Edinburgh is a city of festivals. "The Edinburgh Festival" is the name usually applied to the collection of festivals taking place in the city from the end of July to the first week in September each year, a period during which Edinburgh becomes home to the world's biggest arts festival and more than doubles its normal population.
The first of these to start each year are the Jazz & Blues and the Film Festivals, which take place in late July. This is traditionally followed by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe ("The Fringe") and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. The Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edinburgh International Festival both run from mid August; the Book Festival to the end of the month and the International Festival into the first week in September.
The Edinburgh Mela Festival celebrates the diversity of the city's communities and takes place over the first weekend of September on Leith Links. It is also possibly the most family-friendly of Edinburgh's festivals. Other festivals include the Edinburgh Foodies Festival, held over a long weekend in mid-August.
What you choose to see during this period is up to you: though you are strongly advised to make sure you book your accommodation as early as possible. Beds in and around Edinburgh can be hard to find in August.
The origins of the Edinburgh Festival date back to 1947 when three of today's festivals opened their doors for the first time. The Edinburgh International Festival was the original core of activities. The EIF aims to promote and encourage arts of the highest possible standard. It usually takes place across the larger venues in the city and includes a wide range of theatre, ballet, opera and classical music. The EIF has grown steadily over the years.
Accompanying the EIF when it first opened in 1947 was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Fringe started life as a more accessible and less highbrow accompaniment to the "main" festival, literally on the fringe of it. In many ways it has grown to become much more significant than the EIF that spawned it.
1950 saw the launch of what is now known as the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in the magnificent setting of the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, as the Army's contribution to the Edinburgh International Festival. It was granted the right to add the "Royal" to its name in 2010. Today the Tattoo retains its Scottish character while including performances from as far afield as New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, USA, Jordan and Poland: and audiences drawn even more widely. Tattoo tickets sell out very early, so be sure to book yours well in advance.
Today's list of festivals was expanded by the more recent launches of the Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh International Television Festival, and more.
Visitors to Edinburgh should also remember that there are a number of other festivals in the city at other times of the year. During the first half of April the city hosts the Edinburgh Science Festival, while the Imaginate Children's Festival takes place in early May and the Edinburgh Film Festival, previously part of the main Edinburgh Festival season, takes place in June. Perhaps best known of these "non-Festival festivals" is Edinburgh's Hogmanay, the celebration of the Scottish New Year each 31 December.
More information about all of the festivals mentioned here throughout the year can be found at www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk