An insider’s guide to cultural Edinburgh

17th August 2016

Guest Blogger

Gillian shares her love of her adopted home city of Edinburgh on ElevatorMusik, a lifestyle blog focusing on her fantastic food and drink finds on the cobbled streets of the Scottish capital, the recipes she cooks, the places she goes and the outfits she wears. Always with a camera and notebook at the ready, there’s something to keep everyone entertained.

What to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a brilliant city to visit at any time of year, but it really comes alive during August. With the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and all the city's other festivals and events, you'll never be short of something to see, do, eat, drink, watch or join in with. To help you make the most of your Fringe visit and discover the best hidden gems, here are my top tips for experiencing Edinburgh like a local.

Soak up the atmosphere

One of the best things about Edinburgh during August is the amazing atmosphere throughout the entire city. There are pop-up bars and street food stalls everywhere, you can catch free performances and street theatre along the Royal Mile and the whole city is full of creative talent.

Once you hop off the train at Edinburgh Waverley, you’ll immediately notice how buzzing and busy the city is. The station is nice and central, so it’s just a short walk to all the main festival hubs. If you’re splashing out, book a hotel along the nearby George Street or Queen Street to experience Edinburgh’s glamorous Georgian New Town which is full of boutique hotels, designer shops and stylish restaurants and bars. On the other hand, if you’re on a budget then head on a 5 minute walk in the opposite direction to stay in a hostel or budget hotel in the Old Town area. The Cowgate and Grassmarket are great areas to visit if you’re up for an all-night party as there are plenty of clubs and late-night bars.

Once you’re settled in to your accommodation, head to the Assembly George Square Gardens to soak up the festival atmosphere. Grab a pint and some street food from local vendors like Khushi's, Spice Girl or Mimi’s Bakehouse and enjoy a night in the fairy-lit garden. The garden is right next to several of the main Fringe venues so it's the perfect place to chill out between shows.

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See something new

There are always plenty of famous names at the Fringe, but it's always worth checking out new acts so you can discover someone brilliant before they become the next big thing. The majority of shows at the Fringe are focused on comedy and theatre, but you can also enjoy music, spoken word, dance, kids shows and lots more – it’s a very varied programme! With shows happening all day – from 9am to 10pm to 5am – you’re sure to find something that suits you.

Don’t forget to check out the other festivals happening in the city too. During August, you can also visit the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Art Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Throughout the rest of the year there’s plenty going on too – look out for festivals covering science, magic, film, storytelling and lots more.

Word of mouth is usually the best way to find out about a hit new show, so don't be afraid to ask fellow festival-goers if they have any recommendations. If you hang out around venues like Assembly, The Pleasance Courtyard, Udderbelly and Gilded Balloon before the show there's also a good chance you'll be handed flyers with last-minute discount deals!

Big Verns Kripsy Ring Burger

Go to free shows

Don't write off a show just because it's free. The free Fringe is known for having its fair share of outlandish shows, but there are also lots of amazing acts waiting to be discovered. Spending a month - or even just a week - at the Fringe can be expensive, so for a cheap night out pick a few free shows to go and see. The Three Sisters, the City Café and The Newsroom always have a good selection of free shows to choose from. Keep an eye out for compilation shows too, these will usually cost you around a tenner but you get to see a whole host of different acts and, with a different line-up every night, you might even get to catch a really famous comedian making a guest appearance!

In between shows, pop in to some of Edinburgh’s many bars and pubs for a quick drink. My favourites include The Blackbird (plus they have a great beer garden!), The Red Squirrel, Dragonfly and Paradise Palms.

Explore the local area

Sometimes the Fringe madness can get a bit much, so don't forget to explore the rest of Edinburgh whilst you're here. I love taking a walk along the Union Canal or the Water of Leith when I need a break from the city. They're both really easy walks which go right through the middle of the city, even though it feels like you're out in the countryside. Walk along the Water of Leith to Stockbridge for a lovely day out - this area of the city is full of independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants. Check out Golden Hare Books for beautiful books, The Pantry for a delicious brunch or the Last Word Saloon for amazing cocktails.

Big Verns Kripsy Ring Burger

See what else the city has to offer

If the Fringe isn’t your thing (or if you need a break from the madness for a day or two!) there are plenty of other amazing things to do in Edinburgh. A visit to the National Museum of Scotland is a must; they’ve just opened ten new galleries so you could easily spend a whole day exploring the museum. If it’s a nice day, you can’t beat a walk up Calton Hill for amazing views of the city, followed by a wander round the Grassmarket which is full of lovely independent businesses. Stop by Hannah Zakari for quirky jewellery, Red Door Gallery for an arty souvenir and Mary’s Milk Bar for a well-deserved gelato cone. Finish the day off with a delicious Thai dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Edinburgh, Passorn

Big Verns Kripsy Ring Burger

More in this series

Explore more destinations through our insider's family guide to Manchester, and foodie guide to Birmingham

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