Top 5 reasons to visit the Edinburgh Festival

Everyone else is doing these lists, so I feel compelled to do the same. Rather than being a rundown of shows I’m interested in seeing (I’m doing that separately), this is instead a compendium of things you have to do to get the full-on Edinburgh Festival Fringe experience:

Queue up, at least once, for tickets at the Edinburgh Fringe box office in the High Street (ideally at peak times)

Unless you have a severe aversion to queuing, this is actually a good way to hear about those word-of-mouth shows, to swap tips with the people in front and behind you, to be entertained by performers who know they have a captive audience – perhaps you’ll even be given free tickets to something. Queue with a positive attitude and it’s actually quite good fun.

Spend at least two hours outside the purple upside-down cow at Bristo Square

As a local, I relish the chance to spend any time here and not be surrounded by skateboarders and winos, but this space tends to become the hub of the Fringe during August. Big-name shows take place inside the cow, and big-name celebrities hang around to be spotted. If the sun’s out (or if it’s at least not raining), this is a great place to have a drink, a bite to eat and to watch the kind of people you only over see at this time of year.

Why at least two hours? As the shows in the cow run to a regimented order, you’ll very likely see the stars of a performance spill out and mingle with the crowds, which all adds to the mashup-style atmosphere.

Do the Book Festival

Even if you’ve never read a book in your life and don’t attend any of the events, the Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens is a real oasis of calm (i.e. the polar opposite of Bristo Square above). If it’s sunny, sitting outside sipping a glass of wine amongst a rather more sedate crowd can be a great chance to unwind and relax.

Plus, it’s the only place this year with a Spiegeltent.

Join in

If you’re watching a street performer at the Mound or on the Royal Mile and they pick you as a “willing” volunteer, don’t shuffle your feet and / or run away. Swallow your pride and go for it. Sure, you’ll probably spend half an hour of your life as a figure of fun with a bucket on your head, but just think of the Facebook photos your friends will gleefully post later.

Another top opportunity to become part of proceedings is to attend a show and sit on an aisle seat near the front. Performers don’t have time to scan the assembled throng for a likely candidate: instead they’ll grab the closest thing to hand. That could be you.

If you don’t want to join in, do not sit there thinking “don’t pick me, don’t pick me“. It is a little-known fact all performers possess an uncanny psychic ability to pick up on this…


Even when:

  • it’s raining (it will rain: this is Edinburgh we’re talking about)
  • you’ve turned up late for a show and been refused admission
  • you’re standing at 3am waiting for a taxi that never arrives
  • the show you’re watching makes your toes curl backwards so far they rip your socks
  • the queue for the bar is 15-deep and you have 3 minutes before your next show
  • your bodyclock has yet to readjust to the Edinburgh Fringe timezone

This is the Edinburgh Festival. Where else would you rather be?

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