During the August festivals, Edinburgh’s population doubles. There are 50,266 performances, 294 venues, and an abundance of vibrant bars. It’s an epic atmosphere that’s inspiring, impressive and irresistible.
But it can also be a little overwhelming.
You can end up lost in the immense listings of fantastic shows, and confused as to whether you want to see a comedy, a dance, or a chocolate themed light show (believe us; the festivals can get weird).
But no need to fear, because here’s our simple guide to help you get the most out of your time in the Edinburgh festival season.
Cost doesn’t always mean quality; during the Edinburgh festival season any of the free shows could be award winners. They’re often original, daring, and buzzing with the raw energy of ambitious young performers. And you never know, you may hit the jackpot and end up watching the stars of the future. So our advice is to check out a mixture of free and paid shows.
See as much as you can. Yet, at the same time, know your limits. If you can’t handle watching eight ballet shows in a row without eating, then don’t book them.
As a rough figure, we’d recommend four or five shows in a day. This leaves you enough time to eat, catch your breath, absorb the atmosphere, and watch all the crazy crowds.
And if you’re knackered after a day at the festival, you can always take a break and escape to the Highlands with one of our day tours.
Comedy shows are an easy choice: we all want to laugh so hard that we fall off our chair. But the Edinburgh festival isn’t about the safe option. It’s about experimenting and challenging the norm. So do things you’d never usually do: if you like heavy metal, go see a ballet; if you love a rap battle, go to a Shakespeare play. Mix it up and experience something new.
We hate to say it, but the clunky Edinburgh festival guides are as suitable for a handbag as a tonne of bricks. So lighten your load with the apps. The apps help you make your decisions with integrated maps and ticket features. You can find out more information here.
When you look at the Edinburgh festival posters, it can seem as if all 3,269 shows are outstanding 5-star performances; which makes it tricky to decide what to see.
So our advice is this: ignore the reviews, find a friendly face and ask them if they’ve seen anything good, then, ask another stranger, and then another. Or better yet, wait until your friends have been to the festival and ask them what shows they liked. Reviews can be helpful, but it’s best to get as many opinions as possible. And if you must read reviews, try the impartial Tv Bomb - Scotland’s online arts & culture magazine
It happens to everyone. You find a venue or bar you like, and you stick to it. But this isn’t a great tactic during the festivals, because there are around 294 unique venues dotted around a gorgeous city. So you should try to visit a few of them to get an idea of the scale and feel of the festival.
And if you want an overview of the city before you venture to new venues, you could try our fantastic hop-on hop-off city tour.
Some comedians love it when you’re late; it means they can make fun of you; however, the majority of performers hate it. And it’s understandable, because if you’d lovingly worked a whole year on your show, you’d want people to see it from start to finish. Being on time has other benefits too, it sometimes means you can pick the best seat, and it means you’ll never be refused entry for being late.
You remember the free shows we mentioned? At the end of those you may want to tip. There are also a few cash only bars, so it’s a good idea to carry cash. But watch out, because a lot of cash machines in the centre of town run out of money, which means it’s best to go to the ATM before you hit the centre of town.
We all know British weather is unpredictable. And during the festival, you’re going to spend a lot of time outside. Don’t let this be a problem, just make sure you’re prepared: always have good waterproofs in your bag, always keep enough clothes to keep you warm, and always keep your sun cream nearby.
Check out the Edinburgh Festival City, Edinburgh International Festival and EdFringe websites, and if there’s something you really want to see book your tickets in advance. It helps structure your day and means you avoid missing out if that show sells out.
And our final tip: enjoy yourself and make it memorable.
Fringe performance image & Bath image by Festival Fringe Society [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via