What’s the deal?
During the summer months Scotland’s Capital is literally taken over by festivals. Deep breath, here are some of the events you can enjoy . . . The Edinburgh International Film Festival, The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, The Leith Festival, The Festival Fringe, The International Festival and The Book Festival. Kick off for the Edinburgh International Film Festival is June 20th and from here on there’s no rest in the city till the Storytelling Festival finishes in October.
What should you see?
Generally there isn’t much of an overlap between the main festival dates so you should be able to see whatever you want. You will need to be pretty smart about tickets though, especially with the International Festival and the bigger Fringe events. Keep an eye out for full listings over the next few weeks on www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk.
Whichever festival you decide to attend there are a few things you should almost certainly check out. Here’s our Edinburgh hit list.
First off you’ll need to spend some time on The Royal Mile (or High Street as the locals call it). It’s the real centre of the Festival world and buzzes with performers, traders and tourists. During the Fringe you can normally catch some pretty amusing street shows and if you’re ever in doubt about what to do next there’ll be dozens of promoters keen to tell you they’re show is best.
Not far from there you should stop by at the archaic Waverly Bar on St Mary’s Street. It’s a time capsule of a pub but is the real drinking den of Edinburgh’s biggest Festival fans. While you’re here enjoy the buzz, take in the weirdness and cross your fingers one of the top comedians or performers pops in for an impromptu show.
While the Waverly has some very obvious charms, Festival time also signals incredibly liberal licensing hours. Some pubs and clubs which normally shut at 1AM or 3AM will serve you right through till breakfast. So if you fancy flirting, dancing or drinking a little longer hit the infamous Grassmarket/Cowgate area.
When all is said and done you’ll need to save most of your cash for tickets and late night revelry. But that shouldn’t mean you have to forgo fine food. The legendary falafel café Elfalafel on Bristo Street will feed you well for under a fiver.
What should you take?
Presuming you’ve managed to find a couch to kip on, exploring Edinburgh during Festival time is pretty easy. Our advice would be to take footwear you’re comfortable walking in all day and plenty of shrapnel for bus fares (£1.40 each way). Obviously being Scotland, summer months don’t always signal sunny weather. Don’t wrap up too much though. If torrential rain hits, you might end up running for cover and inadvertently stumble across a great show. It does happen.
Where can you escape the crowds?
Edinburgh is literally swamped during the summer months. Not just with Festival fans but also ordinary tourists. While the buzz and atmosphere of the city centre can be pretty amazing Edinburgh can also be slightly overwhelming for those looking to just get out for some good food or a catch up in the pub with mates.
Fear not though there are plenty of student friendly places where you can dine and drink in (relative) peace. Beer fans looking for somewhere laid back and traditional but not stuffy or dull should look to The Auld Hoose on St Leonard’s Street. It’s a popular pub all through the day and night, serves good local beers and boasts the capital’s must eclectic alternative jukebox.
Sitting at the top of Lothian Road is the Red Squirrel. This modern, clean and comfortable café-bar is a great place to relax in and should be sheltered from most of the tourist traffic. It also offers excellent bar grub (the burgers in particular) and has a decent drinks selection.
Another excellent alternative is to get out of Edinburgh proper and explore Leith. On the famed Leith Walk itself you’ll discover a host of excellent eateries and pubs. One of the best is the lively Brass Monkey. Brass Monkey is big, boisterous and offers something for everyone. You can enjoy their food deals (Mon-Fri), catch a film on their cinema screen or just grab a drink and people watch in peace.
If you’re going to do one thing what should you do?
Don’t make too many plans. Edinburgh at the peak of Festival season is awash with things to do. From street performers, to break dancers, international theatre performances and an amazing array of stand-up comedians you’ll be spoilt for choice. Our advice would be to pick a few things you really want to see and then spend the rest of your time exploring.
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