From burlesque to fancy dress, politics to freaky tricks, laughs to an upside-down full-grown purple calf. What do all of these mean combined? It’s the Edinburgh Festival Fringe time! Here is your Edinburgh Festival Fringe Guide.
For three weeks in August (Edinburgh Festival Fringe dates for 2020 Fri, 7 Aug 2020 – Mon, 31 Aug 2020), you have never seen Scotland’s capital so alive. It is the ultimate time of year to visit Edinburgh. Come rain or shine * insert joke about Scotland’s weather here* you are guaranteed to laugh, cry, cringe and gasp and that’s just over your hangover (thanks to Edinburgh City Council’s extended drinking hours!) But jokes and rhymes aside, I’m excited to share my years of experience and teach you how to do the Edinburgh Fringe, like a local, in this quick guide.
» Don’t miss our guide to 70 things to do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Guide 2020
Planning Your Fringe Visit
What do you want to see?! Comedy, plays, musicals, puppet shows, live radio, cabaret, a single girl telling you how bad her life is through Beyoncé songs?
With over 3000 acts, Edfringe has it all! A good starting point is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The official site has an extensive catalogue of events.
For the latest updates, follow Edfringe on Twitter.
Remember to add #EdFringe #MakeYourFringe if you want to share.
You can also download the Edinburgh Fringe app to help you plan your calendar. On the app, you can research events by date and time and purchase tickets.
There is also an Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme brochure which is published around June and found in shops in the city
Most of the Scottish newspapers will provide Edinburgh Festival Fringe reviews and suggest the best shows to see this summer.
Finally, just check out the walls. No space is safe during the Edinburg Fringe! PRs selling shows will greet you (whether you like it or not) on the Royal Mile as you attempt to battle your way through the crowds. The amount of waste during the Fringe really does get me down.
So it’s all on One Cobbled Street, Right?
Wrong! The Fringe is actually pretty spread out and boasts of nearly 300 venues so you need to know your Pleasance from your Underbelly!
Edinburgh Fringe Venues
1. George Street – Plush shops and upmarket clubs
Amongst other venues you will find the Assembly Rooms (54 George St, Assembly has many venues, most around George Square), this is where I saw Christian Slater in his boxer shorts during One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. BABE
2. The Mound – That big hill near The Castle
Assembly Halls (yes another, don’t mix these up.) I endured Jim Jeffries cutting set here – don’t go with your Mum!
3. The Royal Mile – The street you see on the telly
One mile of free shows and acts, a good starting point.
4. The Grassmarket – Touristy pubs, usually hens and stags
Every nook and cranny of Edinburgh’s Grassmarket is consumed by the Fringe.
5. George Square Gardens – Assembly Takeover!
One of my favourite areas to grab a drink and a bite to eat. The Spiegeltent is probably the most gorgeous pop-up venue known.
6. BBC – The national news channel
I was in the right place (their music tent) and the right time (about 20:30) and managed to bag free tickets to a show here. I was annoying and tried to heckle. 2019 venue: George Heriot’s School, EH3 9EQ.
7. Udderbelly – Giant purple cow on its back + more
Underbelly who brings you the Udderbelly (confusing) is one of the largest companies hosting shows at the Festival Fringe. Underbelly venues can be found at George Square, Circus Hub on The Meadows, Underbelly Bistro Square and the original Cowgate site.
8. The Pleasance – Pretty and relaxed area
I’ve seen quite a few small cringe-worthy shows here but also some extremely funny ones.
There are bars at every venue, naturally, it is Scotland after all.
If you have time in Scotland, I suggest looking into the North Coast 500 in the Highlands of Scotland. It starts at Inverness the goes all around the coast, taking in turquoise sea beaches with white sand (like the Maldives minus the sun!) by castles and distilleries.
» Like comedy? Check our Aberdeen’s Comedy Festival too
Cheap Seats for Edinburgh’s Fringe
Those on a budget can still enjoy the Fringe. Here are a couple of options for cheap Edinburgh Festival Fringe tickets
- Take a stroll down the Royal Mile and watch the free performers or see snippets of shows which aim to advertise.
- There are hundreds of Edinburgh Festival Fringe free shows dotted around the city. Just hit ‘filtered results’, select ‘special pricing’ option then tick free here. It is expected that you pay the show’s worth at the end of the performance.
- Arrive at the start of the programme to enjoy the 2-4-1 cheap seats as the acts warm up.
- For thrifty Edinburgh Festival Fringe deals, head over to the Virgin Money Half Price Hut to see if any shows need bums on seats. Tickets must be paid for in person.
