Last updated on September 28th, 2020
The Out About Scotland complete guide to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest multi-arts festival in the world. The event is held at various venues throughout the city for three weeks in August every year.
Category: Event, Exhibition
Suitable for ages: 5 to 10 years, 11 to 18 years, 18+ years, 65+ years
Ideal for: Couples, Families, Groups, Solo travellers
I rate it: 10 out of 10
About the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Edinburgh is home to the world’s biggest annual multi-arts event which has been running consecutively since its inception in 1947.
Originally created as an alternative to the already-popular Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has grown in strength each year to the point where the annual figures can only be described as astonishing.
Over 25 days there’s an average 50,000 performances of more than 3,500 different shows, held in over 300 different venues which are enjoyed by upwards of half a million visitors. An incredible 3 million tickets were purchased in 2019 with the total ticket sales amounting to a whopping £4 million.
The Fringe is an absolute riot of colour and sound and you’d need a fun-bypass to not enjoy yourself at the event. A combination of street artists and paid venues create an absolutely electric atmosphere and you’ll find all age groups from 8 to 80 enjoying the shows on offer.
One thing to be aware of if you’ve never been before is that some of the shows are a bit hit-or-miss so you never know what the quality is going to be like until you’re actually sat in the audience, but to my mind it’s all part of the fun, and being able to watch emerging talent is what makes The Fringe such a special event.
Things to do at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
While there have been some complaints in recent years that the festival is becoming too commercial with rapidly skyrocketing ticket prices, there’s been a recent movement by many performers to provide free shows such as those held along the main streets of The Royal Mile, as well as ‘pay what you want’ shows where attendees are simply asked to make a donation of their choice at the end of the performance.
One of the reasons that the festival continues to be so popular is that unlike many similar events there’s no selection committee to decide which acts can or can’t be shown, so anyone with any type of artistic skill can participate in either paid or unpaid events. This has led to many performers getting their first big break in Edinburgh before moving on to nationwide stardom.
Art in all its forms can be found at this event with categories including theatre, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, music, opera and spoken word performed by a variety of artists from complete amateur beginners to world-famous professionals.
Notable performers who’ve had their big breaks at the Edinburgh Fringe include Rowan Atkinson, Eddie Izzard, Tim Minchin and Billy Connolly, while big stars like Ricky Gervais, Mike Myers and Steve Coogan have also had their time on the stage.
Although events are held all over the city during Fringe month, there are four main venues which are big enough to hold the tens of thousands of visitors who descend on the city in August.
These are the Assembly Hall on The Mound, The Gilded Baloon in Bristo Square, The Pleasance located at both The Pleasance and Bristo Square, and Underbelly which is situated on both George Square and in The Cowgate.
But not all acts are held in traditional venues and there have been performances held in swimming pools, public toilets and even in the performers own homes! Veteran Fringe-goers are wise enough to check out the EdFringe website before leaving home to decide which shows to see and where to see them.
Top-Tip: If you’re in Edinburgh check out the Half-Price Hut outside the National Gallery before you buy your ticket as you’ll often find 2-for-1 shows when they’re trying to drum up a bigger audience. With some tickets costing around £20 per person it’s one of the few chances you’ll get to shave a few quid off the cost of attending the festival.
- The cream of the UK’s artistic talent can be seen at the Fringe – but so can the dregs. But then that’s all part of the fun of the thing.
- Many of the shows are free. Check out The Royal Mile for an almost constant stream of street artists.
- The atmosphere is always amazing at the Fringe. It’s very family-friendly.
- Go to the half-price hut on Princes Street to find cheap and 2-for-1 tickets (you can’t buy them online).
- Book your accommodation well in advance. Edinburgh hotels sell out quickly during the festival.
- The Fringe isn’t the only big summer event that happens in Edinburgh. The Royal Highland Show is Scotland’s biggest farming and agricultural show and has been staged every year in the city since 1822. I’ve been many times I can thoroughly recommend it for families and couples alike.
Photos and video
Address and map
Edinburgh, UK. Performances are held at various venues throughout the city. Contact each venue for address details.
- The Cowgate
- The Mound
- George Square
- The Pleasance
- Bristo Square
Edinburgh has a world-leading bus and tram network thanks to the services provided by Lothian buses, with cheap public transport available on clean, well-maintained vehicles.
The bus network extends right through Edinburgh and out to the surrounding areas, while the trams provide a fast mode of transport from over 14km from the airport into the city centre.
Visit Transport For Edinburgh for more information on Edinburgh’s Trams and buses or download the Transport for Edinburgh App. To help you find your way around the bus network more quickly you can get real-time information on the web and on your smartphone.
To find out when your bus is due go to:
Cheap Edinburgh festival accommodation
- Kick-Ass Hostels in Edinburgh offer fun and friendly mixed and female-only dorms in the centre of the city with views looking out across to Edinburgh Castle. Rooms in a mixed dorm can be had for only £18 while a private twin room costs around £50 per night.
- High Street Hostel is located less than a mile from the city centre and is the city’s original backpackers hostel. Close to all the attractions of Edinburgh, High Street Hostel features a great social room and has prices starting at £10 for a bed in a mixed dorm room.
- Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel has over 150 beds in dormitories and double, twin and single rooms less than a mile from the city centre across four separate buildings. A basic single private room can be had for as little as £25 depending on the time of year you visit.
- St. Christophers Edinburgh is a hostel nestled right in the heart of the Old Town and features free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and free city walking tours. There’s an on-site bar and bistro, and prices for a bed in a mixed dorm start at a reasonable £13 per night.
- Cowgate Tourist Hostel is one of the few 2-star hostels in the city and has a selection of mixed dorms and private rooms. Located in the Cowgate area in the heart of Edinburgh, prices for a budget twin room start at around £50 for 1 night.
Tickets and opening times
Special offer: Click this affiliate link to purchase an Edinburgh City Pass from Viator. You’ll get free entry to 22 tours and attractions – including Edinburgh Dungeon, Edinburgh Zoo and The Harry Potter Tour – over 1, 2 or 3 days.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is held for around 25 days beginning in early August, but individual performance price and times vary. Contact each venue for further details.
Getting there: Bus stop nearby, Train station nearby
Getting around: Dependent on location
On-site conveniences: Dependent on location