All you need to know about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Thinking of taking a trip to the world's largest arts festival and don't know where to start? Read our handy guide
What is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?
Established in 1947, when eight theatre groups gatecrashed the official Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has grown into the largest arts festival in the world, taking place each year in the Scottish capital.
When does it take place?
It runs every year in August; this year's dates are 2-26 August.
How big is big?
More than 3,500 shows, all 300-plus venues across the city. That makes it the biggest arts festival ever!
What can I see there?
There is a massive range of choice at the Edinburgh Fringe, with the three largest genres this year being comedy, theatre and music. From stand-up comedy to Shakespeare to musicals to site-specific immersive all-female Greek tragedy, there's something for everyone. There are venues dedicated to dance, cabaret in a (upside-down) cow and we once saw a Beckett play in a toilet.
A Beckett play in a toilet?
OK, so how do I decide what to see?
With so much to choose from it can all be a little daunting; look out for 'top picks' articles before the festival, and anyone you know who's been before is bound to have a favourite comedian or company who will be performing again. You should also try and leave some space in your schedule for when you're actually in Edinburgh – often word of mouth is best of all for finding a gem (plus you'll get endless flyers anytime you walk down the Royal Mile if you're still at a loss).
What time can I see the shows?
Pretty much any time. The earliest shows at the Fringe tend to start around 9-10am – some of them kids' shows, others include things like stalwarts Shakespeare Shorts – and run throughout the day and evening into the wee hours, with some acts taking the stage just before midnight. There are also a number of walks and exhibitions, which will be available all day, so it's really all up to you!
How long are the performances?
Average would probably be 1-1.5 hours, especially for stand-up shows. There are a few full-length (i.e. 2.5 hour) ones in there, and some last just 20-30 minutes. The record we've got for shows seen in a day is 10, but we did practically forget who we were by the end of the last show on that particular occasion.
How much are tickets?
There are a whole range of ticket prices at the Fringe, from absolutely nothing (you heard us right – this year there are 697 free shows thanks largely to the Free Fringe) up to around £35. On average you'd probably expect to pay about a tenner. You can also take advantage of the half-price hut run by the Fringe Society, and some shows have 2-for-1 days, often earlier in their runs.
Where can I stay?
Hotel prices do mount up during the festival month, as so many people pour into the city, so be prepared for that. But don't despair, there are plenty of hostels right in the middle of the action which won't break the bank, or if you're going for a few days with others it can be cheaper to hire a flat for the week. Any friends performing or working in venues at the Fringe might also be persuaded to lend you some floor space, or you could always do what a friend of ours did once and day trip it with overnight coaches! The Edinburgh Fringe website is usually very helpful when it comes to accommodation. And it might be worth checking Air BnB too.
I've had enough theatre for a bit, is there anything else?
Of course! Theatre and musicals make up about a third of all Fringe shows, with comedy producing another third. There's dance, circus, exhibitions, children's shows, cabaret, and a huge variety of performances. But that's only the Fringe festival. At the same time, the Edinburgh Art Festival, the International Book Festival and Edinburgh International Festival all take place, so you really are spoilt for choice. Of course, if you want to sample some Scottish traditions, but don't feel up to the challenge of scaling Arthur's Seat (although you really should- the views are amazing), pop along to The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, this year celebrating the Queen's 90th Birthday with the theme, "Tunes of Glory". How exciting!