What's on at the 2023 Edinburgh Festivals


Everyone uses the same word to describe Edinburgh: dramatic. From the majestic Castle towering over the city centre, through the ancient backstreets of the medieval Old Town, to the historic heart of the New Town, the city takes the breath away at every corner - and this rich history has been the inspiration for all of its festivals.

Every year during the Edinburgh Festivals the capital of Scotland becomes the world’s cultural melting pot, with citizens of the city and the country joined by artists and audiences from every corner of the globe in celebration of culture and creativity. Some people wonder whether these Festivals could just as easily take place in any city, not realising that the Festivals are authentically rooted in Edinburgh and have become part of the intangible heritage of Scotland.

So what's in store for 2023.

Before we get to August Edinburgh Science Festival, the world’s first such festival when it started in 1989, returns over the Easter holidays [1 to 16 April], with the theme of Let's Experiment. Using the 2023 Festival as a living laboratory – a space for experimentation with formats, approaches and partnerships –audiences of all ages will get up-close with science of all sorts through an exciting programme of exciting real-life experiments and special events. As well as the flagship family venue at City Art Centre there are three exciting new interactive projects to get audiences – Experimental Life will explore the captivating wonder and diversity of life in all its forms, while the new FutureFest and EarthFest themed weekends provide great opportunities for yet more interactive family fun

Science - Launch

Next up is Edinburgh International Children’s Festival [27 May to 4 June], the UK’s leading festival of theatre and dance for young people, which features 14 international productions exploring a variety of genres including sound-driven physical theatre, dance with spoken word and innovative multi-media shows, as well as a Spotlight on Flanders, the Dutch-speaking Northern part of Belgium, one of the world’s leaders in producing innovative theatre and dance for young audiences. And of course the Festival begins with Family Encounters day [Saturday 27 May], a day of free pop-up performances and artists interventions for families in the beautiful setting of the National Museum of Scotland.


And before you know it, here comes the summer.

Moving in to July, we find the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival [14 to 23 July], the UK’s largest independent Jazz & Blues Festival. Originally, the festival featured traditional jazz performances played in Edinburgh’s pubs, and it slowly evolved to feature a more diverse range of styles. For fans of Jazz music there are a lot of options - Contemporary jazz, Trad jazz, Swing jazz, Vintage jazz, New Orleans jazz... and all that jazz! The Festival also boasts a particularly strong Blues showing, with Blues rock, Memphis blues, Mississippi blues, San Francisco blues, Chicago, acoustic and electric blues, and much more of that deep soulful sound. And recent years have seen a further expansion of the programme to take in funk and hip hop, creating a real eclectic musical mix. You're bound to see some big names alongside the emerging stars of tomorrow.

During August, Scotland’s capital becomes an unparalleled celebration of the arts and an annual meeting point for people of all nations. The Edinburgh International Festival [4 to 27 August], presents a programme featuring the finest performers and ensembles from the worlds of dance, opera, music and theatre. Since 1947, the Festival has attracted the biggest stars of stage and concert halls, with luminaries ranging from Maria Callas to Sir Ian McKellen, Yehudi Menuhin to Margot Fonteyn, Plácido Domingo to Rudolf Nureyev, Richard Burton to Marlene Dietrich, Alan Cumming to Juliette Binoche. And this year will see its first festival under the direction of the acclaimed violinist Nicola Benedetti, who has spoken of her ambition to bring “the weight, depth and profundity of the art that the festival presents, to the maximum number of people and the broadest possible audience”.

EIF - Benedetti

Running alongside will be the Edinburgh Festival Fringe [4 to 28 August] which, being totally open-access, is proud to include in its programme anyone with a story to tell and a venue willing to host them. Every year the Fringe, as it’s affectionately known, hosts literally thousands of shows and international showcases from the likes of Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Canada South Korea and Japan. Amongst the hundreds of events already on sale, ahead of the full programme launch on 8th June, are the legendary comedian Frank Skinner, the multi award-winning, cabaret spectacular La Clique featuring the best of circus and cabaret, and from the brains of comedy genius duo Harry Hill and Steve Brown, comes 'TONY! [The Tony Blair Rock Opera]' - and that's not to forget the street arts programme that animates places and spaces across the city.

12 Fringe street performance 4 CAP

The Edinburgh skyline in August will see the return of Scotland’s iconic Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo [4 to 26 August] with the show theme ‘Stories’ set to be a bestseller that will take you on a musical journey – at the unique setting of Edinburgh Castle where audiences will enjoy the legendary sound of the Massed Pipes and Drums alongside a host of international acts. Audiences get into the spirit and stamp and cheer to the sounds of the pipes and drums, clap to the Highland Dancers and watch in awe at some of the daredevil feats of accomplished motorcyclists or intricate marching formations. There are few such moving festival moments, a fact to which any of the over 220,000 people who experience it live in any normal year can attest – not to mention the further 100 million who watch television broadcasts of the event! 


Later in August we have the Edinburgh Art Festival [11 to 27 August], the UK’s largest annual visual arts festival, which this year will feature leading international and UK artists alongside the best emerging talent, major survey exhibitions of historic figures, and a special programme of newly commissioned artworks that respond to public sites in the city. Under the new direction of Kim McAleese, in her first curated programme, explore exhibitions, events and performances across Scotland’s capital, with partner galleries presenting a range of work, the majority of which will be open to the public for free for the festival - and one of the highlights will no doubt be the opening of the new gallery spaces for the Scottish National Gallery on The Mound in central Edinburgh. 

Art - Vogue House

Next up in August we have the Edinburgh International Book Festival [12 to 28 August] the world's most prestigious literary festival, celebrating it's 40th anniversary - when it will bring leading and emerging authors and thinkers together to inspire each other and audiences in an extensive programme of public events. This year will see the last festival under the leadership of Nick Barley, whose programmes have seen everyone from Nobel Prize winners Maria Ressa, Amartya Sen, Joseph Stiglitz and Malala Yousafzai, to literary phenomena such as George RR Martin, Haruki Murakami, Elif Shafak, Hilary Mantel, Ocean Vuong and Colson Whitehead - writers who have captured the imagination worldwide, and 2023 promises to be no less exciting.


And then in an unexpected twist, worthy of any cinematic masterpiece, this year will see the return of the Edinburgh International Film Festival [18 to 23 August]. Following the sad news last October that the festival’s parent company had ceased trading, a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to bring it back. With the support of the Edinburgh International Festival, a compact selection of films will be presented under the EIFF banner this August, complementing the International Festival’s programme of world-class performing arts. The hand-picked programme will celebrate the work of exceptional local and global filmmakers and ensure the flame of EIFF burns bright for future generations of passionate cinema fans.

Mara Menzies CAP

After a short post summer break, we’re back on the festival trail with the Scottish International Storytelling Festival [17 to 29 October]. From storytelling performances to panel discussions, and a lively family strand of storytelling activities around Halloween, there’s something here for all Festival-goers to get involved with – centred around the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the only purpose built home for storytelling in the UK.

And as the year comes to a close we join the festival legend that is Edinburgh’s Hogmanay [30 Dec to 01 Jan] which has evolved to become one of the greatest outdoor celebrations of New Year’s Eve in the world, taking place across three days and seeing a host of live music and street arts. As the bells strike midnight, join hands with friends from across the globe in the world’s biggest rendition of Auld Lang Syne! Then get ready for the next year of the Edinburgh Festivals.

06 Street Party 04 Chris Watt CAP

Get all the latest news about our festivals at edinburghfestivalcity.com

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