Guides Edinburgh Must-Do: 20 Unmissable Festivals and Events in Edinburgh

Must-Do: 20 Unmissable Festivals and Events in Edinburgh

City Guide October 9, 2023



Edinburgh, often called Festival City, is where culture, creativity, and celebration thrive. Throughout the year, this vibrant Scottish capital hosts many must-do festivals and events, including spectacular music festivals, catering to various interests. Whether you’re looking for a week-long festival that celebrates the best in arts and culture or want to attend a continuously running film festival, Edinburgh has something exciting to offer.

Something exciting always happens in Edinburgh, from local festivals celebrating the city's rich history and traditions to international showcases of music, arts, and culture reminiscent of the vibrant scenes in places like New Orleans, Louisiana.

These festivals, hosted in various destinations within Edinburgh from the iconic Royal Mile to the majestic Calton Hill, are among the biggest events in the city and provide an immersive experience for visitors. With a backdrop of significant landmarks, including the Scott Monument and Arthur's Seat, these celebrations allow attendees to enjoy diverse entertainment, from whisky tasting to performances by international and local talents. The festivals offer a blend of cultural activities and delightful dining options, thereby significantly enriching travelers’ experiences. Whether embarking on a day trip from nearby Glasgow or going down Princes and Mary’s vibrant streets, visitors can engage in Edinburgh’s festive atmosphere, making their travel adventure exceptionally memorable.

Here, we've compiled a list of 20 unmissable festivals and events in the city, each promising a unique and memorable experience. Whether you're a local or a tourist, these events offer a fantastic way to engage with the city's vibrant cultural scene.

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1. Edinburgh Festival Fringe

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the world's largest arts festival, offering an explosion of creativity. With thousands of performances, from comedy to theater and everything in between, this is a must-do event for arts enthusiasts.


2. Edinburgh International Festival

Running concurrently with the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival presents world-class music, dance, and theater performances. It's the perfect complement to the Fringe's experimental spirit.


3. Edinburgh International Film Festival

For cinephiles, the continuously running Edinburgh International Film Festival is a treasure trove of international and independent cinema. Don't miss the chance to attend film screenings and rub shoulders with filmmakers.


4. Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Set against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a dazzling display of music, marching, and precision. It's a visual and auditory feast you won't forget.


5. Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival takes over the city in the summer months, featuring local and international musicians. You'll find various performances in various venues, from street parades to intimate jazz clubs.



6. Edinburgh International Book Festival

Bookworms will find their paradise at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Engage with authors, attend readings, and immerse yourself in the world of literature.


7. Edinburgh Art Festival

This annual event celebrates contemporary visual art, showcasing a diverse arrangement of works by both established and emerging artists. Explore galleries, exhibitions, and public art installations throughout the city.


8. Edinburgh International Science Festival

Educational and entertaining, the Edinburgh International Science Festival offers interactive exhibits, workshops, and talks that make science accessible and engaging for all ages.


9. Edinburgh International Children's Festival

Perfect for families, this festival brings captivating theater and dance performances designed for young audiences. It's a beautiful opportunity to introduce children to the arts.


10. Edinburgh International Storytelling Festival

Delve into the world of tales and legends at the Edinburgh International Storytelling Festival. Storytellers from around the globe captivate audiences with their narratives.


11. Edinburgh International Magic Festival

Prepare to be amazed at the Edinburgh International Magic Festival. Witness mind-bending tricks and illusions performed by world-class magicians.


12. Beltane Fire Festival

Held on the night of April 30th, Beltane Fire Festival is a pagan-inspired event celebrating the rituals and prayers of the ancient Celts. It marks the victory of good over evil and is a unique experience.



13. Edinburgh Festival of Cycling

Explore the city on two wheels during the Edinburgh Festival of Cycling. From calm rides to more challenging routes, this event caters to cyclists of all levels.


14. Edinburgh International Film Festival

In addition to the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the city hosts the annual Edinburgh International Film Festival, which focuses on documentaries and celebrates the art of non-fiction filmmaking.


15. Edinburgh's Hogmanay

Welcome the New Year in grand style at Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebration. With fireworks, live music, and street parties, it's the most significant event in the city.


16. Edinburgh Festival of Politics

Engage in discussions about political issues at the Edinburgh Festival of Politics. It offers a platform for dialogue and debate on current events and policies.


17. Edinburgh International Improv Festival

Laugh your heart out at the Edinburgh International Improv Festival. Enjoy spontaneous comedy performances that will have you in stitches.


18. Edinburgh Horror Festival

For fans of the macabre, the Edinburgh Horror Festival offers a lineup of chilling and thrilling performances, from horror theater to eerie storytelling.



19. Mardi Gras Edinburgh

Experience a taste of New Orleans, Louisiana, at Mardi Gras Edinburgh. This lively event features colorful street parades, live music, and enticing food stalls.


20. The Beltane Fire Society's Samhuinn Fire Festival

Another captivating event organized by the Beltane Fire Society, the Samhuinn Fire Festival celebrates the changing seasons with fire performances, drumming, and immersive storytelling.

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