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The Ultimate Guide to Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Know how to make the most of your trip to the Scottish capital

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The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK

It lasts almost an entire month, acting as the perfect excuse for locals to take a long holiday simply to avoid the crowds of visitors. Screw them (not really), we’re here to have a party. And with around 55,000 performances across 317 venues in a typical year, you’d have to be something of a grouch to not enjoy any of them. But how will you find your niche? Do you even know what you like? Well, that’s where we come in, with our comprehensive guide to Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Here at Plum Guide, we've utilised our expert knowledge to create the ultimate guide for you to enjoy your trip to the Scottish capital, answering all your questions and setting you up perfectly for a memorable holiday. The artistic performances range from children’s shows and cabaret to opera and dance. Many people head up north (relatively few are journeying south) to the festival for the comedy circuits, the festival having become an iconic stage for famous comedians and those about to make it big. Hey, perhaps you can even get up there yourself and recite a few lines - this might be your big break.

Choose the shows that are right for you

You can purchase an enormous encyclopaedia-like schedule called the Edinburgh Fringe Festival Guide, but at almost 500 pages, it likely weighs more than your children. And this is the Digital Age after all, so get your digits a-working to download the Fringe App. How grateful are you for this guide to Edinburgh Fringe Festival now? And since Edinburgh is somehow installed with free Wi-Fi, you’ll never be caught short. Filter by genre and price to find what’s right for you. Another hot tip is to chat with locals and box office ticket sellers, who make a point of being ‘in the know’.

New Scotsman, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh, UK

New Scotsman, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh, UK

Get your tickets online and tip generously

That famous app we mentioned just a second ago will come in handy not only with the searching and choosing of shows, but also with the purchasing thereof. You’ll also be able to get hold of tickets online or at the box office of each individual venue. But what’s this? Many of the shows are free? For some performers, simply the publicity and prestige garnered from playing at the Fringe is enough to get them down there. You can often give a tip or follow the ‘pay what you want’ model…those suckers... (Seriously though, do consider paying, as many artists could do with the cash).

The House On The Hill, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh, UK

The House On The Hill, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh, UK

Enjoy an array of food and drink

You’ll have no problem ingesting acid-reflux inducing street food from the many pop-ups and stalls that come for the Fringe. To be fair though, the street food stalls have really upped their games in the last few years, and you’re likely to find all sorts of healthy culinary delights. Don’t go asking for fried mars bars - that’s more of a Glasgow tradition, and might offend the snooty locals here - but you might just find this heart-attack-on-a-plate at the Royal Mile Tavern. For something of a fine dining experience - as a fleeting escape from the earthiness of the festival - try the Condita, The Kitchin, or Number One at The Balmoral.

Milk Heather, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh

Milk Heather, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh

Stroll through the city in between shows

Although pretty hilly, as well as just plain pretty (and not at all plain), Edinburgh is quite walkable. The city centre is small, cobbled and so beautiful that the slow pace of walking is a great way to soak up the aesthetics. The longest you’ll walk for between venues is 45 minutes, while most are within 25 minutes of one another by foot. Alternatively, you can take Ubers and taxis, as well as the Lothian Buses. Just be aware that all these methods take a little longer than usual, as you navigate the flamboyant street performers and fellow festival goers.

Pastel Thistle, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh, UK

Pastel Thistle, Plum Guide home in Edinburgh, UK

Become familiar with the different venues

So, the first thing to know is that the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has a so-called Big Four, where the biggest acts play: Underbelly, Pleasance, Gilded Balloon and Assembly. The next tier down - where you might discover ‘the next big thing’ (maybe it’s you) - is the Just The Tonic venue. To see more grounded and little-known acts (and pay less), attend the Free Fringe arena.

Get away from the crowds in your free time

While this is a guide to Edinburgh Fringe Festival, we feel it can’t hurt to take a quick look at ways of escaping the very thing you’re here to see - it can get a bit intense, you see. Hike up to Arthur’s Seat for the best views of the city, the river and the sea. Explore the Botanical Gardens and take in the fresh air, before returning to the cultural highlights.

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