It’s that time of year again: Edinburgh has taken off its Festival face and the Fringe has finally petered out of our social media feeds. After a month-long celebration of all things arts, culture and creativity, the city can go back to sleep. Or can it?
It’s not all about the Fringe in Scotland’s capital – there are eleven other major festivals throughout the year, so here are just a few reasons why you should head to Edinburgh outside of Fringe season.
1. The Fringe is just a fraction of the action
Art, film, food, fashion, tradition, music… The list goes on. Alongside the Fringe, Edinburgh is home to the world’s longest continually run film festival (June), a science festival (April), a jazz festival (July), a multicultural mela (August) and a storytelling festival (October).
While the Fringe has over 3000 shows in more than 300 venues, that’s just a fraction of the action: each year Edinburgh sees over 25,000 artists come from over seventy countries to put on upwards of 45,000 performances.
A couple dances on the street at July’s Mardis Gras
2. There’s something for everyone, no matter when you go
Once you’ve picked your festival flavour, perhaps it’s literature or film, prepare to be baffled by the huge variety of different acts and events on offer.
The International Jazz Festival (which runs for ten days every July) has music to suit all tastes – the 2015 line-up saw everything from a very traditional Frank Sinatra centenary concert to a raucous performance from Swing, Latin and ska inspired Rumba de Bodas that saw teenage boys keeping up with pensioners on the dance floor.
3. Some of Edinburgh’s festival venues are an attraction in their own right
Throughout the various festivals you can rock out in a seventeenth-century church on the Royal Mile, listen to music in the famous velvet-draped Spiegeltent in St Andrew’s Square or see plays in the dissection room at Summerhall, a near-hundred-year-old former veterinary school.
Spiegeltent, courtesy of Edinburgh Festivals
Summerhall is one of the city’s most atmospheric venues: it plays host to art exhibitions, gigs and plays in spaces left unchanged since its days as the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies. Old, rusted chains hang eerily from the ceiling of one sinister room and in another, the old anatomy lecture theatre, the audience take up seats in the original chairs students once sat in.
4. The city knows how to party (there’s gin on tap!)
When the performances, gigs and film screenings are over, the fun doesn’t have to end. Edinburgh has a drinking den for every party-goer.
The Jazz Bar on Chambers Street has live music into the early hours, where some of the festival artists come to jam after their sets finish elsewhere. And for a truly debaucherous end to a night, wind up in Fingers for impromptu, booze-fuelled singing (read: wailing) sessions around the piano.
Summerhall, courtesy of Edinburgh Festivals
If you’ve been at a Summerhall event, pop next door to the Royal Dick pub, where craft beers from Barney’s Beer (whose brewery is also part of the complex) are brew of choice and there’s Pickering’s Gin piped directly from the distillery to the bar.
5. It’s more affordable
A trip to Edinburgh doesn’t have to cost the earth – there are accommodation options for all budgets and it’s far cheaper outside the Fringe (when prices can be double or more the usual rate).
Simple but effective low budget, boutique CODE Hostel – named for its use of numerical codes rather than keys – has clean and cosy dorm beds from just £25 per night and a shared kitchen for scrimping on dinner if you need to.
At the other end of the spectrum, The Witchery on the Royal Mile has indulgent suites furnished with antiques and oak panelling, plus complimentary champagne.
6. The food alone is worth a trip
And we’re not talking about battered Mars bars. Dinner time in Scotland’s capital doesn’t have to mean just haggis, neeps and tatties – though that is Scottish comfort food at its best. Edinburgh knows how to cook: it’s home to a delicious quintet of Michelin starred restaurants among its hundreds of other excellent establishments.
For something a little unusual, dead northwest of the city centre to Leith and sit at a communal table at V Deep, where famous comedian Hardeep Kohli is responsible for thinking up a Scottish-Indian fusion menu. Think “Bubble and Sikh” instead of bubble and squeak and spicy haggis pakoras. Plus an astonishing selection of craft beer to wash it all down with.
If you don’t mind the wait at El Cartel, try one (or a few) of their 50 different tequilas and mezcals along with some sublime Mexican food. The flat-iron steak tacos are divine.