What makes Edinburgh the world’s leading festival city?

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With 11 major festivals taking place throughout the year, the festivals are an inescapable part of Edinburgh's identity. Here, we take a look at what makes ours the world's leading festival city...


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The festivals are international - each year, they feature performers, artists, thinkers and speakers from over 70 countries. For the Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2017, the programme included tales from every continent, bringing the world to Edinburgh and providing a platform for international artists. This global spirit was the founding idea behind the first Edinburgh International Festival in 1947, which brought performers from across the globe together again following conflict.

At The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, military bands from the United Kingdom are joined by performers and musicians from across the globe to create an incredible spectacle, with Japan, New Zealand and India just a few of the countries represented in recent years.


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Edinburgh’s Festivals have always been, and continue to be, pioneers. It was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe which saw the development of the world’s first ever publicly demonstrated and commercially available mobile phone app.

In 1989, Edinburgh founded the world’s first Science Festival, particularly appropriate given the city’s great scientific history – Dolly the Sheep and Penicillin were both born here! Within the world of cinema, the Edinburgh International Film Festival champions fresh British talent, having presented premieres of formative films by Bill Forsyth, Danny Boyle and Stephen Frears, among many others.


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With 11 festivals throughout the year, each offering amazing events and experiences, Edinburgh has a festival for everyone! In 1990 a dedicated children’s festival, now called the Edinburgh International Children’s Festival, was founded to bring a programme of world-class theatrical performances to the city specifically for children, young people, their families, parents and carers.

For committed revellers, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is the ultimate New Year’s Eve experience, with over 75,000 people enjoying the three-day festivities, which include the world-famous Street Party on Princes Street and the Torchlight Procession through the heart of the Old Town!


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The festivals transform the city every year – from medieval closes to the Georgian grandeur of the New Town, Edinburgh is the stage. The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival brings the flavour of Mardi Gras to the streets of Edinburgh every summer, animating the city’s historic Grassmarket with a huge outdoor carnival.

For two weeks in August, the Edinburgh International Book Festival’s pop up tents take over Charlotte Square Gardens; the only opportunity throughout the year that members of the public have to enter the square. Forming permanent features of the city, Edinburgh Art Festival’s commissions are located around Edinburgh, seen and used every day by thousands of visitors and local people.

...And if all of that hasn't convinced you, get planning a trip to one (or more!) of Edinburgh's festivals in 2018 to discover the world's leading festival city for yourself!

Image credits:

  • Carlton Hill (Marketing Edinburgh)
  • Indian Dancers (The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo)
  • A Conversation With Peter Higgs (Ali Wright)
  • Children’s Festival Launch (Kat Gollock)
  • Charlotte Square Gardens (Robin Mair)

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