Why Edinburgh’s Festivals Have To Be On Your Bucket List

Updated August 17, 2016
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Bowie Edinburgh Tattoo Castle Festival

I’ve made no secret about my love for Edinburgh. It’s a city steeped in history, boasting beautiful architecture and brimming with an arts and foodie scene. The usual top things to do in Edinburgh include a visit to Edinburgh Castle, a stroll down the Royal Mile and tucking in to a meal involving haggis and a dram of whisky. Cliche maybe, but all on the Edinburgh bucket list nonetheless.

But there’s another part Edinburgh that may have escaped your notice. Edinburgh is a festival city, in fact it’s the biggest festival city in the world. During the year there are twelve festivals covering everything from storytelling and performing arts, to science and major New Year celebrations. Whenever there’s a festival happening the city buzzes with an electric atmosphere of excitement.

I’m continually surprised when I mention Edinburgh’s festivals to other travellers from outside the UK and they either haven’t heard of them, or maybe just one or two in passing. After talking so much about it, I decided it’s about time to write about why Edinburgh’s festivals need to be added to your must do list!

Edinburgh International Festival

Even after living in Edinburgh there were still things about the festivals I didn’t know. So here’s ten facts about the festivals that show why they’re awesome:

  1. The only event bigger than Edinburgh’s festivals is the Olympic games, and festival ticket sales are equal to the FIFA World Cup. That’s a lot of people and a lot of tickets!
  2. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the largest book festival in the world and in it’s 17 day exhibition they sell more books than a high street book shop sells in whole year.
  3. The Edinburgh International Festival, showcasing the arts, began way back in 1947. In 2016 they have invited performers from over 36 countries to take part.
  4. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival started literally on the “fringe” of the International Festival in 1947. Eight bold theatre groups turned up uninvited and used the opportunity of the already present crowds to perform. That enterprising spirit continues today with alternative spaces across the city being turned into places to put on a show. You can set up an umbrella and call it a festival venue. Seriously.
  5. Also in the spirit of the original, the Fringe Festival is still considered to be “open access” which means that anyone can show up and perform what ever they like. In 2016 there will be 50,266 performances at the Fringe! Not even including the street performers that take over the Royal Mile.
  6. The United Kingdom’s largest visual art festival takes place in Edinburgh in August, with over 30 venues being used to house Edinburgh Art Festival commissions, including unique places like inside the Robert Burns memorial and under a railway bridge!
  7. The Edinburgh Festivals have been home to some of the biggest names in the business, including Billy Connelly, Robin Williams, Emma Thompson, J K Rowling, Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Stephen Fry, George R R Martin, Alan Cumming… I could go on but you get the idea, get yourself here to see it!
  8. The world’s longest running film festival is held here too, and began in that golden festival year of 1947.
  9. Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year celebration, and now Hogmanay in Edinburgh is one of the cities biggest events. It’s the only festival to appear in the Discovery Channel’s Top 25 World Travel Experiences and really is something to behold. I should know, I’ve been for the last four New Years!
  10. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo held it’s first performance in 1950, and since then no show has ever been cancelled. It’s travelled overseas four times, taking Edinburgh Castle with them each time, or a set that looks exactly like it! If you’re lucky you might get the chance to see it on their next tour, but it still can’t compare with seeing the real thing from the grandstands perched on Castle Rock.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

The height of the festival year is in August when five festivals run simultaneously. The Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Whew, say that five times fast!

The population of Edinburgh doubles for the month, as people flock to the city to revel in the festival atmosphere, an added bonus to the usual top things to do in Edinburgh. That’s not the only time to travel to Edinburgh for the festival atmosphere though. Come outside of August and enjoy traditional storytelling bought back to life, Jazz & Blues, or a celebration of performing arts for children, just to mention a few of the other festivals!

Fringe Festival Royal Mile

Edinburgh’s festivals should be on your bucket list because all year round they’re like nothing you can experience anywhere else. They’re the heart of Edinburgh city on display, with all it’s history, creativity and downright quirkiness there for you to see.

Have you heard of Edinburgh’s festivals? Are they on your bucket list?

Find more about all twelve of Edinburgh’s festivals at the Edinburgh Festival City website or on their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sonja x

If you liked it, pin it!

Edinburgh's Festivals Bucket List

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

I attended some festival events in partnership with Edinburgh Festivals, Visit Britain and Visit Scotland. As always, opinions are my own (like you need me to tell you otherwise when I rave about Edinburgh all the time!).

David Bowie Edinburgh Tattoo

Edinburgh's Festivals Bucket List

Edinburgh's Festivals Bucket List




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  • Reply verushka August 17, 2016 at 10:30 pm

    Convinced now that I should visit Edinburgh!

  • Reply Clare August 17, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    I had no idea that Edinburgh had so many festivals and I am from the UK, I would love to see in New Year in Edinburgh, looks like a great show 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 17, 2016 at 11:50 pm

      I think a lot of people have no idea, which is why I’m so keen to spread the word haha. I’ve spent my last four New Years here, and hopefully the next one too! It’s that good 🙂

  • Reply Laura Nalin August 18, 2016 at 1:33 am

    I’ve been loving the posts on social media, so I’m glad that you’ve written a blog post about it. I really want to visit Scotland at some point (my boyfriend’s father is Glasweigian) and would love to see Edinburgh as well as, well, everywhere! I definitely want to make it a point to check out these festivals, though! Thanks for sharing it and letting everyone know it’s happening!

