The 8 best Edinburgh events every tourist should attend
As the capital city of Scotland, Edinburgh plays hosts to a variety of exciting events throughout the year, ranging from international festivals to large sporting events and everything in-between!
If you’re dying to visit the city of Edinburgh but are unsure about what will be going on or which events you should keep an eye out for, this guide is perfect for you. If you’re more interested in the best activities to do in Edinburgh, we have a blog for that too!
Below we’ve listed all of the most significant and popular events that happen in Edinburgh each year so you can plan your trip accordingly. Let us know in the comments which event you’re most looking forward to attending this year!
Edinburgh’s history of cultural events
Edinburgh is a city with a rich cultural heritage, and hosting a variety of events throughout the year plays a significant role in promoting and preserving that heritage. These events also attract tourists from all around the world, boosting the city’s economy and contributing to Edinburgh’s reputation as one of the world’s most fascinating cities.
Some of the most notable cultural events in Edinburgh include the Edinburgh International Festival, the world-famous Fringe Festival, they Royal Highland Show and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
These events, along with other smaller events and festivals, showcase a diverse range of artistic performances, including theater, music, dance, and comedy, and provide a platform for both established and up-and-coming artists to show off their talents. Edinburgh’s busy cultural event calendar also helps bring people together, fostering a sense of community and creating opportunities for tourists and locals to come together, learn from one another and experience the true Scottish heritage that Edinburgh is known for.
Overall, cultural events have played and continue to play a vital role in shaping Edinburgh’s identity and contributing to its global reputation as a historical, artistic and cultural hub.
The 8 best yearly Edinburgh events
So, with so much going on in and around Edinburgh, which are the events that you should mark in your calendar for 2023?
We’ve created our own list of the 8 best Edinburgh events that are a must-see, for both tourists and locals.
Below, we’ve included the event, location, planned date for 2023, and a short description of what to expect. So, mark down the ones that catch your eye and start planning your next Edinburgh trip!
The Royal Highland Show
When is it? Thur 22 – Sun 25 June 2023
Where is it? Ingleston, outskirts of Western Edinburgh
The Royal Highland show takes place on the outskirts of the city in a large grass field. It is located close to Edinburgh airport and is easily accessible by tram, bus or car from the city centre or from surround areas.
The Highland Show is an annual event the celebrates Scottish culture and heritage. Traditionally, it showcased the very best in Highland farming and rural life in Scotland, and whilst it still keeps this at the very core of the event, it has now grown in both size and stature. The event now runs over four fun-filled days and provides a range of attractions for both children and adults, including; rides, stalls, games, animals, shows, special prizes, music, drinks and incredible food!
The Royal Highland Show is a fantastic day out for all the family and is a truly unique experience. It’s educational, cultural, historical and a lot of fun! You can find out more about The Royal Highland Show in Edinburgh through the official website.
Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo
When is it? Fri, 4 Aug 2023 – Sat, 26 Aug 2023
Where is it? Held at Edinburgh Castle
The coveted Edinburgh Tattoo is one of Edinburgh’s largest and most well-known events.
The show runs hand in hand with Edinburgh’s International Festival and always provides a spectacular opening and closing ceremony (which are always fast to sell out!).
The Tattoo is a jaw-dropping display of music, dance and precision performed by a combination of The British Armed Forces, international military forces from the Commonwealth and artistic performance teams.
The Tattoo is rooted in Scottish tradition and celebrates military personnel from around the globe. The event helps to promote a sense of identity and unity within the British military and is a true spectacle that can be enjoyed with all the family.
The event is now a large-scale phenomenon that welcomes 100,000s of spectators over the course of a month and brings in around 100 million television viewers every year!
If you are after a special event that represents Scotland on the world stage, don’t miss out on tickets for the coming year! You can find out more on the official Edinburgh Tattoo website.
Edinburgh International Festival
When is it? – The 4th – 27th August.
Where is it? – At various venues throughout the city of Edinburgh
The Edinburgh International Festival is Scotland’s most famous festival.
The first annual event was held way back in 1947 and has since become one of the largest arts festivals in the world. The festival features a wide range of artistic disciplines including music, theater, dance, and visual arts, and attracts performers and artists from all over the world.
The festival runs annually for three weeks in the month of August. It takes place at various venues throughout the city, including theaters, concert halls, bars, music venues and open-air spaces. It is arguably the most important cultural event in Scotland and contributes significantly to Edinburgh’s reputation as a cultural hub.
The event was designed to bring people, artists, performers and styles together in one unique setting so that the arts can be enjoyed and celebrated by all. The event aims to:
- Showcase top-notch performances by global artists to a broad audience.
- Provide accessible, international cultural experiences to audiences in Scotland, UK, and beyond.
- Highlight Scotland’s vibrant cultural heritage to the world.
- Present cutting-edge performances and programs with a focus on new works.
- Foster a welcoming environment for all sections of society to participate and appreciate the International Festival.
- Inspire and encourage year-round engagement in the arts for everyone.
If you are looking to enjoy Edinburgh at its most vibrant, then booking your trip during the Edinburgh International Festival is highly recommended.
You can find out more information on the festival via the official EIF website.
