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12 must-do events in Edinburgh this summer

Make the most of the summer months with our essential guide to Edinburgh-based fun in the (potential) sun
By Niki Boyle |

The sun is shining (sometimes), which means it's time to get out there and make the most of this country's engaging cultural scene. Whether you interpret that as checking out some of Scotland's best music festivals or simply enjoying one of Edinburgh's best beer gardens, you'll find something for you.

Things to do this summer in Edinburgh

race for life
Danny Fitzpatrick

Do something sporty

With no Olympics or Commonwealth Games to distract us, this summer’s stand-alone sporting highlights shine all the brighter. The city-wide Edinburgh Festival of Cycling (Jun 11-21) promotes bike-based activity in the capital, and includes the nocturnal Edinburgh Night Ride (Jun 19), though confusingly there's an identically-named event the following night. Both the nighttime MoonWalk (Jun 13) and daytime Race for Life (Jun 14) marathon events raise money to fight cancer; Scotland’s national team faces off against Italy in a Rugby World Cup warm-up at Murrayfield on Aug 29; and the Tour of Britain long-distance cycling race swings through the capital on Sep 9. In the midst of all that, you’re of course more than welcome to gather in front of a big outdoor screen (such as those found at The Three Sisters, Pear Tree House and Festival Square) to watch Andy Murray win Wimbledon (Jun 29-Jul 12) once again. Probably.

inside out

Celebrate the silver screen

We may not have the Cannes sunshine but we can hold our own when it comes to cinematic star spotting. The Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from Jun 17-28 and features screenings of ‘Back to the Future’ (with orchestral accompaniment), Disney-Pixar’s ‘Inside Out’ and celebrated Winehouse doc ‘Amy’, plus visits from Ewan McGregor, Malcolm McDowell, Jane Seymour and more. If you don't fancy being cooped up in a darkened room for hours at a time, remember they’ve got a programme of Film in the City outdoor screenings leading up to the main event as well – see our preview for full details.

See more film in Edinburgh.

Princes Street Gardens East summer, sunny
Photo: daniel0685, via Flickr

Relax in one of the city’s green (or sandy) spaces

On those rare occasions when the sun does shine this summer, you’ll want to make the most of it. The Meadows is always gonna be the popular choice, but if you’d rather not be up to your elbows in students, low-flying Frisbees and BBQ smoke you could always try one of Edinburgh’s many other green spaces – or better yet, one of its nearby beaches.

Edinburgh Festival Carnival
Simon Williams

Show us your jazz hands

Offering a jazzy entrée into the August festival season is the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival; head along to check out performances from George Benson, Jools Holland and more of our hotly-tipped recommendations, or simply get into the party atmosphere with the help of their Mardi Gras style celebration on the Grassmarket (Jul 18) and outdoor jazz carnival in Princes Street Gardens (Jul 19). It helps that both events are freebies too.

Check out more gigs in Edinburgh.

Street performer at Edinburgh Festival.jpg

Get festive

If you’ve never been to Edinburgh in August, just what the heck have you been doing? In addition to the world’s biggest theatre, comedy and arts extravaganza (the Fringe) taking centre stage, the city also hosts the highbrow Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh International Book Festival, not to mention an assortment of (comparatively) smaller-scale events. Naturally, you should keep an eye on Time Out Edinburgh for essential guides on how to navigate all that wonderful chaos nearer the time. 

Fringe by the sea

Explore the Fringes

It’s not just Edinburgh that gets its rocks off in August – travel out to some of the surrounding settlements and you’ll find places celebrating their own form of Fringe fever (without the hassle of a million extra tourists, of course). Check out Penicuik’s Howlin’ Fringe (Aug 8) or North Berwick’s Fringe by the Sea (Aug 10-16) for starters, or just take punt on a day trip to any one several scenic locales.

Foodies Festival

Indulge your foodie side

Edinburgh’s reputation as a festival city extends to its love affair with food. The Royal Highland Show – a massive market event for those involved in the farming and outdoor industries – takes place at the Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, from June 18-21 and features a wealth of foodie stalls amidst the tractors and livestock. Closer to the city centre, both the Edinburgh Food Festival (George Square Gardens, Jul 29-Aug 2) and Foodies Festival (Inverleith Park, Aug 7-9) celebrate all things edible, with stalls, demonstrations and the like, while the Scottish Juniper Festival (Summerhall, Jun 12-14) and Cake Fest Edinburgh (Royal Botanic Gardens, Jun 21) are a little more focused in their obsessions.

Check out cafes and restaurants in Edinburgh.

gelupo, ice cream, peroni

Eat an ice-cream

You might think it a foolhardy venture for a city with less-then-record breaking temperature records to boast not one but two must-visit ice-cream parlours – but devotees of Nardini’s and the stalwart S Luca (both in Bruntsfield) will tell you otherwise. If you find the queue out the door for those places a bit intimidating though, you can always nip into the newsagents for a more mass-market lolly – just make sure to check where they ranked on our definitive, infallible and completely correct ice-cream chart first.


Rock out, outdoors

An expansion of Glasgow’s Summer Nights series, this August sees the arrival of three large-scale outdoor gigs at the Princes Street Gardens’ Ross Bandstand. Britpop survivalists James kick things off on Aug 26, followed by psychedelic stars The Flaming Lips (pictured, Aug 27) and folk-rock heroes The Waterboys (Aug 28). Of course, if that's too long to wait, you can always watch the Foo Fighters blow the roof off Murrayfield on Jun 23 instead. If it had a roof, that is.

Check out more gigs in Edinburgh.


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