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Six great places to hang out during the Fringe

edinburgh fringe
© edinburghblog.co.uk

From Edinburgh’s biggest theatre to a bar-restaurant near the bottom of Leith Walk, in 2016 you can find Fringe shows everywhere. However, there's a select group of sites that act as nerve centres for the planet’s leading arts festival. Each has its charms and all are worth visiting, whether you want to see a few minutes of free street theatre, take in a show, grab some great food al fresco or chill out with a superior cocktail. Read on for our guide to the best places to hang out during Fringe.

 

 

The High Street

© Alastair Barnsley

 

What is it?
In August, part of the medieval High Street in the Old Town between Cockburn Street and George IV Bridge becomes a pedestrianised, open-air performance space. People hand out flyers, there are enthusiastic excerpts from shows and buskers busk while an ample audience ambles by. Usually packed, often surprising, this is what makes you think, ‘I’ve arrived at the Fringe.’

Where is it?
High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1QS. Fringe Venue 10 (no box office).

Why go?
This section of the High Street gets so giddy with artistic ambition and creative anarchy, it’s sometimes hard to walk from one end to another without literally tripping over an actor. There are mini-stages to help things along, an arts and crafts market for added interest, bars and eateries too, while the busy Fringe box office and the impressive High Kirk of St Giles are also on this stretch of pavement.

 


Assembly & Udderbelly at George Square

 

© Underbelly Limited

 

What is it?
August sees a fairly sleepy garden in the precincts of the University of Edinburgh transform into one of the Fringe’s most exciting hubs. One half of the space is usually taken over by the Assembly organisation for its shows, but this year the other half will host Udderbelly, famous for its temporary venue in the shape of an upside-down purple cow, so 2016 promises twice the fun as usual.

Where is it?
George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9LH. Assembly shows are Fringe Venue 3 (box office 0131 623 3030); Udderbelly shows are Fringe Venue 300 (box office 0844 545 8252).

Why go?
Each part of the garden will have a separate entrance, but both will have bars, food stalls galore, al fresco seating (with umbrellas) and a remarkable range of entertainment in temporary venues. Both Assembly and Udderbelly have other sites elsewhere in the city, but the garden at George Square is certainly the most festive with the biggest buzz. You can pop along in the afternoon for a drink with friends and still be here close to midnight, wondering if you should get a ticket for Best of Burlesque or just a late curry.

 

 

Summerhall 

© Magnus Hagdorn

 

What is it?
Summerhall is an all-year-round venue in the former University of Edinburgh veterinary college. Only hosting shows since 2011, it's quickly established itself as a major presence on the city’s arts scene. It has all kinds of interior spaces repurposed for performance – including the former dissection room – plus a café, bar-bistro, microbrewery (Barney’s) and even a craft gin distillery (Pickering’s) on site.

Where is it?
1 Summerhall, Edinburgh EH9 1PL. Fringe Venue 26 (box office 0131 560 1581).

Why go?
Summerhall is always interesting, but during August it kicks up a gear. There's a great range of entertainment, of course – from child-friendly material to comedy, music, theatre and cabaret – but the venue’s interior courtyard also comes into its own this month, hosting temporary bars and food outlets. If other outdoor Fringe sites are bigger, the courtyard here is more boutique and discerning.

 


St Andrew Square Garden

© www.europealacarte.co.uk.blog

What is it?
A New Town garden that remained private until 2008, this distinguished patch of grass and trees – with the soaring Melville Monument at its centre – is now a real asset to the city, hosting all kinds of events throughout the year. Just off Princes Street and very hand for Waverley Station, St Andrew Square is also home to the Edinburgh branch of Harvey Nichols and the Edinburgh Bus Station, plus it has its very own tram stop.

Where is it?
St Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 1AF. The Famous Speigeltent in the garden is Fringe Venue 87 (box office 0131 558 9005).

Why go?
It’s central, it’s handy, the Famous Speigeltent has music, cabaret and comedy plus an extensive bar, while adjacent you'll find superior eats at the Valvona & Crolla food stall and seriously classy drinks at the Edinburgh Gin cocktail bar. Performances in the Famous Speigeltent aside, everything is al fresco, but the garden becomes gazebo city in August, so there’s no shortage of cover.

 


The Pleasance Courtyard

© Alix Roth

 

What is it?
The Pleasance is part of the University of Edinburgh and its complex of buildings has everything from a 750-capacity theatre to a cabaret bar, as well the university’s sports centre and gym. During the Fringe, it offers an astonishing 17 separate venues, seven bars and three cafés clustered around the site, while its cobbled courtyard becomes a hotbed of conviviality, pre-show anticipation and post-show chat.

Where is it?
60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ. Fringe Venue 33 (box office 0131 556 6550).

Why go?
The courtyard is certainly the longest-running of the August hangouts, while the sheer number of performances around the site means that much of the Fringe audience passes through the Pleasance as a matter of course. With its cobbles, the crow-step gables on the old buildings, twinkling lights at night and bars and food stalls, the courtyard has a particular atmosphere that you won’t find anywhere else.

 


The Mound Precinct

© Stu Smith

What is it?
Much like the High Street, the Mound Precinct is an outdoors space for buskers and performers and it seriously benefits from its location: bang in the middle of the modern city centre beside the esteemed Royal Academy and Scottish National Gallery buildings. 

Where is it?
Princes Street, EH1 1YZ. Fringe Venue 55 (no box office).

Why go?
This is where the Fringe really intrudes on day-to-day Edinburgh with its galleries, bus routes, shops and trams. If you tire of the free music or street performance, you can always pop into the adjacent Scottish National Gallery to see some Botticelli and Titian. Alternatively check out the Virgin Money Half Price Hut, also at the Mound – it sells half-price Fringe tickets for performances that day or the following morning, 10-29 August.

 

Looking for more places to hang out during Fringe? Check out one of Edinburgh's best pubs.

 

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