- Work in Edinburgh! There are a variety of Edinburgh Festival Fringe jobs
» Escape the city! Here are Edinburgh’s best day trips
Don’t Plan for The Fringe!
Craig hates planning. It has been known for me to take a bottle of contraband along to the Fringe and just soak up the atmosphere. Let’s face it, you can’t plan for every day when you follow the Fringe Junky philosophy of wake up – Fringe – sleep – wake up – Fringe – sleep and repeat. Some of the best shows I’ve seen, such as Baby Wants Candy, were watched on a whim.
Plonk yourself down and celeb spot! A couple of years ago I was stoked to meet the Scottish comedian Danny Bhoy but that was knocked off the top spot after spotting The Big Yin himself, Billy Connelly, sauntering past with his hair bouncing behind him.
Check out this 90-second video on Edinburgh Festivals.
2020 Fringe Recommendations/ ’19 Faves
- Cruel Intentions, The 90s Musical – best show I’ve seen at the Fringe. Ever.
- Ashley Storrie – The comedian from the Scottish Harry Potter viral video fame. Crude language alert.
- Janey Godley – Ashely’s maw. Does the political voiceover videos and stood with a ‘Trump is a c***’ sign when he visited his hotel.
- Silent Adventures Disco Tour – I’ve done this twice. Tickets booked for this year already.
- Showhawk Duo – Managed to catch their free show on the Royal Mile last year.
- Baby Wants Candy – Improv show recommended by me too, seen it three times.
- Game of Thrones Musical – brilliant, will need to go to see their ending.
Our social media followers recommend:
- Stuart McPherson – Stand up.
- Reginald D. Hunter – Comedian – we saw him in Aberdeen.
- Ivy Paige – Singer.
- Adam Rowe – Comedian. Joke of the year 2018.
- Foil, Arms and Hog – So many recommendations.
- Eddie Izzard – Expectations of Great Expectations.
- The Magnets – Naked 90s, a cappella, 90s, ‘nut said.
- Danny Macaskill – Famous Scottish cyclist’s Drop and Roll Live Show.
- Ray Bradshaw – Deaf comedy Fam. Watched a YouTube video, hilarious.
→ What do you recommend?
Did you know that the Fringe is not the only Edinburgh festival in August?
Edinburgh Fringe Festival accommodation is expensive and in high demand. We’ve created a guide on the best places to stay in Edinburgh so read that before booking.
- Hotels in Edinburgh during the Edinburgh Festival start at approx. £95 and reach the highs of £550 per night.
- Hostels are cheaper at £18 – £50 for a dorm bed (there is often a minimum stay).
- Airbnb is also an option with an entire property averaging at £215 and private room, £81. Accommodation books up fast so get in quick.
- Remember to sign up to Airbnb using this code and you’ll get money off your first booking and we get credit in return, thank you!
- An alternative option is to search Edinburgh Festival Fringe University Accommodation by clicking here.
» Into affordable fine dining on a budget? Here’s our guide to 3 courses under £30
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Edinburgh Fringe dates?
Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019 takes place from Friday, 2 Aug 2019 – Monday, 26 Aug 2019.
2. Can I avoid staying in Edinburgh?
Yes, and many locals actually do the same! Check out the commuter towns of Dunfermline and Inverkeithing in Fife, the seaside town of North Berwick and even Leith just outside of the city centre.
3. How busy does the Fringe get?
We’re talking Rome’s Vatican in July or Iceland’s Golden Circle June-August. The Old Town is jumping during the Fringe. Some love it, others hate it. Any shows you really want to see are best booked in advance. Expect to wait in line for free shows, especially at the weekend.
4. Is there a Fringe App?
Yes! This will help immensely with your planning too so well worth a download.
5. Where is the Edinburgh Fringe Box Office?
The official box office is at 180 High Street. However, different venues have their own box offices too. These are found at the venue location. There are also a variety of pop-up box offices too around the city.
So to conclude this guide on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe – plan or don’t plan but take a brolly!
One of the highlights of the three weeks, for me, are the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comedy shows.
I always enjoy reading the Edinburgh Festival Fringe best jokes (voted by Dave, TV channel) once the Festival closes – 2019’s #1 is…
“I keep randomly shouting out ‘broccoli’ and ‘cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets.” – Olaf Falafel
If you really enjoyed your time at the Fringe, why not return for our Edinburgh International Book Festival. I had the privilege of listening to Malala Yousafzai speak about her new book at this book festival. Oh and don’t forget to check out the best bars in Edinburgh.
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» Read next: the essential Scotland travel guide