Edinburgh Festivals 2017
Get ready for a very special summer, as Edinburgh celebrates the 70th anniversary of its world-famous festivals.
Since the creation of the first three of its festivals in 1947, the Scottish capital has deservedly become known as the world's leading festival city.
2017 is a year filled with celebrations and special events. Visit Edinburgh in August and enjoy the vast choice of theatre, comedy, music, opera, dance, exhibitions, readings and open-air events across the Festival Fringe, the International Festival, the Art Festival, the Book Festival and the Military Tattoo.
Travel by train straight to the heart of Scotland's capital at its most iconic time of year – and don't forget that Edinburgh has a year-round offering of 11 major festivals. We'll be running more services, late-night trains and extra carriages compared to the regular timetable.
Here's a roundup and some recommendations on what to do and see.
27 July - 27 August 2017
Edinburgh Art Festival is the UK's largest annual celebration of visual art.
Its innovative programme of special events attracts over 250,000 visitors each year, bringing together the capital’s leading galleries, museums and artist-run spaces, alongside new public art commissions by established and emerging artists.
The vast majority of the festival is free to attend, and includes exhibitions, performances, screenings, artist talks and guided tours. The festival includes over 40 exhibitions each year, showcasing some of the best contemporary art alongside important artists and works from modern and historical periods.
- Specially commissioned for this year’s Festival, head over to Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden near the Castle to witness Bobby Niven’s amazing Palm House. Over the course of the festival, four artists will undertake a week-long residency in Niven’s studio-workshop.
- Don’t miss Josef Koudelka’s The Making of Landscape at Signet Library and admire his landscape photographs through large displays of his 20+ meters long concertina photo-books and documents from his personal collection.
- In the exhibition Add It Up at The Fruitmarket Gallery, Jac Leirner uses everyday materials over and over again, combining them into astonishingly beautiful sculptures that reveal the material poetry of the mundane.
Image: Erika Stevenson, Art Late Central 2014, Edinburgh Art Festival original
4 - 28 August 2017
Founded in 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival is an unparalleled celebration of the performing arts and an annual meeting point for peoples of all nations. Committed to virtuosity and originality, the International Festival presents some of the finest performers and ensembles from the worlds of dance, opera, music and theatre for three weeks in August.
Over the course of the year, the International Festival team travel the world in search of the most exciting and creative artists working today. Together, it brings unique collaborations, world premieres, new takes on classic works, critically acclaimed productions and more to captivate, thrill and entertain audiences from around the world. All in one place, right here in Scotland.
- An absolute must-see this year is the free opening event Bloom (4 and 5 August). The Edinburgh International Festival was established in 1947 in the aftermath of the Second World War to ‘provide a platform for the flowering of the human spirit’. 70 years later, Edinburgh has bloomed magnificently as the world’s Festival City. To celebrate this special anniversary, an epic outdoor spectacle will transform St Andrew Square into a magical night garden through sound installations and large-scale projection.
- Considered by many to be the finest dance company in the world, Nederlands DansTheater brings to the Edinburgh Playhouse a surreal show; a sumptuous meditation on time and memory; an unsettling glimpse into three couples’ love lives. Not to be missed!
- In a French provincial town, for almost no reason, one by one people turn into rhinoceroses. Eugène Ionesco’s classic 1959 play is an uproarious absurdist farce, revisited by leading Scottish playwright Zinnie Harris. Alongside its piercing political insights, the show is comic, thrillingly theatrical and deeply human.
Image: Franco Lannino, Macbeth, Studio Camera original
4 - 28 August 2017
Thousands of performers take to hundreds of stages all over Edinburgh to present shows of all kinds and for every taste in the world's largest arts festival – the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
You can enjoy theatre, comedy, dance, circus, cabaret, children's shows, physical theatre, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.
Expect entertainment from huge worldwide names to unknown artists looking to build their careers.
- There's far too much happening at the Fringe to pick individual shows, so here are some Fringe tips instead. Firstly, be open to anything! There's no other festival like the Fringe, and hidden gems are everywhere, so accept a flyer and take a chance!
- Be prepared to walk a lot. While Edinburgh's public transport is excellent, there's so much packed into the city centre that you can easily saunter past scores of Fringe venues without having to go far at all. Comfortable shoes are a good idea though.
- Get the official map and programme at venues across the city. It's an indispensable planning tool for serious Fringe fans.
Image: David Monteith-Hodge, Performers at the Fringe
4 - 26 August 2017
The Tattoo is Scotland’s biggest, bestselling outdoor spectacle, attracting an international audience each year of 220,000 people.