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
When is it? 4th – 28th August
Where is it? Held in multiple venues across Edinburgh
The Edinburgh Fringe runs in tandem with the International Festival and is what many people first think of when it comes to cultural events in Edinburgh.
The two Edinburgh events are often confused and mixed together, and for good reason. Both events started back in 1947, however, the fringe was initially created as an alternative to the more traditional International Festival when eight theater groups turned up uninvited to perform.
Since then, the “underground” arts movement has only continued to grow and a new alternative arts scene in Edinburgh was born. The Fringe gave a platform for less established acts and performers to come and show off their talent and the Edinburgh public were quick to show their support.
To this day, The Edinburgh Fringe continues to provide an opportunity for artists to showcase their work, regardless of their experience or background. The performances range from comedy to dance and everything in between. Even today, the programme is completely un-vetted; as long an act has story to tell and a venue willing to host them, they are welcome to perform at The Fringe.
The event takes place in a variety of venues throughout the city, including theaters, pubs, and outdoor spaces. Many events are entirely free and paid tickets are widely available at affordable prices. You’ll also discover a tirade of street performers and eye-catching acts up and down the Royal Mile. Even if you don’t get tickets for an event, you’ll still experience the exciting festival atmosphere by simply wandering through the city.
Whether you are a fan of the arts, or simply looking for a fun and memorable experience during your trip to Scotland, the Edinburgh Fringe is definitely worth attending. Find out more on their official site to see what’s in store for 2023!
Edinburgh international book festival
When is it? 12th – 28th Aug
Where is it? – Tents and pop-ups in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh city centre
Scotland boasts a thriving literary culture and has a great history of writers, poets and novelists, so it’s no wonder that Edinburgh, the centre for literature and arts in Scotland, plays host to the international book festival each year.
Wigtown, Scotland’s designated book town, hosts the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the largest of its kind globally. Established in 1983 and becoming an annual event in 1997, the festival transforms Edinburgh’s city center into a tented village that attracts 250,000 visitors of diverse backgrounds, all seeking inspiration, discourse, and entertainment.
In 2019, the festival hosted over 800 events featuring 900 authors from 60+ countries, including notable names like Sue Perkins, Kate Atkinson and Malorie Blackman, and the line up for 2023 is set to be just as exciting!
Prices for events vary, with adult prices ranging up to £15 and children’s events up to £5. You can discover more about Edinburgh international book festival through the official website.
Edinburgh Christmas Markets & Winter Wonderland
Where is it? Princes Street Gardens
When is it? Markets open mid-November – Mid-Jan.
Christmas in Edinburgh is a special experience, especially for those travelling from overseas. With beautiful lights, Christmas themed food, carolers and street performers spread throughout the city, you won’t find many cities that celebrate Christmas like Edinburgh does.
The famous Edinburgh Christmas market is held in Princes Street gardens. Within the market area you’ll find cosy Christmas stalls, independent artists and sellers, fun-fair rides, Christmas themed food and drink and even a Ferris Wheel!
The markets are free to enter and create a bustling Christmas atmosphere that will leave you with a warm glow on those cold winter nights.
The markets are extremely popular, especially on weekends, so we always recommend our guests planning their trip accordingly and visiting out-with peak times so they can get the best experience possible. The markets are easily accessible by foot and are great fun for all the family.
Discover more about the magic of an Edinburgh Christmas with our blog dedicated to all things Christmas
Hogmany in Edinburgh
Where is it? Street party on Princes Street, Concert in Princes Street Gardens
When is it? December 31st
Hogmany is one of Edinburgh’s most traditional and exciting events.
To see in the New Year, us Scot’s like to make a bit of a song and dance (quite literally). Come December 31st Prices Street is completely closed off to traffic and shoppers, and instead, party-goers and first footers line the streets.
In Princes Street gardens you’ll find a large concert which always boasts incredible acts, with the Pet Shop Boys topping the bill last year. You can purchase food and drinks at various stalls throughout the party area and a magical firework display will be on show for the bells.
You’ll be sure to experience a great mix of friendly people from all around the globe (as well as some locals), all of whom in high spirits as one-chapter closes and another begins.
Edinburgh’s Hogmany street party is famous all around the world. Come and experience it for yourself in 2023 to see what all the fuss is about!
Black Ivy: The best place to stay during your Edinburgh trip
Whilst Edinburgh certainly has its fair share of exciting and cultural events, we highly advise booking a place to stay in advance of your trip to Edinburgh.
This is particularly true if you plan to visit during the bustling month of August as many tourists flock to the city from all around the globe to enjoy the world-famous Fringe and International festival in Edinburgh. Hotels, hostels, B&Bs and guesthouses all book up incredibly quickly and many places will raise their prices drastically as the August approaches.
Why not save yourself stress and money by booking a room in advance at Black Ivy?
We provide a wide range of luxury, comfortable rooms all at a very reasonable rate. Our convenient location in the heart of Brunstfield positions you perfectly for enjoying all the cultural events that Edinburgh has to offer without being slap-bang in the middle of the overcrowded city centre.
Find out more about the delightful area of Brunstfield through our blog, or get in touch with our team directly to discover more about events in Edinburgh.