The Sunshine Survival Guide to the Edinburgh Festival

Fringe Hero

Unless you’ve been living in a remote cave somewhere in the wilderness (and even then, you probably still get 4G), you’ve probably heard of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Every August, the Scottish capital doubles in size – yes, DOUBLES! – as it plays host to the world’s largest arts festival for three weeks. Locals and visitors alike are treated to a plethora of performances and events (3,548 in 2018) across multiple venues (more than 250 this year). It is, to put it mildly, quite the event.

Being a local in Edinburgh during this time has its drawbacks; increased commuting time, difficulty getting a table in your favourite brunch spot, escalated hotel prices for visiting relatives and friends, and just the general stress of half a million people descending on your city all at once. But it also offers many advantages, namely having an event that people travel across the world to attend right on your doorstep! Not to mention the late LATE licence that many bars and clubs have for the duration (no, seriously, let’s not mention that…)

Our years of experience navigating the pros and cons of this annual fun-fest have made Team Sunshine bona fide festival survival experts! From keeping your cool in the crowds to where to find the best coffee in the city, here are our top tips to help locals and visitors alike enjoy the festival month to the max. See you at the Underbelly!

All bus, no fuss

Edinburgh buses are the envy of other Scottish cities for good reason. They are frequent, reliable, clean and cheap and certainly the most eco-friendly option after walking. They even take contactless payments now, so no more having to dig about in your pockets for that elusive 5p! Download the Lothian Buses app for real-time timetable updates, maps and routes, and to really feel like a local, remember to thank the driver on your way out. It’ll give you a wee glow inside and let’s face it, it’s just good manners. We know your mum would approve.

Timing is everything

Edinburgh runs on ‘festival time’ during August, which basically means everything takes at least an extra half hour than it usually would. Leave yourself plenty of time to get everywhere, whether you’re going to a late-night show or just heading to work in the morning, because it WILL take longer than usual. Trust us.

Remember the big picture

"When ambling tourists are annoying you/ in your way/ getting all up in your grill and it takes 1.5 hours to get home from work, just take a deep breath and remember that we are so lucky to have this insanely awesome cultural festival right on our door step. Embrace the madness as people travel across the world for the Fringe and it's a 20 min walk for us. Also, drink Berocca every night before going to bed to help the throat from all the singing, dancing and late-night parties!" – Jenny

Leave nothing to chance

"If, like me, you’re the sort of person who wants to enjoy the festivities but is easily overwhelmed by large crowds or too much choice (basically the tagline of the Fringe), be prepared and plan ahead. That way, you can actually look forward to the shows and soak up some of the atmosphere without the pressure of choosing something on the spur of the moment, which is always impossible!" – Emma

Get appy!

"The Fringe app is brilliant, it has a ‘near you’ feature which shows you what’s on within a certain radius of you at any given time, so you can either catch something on the hop or find your way to that venue you’ve been looking for." – William

Get a new perspective

"If you’re looking for a tour of Edinburgh with a difference, my pal Sonny does these tours, which are awesome and you see a different side to the city." – Ben

Save the pennies!

"City cafe has loads of free shows that have all been pretty good whenever I've been. Also, the half price hut on Princes St is good if you aren't sure what you want to see and want cheaper tickets!" – Annabelle

Bonus round: bars and bites

"Escape the city centre and jump on the bus to the Shore, where it’s a bit less crowded. I like Teuchter’s Landing for a pint, Williams & Johnston for a coffee, or Toast for a glass of wine. There’s also a cute market every Saturday." – Emma

"Paradise Palms and Boteco Do Brazil do good drinks and veggie food, and they also have a few shows on." –Annabelle

"Cairngorm Coffee is the best in Edinburgh, Oink (on the Royal Mile or Victoria Street) is great for good scran, Ox184 is open till 3am every night and has great beer – right in the Cowgate too – and Storries 24-hour bakery on Leith walk is an absolute god send after a 5am'er."
– Ben

So, there you have it, our ultimate guide to Edinburgh in August. Keep an eye on our Instagram for some of our personal show recommendations over the next couple of weeks. Now, go forth and festival! (Oh, and drink responsibly…ish.)

Emma Fraser Photograph

Emma Fraser