A guide to the 11 major Edinburgh Festivals in 2023
Updated: 9th December 2022
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Edinburgh is a stunning city and is by far my favourite in the UK. Between its history, the warmth of the Scottish people, the grand architecture and the ever-increasing creative scene it’s a true rival to London for your UK visit.
Whilst most people know about Edinburgh Fringe Festival there are actually 11 unique festivals that take place throughout the year so, if you are planning a visit to Edinburgh try and time your trip to catch one.
1. Edinburgh International Science Festival
1st APRIL – 16th APRIL 2023
The annual calendar kicks off with one of the largest Science Festivals in Europe, which has workshops, performances, screenings and exhibitions for all ages. Whether you want to keep the kids entertained, are a technical buff or just want to learn about cutting-edge technologies this two-week event is a great place to do so.
This year they will also be running GastroFest, a foodie festival which focuses on the link between food and science and includes cocktail making classes and some unique dining experiences.
2. Edinburgh International Childrens Festival
27TH MAY – 4JUN MAY 2023
The great thing about Edinburgh Festivals calendar is it really caters for all ages and interests in the arts. Geared up especially for children and young people this event showcases talent from around the world. Theatre, Dance and Music are all represented so if you have a child with an interest in the arts this is a must do.
3. Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival
14TH – 23TH JULY 2023
If you have an ear for those smooth sounds of Jazz then grab yourself a ticket to this July event. From rock through to Samba and soul and with many free open air concerts (weather allowing) you can hear both old and respected talent and newcomers at over 150 different gigs throughout the city.
4. Edinburgh Art Festival
27TH JULY – 27TH AUGUST 2023
August is when the magic really kicks off in Edinburgh with 4 festivals running alongside each other. The Edinburgh Art Festival isn’t just restricted to classics in galleries but takes over the whole city and even some of the country towns beyond.
With modern art in under ground passages, walking tours of installations and some exclusive artist run spaces this gives a brilliant platform for all kinds of art to be presented. When I was walking through the city I was amazed at how much had just been dotted around for anyone to see for free.
5. Edinburgh Festival Fringe
4TH – 28TH AUGUST 2023
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is likely the one you have heard of. Taking over underground pub basements, theatre venues, the royal mile and pretty much anywhere some one can call a performance space.
Whilst some of these shows are free a donation at the end is always appreciated. The sheer scale and volume of performances that are put on each year allowing new talent to be exposed are what makes this festival so unique. Wherever you are into magic, comedy, interactive theatre or more traditional performances you will find something to enjoy in the big fat guidebook and then just rock up 30 minutes before the show starts.
6. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
4TH – 26TH AUGUST 2023
This show blew my mind and if you splurge on one thing during your summer visit, make it The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. With an impressive fireworks show, army bands from around the world and a great vibe this outdoors spectacle is set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle. Take a look at the video below for a few clips.
7. Edinburgh International Festival
4TH – 27TH AUGUST 2023
The International Festival runs alongside the Fringe but many of the shows are ticketed and curated rather than free. This year it featured a star studded lineup including Alan Cummings. Each year the programme varies so check out their website in advance as it is advisable to book this tickets prior to arrival unlike the fringe.
8. Edinburgh International Film Festival
12TH – 20TH AUGUST 2023
Celebrating its 70th Birthday in 2017, the Film Festival is famous world round for its impact on filmmaking on a global scale. With some groundbreaking documentaries, short films and unique styles of cinema on offer this is an awesome event to see upcoming talent really taking the stage.
9. Edinburgh International Book Festival
18TH – 26TH AUGUST 2023
A book festival? It might sound a little dull but this huge garden and tented area does a lot more than just retail paperbacks.
With daily talks, Q&A’s with writers and workshops for all ages if you like to get lost in the pages this is a great place to pick up some new reads and discover new authors. Some of the talks are paid but entry to the area itself is free (as is book browsing).
10. Scottish International Storytelling Festival
17TH – 29TH OCTOBER 2023
As a writer in a world where less and less people read to be moved and just concentrate on facts the Storytelling festival is a real treat. With local and international names sharing tales, songs and poems it is a true celebration of everything so important about the written word and keeping the magic of these stories alive.
11. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
30 DECEMBER 2023 – 1 JANUARY 2024
If you want a unique New Years Eve look no further than Edinburgh with its three day Hogmanay celebrations taking over the whole city.
With non-stop entertainment, the famous Shetland Vikings fire-lit torch procession, the buzzing Christmas markets and of course the fireworks this is one party that rings in a new year with style and is worthy of a spot on your bucket list.
Where else in the world is better to sing Auld Lang Syne at midnight?
Want some tips on how to save money in Scotland, check out my guide to Edinburgh Festivals on a Budget
Accommodation can jump hugely in price during the Festival season so advance booking is a great idea. Here are two options I tested out that don’t need to cost a bomb. If you’re planning to explore more of the country, check out these unusual places to stay in Scotland.
SYHA Edinburgh Metro Hostel: Don’t panic! This isn’t your typical dorm hostel. During the summer months this University city hand many of their campus flats over to the SYHA to manage which means you can score your own room (shared bathroom) within a flat right in the heart of the city for around £50 a night which given how expensive hotels can jump is a great option. For me, it was better than a hostel as you still get a private room with plenty of space, your own wardrobe and desk as well as access to the flat kitchen so you don’t have to eat out every day.
Motel One: There are two of these chic, German-based hotels in the city offering really chic designed rooms at a lower price than most boutique hotels. Don’t let the Motel name fool you, with plush bedding, designer features, amazing showers and a great breakfast buffet this is much more of a 4* hotel experience than a motel. Rooms start from £59 a night during the off season but can rise higher especially if booked last minute leading up to the festival.
HOW TO GET THERE?
By Train: If you are starting your journey already in the UK then train might be the best way to get up here. Our trains can be both expensive and packed but if you book in advance you can usually score a good price and get a seat reservation (try and go for one with a table for a charger as it could be a long ride). I love using The Train Line as a starting point for finding great fares.
By Air: Edinburgh has a great airport located not far from the city and there is also an airport in Glasgow. Both serve International routes as far as Asia with both budget and legacy carries. Check out Skyscanner as it allows you to hunt down the cheapest flight deals – I have a super handy post on the best ways to get cheap flights as a good starting point.
love to be there. Amazing shots. I’ll surely try to visiting Edinburgh soon. Thanks for sharing this to us.
Excellent summary Dan, but you omitted the Beltane Fire Festival? Night of 30th April through to dawn of the 1st of May, Calton Hill, Edinburgh. Celebrating the end of winter, return of summer and renewal of life heralded by the sun, all in the Celtic tradition.
What a great post! I love your blog in general, but I think this is my favorite post. I tend to look for the most romantic places to visit (since I blog about romance & travel) but it’s good for me to get out of my comfort zone and find new ways to have adventures I might not normally try. You’ve given me some good ideas for planning my next trip. Thank you!
Really great article. I love it. I was following this blog since many year.
I’m heading up to Edinburgh tomorrow: can’t wait. No festivals on, just the city’s world-famous welcome to look forward to! BTW you are absolutely right about the accommodation costs during festival time! GULP!
Have an incredible, and hope you managed to find somewhere that wasn’t a complete bank breaker at this time of year!
Have an incredible time, and hope you managed to find somewhere that wasn’t a complete bank breaker at this time of year!
we had a great time – a walk up to the Observatory, a tour round Edinburgh Gin Distillery, the Sheep’s Heid pub for old style bowling and a magic show courtesy of MagicFest, at the George Square Theatre, were just a few of the highlights! Of course then Easyjet cancelled our flight and we had the choice of cancelling our life for the next three days or drive back to London on New Year’s Eve – if we didn’t have the kids with us it might have been different – life is MUCH easier when you fly solo! I only hope that Easyjet are going to be honourable about the whole thing!
Oh my, I hope they fix it all up for you – I have always found their service to be pretty good for a budget carrier. Glad you had a great time in Edinburgh though :)