Ask a native about the Edinburgh Festival, and they’ll ask “Which one?” With 12 major festivals running throughout the year, it’s no wonder that this is (unofficially) the Festival City of Europe! 

Covering everything from science and the arts to films, books, music and storytelling, not to mention the annual extravaganza that is Hogmanay hootenanny – a three-day celebration that makes other New Year celebrations look like a snore – the festivals here are internationally celebrated and admired.

Edinburgh’s festival tradition dates back to 1947, when 
the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe first launched. And over the years, they’ve attracted the great and the good, with everyone from Richard Burton and Maria Callas to Susan Sarandon and dancer and choreographer Michael Clark making appearances.

A brilliant showcase for the stars of tomorrow, some iconic performers who got their first break in Edinburgh include Robin Williams, Jack Black, Hugh Laurie, Mike Myers, Emma Thompson, Jude Law and Hugh Grant

It was also in Edinburgh that an unknown JK Rowling read the very first lines of Harry Potter to a group of 20 children…

Featured fun Something for everyone? You bet. During the Festival Fringe, the city comes alive with over 25,000 artists, entertainers and thinkers performing more than 1,000 shows per day. The vibe is a non-stop ‘anything goes’ mix with theatre, comedy, dance, music, children’s shows, exhibitions, musicals and street performers at every corner.

The Zones The programme falls into 11 categories, with family-friendly events happening in each and every area: cabaret, comedy, dance, physical theatre and circus, events, exhibitions, music, musicals and opera, spoken word, theatre, and street events.

Musical Maestros You’ll find the entire musical spectrum here, from a cappella and acoustic to fully orchestrated operas, classical and contemporary, Bach to beat box, hip hop, rock and folk, as well as world music and West End musicals. We especially like the sound of The Addams Family musical at Assembly Hall, which promises a quirky and amusingly macabre look at family life.
Venue: 1 Mound Place, EH1 2LU | Dates: August 8-10, 12-17 and 19-25

Kid Stuff

  • Albee Vector The Sound Collector  An interactive and enchanting aural extravaganza bursting with all sorts of noises, from thunder-crashes, sword-clanging and horse’s clip-clopping. But what happens when the sounds stop? Help Albee create a new cacophony with cornflakes, coconuts and popping candy in an epic yarn of love, adventure and a noise-hoover called Mustard.
    Venue: Hispaniola, 3 Drummond St, EH8 9TT
    Dates: August 8-10 and 12-23
  • The Amazing Bubble Man No ordinary bubble blowing: this is bubbles as art form fantastic! Louis ‘Bubble Man’ Pearl has been perfecting his art for three decades, expect to see bubbles as you have never seen them before: square bubbles, bubbles inside bubbles, fog-filled bubbles, giant bubbles, bubble volcanoes, tornados and trampolines – even people inside bubbles!
    Venue: The Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, EH2 2LR
    Dates: August 8-24
  • Big Red Bath Not Bedknobs And Broomsticks, but bath tubs and a menagerie of animals – this highly recommended show takes the audience around the world, and home again just in time for bedtime! Adapted from the popular children’s book by Julia Jarman and Adrian Reynolds, made in association with Half Moon and directed by Chris Elwell, it features a soundtrack of folk beats from Parisian indie electro pop trio We Were Evergreen.
    Venue: Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ
    Dates: August 9, 12, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24
  • Brave Macbeth Returning to the Fringe following a five-star run in 2013, this scaled-down version of the Bard’s famous Scottish play is a fantastic introduction to Shakespeare’s stories and language, complete with a complicit coven of witches, sword fights, catchy tunes, witty script and men in kilts.
    Venue: The Famous Spiegeltent, St Andrew Square, EH2 1AF
    Dates: August 8-10, 12-17, 19-25
  • Pirate Gran Take to the high seas in this swashbuckling adventure of sing-along shanties with the groovy gran who leads a double life as a pirate, from the talented team at Scamp Theatre. Read our full MyLittleStyleFile review of Pirate Gran here.
    Venue: Underbelly, Bristo Square EH8 9AL
    Dates:  August 9-12, 14-25
  • The Cat in the Hat  The insouciant feline, with his signature debonair style, is creating mayhem and madness in the manner that only he can. With a playful, rhyming script that’s faithful to the lyrical brilliance of Dr Seuss and a set cleverly designed to bring his picture book magic to life, there’s a growing sense of chaos as the Cat’s mischief-making gets ever more extreme, until Mother’s return is imminent – and the house a disaster! Can the Cat restore calm?
    Venue: Pleasance Courtyard, 60 Pleasance EH8 9TJ
    Dates: August 8-10, 12-25
  • Dean’s Silly Song Sing-Along If you ever wondered what happened to the bearded American folksinger that sang ‘Lucky Stars’ and ‘Lydia’ in the 90s, the answer is here as Dean Friedman puts his musical talents to good use in a decidedly silly hour of giggles and grooves. For fans keen to hear him in his previous pop career, Friedman also performs in concert at Sweet Grassmarket on August 8-10, 13-17 and 20-24, and performs his one-hour family musical ‘Smelly Feet’ on August 8-17, 23-24.
    Venue: Sweet Grassmarket, Apex International Hotel, EH1 2HS
    Dates: August 17, 24

Chill Out Time Although there’s lots going on, the mood of the festival is definitely relaxed. If you fancy some ultra pampering in swish surrounds, book yourself in for a treatment at the luxurious Guerlain Spa at the Caledonian, the first of the famous French ‘Instituts de Beauté’ in the UK.

Dining Tables The main festival hubs – Bristo Square, George Square, The Pleasance and St Andrew Square – offer a dazzling array of pop-up restaurants, cafes and stalls showcasing many of Edinburgh’s top chefs and restaurants, as well as the best of Scottish produce.

Photography Credit: Keattikorn on Shutterstock (main image) | Garry Lake (Cat In The Hat image)

See more family friendly Festivals for 2014