In August Edinburgh transforms into Europe’s premier cultural hub, doubling in size as it hosts world-renowned festivals of art, performance, comedy, music and literature. The cultural aura lingers throughout the year with plenty of options to indulge in favourite and surprising cultural experiences. Here’s our pick of the best:
1. Memory lane
Step back in time at The Museum of Childhood, a treasure trove of childhood memories bursting with toys, books and artefacts from the past. Take the kids by all means, but adults nostalgic for a simpler and technology-free yesteryear will love it most.
Edinburgh has a veritable trifecta of Scottish National galleries – National, Portrait and Modern. With its city centre site, most visitors dip into The National for a peek at the Great Masters, but on a clear day nothing beats a wander through the gardens and a cuppa at The Modern.
During August’s Comedy Festival upwards of three thousands acts perform. For the rest of the year, locals head to stalwarts including The Pleasance, The aptly named Banshee Labyrinth and The Stand. The latter’s intimate cabaret bar offers laughs every night and a free Sunday lunchtime show.
Experience dramatic renditions of the works of 18th century Scottish poet, Robert “Rabbie” Burns at his birthday celebrations on 25 January. Raise a toast to the “great chieftain o' the puddin'-race” – the haggis – and dine on traditional haggis, neeps and tatties.
The Playhouse, Festival Theatre, Royal Lyceum, The Trav and Summerhall – Edinburgh is bursting with theatre and shows for all tastes and budgets. Around Christmas The King’s Theatre puts on Scottish pantomimes with men dressed as buxom dames, dastardly villains and audience participation – look out behind you!
Inspired by quirky TV host and pianist Jools Holland, The Jam House is the city’s most fun jazz-blues-dinner venue. Dress up for a rousing performance at the former BBC TV studio reborn as an adult only venue.
7. Live music
For an offbeat folk experience Sandy Bell’s has a unique vibe. Expect jamming sessions of Celtic-inspired tunes. If you know your way around a harmonica or a ukulele, bring it along and ask to join in. At Sandy Bell’s anything can – and often does – happen.
8. Scottish dancing
Grab your partners and head to Lauriston Hall for some boot-scooting Scottish Country dancing. Let passionate local Ken Gourlay and his ceilidh band introduce you to the Dashing White Sergeant and eightsome reel at his popular monthly dance night.
9. Independent cinema
The Filmhouse is a popular choice for art house, Indie and current movies. Home of The Edinburgh International Film Festival it packs a punch throughout the year with its’ international film offerings and occasional presentations by famous filmmakers.