How do you fit five festivals into a weekend visit?
By Dan James, Festivals Edinburgh Blogger in Residence, August 2018
The number of shows, events, performances, readings and music that are on offer during the five festivals that occur in Edinburgh every August can be overwhelming. Flicking through pages and pages of listings and trying to work out how you'll fit it all in can seem like a mission impossible and, to be honest, unless you're a superpowered human you'll never be able to see 3000+ shows and events in 48 hours.
But, don't despair, you can still sample a taste of each festival on a weekend visit and having been exploring the city for a few weeks now, I think I've found the perfect formula.
8 am - Grab a big breakfast, you're going to need the fuel to power through your epic festivals weekend.
9.30 am - Be first in line to enter Charlotte Gardens for the Edinburgh Book Festival. The gardens, bookshops and Ten at Ten reading are free to attend, and it's a great place to discover some authors and books you might not find in other bookshops. Have a flick through the programme for the duration of your visit and book tickets to come and hear/meet any authors you admire and remember, authors come in all forms whether it's a celebrity autobiography, fiction or a political leader.
11 am - Take a stroll to the Mound precinct at East Princes Street Gardens and visit the Fringe Half-Price Hut, here you can find tickets on sale for today's shows at a discounted rate, so it's well worth taking a look.
12 pm - Hit up a few of the pop-ups and art displays on offer from Edinburgh Art Festival. The Festival's commissions and partner galleries are all across the city but, to get you started, check out a few of my tips on what to discover.
2 pm - Grab some snacks from one of the many street vendors that pop-up across the festival city to keep your energy up for the long day ahead.
2.30 pm - If you have dreams of seeing the spectacle that is the Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo then pop into the office on Cockburn Street to check for last minute or return tickets to see the show tonight or tomorrow. Trust me, it's well worth getting there to watch the impressive show in front of Edinburgh Castle.
3 pm - Continue up Cockburn Street to the Royal Mile which will be buzzing by the afternoon with street performers, flyerers, magicians and various shows from across the Fringe putting on excerpts on the stage areas. Take photos of any flyers/shows that appeal, so you know where to head and what to see this afternoon.
3.45 pm - After all the hubbub of the Royal Mile, dip into The Hub at the top of the road just before the castle. The Hub is home to the Edinburgh International Festival, and here you can have a flick through the programme and arrange any tickets straight away at the desk.
4.15 pm - Since you are so close to the castle it would be crazy to not step onto the Esplanade and see the famous old fortress as well as the impressive stage and seating set up for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
5 pm - By now you have certainly earned a refreshment, so slip down the side alleys alongside The Hub to get to the Grassmarket where numerous Fringe venues can be found in pubs and cafes.
6 pm - Ready to soak up a bit more of the unique atmosphere in Edinburgh every August? Take a stroll from the Grassmarket up to Bristo Square where multiple venues sit around the beer garden. Just behind here is George Square where there are two more beer gardens, and another short walk will take you to the Meadows where the colourful Circus Hub can be found.
Along the way, you'll likely have been bombarded with show suggestions and flyers from all angles but, as I suggested before, take photos of the flyers so when it comes to planning out the rest of your weekend you've got it all to hand.
7 pm - Settle down for some more food, whether you opt for one of the pub venues and their dinner menus or more street food from the multiple pop-ups. It's time to get planning how you will fill in the gaps of your visit. Flick through your phone and work out what times you still have to fill now you've booked your Tattoo and/or International Festival tickets. If you're at any of the larger festival gardens, you'll be able to go and buy tickets from the nearby box offices.
Tip: Be mindful of distances between the venues if you plan to book shows back to back, save on your map app the locations of each venue with a little star so you can easily find your way around. The streets of Edinburgh can be pretty packed in August so always add some extra time on to what your walking suggestions say.
8 pm - Wow, you've got it all planned out now. You've been fed, watered and already touched on the five festivals occurring in the city during August.
Whether you picked up tickets for the Tattoo, booked into one of the International Festival shows, have crammed comedy plans at the Fringe or want to head back to the Book Festival for their free nightly Unbound events in the Spiegeltent, your night's now all about enjoying the unique atmosphere and your perfect type of entertainment.
You've got this, you've had a sampling of all the festivals and what's on offer, you've got some tickets booked and a phone gallery full of further show suggestions.
But remember if a poster really grabs your attention, or a word of mouth show recommendation resonates then it can all go out the window, spontaneity is just as much of the festivals process as booking those big-ticket shows in advance.
If you find yourself a bit showed out then you could venture to one of the out-of-city Art Festival venues, or head down to the waterways of Leith where there's work to enjoy from the Art, Fringe and International Festivals. Alternatively, head to Dean Village, one of my favourite parts of the city to photograph and a great place to get stuck into your new book.
However you choose to spend your weekend at the festivals, there's more than enough going on to keep you busy - even with a two-day visit though, you really can get a taste of all five festivals. It will also help you plan your next visit to your tastes, because let me promise you this, once you've been sucked into the world of August in Edinburgh, there will be a return visit to the festivals!