Music, dance and precision display with the Massed Pipes and Drums, the Massed Military Bands, cultural troupes, singers and the poignant refrain of the Lone Piper against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
The Tattoo embraces different themes; nature, creativity and Scotland's homecoming are just some of the concepts explored in recent times. In 2017 The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo embraces a colourful theme, Splash of Tartan.
- Book your tickets early if you can! The Tattoo has completely sold out for the last 17 years in a row, and although some tickets can usually still be had in August, it's not worth the risk of missing this fantastic spectacle.
- Be ready in case it rains. No performance of the Tattoo has ever been cancelled, regardless of the climactic conditions or anything else - so pack a mac, just in case!
- If you're unlucky and don't get a ticket this year (or if you want to go again!) you'll only have a few months to wait until the following year's show becomes available - usually in early December.
Image: Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
12 - 28 August 2017
With over 800 events, the Edinburgh International Book Festival features the greatest writers and thinkers in the world, from rising stars of fiction to Nobel Prize-winners.
It's a place where audiences and authors gather to share ideas, have thought-provoking discussions, be entertained, informed, enthralled and challenged. There is also a highly regarded programme of events for children and young adults featuring the finest writers and illustrators for young people.
From author events and workshops to lively debates and book signings, the Book Festival gives you the chance to meet your favourite authors, hear about their latest work, and get stuck into some gripping conversations.
The Book Festival's home is the beautiful Charlotte Square Gardens, centrally located in Edinburgh's historic New Town. Each year the Square is transformed into a magical tented village and entry to the Gardens is free so pop in and relax for a moment or two.
- Award-winning author of seven bestselling novels including Cloud Atlas, The Bone Clocks and Slade House, David Mitchell has earned his place as one of the world’s best-loved and most versatile writers. This year he has curated and participates in a series of events which explores the border and interplay between music and words.
- We find ourselves at a point of upheaval, a time defined by fear and anxiety, riddled with unanswered questions. In Questions of Our Times, part of the Age of Political Earthquakes series of events, Dutch historian Rutger Bregman challenges us to answer those questions with positive, progressive change.
- Don’t miss the chance to meet master storyteller and winner of the 2017 Man Booker International Prize for Fiction David Grossman at the Garden Theatre on 16 August.
Image: Robin Mair original, Charlotte Square Gardens
7 - 12 August 2017
Rising in popularity year-on-year, Fringe by the Sea – known as a miniature Edinburgh Fringe – takes place in the picturesque seaside town of North Berwick, just 30 minutes by train from the city.
With music, comedy, film, theatre, exhibitions, children’s programmes, authors in conversation, great food and craft ales, it’s got something for everyone!
Sporting spectacular coastal views, it’s a festival with a difference.
We’re running late night trains back to Edinburgh afterwards, making it even easier to get to and from Fringe by the Sea.
Image: Gray Wall, Fringe by the Sea
28 August 2017
The annual Virgin Money Fireworks Concert lets the capital’s festival season go out with a bang – literally! With Edinburgh’s historic Castle as a backdrop, the 45-minute spectacular fireworks show is played along to dramatic synchronised orchestral music.
Image: Dave Stewart original, Virgin Money Fireworks Concert
We’ll be introducing extra services and adding carriages to trains to help you get to and from Edinburgh during the Festivals.
But please remember that services will be much busier than normal, particularly later in the evenings and at weekends.
That’s why we recommend you plan your journey and buy your tickets in advance to avoid additional queuing at stations.
There’s a range of tickets available offering great value for money when travelling to the Festivals.
From Off-Peak Returns to GroupSave and Kids Go Free tickets, there’s something to suit everyone.
Staying in Glasgow during the Festivals?
You may be interested in our Central Scotland Rover travel pass. It offers three consecutive days of unlimited travel between Glasgow and Edinburgh, plus a host of other destinations, for just £39. It’s perfect if you’re looking to get the most out of your trip by exploring the nearby cities and towns too.
Fancy exploring outside the city?
If you’re planning a longer stay in Edinburgh throughout the Festivals, then make the most of your trip by exploring the nearby sights too. Our Edinburgh Days Out travel pass offers two days unlimited travel around up to an hour of the city for just £18 per adult or £34 for a family of four.
So you can hop-on, hop-off at your leisure and visit some top sights not far from the city. Jump on the Borders Railway and head to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, and Melrose Abbey. Or swap one historic Scottish city for another by heading to see Stirling Castle.
For more ideas about where to see with our Edinburgh Days Out travel pass, click here