travel advice & savings

Edinburgh International & Fringe Festivals

Type: Festival
City: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Address & Details:

August 8, 2008 – August 21, 2008

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The Edinburgh festival is not your average arts festival. For three weeks in the summer this outwardly serene and beautiful city is taken over by an exotic assortment of artists, actors, comics and party animals. The city’s population almost doubles, every available theatre, church and school hall is pressed into service as a venue and acts of every type and nationality vie for your attention. It’s kind of a crazy time.

There are actually two main Edinburgh festivals – the official festival started in 1947 and maintains a relatively high brow selection of theatre and dance. These days it is, however, eclipsed by its cheaper and diverse offspring, the fringe. Last year, the fringe had over 600 companies from 36 countries performing 1,432 different shows in 188 venues. It dominates the town with hundreds of different acts – if you want to come to town and perform your latest masterpiece or offbeat artistic interpretation, you can.

The range of events is a little overwhelming but the daily event guides allow you to narrow down things to meet your tastes. As well as traditional theatre, comedy acts have a much greater prominence of late. The major fringe venues host multiple shows throughout the day and evening – the Pleasance and Assembly Rooms are a good first stop. Bear in mind there’s no quality control and many acts perform to only a handful of people. The Scotsman newspaper’s daily reviews carry particular weight and are a must to sift out the junk.

Shows by well know fringe regulars are popular and sell out, particularly at the weekends. Get tickets from venues or the fringe box office on the High Street (though do anticipate a queue unless you phone ahead with a credit card).

Edinburgh has more than its fair share of pubs and many have extended opening hours during the period so you can happily take in a couple of shows and then drink into the early hours. With so many things going on and visitors and performers from all over the world, this is an ideal excuse to add Scotland to your itinerary.

Accommodation during the festival is SCARCE, if you turn up at tourist information expect to be sleeping either well out of town (say 40 miles away) or under the stars. There are a number of good trendy hostels such as High Street Hostel, Princes St Backpackers and Belford Hostels. In addition many of the bed and breakfasts are not too expensive.