As the biggest arts festival in the world and the number 1 tourist attraction in Great Britain, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival attracts thousands of visitors every year. Taking place from August 7 to 31, 2009, this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival has a line-up of the most exciting theatre, music, comedy film and dance in the world.
Planning a trip to the Fringe can be tricky, with hundreds of shows to choose from, a bewildering array of venues, and difficult-to-find accommodations.
We’ve put together a Fringe Survival Guide of top tips for Fringe first-timers, such booking last-minute accommodation and finding the best free events. Whether you’re a student or backpackers, couple, family or a lone culture vulture, here are five easy steps to a stress free festival.
Guide & top tips for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
1. The Fringe for Free…
Traveling on a Budget? The Fringe is a champion of all things offbeat and avant-garde, so it’s no surprise there are plenty of cool free things going on.
Fancy some free laughs? Then check out the Laughing Horse Free Festival at the Fringe, with over 230 shows in 14 different venues. With acts as diverse as teenage comedians, senile strippers and Shakespeare, it’s a great chance to check out some hot new talent.
Remember that some free shows are often unticketed and on a first come-first-serve basis, so check out the best free events online first – shows to line up for include The 80s Movie Flashback (a chance to find out what’s happened to your favourite 80s stars). If you don’t fancy queuing, catch some free live music at Whistlebinkies every night of the Fringe -it’s far easier to get into a bar!
2. …Or on the Cheap:
If you’ve got a little more cash to burn but still want to catch as many shows as possible, the Festival has launched a ‘Fringe for £5‘ campaign this year, where at some shows, every ticket will only cost a fiver. Most of the acts are one-off events or lesser known artists, but range from comedy, kid’s shows and music gigs to lunchtime tasters of bigger Fringe shows.
Backpackers with £5-8 to spare can catch a play about themselves- Zoo Lodge, at the 10 Dome Theatre, is a thrilling play about what happens when two backpackers befriend a Zimbabwean refugee in a Johannesburg hostel.
3. Family Friendly Fun:
It’s not all just students and backpackers that pack out the Royal Mile, and there are plenty of child and family-friendly shows on at the Fringe. Although some Fringe shows can be a bit risqué, most have age guidelines and most venues will let kids in until 6pm, with children’s shows on throughout the day.
The Laughing Horse Free Festival also has a great Children’s Line-Up – young kids will love Miss Googie Pants and Cat’s fantasy stories, and The Mildly Terrible Revenge of the Slightly Evil Brainwashing Puppets. The live street theatre in the day is another great free way to entertain the kids.
There are also loads of cheap family shows well worth checking out; cult Rock and Roll Musical ‘Dude, Where’s my Teddy Bear’ will delight 2-7 year olds, and Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes will please older kids.
Remember with younger children that the Fringe is exciting, but can be a little overwhelming. Don’t try and cram too many shows in each day, or you’ll find them falling asleep in the aisles! The best way to spend a few days is to see a show in the morning or afternoon, have a picnic in the Meadow or Prince’s Street Gardens at lunchtime, and then tackle one of Edinburgh’s other child-friendly attractions. The Horrible Histories Bus Tour and the Museum of Childhood will go down a storm.
4. Food at the Fringe:
It’s easy to find a drink at the Fringe – the city’s bars are open till late and many have great drinks offers. But food is a different story – it can be difficult to find a cheap meal (or even a seat) in peak festival season.
With some shows, food actually comes as part of your ticket. Early risers can catch Shakespeare for breakfast at C Venue at 10am, and watch the Bard’s best plays with a croissant and a cup of tea or coffee.
Some of the Edinburgh Fringe Venues have great places to eat. The Traverse Theatre Bar and Café has a decent selection of reasonably priced food, and the service is super quick in between shows. The courtyards inside the Pleasance Dome Theatre are home to stalls selling huge hot dogs and burgers, and a stall from local restaurant ‘The Mosque Kitchen’.
If the weather’s nice, the easiest way to eat at the Fringe is on the run or al fresco – there are plenty of street stalls out during the Fringe – try the Saturday Farmer’s Market on Castle Terrace, and Johnston Terrace and Bristo Square the rest of the week.
For fancier bites to eat (and a whole load of free samples) chow down at Foodies at the Festival 2009, www.foodiesfestival.com a three day event in Holyrood Park from the 21-3rd August. Celebrating the best of Scottish food, there are free demonstrations from top chefs, and restaurant tents where you can tuck in to all the haggis, neeps and tatties you want. Tickets cost £10, but it’s also a great family day out – under 12s go for free, and there are free classes for budding chefs.
Another great way to save on your food budget is to stay in a hostel and cook. Most Edinburgh hostels have self-catering facilities and well-equipped kitchens – ideal for feeding a family, or making packed lunches for the day.
5. Last Minute Beds
It can difficult to find Edinburgh Fringe accommodation on a budget, especially at the last minute. Luckily many of the top Edinburgh hostels still have rooms available for the Fringe.
Not just for backpackers, hostels are the ideal Fringe accommodation for budget travelers, families and couples alike, boasting a central location, a social atmosphere, and room rates that will leave you with more money to spend at the Festival.
Best for Backpackers and Students: Bus Station Backpackers: This small, cozy and friendly hostel is a great place to meet other festival goers – with only 16 rooms, there’s a real homely feel to the hostel, right down to the free breakfast with home made bread.
Best for Families: Smart City Hostels Edinburgh: This boutique hostel is ideal for families – all rooms are private with ensuite bathrooms, and there are special family rooms with a TV. With washing machines, self-catering facilities and a bar, games room and lounge area, there’s plenty to keep parents and the kids happy.
Best for Couples: Castle Rock Hostel: With romantic views of the Castle, the Castle Rock is only a few minutes from the Royal Mile and Grassmarket. Housed in a beautiful 18th century building, the private rooms feel more like a historic townhouse than a hostel, with comfy double beds and antique furnishings.