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A Definitive Guide to Festivals in Edinburgh

One of the best things about Edinburgh is that no matter what time of year you visit, you can be certain there will be a festival on. Despite this, it can be hard to know what will be happening during your visit and many of these events are not to be missed. That is why we have compiled a list of all the festivals available within a close radius of central Edinburgh throughout the year.
Burn’s Night – 25th January
Burn’s night is the celebration of the life and works of the great Scottish Poet Robert Burn’s and is most often celebrated as a Burn’s supper.
Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival – 3rd to 4th February
An annual event taking place at George Square Lecture Theatre at Edinburgh University, featuring films and lecturers from all around the world.
Lumen Festival – 8th February to 11th March
The Lumen festival is new edition to the capital and involves multiple art installations throughout the city, utilizing immersive light and sound displays in an attempt to brighten up the city in the darker months. In 2018, the main feature was located on The Mound and consisted of over 12,000 lights suspended from a 5-metre-high structure.
Cheese Festival – 11th to 12th February
Hosted at the iconic Corn Exchange, CheeseFest brings together artisan cheese makers from all over the UK. With over 200 Venders and 150 types of cheese at each show, any cheese lover in Edinburgh would be foolish to miss it. Tickets can be purchased online and go from just £3.
https://www.cheesefestuk.com/
Edinburgh’s Festival of Ireland – 16th to 24th March
Celebrating Celtic culture in Edinburgh, this festival runs throughout February with many venues, bars and pubs featuring Irish themed event such as Ceilidhs and traditional Irish music sessions. A full list of events can be found on the Festival of Ireland website -http://www.edinburghsfestivalofireland.org/page3.html
International Harp Festival – 30th March to 4th April
2018 saw the 37th annual Harp festival bringing some of the world’s best harp performers and teachers to the city of Edinburgh. With concerts, classes and seminars, anyone in Edinburgh with an interest in Harps should make sure to check out what’s on.
International Science Festival – 31st March to 15th April
One of Europe’s largest public celebrations of science, this festival brings the wonder of science to the streets of Edinburgh and with over 30 years of experience in creating exiting events, there is something for all ages. Events can be found throughout the entire city but locations such as The National Museum and Dynamic Earth serve as the main locations.
TradFest Edinburgh – 26 April to 6 May 2018
A festival devoted to the heritage and culture of Scotland in particular the living traditions that Scotland is known for. With events throughout the city in music, storytelling, dance, craft, film, folk drama and with ties to Beltane and May Day celebrations, this is a great way to experience real Scottish traditions without straying far from the city centre.
Beltane Fire Festival – 30th April to 1st May
The Beltane Fire Festival on April 30th sees the hill transformed by fire, dancers and acrobatics unlike anything else making for a truly unique Edinburgh experience. The festival first started in 1988 by small group inspired by the ancient Gaelic festival of Beltane which and marked the beginning of summer. The event has now grown into a huge annual event and while originally the festival was free and only lightly stewarded, due to the huge the demand in recent years the event is now ticketed. Tickets for Beltane Fire Festival 2018 go on sale in early February and range from £9 if booked online early and £13 if bought at the gate.
Mental Health Arts Festival – 7th to 27th May
Taking place at venues all throughout Scotland, this festival now in its 12th year is one of Scotland’s most diverse cultural events. Celebrating the artistic achievements of people experiencing mental health issues while promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.
Edinburgh Magic Festival – 11th to 19th May
With over 12,000 visitors last year, the magic festival has been described as “The best magicians in the world, in the world’s most magical city.” Everything from free shows on the street to a world class magic show in the festival theatre, this festival has something for every budget.
Edinburgh Marathon Festival – 26th to 27th May
With 9 Events from Marathon to kid’s kilometre, there is an event for every level of runner, with a course voted the fastest in the UK by Runner’s World this race should be on the list of any running enthusiast. Late entries are open until the 2nd of May and for more information visit https://www.edinburghmarathon.com.
International Children’s Festival – 26th May to 3rd June
Bringing the world’s best theatre for younger audiences to the city of Edinburgh, this festival is great for any young visitors but can be equally entertaining for any attending adults, with a focus on striking visuals which will appeal to all ages.
Leith Festival – 9th to 17th June
An area often left unexplored by visitors, Leith can serve as a nice day trip if you’re looking to explore the outskirts of Edinburgh. The Leith Festival is an annual event held in the port of Leith with events ranging from art, music, theatre, dance and historic tours and gives a great reason to visit the area.
International Film Festival – 20th June to 3rd July
The world’s longest continually-running film festival is a must visit for any film lover or aspiring film maker. With Screenings ranging from small indie films to the Premieres of highest budget Hollywood productions there is a film for everyone. The festival also provides opportunities for those attempting to get into the industry with many internship and job openings for the duration of the festival.
Highland Show – 21st to 24th June
Located on the outskirts of Edinburgh, The Highland Show will this year be celebrating its 178th year in 2018 and has become one of Scotland’s most iconic events. Showcasing some of the best farm foods and showing of the rural side of Scotland, the show is an excellent way to see the rural side of the Scottish livelihood.
Jazz and Blues Festival – 13th to 22nd July
Featuring some of the best jazz and blues musicians in the world, this festival makes for a reason to visit Edinburgh all on its own. With performances in some of Edinburgh’s most beautiful venues, there is no better way to hear your favourite musicians. As well as this, there are many free shows taking place in the Edinburgh gardens and throughout Princes Street.
