Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017 - Dates & History

Festival season is well underway in Edinburgh and it’s almost time for the launch of the largest of the bunch - The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The largest arts and culture festival in the world The Fringe sees thousands of performers flock to the city each year.

Dates of the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival: 4th - 28th August 2017

Celebrating its 70th anniversary this year the Fringe is a month long programme of events including physical theatre, comedy, cabaret and dance which take place in theatres and concert halls across the city. You are absolutely spoilt for choice at the festival - In 2016 alone the Fringe included 3,269 shows, which resulted in a total of 50,266 performances across 294 venues throughout Edinburgh. There is certainly something for everyone.

History of the Festival

The festival was established in 1947 as an alternative to the 'high arts' of the Edinburgh International Festival and has continued to grow each year. It's now hugely famous across the world and it draws many visitors to the city in the summer. It's worth noting that getting to Edinburgh at this time of year can be difficult as flights and trains get booked up really early (and are expensive), so it’s best to plan your trip well in advance.

Often confused for the Edinburgh International Festival, The Fringe is actually a separate event, albeit one which runs at the same time. The main difference in the events is the programming policies. Invites only are allowed to participate in the International Festival whereas there is no selection process for The Fringe and anyone can put forward a piece of work for inclusion.

There are many other festivals which often take place throughout the summer and into September, including the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival and the Edinburgh Art Festival. There is also the Free Edinburgh Fringe Festival which runs from 3-27 August and as the name suggests is a festival which hosts a number of completely free shows.

Fringe Festival Figures

We made our own infographic image which gives you an idea of just how huge the Fringe Festival has now become.

Best Places to Enjoy the Fringe

Below is just a selection of the best places to hang out, sip a drink and watch the Fringe go by:

1. Pleasance Courtyard - Numerous bars and cafes set outdoors at one of the premiere comedy venues. Get yourself along, sit back, sip a beer, and breathe in the atmosphere whilst you wait. There are a large number of performances at the venue and performers are desperate to get bums on seats so it won't be long until someone approaches you asking if you want to see their show. And who knows? That free ticket for this year might be the next big thing.

2. Udderbelly Pasture – Moved to George Square in 2016 from its usual spot in Bristo Square, due to construction works, the upside cow is expected to remain there for 2017. An outdoor venue, it's a great place to graze for food among the plastic grass. Kids also love it. Ideal if you’re after some gourmet festival street food.

3. Book Festival – If you require a slightly more relaxing spot, Charlotte Square turns into a tented village in August. Entry is free and you can soak up any sunshine in the bookish atmosphere of the gardens. It’s a lovely place to escape the city with its cafe, bar and bookshop. What more could you want?

4. Sweet Grassmarket - More of an evening haunt than the other locations mentioned on this list. Exclusively indoors, drinks aren’t cheap, but you can admire some fantastic views of Edinburgh Castle. And you're in the heart of the city's bustling Grassmarket, which is known to be popular with musicians.

Surviving Edinburgh around the Festival

As anyone who’s visited Edinburgh around August would no doubt agree with, the city is very different than it is any other time of year. You need special skills to make the most of your time here. We’ve included a bit of a guide below to surviving - and even enjoying - the festival month.

1. Beware of rickshaw drivers - You’d think the city’s steep hills would deter cyclists pulling rickshaws. But whippet-thin youths descend on the city in a swarm of lycra and fluorescence in August to pull tipsy tourists up ridiculous gradients. Make sure you’re not so tipsy you forget to agree the fare before stepping into the vehicle – or you could be forced to pay £50 for a half mile journey.

2. Half Price Tickets - Making the most of the Fringe Festival can be an expensive business, no doubt about it. Ticket prices have crept steadily upwards over the last few years and booking fees have started to appear, but there is still one notable way to save money. If you're a sucker for a bargain then get yourself some cheap tickets at the Virgin Money Half Price Hut which is located at the Mound Precinct. There are literally thousands of half price tickets available for shows every day. You can collect and buy tickets from 4th - 28th August, 10am to 9pm.

3. Don’t get too carried away by reviews - Performers have to drum up whatever publicity they can, and a five-star rating on a show flier doesn’t necessarily mean a show’s going to knock your socks off. It might just mean the producer’s mum said: “Oooh, I’d give you five stars any day, darling.”

4. Experiment - It’s easy to stick to shows at high-profile venues like Assembly and Pleasance. You can be confident of what you’re likely to see. If you can manage it though, try venturing out of your comfort zone. Yes, there are some terrible shows out there, where your bottom aches from the wooden chairs. There are also some gems. And you'll pay less to see them.

5. Twitter - An obvious one but it’s the best place for the most up to date news and opinions on the festival in August (especially show cancellations). Try #edfest and #edfringe.

Be sure to make the most of the Edinburgh Festival this year because it’s sure to be another spectacular event. The award-winning shows, fantastic performers and amazing venues make the festival truly unique and incredibly successful.

And if you have any tips for helping to survive Edinburgh this time of year we’d love to hear them @ReserveApts on Twitter.