw away from Edinburgh’s landmarks and the Waverly train station.
With 188 suites and rooms to choose from, the focus is on boutique luxury, with many of the rooms overlooking the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle. With lush rooms drawing design inspiration from Scottish heritage
The hotel features a number of restaurants on offer including the Michelin-starred number one, Hadrian’s – the chic Brasserie serving local and international flavours; Palm Court – Scotland’s only Bollinger Bar which also offers afternoon tea options, and The Balmoral Bar, a plush cocktail and lounge bar.
£100 to £300 – Hotel Indigo Edinburgh
The hotel, located on York Place, the Hotel Indigo Edinburgh has taken five Georgian townhouses and turned them into a chic boutique property whilst preserving the historical features giving it a touch of class. The Hotel Indigo Edinburgh follows through with style as each room contains a media hub (the ability to watch your own movies on the flat screen tv) and speakers in the bathroom so you can enjoy your music whilst standing under the rainfall showers. Don’t forget the complimentary wifi throughout!
With comfortable beds, walking distance to the main Fringe events, the main train and bus station around the corner, and a hotel and bar onsite – the Turquoise Thistle – what more do you need?
Read my review of Hotel Indigo Edinburgh here.
£50 – £100 – St Christopher’s Inn Edinburgh
You’ll want to party during the Fringe and the perfect hostel to do so is St Christopher’s Inn. Located next to Edinburgh Castle and seconds away from the Royal Mile, the rooms are either heritage-styled or with comfortable and modern fittings.
Hungry? Check out Belushi’s bar and restaurant for food, DJs and parties. Want free Wi-Fi? It’s yours, along with free continental breakfasts, and towels provided if you are staying in one of the female-only dorms.
Renovations are going on to ensure the hostel is in top notch order for the coming season.
Looking for more options? Other budget accommodation options can be found with local Universities at Festival Beds. For cheaper options consider taking the 45-minute train in from Glasgow, stay in one of the surrounding villages or check out university accommodation.
Haven’t found the perfect accommodation yet? Search here!
Tips for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
- Get a Fringe program! The programs will be around the city or you can order one online (free, but you will need to pay for Postage) which lists every show and performance that is on.
- Have kids? Don’t worry there are plenty of shows for children available!
- Walk. Edinburgh is a pretty compact city and once you have your bearings you can around without the need od buses or cabs.
- Tickets are available online now but will also be available at the box office, providing they haven’t sold out.
- The Fringe is all about variety! Walk along the Royal Mile and take some flyers from people. Choose one or two and see their shows. You never know, you may have stumbled onto the next big performer!
- Book in advance! Transport and accommodation only get more expensive leading up to August.
- Scotland is known to have unpredictable weather so be sure to dress in layers and perhaps pack an umbrella into your bag just to be safe!
- Don’t be scared of the size of the festival. If you want to see comedy play it safe and go to one of the bigger venues such as The Pleasance, The Assembly, the Udderbelly or the Stand.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival Tips by Scottish Bloggers
“My tip would be to check out the ‘free fringe‘ festival that runs parallel to the festival. Upholds the original spirit of the fringe. Pop into pubs like the Canongait or the Voodoo Lounge, grab a pint and watch a few shows ranging from the brilliant to the utter absurd. Like life and a box of chocolates with the free fringe…. Never know what you’re going to get.
My other tip is to pick up the local List magazine which is the guide to the best and worst of the fringe plus they carry a bunch of half price tickets offers.”
“I’d say my top tip is just to walk all throughout the city taking it all in. There are street entertainers, comedians and all sorts of weird and wonderful people lining the streets which creates an amazing eclectic atmosphere.”
“I have so many tips it’s hard to choose. As far as scoring cheap(er) accommodation whilst there I’d say look to rent out a room in somebody’s apartment if you’re going as a couple or a group. It’s usually the cheapest option. Hotels will be cheaper for individuals travelling solo but you’ll need to book several months or even a year in advance if you want to guarantee a bed!
As far as experiencing the acts/shows/entertainment – The key is just to head out into the city and see what you find. There will be literally hundreds of free performances every night either out on the street or in back rooms of various pubs and venues. Also, never rule out anything that isn’t a traditional venue. I’ve seen some of the best stands up comedy during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival performed in all sorts of weird and wonderful locations including a toilet and somebody’s back garden! The venues are really expensive for newbie acts to rent out so you usually find some get creative in terms of where they hold their performances.”
Check out the Edinburgh Fringe website at www.edfringe.com
View my other city guides from around the world here.