3,314 shows, 25 days, 313 venues, 2-million-plus attendees. Sound like a lot? That’s because it is. The crowds are thick, the weather is unpredictable and the pints are pouring. Fringe is an unforgettable experience, worthy of any bucket list, but requires preparation to prevent a poor travel experience.
1. Use maps, apps and guides. Fringe is chaos, but it is well-organised chaos. There are interactive maps, apps and guides available to make sense of it all. Do not just show up and try to figure it out. Create a loose itinerary for each day and buy tickets ahead of time for the shows you cannot miss.
2. Do not drive. Walk, bike, bus, jog, skulk, tumble, hover. Just do not drive. People swarm into the city during festival season and driving through this fairy tale city is a nightmare. On that note: be careful crossing the road. Read our guide to Edinburgh public transportation.
3. Get orientated. Wandering aimlessly through the city’s charming cobblestone streets is recommended, getting lost, frustrated and in a bickering match with your travel partner is not. Old Town, New Town, West End and Haymarket, Stockbridge, Leith and Portobello (waterfront) and South Edinburgh are the main areas of Edinburgh. Before you start out, pop into the Visit Scotland Information Centre on Princes Street to get a lay of the land. Make sure to keep your venue map (found in the back of the catalogue) close and use it to mark venues.
Pro tip: Certain venues have similar-sounding names. Don’t confuse George Street with George Square; these two places are at least a 20-minute walk away from each other.
4. Start early. Rise and shine at an early hour so that you can snag the tickets you want and explore the city before the crowds come out.
5. Book ahead. Shows sell out fast, so plan your itinerary and book ahead. Explore various genres—sure, everyone has their own tastes, but step outside your comfort zone to get a real feel for the festival. On that note, save time in your itinerary for free shows. Eavesdrop on conversations to pick up a hot tip or ask fellow festival-goers to point you to their favorite experiences.
6. Pack smart. Chance of rain and shine, drizzle and downpour. Bring a bag to put your flyers in, comfortable shoes, a reusable water bottle, waterproof jacket, camera and of course, your Fringe programme.
7. Take a break. To avoid Fringe binge, take a short escape to one of the (free) National Museums of Scotland: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Scottish National Gallery. Or wander off the well-beaten path to Dean Village, Leith, Portobello or Cramond.
8. Chow down. While running from show to show, don’t forget to eat. Edinburgh has a renowned restaurant and café culture and more restaurants per head than any other UK city. To nibble on late-night snacks and sample street food, head to Summerhall or Georges Square. Research Edinburgh restaurants around the venues ahead of time, so that when hunger sneaks up on you, you know where to go and don’t waste precious time at a sub-par restaurant.