1. The atmosphere - It's like nothing else in the world. The population of Edinburgh doubles, and the International Festival alone has 157 performances from 68 acts over 3 weeks.
2. Brilliant theatre - The International Festival is co-producing the European premiere of the American Repertory Theater's Tony Award-nominated production of The Glass Menagerie. Three foreign language Shakespeare plays, Richard III, Measure for Measure and Shake (Twelfth Night), will make you re-assess the way you think about The Bard's work. A new co-production from The TEAM and the National Theatre of Scotland will have you thinking about the way Scottish and American national myths and stories intertwine in Anything That Gives Off Light and two acclaimed productions from Glasgow-based theatre company Vanishing Point (The Destroyed Room and Interiors) will challenge your conceptions of privacy, surveillance and voyeurism. Then there's the dazzling acrobat/poet/clown/magician James Thierrée with his new creation The Toad Knew.
4. An epic lesson in Geology - Our spectacular, free Standard Life Opening Event: Deep Time will see mesmerising digital animations projected onto Edinburgh Castle and Castle Rock, all set to the deeply atmospheric music of Scotland's own Mogwai.
5. The best classical musicians from around the world - This is not a drill. The Usher Hall, Queen's Hall and even Greyfriars Kirk will be packed with world renowned orchestras and spectacular soloists this August. Highlights include the Orchestra dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Russian National Orchestra, Maxim Vengerov, Daniil Trifonov, Mikhail Pletnev, Anja Kampe, Karen Cargill and Sir John Eliot Gardiner. That's us trying to keep it short!
6. Spellbinding dance - Natalia Osipova, Scottish Ballet, Akram Khan, Kabinet K and The Holy Body Tattooprovide the varied and extraordinary dance programme for the International Festival this August.
7. Awe inspiring opera - Three blockbusters here. The great Cecilia Bartoli steps into the monumentally challenging titular role of Bellini’s Norma. Fresh from the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, a thought-provoking new production of Mozart's Così Fan Tutte set in Italian Eritrea. The always epic Das Rheingold performed by St Petersburg's historic Mariinsky Theatre.
8. Catchy tunes - The International Festival continues to grow its contemporary music programme, with post-rock giants Sigur Rós, ANOHNI (former lead singer of Antony and the Johnsons), Senegalese superstar Youssou N'Dour and Scotland's own Mogwai leading the charge.
9. The weather - okay, maybe not that one...
10. An explosive ending - The Scottish Chamber Orchestra, exceptional young Estonian conductor Kristiina Poska, magnificent fireworks from the always brilliant Pyrovision; this year’s dazzling Virgin Money Fireworks Concert is one of the best reasons to be in Edinburgh this August!
Richard III © Arno Declair All other photos © Mihaela Bodlovic - International Festival Photographer