Edinburgh Festival 2014: A Guide To The Free Stuff

What’s on in Edinburgh this August? What isn’t! The Scottish city really gets festive in August 2014, with a jam-packed line-up of events. There’s a trillion things to see, do and chortle at but the real beauty of the Edinburgh Festival is the amount of free stuff going on. We’ve got the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Free Festival, the Fringe and much more covered, to show you how to keep that beer money strictly for beer.

First, check out our video from local residents on doing the fringe on a budget:

1. The Free Festival

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013 looks set to be the best yet. After growing concern that the fringe was becoming increasingly expensive Laughing Horse Comedy’s Free Festival promoter Alex Petty started putting aside venues where festival-goers could be guaranteed a free chuckle. This year it takes place from July 31st to August 24th and has over 6,100 performances of nearly over 350 shows. They host a bit of everything including comedy, cabaret, theatre, music gigs, exhibitions and operas.

We suggest…

  • At the Pear Tree Outdoor Stage (38 West Nicholson Street) you’ll find a medley of comedy, music and street theatre from 11am until 10pm.
  • There’s lots going on at Espionage (15-17 Niddry Street), which is hosting shows under the banner ‘Free Pick of the Fringe.’ Check ’em out here.

2. Edinburgh International Book Festival

The biggest literary festival in the world, the Edinburgh International Book Festival takes place in the beautiful Georgian Charlotte Square Gardens. Entry is free but you’ll have to pay to hear the Nobel laureates and award-winning authors. As something of an oasis amidst the rest of the festival’s drama, you can plop yourself into a chair and just enjoy being amongst book buffs, writers, poets, politicians and artists from over 45 countries.

We suggest…

  • Make for the Highland Park Spiegeltent from 9pm-11pm where a mini-festival called ‘Jura Unbound’ offers authors the chance to explore new literature and music with an alternative approach. Vague? We think so too, after all, they call the event ‘gloriously indefinable’ but it’s free and they will be serving some plonk if all else fails.

3. Mela Festival

The Edinburgh Mela Festival is a celebration of cultural diversity in Scotland. The Edinburgh Mela Festival 2014 will take place from 29-31st August at Leith Links with food stalls and a craft market running alongside the main events.

Mela means ‘gathering’ in Sanskrit, and while it isn’t completely free (all day passes are £4, but children under 12 go free), it’s fantastic value for money. The line-up for the Edinburgh Mela 2014 includes theatre, music, film, visual art and Bollywood dance.

4. Edinburgh Art Festival

Until recent years art was somewhat brushed under the rug amongst all the rowdy theatre and comedy of Edinburgh’s festivals. Now a number of galleries have clubbed together to have their slice of the pie in the Edinburgh Art Festival 2014 from 31st July – 31st August 2014.

Check out the full exhibition listings here.

And for when you do have to spend…

  • Cabaret Voltaire (36 Blair Street) offers Edinburgh Fringe free and ticketed comedy nights. See all shows here.
  • Mezbaan (14-14A Brougham Street) serves South Indian tapas with a great value lunch menu. Three (generous!) dishes for €6 and €2 for rice or chapathis. Lighter and fruiter than most Indian cuisine so not too heavy for lunchtime. If you’re still hungry, see our 11 Top Cheap Eats in Edinburgh.
  • For a picnic or cooking back at your hostel, pick up fresh ingredients at the Farmers Market (Castle Terrace).
  • Have a stomp around the charity shops in the Stockbridge area – perfect for last minute costumes for fancy dress parties.
  • For lunch on-the-go between shows, or for settling on the curbside to catch some streets acts, try Oink (34 Victoria St, Grassmarket). €5 for a hog roast bap plus €0.50 for crackling. Very generous portions so pick up a fork to avoid messy mayhem.


August’s festival season is the perfect time to visit the city, although you will notice properties hiking up their prices for this busy period and you need to book well in advance. There are plenty of cheap Edinburgh hotels and hostels close to all the action along the Royal Mile. They’re not just for cash-strapped backpackers, hostels are ideal for the festival season with a sociable atmosphere and central locations. Some even organise fringe pub crawls or competitions for show tickets.

Want more budget tips? See 11 things to do in Edinburgh under €10

Related posts

Thanks to Dale Harvey, Tom Brogan andv a n g e l i s for the images off Flickr! Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

1 × two =