Top tips for enjoying the Edinburgh Festival on a budget

Contrary to popular belief, enjoying Edinburgh in August doesn't mean splashing cash. Here's our top tips for keeping it reasonably affordable at the Fringe.
Picture: The 70th anniversary edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will take place from 04  28 August 2017Picture: The 70th anniversary edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will take place from 04  28 August 2017
Picture: The 70th anniversary edition of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe will take place from 04  28 August 2017

What to watch?

Free Shows

Edinburgh is now home to a host of free or cheap shows. Once, the big names of the Fringe could only be at the most prestigious venues – but plenty of comedians have taken their shows to the free Fringe, which has become an increasing trend.

There are two rival organisations that have taken on the mantle of the “Free Fringe”: Laughing Horse and Peter Buckley Hill’s Free Fringe. The events are usually in pubs or clubs so instead of paying £10-15 for one show, why not catch two or three and drop £5 in the bucket each time? Catch a comedian you know, a theatre show you don’t and randomly pick from any of the free fringe brochures. If it’s great, you’re winning and if it’s terrible, then at least you have a memorable experience to laugh about later.

Edinburgh Festival Carnival

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Held on the opening weekend of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival in mid-July, a Parade down the Mound includes music, dance, and kids’ performances in the Gardens. Line the streets and enjoy this perfect and free start to the Festival.

Fringe 2 For 1 Deals

Look out for these in first week, and take a friend along for free.

Virgin Money half price hut

From 10th August, hundreds of tickets are available for half price so get along early.

Edinburgh Art Festival

Many exhibitions and events are free, just take a look at their website and choose what you fancy.

Edinburgh Book Festival’s Unbound Series

This storytelling event combines music, comedy, games and wordplay in the beautiful Spiegeltent in Charlotte Square Gardens. 13-28th August 2017, 9pm-11pm. Visitors can enjoy a drink from the bar and settle down to watch and listen to some literary-inspired shows.

Edinburgh Festival Fireworks

The Edinburgh International Festival’s grand finale can be enjoyed for free on the streets of the Capital with local radio stations broadcasting the accompanying music from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Street Performances

A sunny day in Edinburgh is a rare thing, so shying away from the city centre when there’s just so much going on would be foolish.

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Between diving in and out of venues for free shows, you can get a hell of a lot of the festival atmosphere from just wandering the streets and popping into venue spaces. There’s a whole of host of jugglers, magicians, dance troupes, buskers and barbershop quartets.

Where to eat and drink?

Social Bite

(131 Rose St, Edinburgh EH2 3DT and 89 Shandwick Place, EH2 4SD)

A not for profit organisation that offers Michelin star recipes at agreeable prices, Social Bite is Edinburgh’s favourite new social enterprise. Frequented by those living on the street and Hollywood stars alike, this venue serves up well crafted meals alongside commendable social schemes which make a visible difference. A quarter of employees are previously homeless and their rewards system ensures that with each purchase you contribute towards a free meal for someone in need. I’ve seen first hand the positive impact that this has had on Edinburgh’s homeless population, so make sure to grab a bite during a trip over to the New Town.

Union of Genius

(8 Forrest Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2QN)

Whether working from their trusty van, Dumbo, or their bohemian Forrest Road premises, Union of Genius are living up to their name. They offer an inventive and belly-warming selection of soups and salads that change daily, ensuring their status as a firm favourite of students and festival-goers. Recently, they have extended the Union to team up with The Real Junk Food Project, an excellent pay as you feel scheme that uses discarded food to create top notch scran. When paying normal prices, £4-7 will see you heartily fed with superfoods and veggies. With over 100 recipes at their disposal and plenty of vegan/gluten free options, Union of Genius is sure to become an integral part of your festival survival kit.

Forest Cafe

(141 Lauriston Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9JN)

Both a free community space for creative types and a vegetarian restaurant run by volunteers, Forest Café has been a welcoming safe haven amidst the city’s bustle since the start of the millennium. Despite running Fringe venues, publishing houses and record labels, Forest manages to maintain its high standard of vegetarian cuisine and friendly service.

Choose between a Mountain or a Molehill of nachos to go with your Forest Burrito. Alternatively, fill up on cheesy beans for just £3.

If you’re going to catch some local music (for free) at one of their intimate gig nights, or just for a jam session with new friends, BYOB is recommended.

Make your own

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A consecutive run of days at burger joints and sandwich bars may be good fun – but will leave you a little less mobile in the long run. The city is teeming with green spaces and the occasional (read: very occasional) ray of sunshine means you can pack some sandwiches before heading out and bask in the summer sun.

How to get about?

It might seem obvious but the best, and cheapest, way to experience the Festival Fringe is to walk around the city. Although not small, Edinburgh is a city that can be easily seen on foot. Plus this gives you the chance to pop into venues that you pass on the way that look interesting, and you’ll find free entertainment from street performers.

Occasionally artists putting on shows will offer free entry, especially if that show is due to start soon. So the street are the place for scouring cheap or free tickets.

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