70 hours at the Edinburgh Festivals 2017

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This summer we've been marking the 70th anniversary of Edinburgh's festivals tradition, and as we head into the final weekend of August, there's still loads to enjoy across 5 different festivals. So in the 70th year of the festivals, here's our guide to spending 70 hours in the festival city this weekend! 

We're going to assume that you're already here but, if not, you can always start planning for next year! Obviously almost everything that follows is subject to ticket availability, but don't worry, if a show is full there's plenty else to choose from at this time of year.

Saturday 26 August - around 1am 

Yes, it's an odd time to start our 70 hour stint, but time is running out for August and we're up against a deadline here. So we'll assume you've been out on Friday night already and it was a late one, from which you're now wandering happily back to your accommodation. 

Sleep well - you've a big few days ahead of you! 

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Saturday 26 August - around 9am 


Don't you just hate alarm clocks? Although possibly not when they're waking you up for a day full of festival fun. But still, just another 10 minutes...? Go on then. 

Once you've risen, you'll first want to build up your strength with a hearty breakfast at one of the city's many great cafes. Better? Good. 

We'll start the day by making our way down to Newington and the Queen's Hall for a chance to savour the music of Joshua Bell. One of the Edinburgh International Festival's Artists in Residence, Bell is playing his third and final concert of this year's International Festival with cellist Steven Isserlis and pianist Dénes Várjon, starting at 11am. 

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Saturday 26 August - around 1pm 

When you emerge, inspired and exuberant, take the short walk round to George Square, where there are plenty of opportunities for lunch and a bit of people watching, plus two of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's major venues, Underbelly and Assembly. You'll also see approximately 50 million posters for Fringe shows, so note down a few promising options. 

After lunch head up to the Talbot Rice Gallery and the nearby National Museum of Scotland for a relaxing early afternoon pondering the work of artists Steven Sutcliffe, Jacob Kerray and Sue Jane Taylor, all as part of Edinburgh Art Festival

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Saturday 26 August - around 3pm 

Time to move on now and, exiting the museum, head north up George IV Bridge, making sure to pay homage as you pass the Elephant House cafe, famously the site where JK Rowling wrote some of her early chapters in the life and exploits of Harry Potter

With other literary patrons including Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith, it's a nice reminder that this was the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, helped in no small part by the success of Edinburgh International Book Festival of course! You'll be going there on Sunday, by the way. 

Leaving the young wizard's birthplace behind for now, it's magic of another kind that you're heading towards, as you reach the Royal Mile and turn downhill into the wonderfully chaotic High Street, packed from end to end with Fringe-goers and street performers. 

Stop for a bit to enjoy the man juggling swords atop an unsupported moving ladder and take the opportunity to watch some of the short excerpts of shows presented to persuade potential audience members. There's also usually a good chance to meet people advocating their own or someone else's shows, often starting soon and not far from where you're standing. 

Adding what you learn here to your previous notes, simply plunge in and go and see a show or two on the Fringe. We'll not suggest what to see because there's just far too much happening.

Whatever you choose - and there's a wide range at the Fringe, with comedy and theatre of course, but also music, cabaret, circus performances, opera, and much more - you'll be taking part in the biggest arts festival anywhere in the world, and that has a pretty impressive ring to it we think. 

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Saturday 26 August - around 8pm 

Make sure to get something to eat (it's very easy to forget) and if you're stuck make use of our guides to culinary establishments of all sorts, from posh nosh to family friendly bites. 

Do stay in the Old Town area though, because shortly before 10pm, it's time to be at the top of the Royal Mile, heading for Edinburgh Castle where the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is all set for its final performance of 2017. 

Hopefully you already have your tickets, because the Tattoo is (at the time of writing) completely sold out, for the 19th year in a row. There's always a small possibility of resale tickets becoming available though, so it's worth contacting them just in case. 

And as you take your seat in the grandstands looking onto the castle esplanade you're in for a treat, with the always-spectacular show thrilling crowds one last time this August. 

An hour and three quarters later, you'll have witnessed precision drill, enthralling dancing, powerful traditional music and some extra special fireworks. And now you should get to bed - it's past midnight! 

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Sunday 27 August - around 9am 

Zzzzz........ oh! You must have slept through your alarm - understandable though, given the previous day's busy schedule. All set for another one? Good. 

Combine your first festival of the day with breakfast, by heading to Charlotte Square Garden in Edinburgh's New Town, the home of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Enjoy a coffee and a cake in the tranquil surroundings of the gardens, look out for a famous author or two strolling by, and when you're ready, go and see one discuss their work. Or even two if you have time. 