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 18, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Thanks Laura I’m glad you’ve been enjoying them! Scotland in general is really amazing, I love it so much! The festivals in Edinburgh are like an added bonus that just make it even more cool :). Hopefully you make it up this way sometime soon!

  • Reply Katie @ The Budget Backpack August 18, 2016 at 4:06 am

    So funny, but I *have*heard of them – but only maybe 3 or 4 days ago! An Instagrammer was talking about them (via the new story feature) like the were common knowledge so I had to look it up! But now that I know about them, I’m kinda bummed that it looks as thought I’ll be missing them when I’m in the UK this November 🙁

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 18, 2016 at 10:10 am

      That’s great! I wonder if it was me or one of the other people I’ve been here with haha. You might be just here between some of the festivals, but that’s a great excuse to come back right?! Edinburgh and Scotland are still worth the visit too of course! Hope you have a great trip :).

  • Reply Rosemary August 18, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Love festivals. While I’ve never heard of Edinburgh Festival before, I’m quite impressed by its size and scale. I would love to visit and experience for myself. Adding this to my list. Pinning this post for future reference too 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 18, 2016 at 10:13 am

      Thanks Rosemary! I love festivals too and I love that these ones are so different! There is so much happening and something for everyone at any given time of year. Hopefully you get the chance to visit 🙂

  • Reply Susanna Kelly August 18, 2016 at 9:18 am

    I never knew this existed!! Oh my gosh I want to go to all of them, especially the Fringe and the book festival. Have you been to all 12? So jealous haha.

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 18, 2016 at 10:14 am

      I’m so glad I could help you discover them haha. I haven’t made it to all 12 unfortunately but I’m just over halfway there! The goal will be all of them eventually :).

  • Reply Karla at GlobalETA August 19, 2016 at 2:25 am

    I was woefully unaware of Edinburgh’s festivals! Just more reasons to go there!

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 20, 2016 at 10:08 am

      Haha definitely! They just add to why Edinburgh is already great 🙂 In my opinion!!

  • Reply Arzo Travels August 19, 2016 at 9:07 am

    I am actually not a festival person but I still love beautiful Edinburgh 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 20, 2016 at 10:14 am

      The great thing about these festivals is that I really think there is something for everyone. It’s just a bigger version of what Edinburgh is like anyway with shows and great things to see around the city :).

  • Reply Katie from What's Katie Doing? blog August 19, 2016 at 11:10 am

    I do like the festival, but I think you need to have a game plan and book ahead – at least for the popular events! I also want to go back to Edinburgh to visit the Edinburgh distillery and try their gin 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 20, 2016 at 10:15 am

      I’m about to write a post with a small guide actually! I think you do need to plan for accommodation and if you want to see particular shows. Other than that it’s fun to walk around and see what’s happening! I’m hoping to head to a gin distillery next week! Hopefully you make it back soon too 🙂

  • Reply Emily August 20, 2016 at 9:56 am

    I literally knew *none* of this. I’ve heard of the Fringe Festival but had no idea anyone could show up and perform — I can’t believe that’s still allowed. (Knocks on wood.)

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 20, 2016 at 10:17 am

      Haha yes it is! You do need to register so they can sort of organise everyone, but recently a “fringe of the Fringe” has sprung up with people just performing on their own too!

  • Reply Kiara Gallop August 20, 2016 at 11:08 am

    I’ve been wanting to check out Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival for years, but then I check out the accommodation and flight prices and my excitement turns to disappointment. Hogmanay is also on my list 🙂

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 20, 2016 at 11:11 am

      I just published a guide with some cheaper accommodation options :). The key is really to get in early for that! It’s definitely the most expensive month, but hopefully you can make it doable in future! Hogmanay is so much fun too!

  • Reply Eva Casey August 21, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    I have only been to the Fringe Festival, but I have heard of some of the others! I really, really wanted to make it to Edinburgh this August to experience the Festivals again, but alas..not enough money! Edinburgh is really a special place. Thank you for highlighting some of the amazing festivals that take place!

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 21, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      It isn’t the cheapest! Although there are a lot go free shows and options as well so it’s mainly getting here and once you’re here it’s worth it! Hopefully you might make it next year 🙂

  • Reply Elena Nemets August 31, 2016 at 8:21 am

    Any tips on accomodation for the festivals? I assume the prices and going crazy and the demand is limited.

  • Reply Kathy August 31, 2016 at 9:32 am

    I was there at the weekend. I love Edinburgh at the best of times but the Fringe makes it even more magical. Thanks for your post, it was so informational but also makes me want to drive the 3 hour drive straight back there.

    • Reply Migrating Miss August 31, 2016 at 10:18 am

      Haha good to know!!! I’m glad you’ve experienced some of it and hopefully you can come back again next year and experience even more of the festivals :). There’s two more coming up this year too!

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