The following Packing List for Edinburgh Fringe was submitted by Shawn. See all of our packing list posts.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (aka, “The Fringe”) is a must-see event for travelers who love theater and performing arts.
Every August, thousands of performers descend on the Scottish capital for a totally wild month-long celebration of live performance of every kind. When you go, you can experience everything from serious avant garde theater to the cutting edge of stand-up comedy, all at a walkable distance and reasonable prices—or even free!
This packing list is based on a week long trip I spent at the festival, packed in my trusty REI Vagabond Tour 40 pack.
The key here is LAYERS. Scottish weather is variable, even in August, and it changes throughout the day. (One day, I changed my layers 4 times in one lunch!) So you want to make sure you can adjust if it’s cold when you leave your hostel in the morning, warmer when you’re hiking up city streets in the sun, or stuffy when you are sitting in the audience in a tiny venue at the back of a pub.
Oh, and you also want to be prepared for rain. Here’s what I brought:
- 1 pair jeans – I wore these on the plane, and then most days of the trip. If you don’t like traveling with jeans, substitute your long pants of choice.
- 1 pair shorts – I barely needed these, but if your Fringe week is warmer than mine you might want them.
- 1 skirt – The Fringe isn’t a fancy event at all, but it was nice to have an option to mix up my outfits a bit.
- 1 pair leggings – to wear under the skirt and to sleep in
- 4 short-sleeved shirts, 3 tank tops, 2 ¾ sleeve shirts – base layers depending on temperatures
- Layers – I mixed and matched these so each day felt like a different outfit and fit the weather: 1 short-sleeve button-up shirt, 1 ¾ sleeve light hoodie, 1 rayon button-up shirt, 1 chambray shirt, 1 lightweight cardigan, 1 zip hoodie sweatshirt, 1 denim jacket (I wore the hoodie and the denim jacket on the plane)
- 1 stuffable rain jacket – mine is from LL Bean
- 2 scarves – or buy one there, scarves make great souvenirs
- 1 pair comfortable walking shoes – Edinburgh is a great walking city, and the Fringe venues are mostly close to each other, but some streets are very steep so you’ll want good support for walking around. There are also nice hikes nearby—visit Arthur’s Seat if you want a break from the busy city for an afternoon.
- 1 bathing suit – My personal travel philosophy: always bring a bathing suit. It doesn’t take up much space, and you never know when you might want it.
- 1 pair ballet flats – I also brought a pair of sandals (you can see in the picture) but didn’t wear them much. One extra pair of shoes should be fine.
- Your preferred selection of socks and underwear and bras
>>Check out these space-saving packing hacks for travel photographers.
- 1 small umbrella – We had rain on several days and I was glad to have this.
- Toiletries – You won’t need anything special here, no fancy make up or anything. That said, Fringe performers can be pretty wild and individual, so if you want to express your personality with make up and jewelry, go for it!
- Plug adapters – for charging your devices in the UK
- Unlocked phone – There are places with free wifi at the Fringe and around Edinburgh. But for about 10 pounds I got a SIM card with 1 GB of data for my unlocked iPhone which made it super easy to navigate around the city, use the Fringe app, and stay in touch with my travel companions without worrying about finding wifi. To me, that was totally worth it.
- Fringe App – Each year the Fringe publishes a really useful app! It will let you “save” shows you want to see, or find what shows are close to you if you don’t have plans yet. It’s easier to use than the big published guidebook.
- Medium-sized bag – I took a messenger bag but a tote or daypack would be good too. Aside from your extra sweater, umbrella, water bottle, etc, you’ll want a place to put all the flyers performers will hand you. Save to the ones that sound intriguing, and hold on to the others until you find a recycle bin (there are big ones all up and down the Royal Mile).
>>A great option to try is a stuff bag like this one from REI.
Where to stay for the Fringe Festival:
Edinburgh hostels, hotels, and guesthouses book up WAY in advance for the Fringe. We made our reservations in April but when I go back I will do it even earlier. Because most of the performers also come from out of town, the city is packed for the festival and hotels and rentals (like AirBNB) raise their prices for the month.
We stayed part of the time in Leith, a district of Edinburgh on the coast, which had some more affordable rentals and good bus links to the center of town. Hostels are still a cheaper option—though more expensive than they would be the rest of the year—and I had a fantastic experience at Castle Rock Hostel.
If you can’t find an affordable place to stay in Edinburgh, check out other places nearby where you could take the train into the city each day. Even Glasgow, another great city worth visiting, is less than an hour away by train.
>> Search for places to stay in Edinburgh on booking.com.
What to see at the Fringe:
There is so much to see at the Fringe that everyone will have a totally different experience. Look over the program online and see if anything catches your eye. It’s worth buying tickets in advance for a few shows you know you don’t want to miss. Especially if there is a celebrity or a popular comedian involved, shows can sell out before the festival even starts!
But don’t schedule your whole itinerary before you get there. Some great shows get “discovered” during previews, and some of your favorite things might be something you stumble upon. Performers will hand you flyers for their shows all around the Royal Mile, maybe they will suggest something great! You can buy tickets at each venue or visit the Half Price Hut for discounted tickets to that day’s performances.
If you’re still stuck for something to do, the Fringe app will let you know what performances are starting soon near you, or will even give you a list of free shows.
Do leave plenty of time to wander and take in the atmosphere! Enjoy the street performers, toss a pound to a busker, or have a pint in one of the outdoor spaces and just enjoy the spectacle!
And of course, don’t forget that Edinburgh is a gorgeous city every month of the year! Take some time to visit its museums and monuments, walk down streets away from the festival crowds, and enjoy Scotland’s capital city.
>>Visiting in the winter instead? Check out this female packing list for Edinburgh in the winter.
About the author: Shawn is an art historian and travel enthusiast. She currently lives in Brooklyn where she watches lots of theater and drinks too much tea. Follow her occasional musings and travel pictures on both Instagram and Twitter.
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