10 Edinburgh Spots You Won't Want To Miss This August

A montage of six photos showing: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile packed with Fringe crowds, Summerhall, the Shore in Leith, people sitting in the sun in Charlotte Square, a beautiful view across Edinburgh taken from Calton Hill

Edinburgh transforms during August, with its population doubling and pop-up bars and venues filling almost every spare space.

You can't separate the city from its amazing festivals - so use the festivals to explore the Scottish capital in a unique way.

1. The Royal Mile

A photo of the Royal Mile packed with Fringe crowds
A stately thoroughfare most of the year, Edinburgh's most famous street becomes an unparalleled outdoor festival venue in August, thanks to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Allow yourself plenty of time to wander, and at points squeeze your way, from Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Mile down to the Scottish Parliament at its foot.

The street is full of stages and performance areas where festival participants amaze and amuse the crowds, while hundreds offer flyer after flyer after flyer for their own must-see shows - see how many different ones you can collect as you go!

2. New Town

A photo of people sitting in the sun in Charlotte Square at the Edinburgh International Book Festival
The bright colours of August are a contrasting yet complementary addition to the refined beauty of the Georgian New Town, an area is defined by two major festival hubs at either end of George Street.

To the east lies St Andrew Square, home to numerous Fringe events, while just 900 yards to the west is Charlotte Square Gardens, a lovely leafy quadrangle entirely taken over for two weeks by the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

It's a stunning part of town, and one you'll definitely want to visit more than once.

3. Edinburgh Castle

A photo of Edinburgh Castle high on Castle Rock under a blue sky
Another Edinburgh icon, Edinburgh Castle is open for business as usual throughout August, but its Esplanade is another story. Those huge stands built each year are there for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a military extravaganza enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of audience members every year, and millions more worldwide on television.

The Castle also stars in the Edinburgh International Festival’s Virgin Money Fireworks Concert, with breathtaking pyrotechnics exploding from its walls and streaming down its sides, all choreographed to a live orchestral performance.

4. Royal Botanic Garden

A photo of Inverleith House in the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh
An oasis for lovers of botany or simply lush green spots, Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is a beautiful open space just past Stockbridge in the north of the city, offering amazing views of the capital's skyline from Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags across the New and Old Towns to the castle and beyond.

During the festivals, Inverleith House in the heart of the garden hosts Edinburgh Art Festival exhibitions, and there are often Fringe performances outside, giving you the perfect excuse to enjoy a leisurely picnic in the summer sunshine.

5. Scottish National Gallery

A photo og the Scottish National Gallery building, taken from the Playfair Steps
In the centre of Edinburgh, the Scottish National Gallery is probably one of the first buildings you will see when you arrive.

A major year-round tourist destination, during August the Gallery complements its impressive permanent collection with exhibitions that form part of Edinburgh Art Festival's programme.

These visiting collections consistently feature major artists and works of great historical and cultural importance, headline acts of the UK’s largest visual arts festival.

6. Leith

A photo of the Shore in Leith, with the Water of Leith and buildings opposite the camera
At the end of the Water of Leith – a wonderful walk from the West End of the city if you can spare the 45 minutes or so it should take – lies Edinburgh’s port district of Leith.

It's a lively, busy area that has filled rapidly in the last decade with Michelin starred restaurants and delightful cocktail bars (many of which will probably end up as Fringe venues at some point), while still being home to some of Scotland’s most authentic pubs.

Enjoy some calm time in a cosy corner before walking (or bussing) back up the hill to the city centre.

7. Summerhall

A photo of arts venue, Summerhall
One of Edinburgh’s most exciting new arts centres, Summerhall is the repurposed, revived and revitalised home of the old Veterinary School of the University of Edinburgh, a spooky complex of rooms that retain much of the character their previous life gave them.

With a wonderful courtyard for eating and drinking at any time of the day and both Edinburgh Art Festival and Fringe events on during August, time at Summerhall lets you dive into Edinburgh’s history, while enjoying its current cultural scene, and getting a feel for where it’s heading in the future.

8. Arthur’s Seat

A photo of Edinburgh taken from Arthur's Seat, with Salisbury Crags on the right of the frame
Climbing Arthur’s Seat, the ancient, and thankfully extinct, volcano on the eastern side of Edinburgh, offers incredible views over the city - and throughout the day you can usually see the indistinct figures of visitors and locals scaling the peak to enjoy them.

Don't be put off by the altitude, it’s a surprisingly easy and short walk to complete, and if you’re confident enough on your feet to do it in the evening (please be careful!), the sight of the Tattoo's nightly fireworks over the Castle is spectacular.

Plus, as with just about everywhere in the Scottish capital, the famous old hill has quite often become a Fringe venue in its own right!

9. Usher Hall

Usher Hall night 375x375
The Usher Hall is one of the most beautiful of Edinburgh’s older concert venues, an impressive domed structure which is unmissable in views over the city.

During August the energy at this venue is unstoppable, as it becomes a key location for the Edinburgh International Festival, its 2000+ seats filling over and over again throughout the month with audiences eager to hear from the world’s best musicians.

Attending one of these once-in-a-lifetime concerts is the perfect way to not only make the most of the festivals, but also to get up close and personal with one of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings.

10. Calton Hill

A photo showing a beautiful view across Edinburgh taken from Calton Hill
Finally, to one of the most famous and iconic views of Edinburgh, atop Calton Hill in the east end of the city.

Not content with offering a fantastic vantage point though, Calton Hill is also the home of the Collective Gallery, one of the key venues of Edinburgh Art Festival.

The short (although quite steep) climb is well worth it because as well as visiting Collective you can see the Scottish National Monument, the Dugald Stewart Monument (pictured) and the Nelson Monument. Plus it's a wonderful spot to retreat from the hubbub of the summer crowds, catch your breath and then head back down for more festivals fun!

News item email signup thumb 4

Want news and features about Edinburgh's major festivals delivered straight to your inbox? 
Sign up for our regular enewsletters!

Share this article

Jump to sign up form

Keep Up to Date

Sign up for Festival Updates
Back to top ↑