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Brightly dressed performers take part in the Edinburgh Festival Carnival on the city's Princes Street © Kenny Lam
Edinburgh Festivals Guide ››

Download our FREE Edinburgh Festivals Survival Guide for all the hints, tips and highlights you need this July and August.

  • The Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square
    The Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square
  • Children conducting an experiment at the Edinburgh Science Festival.
    Edinburgh Science Festival © Kenny Lam
  • A gold painted living statue on the Royal Mile during the Festival
    A Fringe performer on the Royal Mile
  • The Mardi Gras Carnival at the opening of the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Grassmarket
    The Mardi Gras Carnival, the Grassmarket © Kenny Lam
  • The E4 Udderbelly, a Festival Fringe venue in Bristo Square
    The E4 Udderbelly, Bristo Square

Long before the coveted title was first coined, Edinburgh was known as a ‘City of Culture’ throughout the world. Today it remains a hive of cultural activity year-round, and nowhere is this better witnessed than during the city's myriad of festivals. Spanning everything from the performing arts to music, visual art, comedy and literature, the outpouring of creativity during these festivals is second to none.

And the Lothians is no exception, with Highland games, local customs and unique festivals taking place throughout the year.

Find out what's on in Edinburgh & The Lothians and peruse our events listings below. Although the festivals run all year-round, the summer months - and August in particular - are when festival fever reaches its height.

August festivals

Festival season officially kicks off with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Almost a thousand musicians, pipers, drummers, singers and dancers from around the globe perform on Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. This unforgettable spectacle is brought to an emotional and poignant close each evening as a lone piper, high on the castle ramparts, plays a haunting lament.

The Edinburgh Art Festival is the UK’s largest annual celebration of visual art and attracts over 250,000 art lovers to the capital’s internationally renowned galleries, museums and artist-run spaces. Admire in specially commissioned public artworks created by both established and emerging artists and enjoy and take your pick from an innovative programme of events including late openings, live music, film screening, guided tours and family-friendly events.

The Edinburgh International Festival, founded in 1947, is the official centrepiece of Edinburgh’s festivals. Running for four weeks, this performing arts festival has world-class displays of theatre, dance and music. The Festival ends with a spectacular firework display at Edinburgh Castle.

Why not play the Suggest My Fest app via the festival's Facebook page to help you choose what you'd like to see at the EIF?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs alongside the International Festival. The Fringe is the world’s largest art festival, with over 2,500 different shows last year. The Fringe has strong ties with comedy and drama, as well as featuring more unusual acts such as puppetry and circus performers. For those who want their money to go a little further, there are also hundreds of Free Fringe events.

In need of a multicultural fix, don't miss out on the Edinburgh Mela. A dazzling carnival of colour, world music, dance, exotic food and drink, art exhibitions and more, the Mela celebrates the diversity of Scotland’s communities and cultures in the pleasant green setting of Leith Links.

Another August festival is the Edinburgh International Book Festival, staged in the elegant surroundings of the city centre's Charlotte Square. The event regularly attracts a world-class selection of authors, with previous appearances from Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, J.K. Rowling and Ian Rankin amongst many others. With around 700 events each year, including free evening events, you’re sure to find the right genre to suit your literary tastes.

Film, science and storytelling

The fortnight-long Edinburgh International Science Festival is held at the end of March. With hands-on experiments, fascinating talks and many more family-friendly events and activities, this vibrant celebration of science and technology invites people of all ages and walks of life to delve into the mysteries of the world that surrounds them.

May sees the return of the Imaginate Festival, Scotland’s international festival of performing arts for children and young people. Bringing the very best in children’s theatre from around Scotland and the world to Edinburgh, the Imaginate Festival always delivers a programme to delight both the young and young-at-heart.

There are also festivals spread throughout the year. The Edinburgh International Film Festival is held in June, and shows a vast range of new films from around the world. With its glitzy premieres and cutting-edge independent films, the Film Festival brings a touch of Hollywood glamour to Edinburgh.

The Jazz & Blues Festival is also held in July. Opening with a Mardi Gras in the Grassmarket, this lively two week festival brings some of the very best names in jazz and blues to venues across the city.

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival in October is Scotland's annual celebration of traditional and contemporary storytelling. The festival brings together artists and audiences in entertaining and inspiring live storytelling performances, thought-provoking talks, workshops and discussions and fun family activities.


Nowhere else in the world throws a New Year’s Eve bash quite like Edinburgh. Celebrate the start of the New Year with three days of spectacular events held throughout the capital as part of Edinburgh’ Hogmanay.

Boasting programme of must-see events including the UK’s largest outdoor New Year ceilidh, a Candlelit Concert in St Giles Cathedral, a Torchlight Procession down the Royal Mile, and the Concert in the Gardens Hailed by the Discovery Channel as one of the ‘Top 25 World Travel Experiences,’ Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party is set against the dramatic backdrop of Castle Rock and attracts tens of thousands of revellers from around the world.

Join in the fun as live bands and DJs transform the city centre into one big party. Watch as the inky black sky becomes ablaze with a spectacular fireworks display on the stroke of midnight from Edinburgh Castle and carry on making merry into the wee hours.

East Lothian festivals

In the summer, the Lothians boasts festivals such as Fringe by the Sea in North Berwick and the British Pipe Band Championships in Bathgate. Over the autumn and winter months, the Lothians host festivals including the Lennoxlove Book Festival and the Lammermuir Festival. You'll find Highland games, local fairs and festivals throughout towns and villages.