The city that rarely sleeps

That might be a little unfair on Edinburgh. It most certainly does sleep – just from three in the morning until nine, when it wakes up with a throbbing hangover.

Edinburgh is a strange city during the festival. The city swells as hundreds of thousands of people roll up, filling every available space. Every hotel is full, the student housing at the university is converted to temporary accommodation and thousands of Edinburgers (which is what I call them, whether they like it or not) flee the city to put their houses up for extortionate prices. I can’t think of a parallel in any city, anywhere in the world.

The Edinburgh Festival is not actually one festival. It is a collection of several dozen festivals that flood the city of Edinburgh, Scotland over August. The full list of festivals can be found on Wikipedia, but that list of frankly exhaustive. The main ones are:

  • The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (or just the Fringe)
  • The Edinburgh International Festival
  • The Edinburgh International Book Festival
  • The Edinburgh Art Festival

Between these four, plus the dozens of others, any kind of entertainment imaginable can be found in Edinburgh over the summer months. The party starts early in the morning, and the shows tend to stop around 3 in the morning. Many bars in Edinburgh offer 24-hour service during the festival, as a result of popular demand.

I’ll start with the Fringe. It started in 1947, in direct competition with the more highbrow International Festival. The Fringe Guide now holds listings for over 6000 shows over 460 different venues scattered throughout the city. The range of shows is spectacular and mind numbing – the Fringe is the only festival I have ever been to where the restricting factor in your timetable is time, not choice.

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