Edinburgh's Royal Mile during the Fringe. / © Pixabay
Taking advantage of the direct flights from Luxembourg to Edinburgh? Planning on visiting the Scottish capital during its famous Fringe festival? You're gonna need tips.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city most of the year, but becomes imbibed by something especially magical (read: chaotic) when its annual Fringe Festival comes into town. Last year, there were more than 55,000 performances of 3,548 shows in 317 different venues. It's a busy time!
Yes, the festival doesn't officially start until August but the city begins its preparations in July, with the university campus and the courtyard in front of Edinburgh Castle being the busiest spots. Whilst most people come to the Scottish capital for the Fringe, it is far from the only festival to take place in Edinburgh. The Edinburgh International Film Festival started on 19 June and ended on 30 June, followed by the Jazz & Blues Festival a few weeks later.
As somebody who's lived through one Fringe and submitted her dissertation during the middle of the Fringe (why is this relevant? Oh, because my university building was literally part of the Fringe's epicentre), allow me to provide some tips for experiencing the best of Edinburgh. The festival is wonderful, but if you've been to Edinburgh during its off season (basically the rest of the year excluding the Christmas period), you're in for a shock. The city's population doubles during the month of August and you'll certainly notice it. It can be quite intense, especially if you're expecting Edinburgh to be less busy than somewhere like London or Paris.
Do equip yourself with a map or the Fringe app to navigate the city centre. Anywhere that fits at least five people is transformed into a Fringe venue and confusingly, changes its name for the festival. You think the students' union is called Teviot Row House, as it is most of the year? Nah, mate. It's Gilded Balloon. Familiarise yourself before heading off on a day of culture.
On that note, do not stop in the middle of the pavement. Enough tourists will do this and it is absolutely infuriating for locals and other people trying to get about the city. If you do need to stop and look up where you're going, huddle in a corner.
Do find the right balance of forward planning and spontaneity. Organised fun is of course wonderful, but it's worth going with the flow when it comes to the Fringe. Why not stay at the venue you're at and watch the next act? They may be terrible, they may be wonderful, but that's the luck of the draw.
Don't try to get around in a rush. From someone who's done it, it's not worth the nervous breakdown following from repeating 'EXCUSE ME' for the hundredth time.
Do try and be mindful of waste. A lot of people hand out flyers during the Fringe, which makes those of us more environmentally conscious feel quite bad at the enormous paper use, especially as some of the flyers are not recyclable. What's more, lots of people just chuck their flyers to the ground - I don't need to remind people that littering is a nono. Either refuse flyers or take them with you and dispose of them later.
Don't put too much in your schedule for one day. Your first show ends at 1 pm and you want to make the 1.30 pm show that's a fifteen minute walk away? You might not have enough time, as often it takes some time to file out of a show and make your way to the next one, which likely opens its doors ten minutes before it starts. A tried and tested method is to have around 40 minutes between shows at the least.
Do support local talent! Know any Luxembourgers performing at the Fringe? Go see them! The Fringe can be gruelling for performers, especially if they have a free show on and haven't quite got the promotion for the show down pat. Sometimes this just depends on your luck, as maybe the person handing out flyers next to you is just that tiny bit snappier. Luxembourg-based comedians Deepu Dileepan and Sundeep Bhardwaj are taking their show Brown Guys, Grey Skies to the Fringe for another year after having a sell-out Fringe run last year.
Don't be surprised if you hear fireworks every evening. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place in front of the castle every year and has varying levels of fireworks depending on the day of the week.
© By Photo: Graeme Main/MOD, OGL v1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46695970
Do experience the Free Fringe! You never know what kind of gems you might find. Free Fringe shows are donation-based and whilst some may not be fantastic (did I fall asleep during a bad stand-up set? Maybe), others can be absolute gems. Alison Thea-Skot's Thea-Skot Through the Heart and You're to Blame had me almost crying with laughter last year.
Don't heckle. It's just mean.
Do be tactical with your seating. If you don't want to end up in the front row and be heckled by the comedian, don't sit in the last row. Usually, people tend to avoid the front row and comedians ask those in the last row to move to the front. Go for the middle.
Do sort shows by venue. Some venues have better free shows than others and it's worth selecting a few venues and trying them out.
Don't sideline other festivals! The Edinburgh International Festival requires forward-planning as shows do sell out, but is well worth trying out. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is also excellent, and has some fascinating round tables and talks based in Charlotte Square.
Do enjoy the opportunity to sit outside with a drink past 10 pm! Scotland's licensing laws usually don't permit this, but things become more flexible in August.
Do make the most of Edinburgh's wonderful independent cafes and shops! Instead of stopping off in Starbucks for a quick break, please go explore the independent cafes of Edinburgh, who all work incredibly hard during the Fringe. You can find tons of independent coffee shops just by walking ten minutes in any given direction.
Don't forget that there is more to Edinburgh than just the Fringe. If you need a breather, head out beyond the centre - go to Portobello beach, explore Holyrood park, or go up Blackford hill if you need some space!
Climb Arthur's Seat for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city, but be warned: you won't be the only one. / © Unsplash
Do have fun and try something new! There's so much variety that if you tend to just see comedy shows, maybe expand your horizons and go to something completely different.
And finally...do spare a thought for the poor Masters students trying to complete their dissertations in the midst of the hubbub.