Get festive this summer at the 70th Edinburgh Fringe
The world’s biggest celebration of arts and culture, this August – like every August – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes over Scotland’s capital. This year, the festival begins on August 4th and runs until the 28th.
Born of defiance – founded by eight performance groups considered too edgy for the Edinburgh International Festival – this year the Fringe is celebrating 70 years of no-limits creative freedom. And that’s as good a reason as any to make the trip.
Prepare for cabaret and musicals, theatre and dance, opera, comedy, and everything in between. Raring to go? Here are some must-read tips to guarantee a fabulous Fringe.
Make the most of the Mile
The Royal Mile – located in the heart of Edinburgh – is also the heart and soul of the Fringe.
It’s here where hundreds of performers and cast members will be punting their shows. Expect on-the-spot snapshots of their plays, performances and routines as actors, dancers and comics pull out all the stops to grab your attention. A riot of costume, colour and characters, a wander along the super-busy Royal Mile is as good a one-stop summary of the Fringe as you’ll find.
Get with the Programme
Inside the weighty Fringe programme you’ll find pretty much everything you need to know about the festival.
As well as show times, venue information and box office details, several detailed maps will keep you on the right road. And a frighteningly comprehensive index makes navigating this monster a snap.
Theatres and venues across the city – and throughout the UK – carry this free essential, and you can also download a PDF copy here
Fringe for free
Or if not actually free, pretty close to it.
In addition to watching the spontaneous performances on the Royal Mile, it’s easy to find free or reduced-price shows online. Just head to the Fringe site’s comprehensive search facility.
Here, via the Special Pricing filter, you can fine-tune your search to bring forth events that either aren’t charging, or are offering deals like 2-for-1, group discounts and the ever-popular previews. You can also hone in on dates and times, performance types and accessibility information.
Begin your search here hitting Find Shows followed by Advanced Search.
Venues to visit
With thousands of shows happening across hundreds of venues – from monuments to theatres, churches to business schools – it’s almost unfair to highlight just a handful of locations.
It is, after all, part of the Fringe experience to stumble upon hotspots, be they tiny or cavernous, well-established, new on the block or the mirage-like pop-ups. Even so, here’s a few starters, selected for atmosphere:
The Pleasance – Venue 33
A Fringe staple for more than 30 years, each August The Pleasance devotes its 17 venue spaces – and a huge cobbled courtyard – to the festival. Here, the focus is on high-quality performances and those who brave the steep, winding road are rewarded with the giant beer garden that sprouts up across the cobbles.
Find it at 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ
The Stand – Venue 5
Sure, The Stand might be a little off the main Fringe drag, but it’s well worth the walk. Renowned for the quality of its stand-ups, this basement venue will once again be leading the laughter. And, because The Stand’s a proper all-year-round comedy club, you can visit any time you’re in the city and in search of a smile.
Find it at 5 York Place, EH1 3EB – and check the Fringe programme for Stand shows in other locations close by.
Summerhall – Venue 26
Ex-veterinary school, now a magnificent arts venue that will be offering dance, music, theatre and visual art. Summerhall boasts also a courtyard that’s perfect for a drink (what is it with Edinburgh and drink-attuned courtyards?). Well, this place did start life as a brewery in the early 1700s…
Find it at 1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL
Underbelly Cowgate – Venue 61
If you’re in the market for a venue that’s shaped like a massive, purple, upside-down cow, Underbelly is the place for you. This late-nite marquee spot is celebrating its 17th Fringe year and will be hosting an eclectic programme including theatre, magic shows and bags of comedy.
Find it at 66 Cowgate, EH1 1JX
Timing is everything
The majority of Fringe shows last around an hour, so there’s plenty of scope to catch three, four or more in just one day. As a rule of thumb – advance-book anything you consider unmissable, particularly if the festival has actually begun, or is about to.
On that note, it can be easy to book or earmark show after show, but do bear in mind the time you’ll need between leaving one venue and searching out another. Even the best time-managers can come a cropper on Edinburgh’s quaint wynds and narrow alleyways. Enchanting? Yes. But pretty much impossible to negotiate quickly at festival time.
Take a risk
A big part of the Fringe is taking a chance and either loving the show you took a punt on, or laughing about how bad a gamble it all was.
It would be a pretty strange Fringe-goer who adored absolutely everything. So dive in and see where your curiosity takes you. Besides, how awful can an hour of nose-flautists really be?
Take a brolly
Yes, it’s August. But yes, it’s Scotland. Whether you’ll find the space to actually use an umbrella is a different matter of course. And to handle all that walking, pack comfortable shoes too.
Enjoy the year-round festival city with Dreamhouse
The Fringe is just one of seven summer festivals that Edinburgh hosts – contributing to an annual total of 11.
Upcoming are the Edinburgh Art Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and, of course, the event that unwittingly spawned the Fringe: the Edinburgh International Festival itself. Discover more at edinburghfestivalcity.com
Whatever time you’re visiting this beautiful, buzzing city, why not stay in comfort – and do things at your own pace – in one of Dreamhouse’s serviced apartments?
All of our city properties are superbly located, so you’ll always be close to the action. Discover more about our Edinburgh apartments here
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