Edinburgh Festival Tips

Edinburgh festival tips

Every August, Edinburgh comes alive with drink, dancing and 1 billion flyers promoting what seems like thousands of shows. Looking for Edinburgh festival tips? You are in the right place!

  1. Don’t be a sheep. Search out the unusual venues to drink and party in. Summerhall has an ace bar, Pickering’s Gin, it’s a beautiful building and they have great non-luvie shows.
  2. Try to learn the Scottish language: Driech is what we call our weather, saut is salt (we eat a lot of it on everything) bahookie is what I want to kick you up, boak is what you do at 3 am, and dinnae fash yersel is what you might hear under someone’s breath if you stop right in front of them in the street.
  3. It’s Princes Street, not Princess Street. Coh-burn Street not Cock-burn Street. The Castle is right there – just look up and you will see it straight away. You really can’t miss it. Remember never to ask a local where the Castle is or be prepared for a strongly worded response.
  4. Don’t forget to get away from it all once in a while: The Meadows are a great place to grab a couple of drinks and a bbq and get away from the madding crowds drinking on Astroturf elsewhere. However, if the sun is shining, you will find the crowds will follow you there. Watch out for the drum playing Gorilla, he’s my favourite.
  5. Don’t be scared to get on a bus (or a tram!) they are regular and generally pretty reliable. We say thank you to our drivers here. Visit the beach and the Turkish Baths at Portobello (no.26). Visit Cramond and it’s Island (no.41). Visit Leith (no.22). There is much more to Edinburgh than George Street or the Pleasance if you get out and explore. It costs £1.60 for any journey so it’s cheap too.
  6. Try haggis, but in a burrito. Try Los Cardos on Leith Walk. Eat a lot of soup from Union of Genius on Forest Road. There are lots more Edinburgh restaurants better than a £5 hot dog.
  7. Try proper Scottish beer. Have a look at my guide to Craft Beer and Real Ale. Look out for Harviestoun Brewery, Inveralmond Brewery, Orkney Brewery and Innis and Gunn. Try the Bow Bar, the Blue Blazer, Cloisters, Holyrood 9a, Cask and Barrel (Southside) or the Stockbridge Tap. There are lots of quirky bars to try if you aren’t too scared to stick your head around the door…
  8. Things to have on you at all times: sunglasses, sun cream, an umbrella, a hat, a raincoat, wellies, ear muffs and a weather app. The weather here is more unpredictable than any country that suffers from a monsoon, that is why we have our own name for it (see no. 2)
  9. You can watch the fireworks from the Castle from all over the city, especially Arthur’s Seat and Bruntsfield Links or Castle Terrace. For free. The best fireworks are on the last Sunday of the festival, take a radio and a blanket to the Bruntsfield Links and you don’t need to brave the crowds on Princes Street.
  10. Forget trying to get a taxi. Just forget it. There aren’t enough for the rest of the year let alone an extra million people. Take flat shoes if you are going out and be prepared to walk home. Remember the bars are open til 3 am and the clubs until 5 am, we don’t get this the rest of the year, despite the well-known Scots love of the drink. In my opinion, as a local – the only way to survive the Festival is to not remember a thing during August.

Add your Edinburgh festival tips below!

Love, from Scotland x

Cover photo by Marketing Edinburgh


  • Colin 09/08/2012 at 10:48 am

    Nice list, though Los Cardos is on Leith Walk, not Easter Road, and how can you list Scottish Craft brewers and bars, and miss off Brewdog?

    Also, I live in Leith, and when you come out of a show at midnight, a Taxi’s your only option *, but I’ve never had to wait long for one.

    * Yes I know there’s a night bus, but when there’s two of you you have the choice of waiting for an age to pay £7 for a slow bus, or a (nearly) immediate cab costing a fraction more.

    • smidge 09/08/2012 at 10:51 am

      Thanks, ill edit that about Los cardos – oops!

      I’m not a fan of brewdog in general, but I know a lot of people are!

  • plord 09/08/2012 at 11:24 am

    Calton hill with a picnic, worth the climb. most venues a stroll away.

  • merlinmacdonald 09/08/2012 at 11:37 am

    How about Arthur’s Seat at any time of the day? Night is particularly cool at the mo due to the Speed of Light art project in the dark. Or the Turkish baths at Portobello?

    Oh and I’m with you on Brewdog – style and smugness over content.

  • Kasia 09/08/2012 at 12:25 pm

    I just hope it won’t get crowded in Summerhall after your post cause we will be taking a visitor there next week 🙂 It’s fab, we’ve been there twice. They have a number of Polish shows on but the one we saw wasn’t really all that great – can’t imagine it could thrill Scottish audience anyway (but we had free tickets so not complaining).

    Royal Botanic Garden? Water of Leith Walkway? Scott Monument for just £3? National Museum of Scotland and National Galleries of Scotland for free?

  • Helen 10/08/2012 at 2:01 pm

    Aww I miss Edinburgh!!!!

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