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Make the most of your first trip to the International Festival

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HOME | Photo: Hillarie Jason

Welcome All

You’ve decided to come to the International Festival this August to experience the world-famous atmosphere of the Festival City, but you’re not sure where to begin planning your time here? No problem! We’ve put together some handy tips to help you get started with your adventures.

See the Festival City

Kick off the summer festival season on 3 August in Edinburgh at the Aberdeen Standard Investments Opening Event: Five Telegrams. This free outdoor digital performance at Festival Square, outside the city’s picturesque Usher Hall, celebrates Scotland’s Year of Young People and reflects on the centenary of the end of the Great War. If you didn’t manage to get your free tickets earlier in July, there will a limited number released at 10.00am on Monday 30 July that will be available in person at Hub Tickets box office.

Thinking of coming to see the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official Scottish residence of the Royal Family? Plan your visit to coincide with a short (6m) free unticketed outdoor performance Kadamati bringing together hundreds of local dancers. Mark your calendars: 6.15pm on 22 August.

If you’re here on 27 August, don’t miss the spectacular finale of the International Festival – the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert. Get the best view in the Princes Street Gardens just under the Edinburgh Castle from £15.50, and watch hundreds of thousands of fireworks choreographed to live orchestral music. Bring your friends, snacks, a picnic blanket and make an unforgettable night out of it.

Waiting for Godot | Photo: Matthew Thompson
Try something new

You’re keen to explore, but can’t make up your mind what to see? Let us help you find something that may take your fancy.

THEATRE

Come to a magical house party hosted by actor, creator, magician and illusionist Geoff Sobelle. HOME is a place you want to be this August! Keen to give Beckett a go? This August presents a perfect opportunity as a critically acclaimed productions of the Irish playwright’s most iconic play Waiting for Godot comes to Edinburgh. If you have a family to entertain, Hocus Pocus, packed with wondrous adventures, tells a universal tale of courage and wisdom using clever eye-trickery with strobe lights, movement, and puppets (insider’s tip: it’s a hot ticket, so better be quick!).

La Cenerentola | Photo: Jean-Pierre Maurin

OPERA

Opera is the ultimate mixed artform that combines elements of music, theatre, and dance all together. Rossini’s classic tale of Cinderella is full of enchanting characters, show-stopping arias and a dash of impressive stage magic. It’s performed in Italian with English supertitles, but you know the story already. For an outrageous musical for our troubled times, come to see The Beggar’s Opera. Set in the contemporary world of greed, crime, poverty and inequality, it’s both satirical and entertaining. It’s performed in English, and contains strong language.

DANCE

Don’t miss a chance to see one of Akram Khan’s final solo performances in a full-length production. One of today’s most celebrated and respected dancers and choreographers, he has collaborated with artists like Kylie Minogue, Juliette Binoche, and Sylvie Guilliem. His dance piece XENOS confronts the tragedy of the First World War through the eyes of a shell-shocked Indian soldier.

CLASSICAL MUSIC

With over 40 classical music events to choose from, ranging from intimate recitals to symphonic concerts, you’ll definitely find something to suit your tastes. Our colleague Brian, Audience Development Officer, has a great ‘try anything twice’ mantra. “Sometimes I hear people say that classical music ‘isn’t for them’, but this is often based on a single concert experience, which I think is like someone tasting an apple once and deciding that they don’t like fruit!”

And there are so many flavours to try: the charismatic sound of Colburn Orchestra’s young musicians from Los Angeles, the vibrant big band repertoire of NYO-USA Jazzlegendary conductor Sir Simon Rattle leading the London Symphony Orchestra in two concerts, or the fresh sound of young celebrated cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason joining the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (tickets are running low, so get yours now!). And if you’re under 18, you can see some of these concerts for free! 

And don’t be discouraged by myths of stiff classical music concert etiquette – at the International Festival there is no dress code, and when it comes to clapping, it’s best to just follow the crowd.

NYO-USA Jazz | Photo: David Rugh
Something a bit different

Here are some unusual events you can add to your itinerary to shake things up a bit.

Hear Scotland’s ultimate folk revival album with a new orchestral sound at Martyn Bennett’s ‘Bothy Culture’ concert at the Edinburgh Playhouse. Read our blog to get to know the ‘techno piper’ and find out what to expect in this incredible concert. There’s plenty more Scottish music in Light on the Shore with Edinburgh Gin Seaside season at the Leith Theatre.

Let the cast of dancing hands (!) in Cold Blood amaze you, from Fred and Ginger-style tap routines, to zero-gravity bouncing at a space station, to elegant ballet poses... Originally based on a joint artistic experiment between a filmmaker and a dancer on their kitchen table, it’s like nothing you've ever experienced before.

Does cutting-edge contemporary dance sound like something you’d like to see? Don’t miss Autobiography, a pioneering new work from Company Wayne McGregor that uses dance to convey sequences from Wayne McGregor’s own DNA. Featuring body-shaking beats by Jlin, dynamic set design, and immersive lighting, this is a fascinating new take on the body and the stories it can tell.

Cold Blood | Photo: Julien Lambert
More useful information

Concessions and special offers
Check if you’re eligible for discounts and take advantage of special offers

Accessible performances
Full information, listings, and more

Venue information and directions
Find your way around Edinburgh

My Festival
Save your must-see events and export calendar of the International Festival events you’ve booked

And remember we’re here for you on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to answer your questions and hear what you thought about the shows you've seen. Join the conversation online using #EdintFest

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