Thinking of visiting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival?
Now we have reached the end of another year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I thought I’d put together a round-up post on my experience of the festival over the years. As a resident here the festival can be a bit of a love hate situation. One one hand it’s a total pain to get anywhere quickly, with the city quite literally tripling in population size for the whole of August. On the other hand it’s amazing to be part of one of the worlds biggest art festivals.
Needless to say, with the mass increase of population for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, if you’re looking to visit be sure to book in advance. Trains are always cheaper booking two to three months ahead if you can, and some of the hotels will even sell out up to six months before. The Fringe means big business, and everyone wants a piece of it so be sure to be organised. The same goes for shows, although there are a lot of free shows you can swing into; if there’s something you really want to see, be sure to book your tickets online before you go.
Where to find the best shows
There is always something going on,you’ll find most of the shows come alive around 1pm onwards, so take the morning to do some sightseeing. Or if you have children, all the family friendly shows and activities tend to start from 11am onwards. The Royal Mile is scattered with street performers ranging from comedy acts, theatre, live music and even a silent disco. Everywhere you turn there will be something happening. The Royal Mile is the busiest hubs of all the streets in Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. It’s here you’ll pick up the most flyers for the shows and really soak up the best of the atmosphere. Though prepared to walk slowly, things don’t move too fast there with the amount of people!
The biggest venues are generally around the Edinburgh University campus. Here you’ll find George Square Bristo Square run by the Underbelly venues. Also here you’ll find the Assembly Food Festival for a pit stop and relax in the gardens between shows. Underbelly is one of the biggest contributors to the Fringe Festival, and they’re not hard to miss. The giant purple upside down cow tent takes residency at George Square, and you’ll find other sections of purple around the city hitting at where the rest of the Underbelly venues are. The shows are typically paid for here, but you’ll also find some of the best ones.
Seeing the Fringe Festival on a budget
Edinburgh on the whole isn’t the cheapest, and when you’re visiting for the Fringe Festival, unfortunately they do tend to hike up their prices too. If you’re wanting to see the festival on a budget, consider stopping at backpacking hostels or renting an Air BnB property. They’ll offer a more genuine experience of the city than a hotel, and it offers you the chance to make your own food, keeping costs down.
With over 8,000 shows at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival it can be a bit daunting where to look. The Fringe official website offers loads of great filter options so you can pick out the shows for the date’s you’re visiting, and by price, or for free. Do note that although shows are listed as free, the performers are here to make a living and a name for themselves, so if you can donate something if is suggested at the end of each show.
Taking a walk down the Royal Mile you’ll instantly be hit with lots of opportunities for shows to go and see, so you could easily take things as they come to you. The Three Sisters pub on Cowgate (also known as the FREE Sisters during the festival) is your main spot for free shows. This place is packed at the best of times believe me, but the Fringe is seriously busy. If you’re planning to see some shows there make sure you give yourself plenty of time to get through the crowds and ensure you get yourself a seat. The free shows often start queuing for 20-30 minutes before to gain entry, once they’re full you will be turned away.
Other things to do in Edinburgh
If you’re looking for a break from the Fringe festival, or want something to do between shows, Edinburgh is full of attractions and sightseeing. Head out to the Shore to see Britannia and do some shopping. Take the number 11 or 22 straight there from Princes Street. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in advance it’s definitely a spectacle to behold. The tickets don’t come cheap but it’s an experience like no other. If you don’t get to see the Tattoo, you can still go right up to the Castle and take in the views, although the castle itself inside isn’t very impressive and it’s terribly overpriced.
Get your best views for little effort at the top of Calton Hill where you can see over the stretch of the city skyline and behind to the coast. There are hidden spots all over the city, and if you make it to the National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street, head for the free roof top terrace for a 360 view like no other.
Take a wander around the shops on Princes Street and Rose street for all the major high street shops; or if you’re looking for something a little more unique the Grassmarket has your best vintage and Victoria Street. Don’t pass up on getting a hog roast bun from Oink on your way back up to the Royal Mile!
Have you visited the Edinburgh Fringe Festival? What were your favourite things to do here?