48 Hours in Edinburgh
Time Out’s recommended itinerary for enjoying the festival city during a short break.
So much to see, so little time to see it. In this last minute age, 48 hours may be all ou can spare, so use it well. Here’s our advice on how to make the most of the city and its unbeatable festivals.
DAY ONE 9AM: BREAKFAST/ARTHUR’S SEAT
Good places for breakfast include Cafe Hub and Centotre. After that, to clear the head for the madness to come and to get a visceral grasp of Edinburgh’s sometimes confusing geography, climb Arthur’s Seat, the 823-foot extinct volcano that looms over the city. Both the climb and the view are breathtaking.
11AM: QUEEN’S HALL MORNING CONCERTS
85-89 Clerk Street, EH8 9JG (0131 668 2019, www.thequeenshall.net). The Queen’s Hall is a former church that retains its pews and is one of the hidden treasures of the Festivals. During August, it stages concerts at 11am almost every day, with the Nash Ensemble and Pavel Haas Quartet among those playing this year. A blissful festival start.
For a leisurely lunch, try David Bann’s classy vegetarian food, Mother India’s tapas-style south- Asian dishes, and the National Museum’s Tower. For something quicker, check out the cafés, restaurants and pubs lining the High Street, all buzzing like at no other time during the year.
2PM: SHOPPING AND READING
Combine cerebration and consumption with a stroll down George Street, Edinburgh’s classiest shopping drag, to Charlotte Square, the focal point of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Canvas tents are set up in the middle of the city’s most elegant square (designed by Robert Adam in 1791) and inside authors perform public readings and discussions. John Simpson (BBC man-of-war), Julia Donaldson (The Gruffalo) and Philip Pullman (His Dark Materials) are among the writers appearing this year.
6PM: PLEASANCE COURTYARD
Time to prepare for an evening of culture, and the Pleasance Courtyard is the ideal place to start. Grab a bench, a Fringe programme and a drink, and watch the comedy world arrive. Most shows are only an hour long and there are over 20 venues in the Pleasance complex, so why not alternate between sipping pints and seeing performances?
If money is no object why not try The Witchery (Castle Hill, EH1 2NF, 0131 225 5613, www.thewitchery.com/) on the Royal Mile. Time your departure from the Witchery right and you will be inches from the regiments marching to the Castle’s Tattoo.
During August the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo kindly lays on a spectacular fireworks display at 10.30pm. You can see it from almost anywhere and you’ll hear the explosions even if you are in the bowels of the Underbelly venue watching a show.
MIDNIGHT: LATE ’N’ LIVE
The Gilded Balloon’s (Bristo Square, EH8 9AJ, 0131 622 6552, www.gildedballoon.co.uk) anarchic Late ’n’ Live shows sum up the boisterous side of the Fringe. These gigs are actually relatively tame these days but they are still an essential rite of passage for audience and performer alike.
DAY TWO 10AM: WALK & BREAKFAST
Clear the head with a gentle stroll along the Water of Leith (as recommended by Ian Rankin), taking in the life-size figures sculpted by Antony Gormley standing in the river itself. For breakfast, head back to the Gallery of Modern Art’s excellent café (75 Belford Road, EH4 3DR, 0131 624 6200, www.nationalgalleries.org) and, if the weather’s good, take your coffee out on to the terrace and read the reviews there.
11AM: ART IN THE MORNING
Cross the road to the Modern Art’s sister gallery, the Dean Gallery for an Art Festival fix of the year's blockbuster exhibition. You can see the full Art Festival programme here.
2PM: FRINGE ACTIVITY
The High Street is a noisy, colourful, unmissable throng of street performers and young, aspiring artists giving it their all in the hope of their big break. If you’re not persuaded to buy tickets for a show there and then, reliable venues for seeing some great, grass-roots Fringe ction include the various spaces working under the C venues label (www.cvenues.co.uk); Zoo (www.zoovenues.co.uk), which shows just about everything but majors on physical theatre and dance; and Sweet (www.sweet- uk.net), also an all-rounder, but normally with a good sprinkling of children’s shows and music.
Not much time, so catch some food on the run from the bars and food stalls that line Bristo Square and Pleasance Courtyard.
7PM: END ON A HIGH NOTE
End your festival fling with the Festival that started them all, the Edinburgh International Festival. The world’s best orchestras and theatre, dance and opera companies appear in the city’s larger, year-round theatres (such as the Usher and Queen’s halls, King’s and Festival theatres) but, in true Edinburgh style, without the black ties and high prices you’d expect in other European cities.
This article first appeared in Time Out Magazine 2010. Reproduced with permission.
Suggestions have been updated to maintain relevance.