Sunday morning offers a wide range of author events to choose from, including Claire Fuller & Katie Kitamura, Stuart McHardy, Steve Smith, Madeleine Bunting and Richard Beard. You can learn about Scotland's landscape and its future, Europe's past, tales of missing spouses and memories of childhood. Food for thought. 

Food of a more corporeal nature next though, and why not just keep it simple with a sandwich and a seat in Princes Street Gardens, with a great view up to the castle and the Tattoo stands, which you helped pack out last night and which will now be dismantled and stored until next year. 

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Sunday 27 August - around 2pm 

Once fed, wander through the Gardens and emerge at the foot of the Mound where the Scottish National Gallery awaits. There you'll find two more exhibitions in partnership with Edinburgh Art Festival, celebrating the work of three greats - Caravaggio (and his followers) features in the first exhibition of its kind in Scotland, while masterpieces by John Constable and William McTaggart are exhibited in dialogue together. 

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Sunday 27 August - around 5pm 

Depending on the time you might be able to squeeze in a quick Fringe show before a slightly early dinner, but then it's off to the Festival Theatre at 7pm, where Edinburgh International Festival presents the great opera, La Bohème

Puccini's magnificent and heartbreaking love story, in a production from Teatro Regio Torino, is sure to leave you breathless by the time it ends at about half past nine and you may well just want to head back for a rest before tomorrow's final fling.

If you're feeling energetic though, there's always George Square again, or just a little further south Summerhall, for a drink and yet another Fringe show! 

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Monday 28 August - around 9am 

No alarm set today because... why not?

It's the August's last festivals day, and yours too funnily enough, and while there's loads still to enjoy, there's no particular need to rush. Time to relax and enjoy the finalé.

Start off with a bit more from Edinburgh Art Festival - officially, the festival finished the previous day, but many of its partner exhibitions will run on for a while, including the Edinburgh Alphabet at the City Art Centre, a fascinating A-Z of the Scottish capital, created with objects taken from across the collections of Museums and Galleries Scotland. 

Right across the road in the Fruitmarket Gallery there's another exhibition, from Brazilian artist Jac Leirner, who takes the everyday and mundane and through repetition and careful arrangement transforms it into strangely beautiful pieces of sculpture. 

The Fruitmarket also has a lovely cafe in which to have an earlyish lunch and then it's time to cross the road again, take the beautifully marbled Scotsman Steps (themselves a permanent exhibition commissioned by the Fruitmarket and Edinburgh Art Festival some years ago) back up for one more swing at the High Street and some Fringe Roulette! 

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Monday 28 August - around 1pm 

Fringe Roulette? The idea is simple - take a stroll up the famous cobbled street until someone tries to persuade you to see their show. If it's starting in the next 20 minutes and isn't too far away, you go and see it. No matter what kind of show it is. No matter what it's about. No matter whether you actually want to or not. 

It's time, as Abba might have said, to take a chance! 

Hopefully you picked a real winner but, either way, you braved the random hand of fate and ended up with a story to tell if nothing else. Ok, now do it again. But only if you want to. 

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Monday 28 August - around 4pm 

Once you're done stepping into the unknown, it's time for a bit more certainty as we make one more trip to Charlotte Square for some more fun at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

Again, there's lots to choose from, including a discussion on the history of the British Census with Roger Hutchinson and Des McNulty, a look at the creation and development of Green Belts with John Grindrod, a chance to enjoy afternoon tea with Meik Wiking and the contrasting adventures of authors Anna Cholawo and Nell Stevens whose retreats to islands had rather different outcomes. 

Having caught one or two last Book Festival events, you might want to treat yourself to a special final evening dinner, before heading back to Princes Street Gardens for an illuminating and inspiring closing act. 

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Monday 28 August - around 9pm 

We've nearly reached the end of our 70 hours in the Festival City, and how else would you end it than with the tradition end-of-August fireworks? 

The Virgin Money Fireworks as they're officially known, have closed the Edinburgh International Festival for years, and this year the Scottish Chamber Orchestra is joined by Scottish singer Karen Matheson in a special 20 minute addition to the programme arranged by her former Capercaillie colleague, Donald Shaw. 

The SCO will then round August off for another year in their own wonderful way, performing music by Sir James MacMillan, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Tchaikovsky, as over 400,000 fireworks launched from Edinburgh Castle burst above the assembled crowds below. 

And so, the 70th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes to a close, and our 70 hour festival feast ends on a real high...

...but wait, there's more! 

August may be over but in this city, there are festivals year-round - so after a bit of a break to catch our breath, it'll be time for October's Scottish International Storytelling Festival and December's world-famous new year celebration, Edinburgh's Hogmanay

The weather may be slightly chillier then (or it might not), but who cares? You'll find a warm welcome whenever you come to Edinburgh - the world's leading festival city.

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