Most of us have heard of the Edinburgh Fringe, the Military Tattoo and the International Festival. But did you know there are 11 different festivals throughout the year in Scotland’s capital? It’s the ultimate festival city, with everything from science experiments to storytelling evenings happening year-round.
Here are 12 things not to miss in Edinburgh, the Festival City:
1. Take a bracing swim
When: 1 January every year
Swimming and Edinburgh aren’t two words that generally go together in the minds of visitors. Especially those exploring the city in the winter months. But come for the New Year’s Eve festivities – Hogmanay – and you can take part in the 1st of January fancy dress swim (also known as Loony Dook) alongside hundreds of other participants.
Edinburgh's Loony Dook © Chris Watt
2. Meet the world’s leading minds
When: 10th–26th August 2019
It’s not every day you get to spend an hour or two with some of the greatest thinkers in the world. But at the Edinburgh International Book Festival you might meet the likes of Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek Finance Minister turned influential author, or even hear controversial writer on evolution, Richard Dawkins, propose his latest theories.
3. Create a robot
When: 4th–20th April 2020
The Edinburgh Science Festival has all manner of talks, lectures, Q&A sessions and more – as well as interactive sessions for adults and kids. Last year’s festival saw robot-programming workshops boggle and expand the minds of many visitors as they learned to instruct machines with code.
Marty Activate, presented by the University of Edinburgh © Edinburgh International Science Festival
4. Go to a gig in a church
When: 12th–21st July 2019
The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is the ultimate place to hear acts big and small in some of the city’s most incredible venues. One of our favourites is the grand setting of Meadowbank Church, where you can catch evening piano jazz in this beautiful late Victorian place of worship.
5. Listen to a story
When: 18th–31st October 2019
Stories really do come alive at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival, during which plenty of performances capture the imaginations of kids and adults alike. From traditional folklore to gory, ghostly tales, there’s something for everyone at this one-of-a-kind-in-the-UK festival. Look out for the storytelling programme theme of Canada for 2019.
6. See the next big thing
When: 2nd-26th August 2019
Thanks to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s open-access policy, any act that can find a stage here can perform here. So this means you could well be watching the next big thing in comedy or theatre without even knowing. The likes of Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Graham Norton and Steve Coogan have made their breaks here, after all…
Street performance at Edinburgh Fringe Festival © David Monteith-Hodge
7. Soak up a huge amount of culture
When: 2nd–26th August 2019
A cultural city at any time of year, Edinburgh comes into its own in August when – alongside the Book, Art, Fringe and Military Tattoo – the International Festival also takes place. Once you’ve delved into the city’s rich history and enjoyed some of the top museums, you can take in an incredible array of plays, operas, recitals and full-blown orchestral concerts at one of many venues. The 2019 programme is available here.
8. Mingle with the stars
When: 19th–30th June 2019
The International Film Festival is a thrill for any movie-goer, not just cinema buffs. Stars from the screen congregate in Edinburgh for this 11-day celebration of cinema, with the likes of Tilda Swinton, Jesse Eisenberg and Sienna Miller walking down the red carpet. Follow in their footsteps at a premiere during the 2019 festival.
This year you can attend the World Premiere of the sequel to Braveheart, titled Robert The Bruce. The film tells the story of the nobleman-turned-outlaw hero who was was crowned king of Scots in the 14th century. Booking information is available here.
The city welcomes movies from around the world in June © Edinburgh International Film Festival
9. Immerse yourself in the sounds of spaces
When: 25th July–25th August 2019
As part of the Edinburgh Art Festival, a spectacular electro-acoustic installation by James Richards will be inspiring visitors to the new Collective Gallery atop the city’s Calton Hill. His work, Edinburgh, explores the relationship between space and the sound it creates, using vocal and musical motifs.
10. Be wowed by a kaleidoscope of colour
When: 2nd–24th August 2019
There’s no event in Edinburgh, or perhaps the UK, as awe-inspiring as The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. A spectacle of music, dance and precision, few words can convey the astonishing feat that is this performance. You simply have to see it.
This year let the Tattoo capture your imagination in kaleidoscopic colour. Exploring colour, music and light, the 2019 Tattoo has been inspired by the kaleidoscope, the optical invention created by Scottish physicist Sir David Brewster in 1816. The show will celebrate glorious symmetries through precision-led performances by the British Army plus military and cultural acts from across the globe.
The Finale of the Edinburgh Tattoo © The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
11. Take the kids to a show (or five)
When: 25th May–2nd June 2019
Forget screens and cement your children's love of live theatre at the International Children's Festival. This annual event sees performances designed to entertain and enthrall, whilst challenging children to consider big issues and themes. This year’s programme includes productions from the likes of Punchdrunk, who have pioneered a form of immersive theatre in which audiences explore the set and see the action unfold as they roam
12. Join in with the world’s biggest rendition of Auld Lang Syne
When: 31st December every year
Every New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay turns the streets of Edinburgh into one huge street party. See in the first day of the new year at midnight with thousands of revellers followed by a fireworks show and a huge sing along of Auld Lang Syne, the traditional song written by Scottish poet Robert Burns.
The Edinburgh's Hogmanay Torchlight Procession © Chris Watt
For more information on these festivals in August, and the others that take place in Edinburgh throughout the year, head to www.edinburghfestivalcity.com
Top Image: Street performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival © David Monteith-Hodge