Ah, Edinburgh’s festival season. The time when millions of tourists from all over the world flock to Scotland’s capital in search of some great entertainment. We’ve experienced our share of festival seasons, so we’re here to share some tips on how to survive it! But first…
In case you’re unsure as to what Edinburgh’s festival season encompasses, we’ll first clue you in. Multiple festivals take place each year in Edinburgh from June to August, but August is when a large majority of tourists really want to visit. That’s because that’s when the world’s biggest arts festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, takes place. There are thousands of performers that take over hundreds of venues all across the city.
The other prominent festival in August is the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF). The main difference between EIF and the Fringe is that to perform in EIF, you need to be invited by the Festival Director. In the Fringe, basically anyone can perform. As well, many performances in the Fringe are free or relatively inexpensive.
Other festivals that take place in Edinburgh in August include the Art Festival and the International Book Festival. Another annual event in August is the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a fantastic performance of military bands on the Edinburgh Castle esplanade.
That’s just an extremely brief overview of what the festival season entails! Now, let’s dive in to some tips!
1. Develop the Right Attitude & Mentality
Perhaps you are like us, and don’t really like crowds, but you would also love to experience Edinburgh’s festival season just once. Or maybe you don’t mind crowds but can’t even fathom how busy it might be. In either case, you’ll need to develop the right attitude and mentality.
Accept that there will be tons of crowds – at times possibly shoulder-to-shoulder – and be patient with others around you. They are also there to enjoy the festivals, just like you. When you are mentally prepared, it’s less likely that you’ll become anxious or frustrated when amongst the crowds.
2. Allow for Spontaneity
With such a wide variety of shows to choose from, it is important to plan ahead for the shows that you really want to see. However, don’t plan everything. You will find that there will be lots of people shoving flyers in your face, inviting you to their free show this afternoon or evening. There might be one or a few that will pique your interest! Even if not, it doesn’t hurt to accept an invitation or two and pop in to support unknown artists. You might be pleasantly surprised!
3. Visit During Weekdays
This tip might seem a bit strange seeing as tourists will still be around during weekdays, but remember that most locals will be at work! This means that on evenings and weekends, the streets of Edinburgh will be crowded with tourists and locals.
We are also big fans of starting the day early to beat the crowds. The Fringe has the Virgin Media Half Price Hut, which offers discounted tickets for same-day and next-morning performances. If you get there early enough, you may be able to snatch some tickets that would otherwise be taken later in the day!
4. Space It Out
With so many things happening in the city, it’s a fact that you won’t be able to see it all. While you should definitely maximise your time while in Edinburgh, also be sure not to try to see too much as you may end up burning yourself out. Give yourself some breathers! There are lots of green spaces in Edinburgh to relax in and to take a break from the chaos of the festivals. Princes Street Gardens, Calton Hill, and the Meadows are some of our favourites.
5. Be Physically Prepared
It’s very likely that you’ll be out for most of your time in Edinburgh catching shows and walking about. Remember to wear your most comfortable walking shoes and bring your rain jacket! Edinburgh’s weather can be a bit unpredictable and change in an instant.
Also, remember to fill up and bring your reusable water bottle with you as well as some snacks. Tap water is drinkable in Edinburgh. Even though Edinburgh doesn’t usually get hot summers, you will need to stay hydrated, especially if you’ll be walking a lot. If you need to refill your water bottle, Scottish Water has a refill station outside Scottish Parliament at Horse Wynd and Network Rail also has two refill stations at Waverley Station.
We hope this was useful in helping you to survive festival season in Edinburgh! Which tip do you think you’d use the most? Let us know in the comments!