13 Things to Know Before you go to Edinburgh Fringe Festival (and where to stay)
Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival returns in August. It’s by far our favourite time to be in the Scottish capital. Locals love it. Tourists love it. Everyone loves it. Thousands of performers from around the world make their way to Edinburgh to take to different stages from 3rd - 27th August. But to really get the most out of Edinburgh Fringe, we have shared our top tricks and tips to surviving the delightful artsy mayhem. It can be a little overwhelming for first-timers, but follow our advice and you’ll be doing it like a local. If you need a hostel near to the Fringe Festival events, check out St Christopher's Inns, right in the heart of the Old Town and within walking distance to pretty much everything.
1 Plan, but don't go overboard
Planning is key - but it’s important not to go overboard with an itinerary because half the fun about Fringe is being spontaneous and seeing shows on the go. There will be shows that might sound right up your street, so these are the ones to go ahead and book in advance.
When planning ahead of Fringe, follow the news on the official Twitter page, sign up to the newsletter for regular updates and download the free Fringe programme. However, you’ll never know what shows create a buzz until you get there and listen to other people’s recommendations and favourites - so don’t plan everything to a tee. The type of things worth planning are the obvious ones: having a look at what’s on, where the venues are, how to get from one to the other just to give you a jist of what to expect and how to get around.
2 Book Accommodation early
Need accommodation near Fringe? Hostels are the most affordable choice during Fringe where a bed in a dorm room will only set you back around 20-30 pounds. St Christopher’s Inns is right in the heart of the Old Town, close to many show venues. The hostel also has some lovely private rooms for those looking for some more privacy. St Christopher’s is the ideal base during Fringe where you can fill yourself up on the free breakfast and enjoy cheap drink deals when you get back from a long day. We would recommend booking your accommodation early as beds get booked up fast in the run up to Fringe. Check out our piece on Where To Stay During Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
3 Make the most of the free shows
You can definitely enjoy The Fringe on a budget. There are free previews all over the place.
A great place to start is the Royal Mile; get a look at the acts and shows on the mile long stretch that won’t cost a penny. There are hundreds of free shows taking place around the city; and it’s pretty easy to find out exactly where and when on the official website. Our tip: When searching for shows on the website, use the advanced search to filter the results on the pricing section to ‘Free’.
4 Locate the venues
With nearly 300 venues, try to familiarise yourself with a few of the main ones at least. Underbelly, Pleasance and the Assembly Rooms are three big ones to start you off on the right foot. Use the official Fringe interactive map to check out all the different venues.
5 Bring an umbrella
It may be scorching one minute, and pouring down the next in Edinburgh. Dress appropriately for the weather. An umbrella is an essential as well as comfy shoes to walk in. You’ll be walking a lot - and Edinburgh is pretty hilly so you want to feel comfortable when walking around the festival. Check the weather forecast before you go because you may need to layer up.
6 Be on time to shows
A pretty useful tip to take seriously. Be on time. Latecomers aren’t usually let in to shows so we recommend getting there 10 minutes early. Plus, do you really want to deal with the stick you’ll get from the stand-up comedians if you show up late?
7 Find a balance
Be realistic when it comes to how much you can fit in to one day. It’s important not to cram too many shows in or you will be exhausted - you will need to recharge at some points physically and mentally. It’s also nice to take a break after shows to really appreciate and think about what you’ve just watched. We reckon the perfect Fringe experience is trying to aim to see 4 shows a day. A sensible amount.
What do you want to see? What are you interested in? Trust your hunches and feel the buzz while you’re there to determine which shows people are raving about. But also try and see something you wouldn’t usually go for and you may be pleasantly surprised.
8 Locate the Box Office
It’s always a good start to know where to buy tickets from at the festival. The Box Office is located at 180 High Street on the Royal Mile. You can buy and collect your tickets from here. You can also collect your tickets from several other locations across the city. Fringe is a truly unique experience so to be sure your favourite show isn’t sold out, you can book online, over the phone or with the Ed Fringe App.
9 Be prepared
Edinburgh during Fringe doubles in population. So expect crowds, queues and for the city to be a lot busier than usual. Pubs, restaurants and bars around the New Town and Old Town will also be packed out so just a heads up!
10 Don’t forget to eat
Time flies at the Edinburgh Fringe, so don’t be surprised if lunchtime comes and goes and you’re starving in the late afternoon. Belushi’s is right in the heart of the Old Town and is a great pitstop for a tasty burger and cold beer in between shows. Plus everything on the menu is seriously good value for money. Otherwise, if you’re after more traditional Scottish grub, head next door to Jake’s Place where the haggis fritters are to die for.
11 Trust word of mouth
The whole of Edinburgh turns into a creative hub during the festival - and there is SO much choice and talent to be experienced. Get talking to people in the queues. This is one of the best ways to get recommendations. Word of mouth is just as important as reading reviews when it comes to Fringe.
12 An escape from the crowds
To find a peaceful retreat away from the hustle and bustle of the Fringe Festival, there are a few relaxing places to escape to. The Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh is a sanctuary within the city. Hike up Arthur’s Seat for a breath of fresh air or get panoramic views of the city from the beautiful Calton Hill.
13 Save money at the Half Price Hut
Pick up a bargain on show tickets at the Half Price Hut! Save some money and see something spur of the moment. You can find the Half Price Hut at the Mound Precinct.
Hope you have a wonderful time!
Want more? Check out the 12 Free Things to do in Edinburgh
Article by Shereen Sagoo
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