The Edinburgh International Festival is ample proof that no other city does festivals quite like Edinburgh. The Scottish capital hosts no less than nine big festival events throughout the year and showcases the best of the world’s talent from literary to jazz, from art to military and from dance to stand-up comedy. You name the art form and Edinburgh has an event celebrating it.

The festival season really comes into its own during August when the city holds three of the world’s largest summer events: the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. All are unique and highly-attended (think tens of thousands) and turn the city into a hub of colour, light, sound and talent. And the one that started the event wheel turning was the Edinburgh International Festival, a must-attend for any culture-vulture.

Dates: This year’s festival takes place from 3 to 27 August, three full weeks of world-class performances.

The history of the Edinburgh International Festival

Back in 1947, a unique group of people got together in a bid to create an event bringing together the best of the world’s culture (music, dance and theatre) on stage at the same venue. The International Festival is the brainchild of several inspired people: Rudolf Bing from the world-famous Glyndebourne Opera, Henry Harvey Wood, of the British Council in Scotland, and City of Edinburgh officials.

The event, which fast became one of the world’s most prestigious celebrations of the art forms, has just celebrated its 70th anniversary. And 71 years after its inaugural year it continues to attract the very best musicians, dancers and actors from the world over.

Venues for Edinburgh International Festival

As a long-established cultural hub in the UK, Edinburgh boasts several world-class venues. The Festival makes the most of these and performances are held at six large theatre and concert halls throughout the city. Smaller venues are also used alongside more unusual places such as the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Princes Street Gardens.

Programme: You can view the full programme for the Edinburgh International Festival here

What to see at Edinburgh International Festival

With literally dozens of events, you’re spoilt for choice at the Festival. Some of the highlights include:

Opening ceremony

Five Telegrams pays homage to young soldiers killed in the First World War in a spectacle of orchestrated music and choir against the backdrop of digital artworks projected onto the façade of the Usher Hall.

Theatre

Edinburgh International Festival includes a star-studded line-up of plays from the classic Ane Satyre of The Three Estaitis, dating back to the 16th century, to the modern Waiting for Godot. Beckett’s signature play gets a revival for this year’s festival and is tipped as one of the top events.

Music

This is where the choosing really gets difficult. Classical fans are in for a treat with a long list of world-class orchestras and ensembles performing throughout the three weeks. You can also catch the Eurovision Young Musician 2018 finals featuring the best new classical music talents on the continent (and so much better than that other Eurovision contest!).

At the other end of the music scale, Light on the Shore celebrates Scottish music from alt folk to pop folk and techno to punk. All concerts are held at the Leith Theatre and on stage will be the likes of Mogwai, Julie Fowlis and The Jesus and Mary Chain, all ground-breakers on the Scottish music scene.

Opera aficionados are also in for a treat and here too, there’s something for everyone. From the classic Barber of Seville to Beggar’s Opera via Hansel and Gretel and La Cenerentola.

Dance

Dance too takes centre stage at the Edinburgh International Festival. Choose from solo works such as Akram Khan’s moving Xenos or the exquisitely choreographed Autobiography, directed by one of the world’s biggest names in ballet choreography, Wayne McGregor. Or watch the vibrant Kadamati, a performance involving hundreds of local dancers outside the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Tickets: You can get tickets for all events from the Festival website, by phone ((+44) (0)131 473 2000) or in person from The Hub ticket office on Castlehill.

Fireworks finale

As well as putting on great festivals, Edinburgh also ensures they go out with a bang and a big one too. The city’s firework finales are world-famous and well worth catching if you’re in town. This year’s big bang takes place on 27 August with orchestrated fireworks against the backdrop of Edinburgh’s historic castle.

Best places to watch the fireworks: If you’re not in the city centre itself, head for one of Edinburgh’s high points. Carlton Hill and Inverleith Park (to the north of the city centre) both make great viewing spots for the fireworks and the castle.

Accommodation

While Edinburgh festivals are fun events, they can be tiring so it’s worth picking a retreat outside the city where you can retire to and relax before the next round of performances and shows begins. This gorgeous Georgian country home set in stunning countryside offers style and comfort in peace and quiet but within easy reach of the bright lights of the International Festival.

Enjoy the eclectic mix of old and new in the spacious living quarters and sleep like lords and ladies in the stunning bedrooms, each with their own look and style. And all with panoramic views of the picturesque Tweed Valley beyond the two acres of private grounds. Book your Edinburgh Festival retreat now. 

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YOUR GUIDE TO THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL 2018 No other city does festivals quite like Edinburgh. The Scottish capital hosts no less than nine big festival events throughout the year and showcases the best of the world’s talent from literary to jazz, from art to military and from dance to stand-up comedy. You name the art form and Edinburgh has an event celebrating it.