• 1 July 2022

Every year in August, Edinburgh transforms. The city is bursting with colour, music and artistic thrills… its festival time in Scotland’s capital city! The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest celebration of arts and culture in the world. Performers and travellers from around the globe arrive to enjoy the unmissable annual event. For first time visitors, the explosion of creativity and performance can be overwhelming! To help, Expat Explore has put together a quick guide to this famous festival.  

Royal Mile, Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Stroll along the Royal Mile and embrace the festive atmosphere! Image credit: Edinburghcitymom / Shutterstock.com

First things first, what is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is a massive festival dedicated to performances of all kinds. Also known simply as the ‘Edinburgh Fringe’, it’s the world’s largest arts festival. Thousands of performances take place at 300+ venues across the city. Comedy shows are perhaps the festival’s main draw, however, that’s just one of the many genres you can enjoy. During festival time, you can watch theatre productions, circus acts, cabaret and dance shows, opera, spoken word, musicals and enjoy a range of exhibitions and events. This year, the Edinburgh Fringe celebrates its 75th anniversary!

It all dates back to 1947. Eight theatre groups showed up uninvited to the fledgling invite-only Edinburgh International Festival, with more groups joining over the years. By 1958, the Festival Fringe Society had formed. It was named “Fringe” due to forming on the fringes of the main International Festival. The mission at the heart of this society was that there would be no vetting of the festival programme. Still, to this day, “anyone with a story and a venue willing to host them” can feature at the Edinburgh Fringe! 

Today, the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe run at the same time. The difference between the two is that while the International Festival is an “invite-only” event, the Edinburgh Fringe has an open-access policy. 

When does the Edinburgh Festival Fringe take place?

In 2022, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe takes place from 5 August to 29 August. There’s no better place to be in August than in Edinburgh!

Productions at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
There will be a huge array of productions to choose from in 2022!

Did you know Edinburgh is a festival city?

Looking for a variety of events and exhibitions to keep you entertained? Edinburgh is the answer. Edinburgh is a festival city through and through. It hosts several world-class festivals throughout the year. In addition to the Edinburgh Fringe and International Festivals, these include the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Science Festival, the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh Arts Festival, the Edinburgh International Storytelling Festival and the Royal Military Tattoo (which takes place at the same time as the Edinburgh Fringe). Let’s not forget Scotland’s biggest party which is hosted in its capital city – Hogmanay

Related: Take a look at more exciting annual events hosted in Scotland.

What is the best way to plan a visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Are you keen on experiencing this celebration of arts and culture for yourself? Brilliant! Planning a trip to Edinburgh is one of the best things to do in Scotland. Visiting during festival season makes the trip even more memorable. 

First off, decide when you would like to go. Some people visit for the duration of the festival while others visit for a weekend or week-long trip. Book accommodation and transport to Edinburgh in advance as places fill up quickly! The festival is incredibly popular so expect crowds. The streets are filled with performers, buskers and festival-goers – this is Edinburgh at one of its busiest times… but also one of its best times!

Edinburgh is home to several great restaurants and festival season brings many street-food vendors and food trucks onto the scene, especially in festival hubs such as Bristo Square, Charles Street and George Square Gardens. For more popular restaurants, try and make reservations in advance. For everything else, see what takes your fancy on the day! 

Walking is the best way to get around Edinburgh. The Old Town and New Town are relatively small and situated conveniently close together. This makes Edinburgh a super walkable city to explore.

The biggest tip for planning a visit to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is to be as spontaneous as possible! While confirming your accommodation and travel dates is important, when at the festival itself, be open to trying new things. Get recommendations from people you meet on the street, visit new parts of the city and watch performances completely outside of your usual interest. Surprises are around every corner! 

Silent disco at Edinburgh Fringe Festival
A silent disco grooving through the city during the Edinburgh Fringe!

What should I watch at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Anything and everything! This is your chance to experience artists and performers from across the world. Whether you want to see big names or unknown artists, you’ll be in for a treat. Take a look online for preview recommendations. Otherwise, the best way to pick what to watch is to peruse the Edinburgh Fringe Guide (available at various venues across the city for free) or download the Fringe App. Word-of-mouth is another great way to find out what to watch! Start with something in line with your interests and go from there.

While there are several venues dotted around the city, the “Big Four” performance venues are the Assembly, Gilded Balloon, Pleasance and Underbelly. At each, there are a number of performance venues and beer gardens offering a fantastic festive vibe day and night! More areas to visit include The Mound (near the castle) Grassmarket and Cowgate.

Not sure what interests you? No problem! Take a stroll down the Royal Mile (open only to pedestrians during festival time) and enjoy the buskers and street performers lining the historic stretch. 

Where do I buy tickets?

Not all shows require tickets. The festival guide will let you know which shows are free and which shows you will need to purchase tickets for. Tickets can be bought online or at the performance venues.

Keep an eye out for 2-for-1 specials and visit the Virgin Money Half-Price Hut for great last-minute deals.

Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo, Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Fireworks fill the sky during the Royal Military Tattoo!

Finally, what else is there to do in Edinburgh during festival time?

Edinburgh is a city enriched with culture, art and literature. It’s home to the famous Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyrood House, Royal Mile, Royal Yacht Britannia, the Scott Monument and both the Scottish National Gallery and National Museum of Scotland. It’s also home to some amazing outdoor spaces such as Arthur’s Seat, the Meadows and Princes’ Street Gardens. Explore on foot, see the sights, sit down at a local spot for a bite to eat and absorb the incredible vibe. You’ll never be at a loss of things to do in Edinburgh!

Visit Edinburgh in August to discover a city overflowing with Scottish charm all the while enjoying an unforgettable experience of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. We highly recommend discovering more of this incredible country. Join Expat Explore’s new Scotland Rail Express tour or see Scotland as part of our fantastic United Kingdom tours. Start planning your next trip today!

Questions & Comments

  1. Hi the photo under the fringe banner is only available as editorial on Shutterstock. Please credit the image to edinburghcitymom @shutterstock

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