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How to experience the magic of the Edinburgh Fringe in 24 hours
- Craig Angus
- 1 August 2018
This article is from 2018
Udderbelly in George Square Gardens
If you only have a day to spend and are looking for some fun, we've got you covered
It's the biggest arts festival in the world and it transforms the city of Edinburgh during the month of August. Over 50,000 performances of over 3000 shows took place in 300 venues last year. 'How do I begin to work my way through this titanic programme?' you're thinking. Well don't sweat it – we've got you covered.
If you're visiting for a day and just want to kick back and enjoy some comedy, food and drink, we've put together an itinerary that – whatever your budget – can work. Scroll to the end for a handy map of all the show venues, cafes, eateries, and bar type places...
BREAKFAST, BRUNCH AND LUNCH
The most important meal of the day – as the old saying goes – and good advice to boot. A day at the Fringe can be long, and no one wants to be flagging with two more shows still to see. With that in mind, fuelling up early doors is vital. Dishoom is one of the city's best Indian restaurants, an atmospheric Irani café that brings bold Bombay flavours to Auld Reekie. It's also famous for doing a phenomenal bacon roll, with meat courtesy of Ramsays of Carluke served in a naan. Their breakfast menu, served from 8am to 11.45am during the week and from 9am to 11.45am on weekends, features Parsi egg dishes, date and banana porridge with fresh juices and breakfast lassi to wash it all down. Across the bridge, the bustling The City Café is an American-style diner that does hearty cooked and veggie breakfasts,belgian waffles, vanilla pancakes, and some signature eggs hollandaise (named after Kennedy, Castro and Monroe).
The laughs start early in Edinburgh, so once you've stocked up on scran, it's time to take in some shows. Here's some of our comedy recommendations from midday.
Lou Sanders: Shame Pig
The most confessional show yet from Sanders, a comedian known for her frank honesty and warm comedy. This year she's wallowing in the proverbial muck for our benefit.
Monkey Barrel, Thu 2-Sat 25 Aug (not 15), 12.30pm, £5 or pay what you want
Seymour Mace Gets Sucked Off By God
Formerly a clown, Mace was nominated for the Edinburgh Comedy Award in 2015 having emerged as a wonderfully idiosyncratic standup. This year, with a show title that jumps off the page, we can expect more daftness from the Newcastle native.
The Stand 3, Thu 2-Sun 26 Aug (not 13), 1.30pm, £12/£10
Jen Brister: Meaningless
She's always too busy to ponder the meaning of life, chasing round twins who would quite like to do a wee in her shoes, but Jen Brister has decided that the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe is exactly the place to discuss the big questions. Answers not necessarily guaranteed.
Monkey Barrel, Thu 2-Sun 26 Aug (not 15), 1.45pm, £5 or pay what you want
After a busy morning you'll need a tea or coffee, and luckily Edinburgh's well stocked in that department, with plenty in the way of independent merchants to give you the fix you need. Situated in the Waverley arches next to the titular train station, Baba Budan serves specialty coffee and masterful doughnuts. Right in the epicentre of Fringeville is Brew Lab, with single origin, espresso and cold brew depending on your mood. Clerk St's Filament Coffee is lovingly roasted on site, with bagels and juices if that's not your thing, while Machina Espresso has spots on both Brougham Place and Nicolson Street, some of the best coffee in town served with a smile.
IN THE AFTERNOON
Time for more shows...
Rosco McClelland: 29
Still a youngster, Rosco's begun to notice the lines of aging. He's not moping around though, embracing the process whilst still trying to do the things he used to but, in all honesty, probably can't quite manage anymore.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Wed 1-Sun 26 Aug (not 13), 2.45pm, £9/£8
Ben Target: Splosh
In recent years he';s starred as a solo performer, but also as the beating heart of Richard Gadd's 2015 show Waiting For Gaddot. Now, Ben Target is inviting his audience for a paddle, with synchronized aquatics, front crawl relays and doggy paddle lessons on the cards. Consider us incredibly curious.
Heroes @ The Hive, Thu 2-Sun 26 Aug (not 15), 3.45pm, £5 or pay what you want
Lazy Susan: Forgive Me, Mother!
Sketch duo Lazy Susan use wigs, accents and a dose of surrealism to create their own bonkers comedy world. After their brilliant 2016 show Crazy Sexy Fool, we missed Celeste Dring and Freya Parker last year and are glad to see them back.
