EDINBURGH EXPERT WALKING TOURS - BLOG
It's that time of year again! Every summer, Edinburgh's historic city centre becomes transformed into the world's largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Actually, what is commonly referred to as 'the Edinburgh Festival' is really a collection of festivals, staged all year round, with the summer being the time when a number of them coincide and overlap, creating almost a single festival experience.
But for those who haven't experienced the festival before, or have no idea what to expect from Edinburgh during August, here's my brief history of, and introduction to, Edinburgh's festivals...
The first festival was staged in 1947, when arts companies from around the world were invited to stage a celebratory series of performances to mark the newly won peace across Europe, following the Second World War.
That original festival continues today, over 70 years later, as the Edinburgh International Festival, a roster of theatre, opera, dance and music from around the globe, all carefully curated to an annual theme, and staged in some of the larger venues around the city.
But in 1947, a handful of theatre companies who weren't invited to perform at the first festival came to the city anyway, and staged their work in small church halls and community centres. The next year, the number of 'uninvited' companies grew, and eventually the gathering of non-curated theatre companies coalesced into what is today the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Today, also bigger and stronger than ever after more than 70 years, the Edinburgh Fringe is, by itself, the world's largest arts festival, with over 3,000 performances taking place across the city every single day. If you aren't prepared for what that looks, sounds and feels like, then you're in for a treat!
Around 350 venues are set up around the city, some purpose built, others transformed from rooms and halls that may otherwise be unused throughout the year, and you can find everything from circus and burlesque to stand up comedy, dance, and high drama, from international companies and student troupes, experienced figures from the world of entertainment to new performers just starting out their careers.
As in 1947, the Fringe is uncurated, meaning it's open to anyone and everyone to come and take part. The quality of work can vary wildly, but that is all part of the excitement and interest!
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo was originally staged by the British Army as their contribution to the Edinburgh Festival in 1949. The first performances were at the Ross Bandstand in Princes Street Gardens, but today takes place in the large stadium built at the front of Edinburgh Castle.
It's a massive spectacle of military bands from all around the world, with lights and images projected on the castle itself, and concluding with a huge firework finale. The Tattoo takes place throughout August, and - spoiler alert - is generally sold out by January/February each year. So if you've just arrived in Edinburgh and don't have your tickets for it yet, your chances of getting a few returns at the official Tattoo office are limited!
And the Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place for two weeks in August too, celebrating literature from all around the globe with hundreds of event with authors, publishers and illustrators.
So that's what you should brace yourself for if you are coming to Edinburgh this summer. They say the population of the city swells from around 500,000 people to over 1.5 million during the month of August, so you'll be in good company (and lots of it!).
It also means you are heavily advised to pre-book anything you plan to do in the city, from visiting Edinburgh Castle to seeing shows in the festivals, to restaurant reservations and travel plans.
But most of all enjoy it, and - if it's your first time - allow yourself to be immersed in the madness. Edinburgh during the festival(s) is like nothing else.
It is, some might say, the greatest show on Earth. Welcome.
Explore Edinburgh - and avoid some of the crowds - with my private city walking tours!
Edinburgh Expert Walking Tours is run by Gareth, an adopted native of Edinburgh, with over 20 years experience of living and working in the city...
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