What is the Fringe?
For theatre, comedy and all-round live entertainment lovers, there is no bigger event on the yearly calendar than the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Bringing the world’s best established and breakthrough performers together over a three-week period since 1947, the makeshift festival transforms Scotland’s historic capital into hundreds of ad hoc venues on an annual basis, attracting tens of thousands of experience-hungry visitors to its bustling streets.
With just under 3,000 shows taking place over 25 days from the beginning of August – in venues ranging from back alley pubs to the city’s famous Royal Mile – one thing’s for sure; you’ll be spoilt for choice. Luckily, we’ve put together this handy guide covering where to stay, what to do and the must-see performances of the festival, so you won’t have to miss a thing.
Aside from enjoying the numerous comedic, musical and theatrical acts on offer throughout the festival, you should set some time aside to explore Edinburgh. With a rich history, the city has been recognised as the Scottish capital since the early 15th century, and in many parts still resembles its ancient roots. A stroll down the Royal Mile (the main thoroughfare of the city’s Old Town) will take you from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, the former residence of Mary, Queen of Scots, while a short walk from the city centre will see you at the towering doors of the city’s prestigious university.
Other must-see historic attractions include Greyfriars Kirkyard, a supposedly haunted graveyard surrounding a parish church, and the Real Mary King’s Close, a series of forgotten, underground streets buried beneath the city’s busiest tourist district since the 17th century. For the best views, trek to the peak of Arthur’s Seat and reward yourself with a pint of local ale at Sheep Heid Inn, the oldest pub in Edinburgh.
Known as the gourmet coffee shop in which J.K. Rowling took inspiration for the Harry Potter series, The Elephant House is overlooked by Edinburgh Castle and serves up a host of delicious, hearty Scottish breakfasts, including haggis, white pudding and local sausages.
As the latest addition to Edinburgh’s Michelin scene, Castle Terrace is a must-try. Under the direction of Edinburgh-born head chef Dominic Jack, the restaurant is known for expertly merging seasonal Scottish produce with French techniques, all based on the mantra: “from nature to plate”.
Located on Edinburgh’s iconic Princes Street, Number One at The Balmoral is placed at the heart of the city’s most affluent district, overlooking a high street resplendent with big-name brands. Serving a blend of Scottish and French cuisine, it is widely regarded as the best fine dine restaurant in the city.
The Balmoral Hotel
The Scotsman Hotel Edinburgh
And this is my friend Mr Laurel
English actor Jeffrey Holland stars as comedy great Stan Laurel visiting a dying Oliver Hardy in this one-man show; hilarity, contemplation and tragedy ensue.
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
Date: July 30 – August 25
For two shows only, world famous comedian Lee Evans will be testing new material for his upcoming ‘Monsters’ arena tour on a limited, lucky audience.
Venue: Edinburgh Playhouse
Date: August 3 – 4
The Addams Family
All of the familiar Addams faces make an appearance in this musical celebration of the family’s spooky values.
Venue: Assembly Hall
Date: July 31 – August 25
Former Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman takes to the stage to ponder pogonophobia, underpants and the human condition.
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard
Date: 18 – 25 August