Rum and Reggae Festival – 21st July
A wonderful way to sample a range of cultures through first class music from all over the world paired with a wide range of Rums. The event takes place at The Edinburgh Corn Exchange which is only a small bus journey away from the centre of town. A great experience for anyone in Edinburgh over the age of 18, tickets are available for booking online.
FuturePlay Festival – 1st to 22nd August
One of the newest festivals on this list started just 2 years ago in 2016 and celebrates the crossover between entertainment and technology. Events throughout the month give visitors the chance to experience new developments in the technology of the entertainment industry such as virtual reality. As it coincides with The Fringe and other goings-on, Futureplay gives you another reason to join the millions of visitors throughout August.
Free Festival 2nd – 26th August
Started in response to the rising costs of putting on a show during The Edinburgh Fringe, this festival sought to make performing in the festival more accessible to newcomers. The Free Festival’s programme of shows has expanded very rapidly since 2004 with all shows operating on free entry and money being made at the end by collection much like buskers
Just Festival – 4th to 27th August
Taking place in the newly refurbished spaces at St John’s Church at the heart of Edinburgh’s city centre. The Just Festival aims to challenge perceptions and celebrate differences through the medium of conversations, talks, exhibitions and performances.
International Festival – 3rd to 27th August
The international festival brings together some of the world’s most unique talents to the beautiful venues city of Edinburgh, featuring music, theatre and dance.
The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – 3rd to 25th August
The Military Tattoo gives you yet another reason to visit the city during August and is one the most iconic events in the Edinburgh calendar. Selling out every year, with an annual audience of around 220,000 the event showcases music, dance and military displays all set to the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe – 3rd to 27th August
The festival to beat all festivals, taking over the entire city of Edinburgh for the month of August, the Edinburgh fringe is infamous throughout the entire world. For the last 70 years, The Fringe has brought hundreds of thousands of visitors and performers, filling every possible venue and lining the streets with some of the most unique characters the world over. The Fringe festival is a must see. However, if you’re looking for a peaceful time to enjoy Edinburgh to yourself August is probably not the month to choose.
A list of available shows for 2018 is available at – https://edinburghfestival.list.co.uk/events/fringe/
Fringe by the Sea – 7th to 13th August
Located at the quint seaside town North Berwick, this festival isn’t directly in the heart of Edinburgh but just a 20-minute train journey away it is one that should not be missed. Fringe by the Sea has everything that the Fringe has just with the added bonus of the sea air.
Edinburgh Book Festival – 11th to 27th August
Every year in August this event brings over 1000 Authors to the city of Edinburgh to celebrate all things to do with the written word. The Festival takes place in a specially made tent village and includes writers of everything from Poetry to comic books.
Art Festival – 26th July to 26th August
If you are interested in art of any kind then Edinburgh always has something to offer no matter what time of year you visit but during the Art Festival there is more on offer than ever, bringing some of the best emerging talent alongside renowned artists of all mediums throughout the whole city of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Mela – 1st to 2nd September
Scotland’s biggest and best festival of world dance brings tradition from all over the world to the Edinburgh Town of Leith. Happening every year in the first weekend of September any one staying in Edinburgh during this time should definitely consider paying a visit to Leith as it is only a 30-minute walk or a short bus journey from the centre of town.
Kilt Walk – 16th September
A great way to raise money for charity and take in the iconic sights of Edinburgh, the kilt walk is an annual charity fundraiser in which thousands of people dawning kilts take to the streets of Edinburgh to complete a sponsored walk.
Blues and Rock Festival – 22nd September
Another great night of music at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange, this festival is all about getting the best local, national & international performers together for one night to make for an amazing experience.
The Dussehra Hindu Festival – 8th October
This festival brings Indian culture to Edinburgh featuring the dramatic climax of two 25ft statues being set alight symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. Starting originally as a simple parade through the streets the festival has grown to be one of the largest free independent festivals in Scotland.
Scottish International Storytelling Festival – 19th to 31st October
Through Performance, workshops, talks and children’s events this festival brings together some of the best story tellers the world over. Scotland has a great tradition of oral storytelling and this festival brings both Scottish and international traditions alive.
Edinburgh Short Film Contest – 27th October to 11th November
A great opportunity for any aspiring filmmaker, this festival gives the chance to have your film screened at some of the most beautiful traditional cinemas in Edinburgh such as The Cameo and The Film house. For those who are not interested in entering tickets are available for all films selected making it a great chance to see upcoming talent.
Edinburgh Diwali – 29th October
Taking place mainly at the Ross Band Stand in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh Diwali can be an excellent chance to enjoy the celebrations of another culture. Featuring performers, singers and a parade, the festival concludes with fireworks. Most often all these events will be free and open to the public.
Christmas Markets – 16th November – 5th January
Throughout the Christmas period, Princes Street Gardens are transformed into a winter wonderland. With stalls selling anything from freshly made traditional German food to home-brewed moonshine. As well as markets, the gardens are filled with amusements and rides in particular the Star Flyer which sits next to The Walter Scott Monument and at 200ft high is a very alternative way to get a view over the city. Other than during The Fringe, this is Edinburgh’s busiest time so it’s best to visit the markets during weekdays.
Edinburgh Hogmanay – 30th December – 1St January
Edinburgh Hogmanay is often voted the best way to spend your New Years, beginning on the 30th of December with the Torch light procession and ending with the incredible experience of the street party after you’ve experienced Edinburgh’s Hogmanay you will realise why it is considered the best in the world.
Hopefully this has given you an idea of the range of festivals available all throughout the year and provided you with yet another reason to visit the beautifully unique city of Edinburgh.
If you have any further questions about the festivals mentioned above or need accommodation during you’re visit feel free to contact us any time.