Summertime in Auld Reekie is world-famous for 'The Edinburgh Festival'... but did you know there's actually no such thing? In fact, the city has a range of major festivals, many - though by no means all - of which take place over the same few summer weeks.

During July and August, the Scottish capital plays host to seven major festivals, each with its own exciting and diverse line-up, to ensure that lucky visitors have more options than they could ever wish for! 

Jazz & Blues Festival

The party starts in mid-July, as the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival gets feet tapping and spirits soaring with its brilliantly varied programme of around 170 events.

There's plenty here for jazz and blues purists, of course, with world class acts from Europe, the USA and beyond, plus lots of local talent. But even for those who might not consider themselves fans of the genres there's a great choice, with riotous gigs full of foot-stomping tunes, world melodies and dance and hip-hop crossovers.

It's a joyous ten-day celebration of live performance, which any music lover should aim to be at.

And then, as the Jazz Festival ends, there's a brief pause for breath before Edinburgh Art Festival leads us into all that August has to offer.


Credit: Edinburgh's Festivals. 

Art Festival

Edinburgh Art Festival is the newest of the city's 12 major festivals, having launched in 2004, and it's now a well-established part of the August experience. More than 250,000 visitors attend the Festival each year, making it the UK's largest annual celebration of visual art.

The vast majority of events and exhibitions are completely free and the work on show covers everything from fascinating collections of classic paintings to sculpture, installations and performances by some of the hottest new artists from the UK and beyond.

As you would expect, Scottish-based artists are well represented, including specially commissioned pieces appearing around the city - some of which even become permanent public art long after the festival ends.

Before then though, Art is joined by five more August festivals in a period which more than doubles the city's population every year.

Credit: Ross McLean. 

Festival Fringe

The biggest of these is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, so big in fact that it almost takes over almost the entire city.

Over 50,000 performances and almost 3,500 shows take place in venues of all sorts - so as well as the usual halls and theatres think taxis, phone boxes, cupboards, trampolines, boats and more.

In fact, there's so much happening at the Fringe that it's pretty much impossible to sum up properly. To put it simply though, fans of theatre, dance, comedy, music, cabaret, circus, or just about any other art form will all find something to see and love at the biggest arts festival in the world.

Famously, the Fringe came about with eight acts who wanted to take part at 1947's inaugural Edinburgh International Festival they weren't officially invited but decided to perform anyway, and the rest is history.

Credit: James Ratchford. 

International Festival

The Edinburgh International Festival itself was established in 1947 in the wake of the Second World War, as a sign of optimism for the future after years of conflict.

Today it continues its founding principles of bringing the very finest in international performing arts to the city. World class musicians, actors, dancers, singers and companies are brought together for three weeks of truly inspirational and innovative work.

If the first Festival looked to move past darkness and celebrate artistic expression as a force for good, then year after year, the Edinburgh International Festival holds true to that tradition.

Credit: Angela Sterling. 

Military Tattoo

Speaking of tradition, for three weeks in August there's nothing to rival the spectacular Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. In front of sellout crowds, filling the stands high above Edinburgh Castle Rock, hundreds of perfectly drilled military personnel from the UK and across the world are joined by Highland dancers and international groups in a truly awe-inspiring performance.

Since its beginning in 1950, the Tattoo has grown immensely, with around 220,000 people now enjoying the show each year, not to mention the hundred million or so watching on TV globally. And in all that time, no performance has ever been cancelled. Now that's tradition.


Credit: The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. 

Book Festival

Given the sheer intensity of the Tattoo's performances, festivalgoers might also welcome a chance to just lounge around in the sunshine with a good book. And luckily, August has the perfect place in Charlotte Square Gardens, the annual home of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Amid leafy surroundings in the centre of the Festival's tented village, you'll find an oasis of calm, where you can just pull up a deckchair and relax with a favourite read. Do look up every so often though, in case a famous author happens by and be sure to go and see some of the events too, of course.

With around 800 writers, poets and thinkers taking part in the huge programme of readings, signings, Q&As and workshops, there's plenty to choose from. And by night, there's entertainment in the form of live music, poetry and more in the Festival's Spiegeltent, a wonderful place to end an Edinburgh Festivals evening.


Credit: Edinburgh International Book Festival. 


And end things must, with late August closing the summer festival period once again - but not before one last huge party with the Edinburgh Mela on the final weekend of the month.

The Mela is a breath taking collection of world cultures, offering dance, music, fashion and mouth-watering food to the tens of thousands who attend each year. With multiple stages across the site, you'll find great tunes to dance to, as well beautiful clothes and gorgeous materials to admire in the marketplace.

The celebrations go on late into the night in a perfect culmination of the preceding few weeks and a fitting goodbye to Edinburgh's summer festivals.

Credit: Edinburgh Mela.

To find out about these and the rest of Edinburgh's twelve major festivals throughout the rest of the year, please visit our friends over at edinburghfestivalcity.

Biography for Hostelling Scotland

Scotland's best known network of youth hostels in stunning city & rural locations. As a not-for-profit organisation, we encourage guests to join Hostelling Scotland. Members enjoy a range of exclusive benefits including dual membership of Hostelling International, providing access to more than 4,000 youth hostels in over 90 countries worldwide. Membership and guest overnight income supports our charitable youth programmes.

Leave a Comment