I Spy Edinburgh!

It's the time of year when Edinburgh welcomes an invasion of punters, performers, poseurs, posters and practical problems. A full festival experience is not complete unless you've ticked off the following:

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A Lothian Bus
Published 20 Jul 2016

The Udderbelly

It's a massive purple cow. If we say 'you can't miss it', that's being generous.

Outdoor heaters

It might be 28 degrees in the daytime, but you are going to FREEZE at night if you're out and about boozing. Find an outdoor heater and do not let it go.

Pleasance Kidzone

Essential for families at the festival, this area at the Pleasance Courtyard has a dedicated kids' programme, cafe, pram shelter, nappy changing, and activities.

St Andrew's Square Garden

Newest festival village, with venues and bars wresting back dominance of the Fringe from the Old Town.

Pleasance Dome

Picture Center Parcs, but with theatre, comedy and beer instead of screaming kids and water slides.

Arthur's Seat

Mountain in the centre of town. Climb when you need a) fresh air; b) to stretch your legs after too many hours sitting on uncomfortable seats in cramped venues; c) when you want to escape from people chatting about shows they've seen or are in.

The Scott Monument

Built by the Victorians in honour of Scotland's most famous author, JK Rowling... I mean Sir Walter Scott, it's the largest monument to a writer in the world.


Have the right money to hand, or risk the terrible wrath of the driver and all the passengers you're holding up with your chit-chat: THEY DO NOT GIVE CHANGE. Or avoid the issue altogether by buying mobile tickets using the app.

EdFringe box offices

Places where you pick up tickets bought from the Fringe if you haven't been organised enough to get them posted to you; never quite as on-the-way to your next venue as you hope.


Rookies forget these. It will rain. Or it'll be 30 degress and you can use it as a parasol.


A big patch of grass in the centre of the city that makes Edinburgh one of the most civilised places in the world on a sunny day. Going "taps aff" is acceptable. Leaving charred disposable BBQ patches is not.


Used to be the University Vet school, now presents an artistic programme of immense variety in a number of weirdly scholastic venues; the courtyard is a good place for a secret pint.


Watch out, there's a flyerer about. Hundreds of them, in fact. Remeber to be nice to them and place flyers directly in a recycle bin rather than on the floor. Or, even, read them. Fest tip: bring plasters. Paper can cut.

Gilded Balloon

Housed in the oldest purpose-built students' union building in the world, this mini-castle of fun is one of the many hearts of the Fringe.

Members-only bars

The holy grail of festival partying. Don't try and get in unless you've got a pass or are with someone that has. These bouncers cannot be swayed.

Royal Mile

A river of singers, jugglers, flyerers all after a piece of you. It must be seen to be believed.

Hills & bridges

It's very confusing navigating in the city centre. Google maps are no good to you here. 

C Central

Famed as the home of student drama at the Fringe, this venue has been the proving ground of a remarkable number of theatre greats. Warning: if you're over 20, a visit to the bar will make you feel like a dinosaur.

Performers in costume

Where else but Edinburgh at festival time can you spot a troupe of 17th-century courtesans pushing past the Rat Pack in line for a kebab? With no cash in the budget for advertising, EVERYTHING is a marketing opportunity.

Street food

The arrival of a whole host of street food stalls in the main festival villages has turned around the eating side of the Edinburgh festival experience.

Salt & sauce

Who else but those culinary pioneers the Scots would have thought of blending two such ordinary ingredients—vinegar and brown sauce—to create a whole new world of flavour sensations? 

Mosque Kitchen

This is a staple of Fringe sustenance – the sort of place marketing phrases like "tasty curry in a hurry" were made for. Kebab Mahal opposite is unmissable, too.


Pay attention to it. For a festival of arts and anarchy, the Fringe is remarkably punctual. If you're not, you'll miss your show.

Fringe Royalty

The Fringe is great for sleb spotting. Stewart Lee, Steven Berkoff, The Hamiltons, Paul Merton, Sue Perkins. People off the telly who you're likely to spot at 3am with kebab sauce down their front. Actual royals rarely spotted, but photographic evidence will precipitate prizes.

Festival directors and venue owners

Definitely one for the more committed Fringe-watcher. Shona McCarthy, Fergus Linehan, Peter Buckley Hill, Anthony Alderson... are all people you've probably never heard of, but deserve a high five if you stumble across them.

Fest Magazine

This is the best thing about the festival, and almost certainly the only thing you need to ensure a brilliant month. (Sure, you could go and see some shows, too.) Out Tuesdays and Fridays. 

Buckets (full of money)

Free shows aren't free, because someone is paying for board and lodging. And venue hire. And tech. And publicity. And a cat-sitter. So put some money in the bucket.