What's on at the Festivals - our top picks

Your guide to what's on this August in Edinburgh.

We’re excited to welcome the Edinburgh Festivals again this August - when people from all over the world come to enjoy one of the globe’s biggest cultural events.

Whether you’re looking for a laugh for lunch or drama for dinner, you won’t be short of choice or time at this year's Festivals.

There are so many fantastic events to choose from and, with performances day and night, Monday to Sunday, you’ll have every opportunity to pack this August full of lasting festival memories.

Here's a roundup and some recommendations on what to do and see.

Erika Stevenson, Art Late Central 2014, Edinburgh Art Festival original

Edinburgh’s art community plays host to the UK’s largest annual celebration of visual art, animating hidden spaces in the city and inviting visitors into our galleries.

The festival is for all ages with events for children, families and young people ranging from creative workshops focussing on different artists to free outdoor art workshops involving play, woodland games and art activity.

Recommendations

  • New work from acclaimed artists Nathan Coley, Alfredo Jaar, Rosalind Nashashibi, Sriwhana Spong and Corin Sworn reflecting Stories for an Uncertain World.
  • Grayson Perry, with his first solo show in Scotland at the National Museum.
  • Wild and Majestic: Romantic Visions of Scotland showcases images of Scotland from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Image: Erika Stevenson, Art Late Central 2014, Edinburgh Art Festival original

Edinburgh Art Festival website Buy train tickets

Gruffalo with Julia Donaldson

The largest public celebration of ideas and the written word in the world. Over 900 authors, thinkers and speakers are welcomed to Charlotte Square Gardens in the historic heart of Edinburgh.

Running alongside is the highly regarded Baillie Gifford Children's Programme, incorporating workshops, storytelling, panel discussions, author events and book signings.

Recommendations

  • Major book launches including new novels from Salman Rushdie, Ann Cleeves and Julia Donaldson.
  • Eddie Izzard speaks about his audio recording of Dickens’ Great Expectations and there is more great fiction from Kate Atkinson and Clare Balding.
  • Events with multi-award winning author of The Gruffalo, Julia Donaldson, comedian turned writer Harry Hill, former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq and six-time Olympic gold medallist Sir Chris Hoy.

Image: Gruffalo with Julia Donaldson © Edinburgh International Book Festival

Edinburgh International Book Festival website Buy train tickets

Virgin Money Fireworks Concert copyright David Wilkinson

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.

Recommendations

  • Peter Gynt is a provocative, raucously funny story of one man’s extraordinary life. Starring Scotland’s very own James McArdle in the title role, follow Peter on an epic journey that will take him to Florida, Egypt, to a mountain of trolls and finally back to Scotland. 1-11 August, Festival Theatre
  • Following its world premiere over 60 years ago, West Side Story became a cultural phenomenon and a defining moment in musical theatre. Hear the music and its sensational songs – ‘America’, ‘Maria’, ‘Tonight’, ‘Somewhere’ – in two very special concert performances at Edinburgh’s iconic Usher Hall. 5 & 6 August, Usher Hall.
  • 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 spectacular fireworks display is choreographed along to dramatic orchestral music performed live by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. 26 Aug, Princes Street Gardens.

Image: Virgin Money Fireworks Concert © David Wilkinson

Edinburgh International Festival website Buy train tickets

Performers on Royal Mile copyright David Monteith Hodge

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.

With over 300 venues, 3000 shows and 50,000 performers, there really is nothing quite like Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Recommendations

  • 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!
  • Visit the new ‘A to Z of the Fringe' - A handy letter-by-letter guide to the greatest celebration of arts and culture on the planet.
  • Get the official map and programme at venues across the city. It's an indispensable planning tool for serious Fringe fans.

Image: Performers on Royal Mile © David Monteith-Hodge

Edinburgh Festival Fringe website Buy train tickets

Fringe by the Sea 2019

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 over 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.

Recommendations

  • Eddi Reader, Saturday 10 August, Simpson & Marwick Spiegeltent. Eddi is celebrating 40 years as a live performer, a career which started in 1978 singing on Scottish country rock tours.
  • Groove Armada, Thursday 8 August, Simpson & Marwick Spiegeltent. For nearly two decades Groove Armada has been established as one of the planet’s best loved and biggest selling dance acts.
  • Ian Rankin, Saturday 10th August, Simpson & Marwick Spiegeltent. The multi-million copy worldwide bestseller of over thirty novels talks about his new Rebus thriller, the widely praised ‘In A House of Lies’.

Fringe by the Sea website Buy train tickets

The Tattoo is Scotland’s biggest, bestselling outdoor spectacle, attracting an international audience each year of 220,000 people, giving each of them an unforgettable night of music, ceremony, theatre and dance.

The spectacle delivers everything from the Massed Pipes and Drums, the Massed Military Bands, cultural troupes and singers to the poignant refrain of the Lone Piper against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.

The Tattoo embraces different themes with this year’s theme ‘Kaleidoscope’ set to turn the Castle Esplanade into a dazzling spectacle of colour.

Recommendations

  • 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

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo website Buy train tickets