Assembly George Square Theatre, Wed 1-Mon 27 Aug (not 14), 4.20pm, £9.50
The debut play from Maddie Rice (the star of Fleabag) hilariously depicts the trials and tribulations that go along with becoming a grown up.
Underbelly Cowgate, Thu 2-Sun 26 Aug (not 16), 4.40pm, £11/£10
Adam Hess: Seahorse
Do you like your jokes delivered at a furious pace, with little or no pause for breath, and precious time for the madcap ideas to sink in? If so, you'll love Adam Hess, who ahead of this year's show says he 'can't imagine the Queen with wet hair', and 'can't get his head around the fact his cat has a grandad'.
Pleasance Courtyard, Wed 1-Mon 27 Aug, 4.45pm, £10.50/£9.50
Zach Zucker: Human Person
Fresh off sold out runs in New York, London and Los Angeles, Zach from Zach and Viggo returns to Edinburgh - after getting standing ovations (and police complaints) in 2017.
Underbelly Cowgate, Wed 15-Sun 26, 5.20pm, £11/£10
Lauren Pattison: Peachy
A nominee for best newcomer last year, the 24-year-old Geordie is blessed with razor sharp wit and an ability to conjure belly laughs out of pathos.
Pleasance Courtyard, Wed 1-Sun 26 Aug (not 13), 7pm, £12/£11
Sheeps: Live and Loud Selfie Sex Harry Potter
Their 2014 show Wembley Previews brilliantly deconstructed the idea of what a sketch comedy show is. Having starred in the mini series Year Friends in the intervening time, Daran Johnson, Liam Williams and Al Roberts return to Edinburgh for more postmodern comedy whimsy.
Pleasance Dome, Wed 1-Mon 27 Aug (not 10, 11, 25), 7pm, £14/£12
Chris Forbes: Prophecy
The star of Scot Squad tells the quite extraordinary tale of meeting a man who claimed to be none other than the son of God.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, Wed 1-Mon 27 Aug (not 13), 7.45pm. £11/£10
The Pin: Backstage
Another brilliant sketch group. Ben Ashenden and Alex Owen have starred in three multi award-winning series of their own Radio 4 show, and are an established Fringe favourite.
Pleasance Courtyard, Wed 1-Mon 27 Aug (not 11, 20), 8pm, £12.50/£11
Mat Ewins: What Sorry? My Mistake; The Doors Are Not Open; The Show Has Been Cancelled. Do Not Have Your Tickets Ready
The multimedia splicing devotee of daftness, Mat Ewins, struck gold last year with his Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated Adventureman 7, the word of mouth hit of the festival. Expect Ewins' show to be busy from the word go this year. His relentlessly funny shows are never dull.
Just The Tonic at The Mash House, Tue 2-Sun 26 Aug (not 13), 8.50pm, £5 or pay what you want
As great as it would be to watch comedy shows all day without a break, you'll need to grab some dinner in the evening. In the new town, El Cartel on Thistle Street is a tequila haven with mexican street food, tacos and tequila all on the menu. If pizza's your thing try Civerinos Slice for New York inspired goodness. For a quick (and very cheap) curry in a canteen environment, Mosque Kitchen will sort you out for under a fiver and you won't be disapppointed.
Vegans and vegetarians, check out David Bann for some sophisticated dining, or Paradise Palms seitan and other meat substitutes in a relaxed environment. Finally, just across the road is Ting Thai Caravan on Teviot Place, where the queues go on to the street, but if you get a table you'll be wowed by the spice and range of flavour.
LATE NIGHT SHOWS
Some of our favourite fringe shows are those late night performances, once a second wind has kicked in. Late night ensemble bills can often feature big names (so keep an eye out just in case) but here are some others to investigate.
Rob Kemp: The Elvis Dead, Pleasance Courtyard, 10.20pm
Already a well established cult favourite, Kemp's show fuses The King's music with Sam Raimi's comedy horror The Evil Dead on a blood-soaked stage.
Pleasance Courtyard, Wed 1-Sun 26 Aug (not 6, 7, 13, 14, 20, 21), 10.20pm, £12/£11
The Bear Pack, Underbelly Cowgate, 10.40pm
Lovably Aussies Steen Raskopoulos and Carlo Ritchie improvise a play based on suggestions from the audience. Accompanied by a cellist, Ange Lavoipierre, anything could happen, you might end up joining them on stage...
Underbelly Cowgate, Wed 8-Sun 26 Aug (not 20), 10.40pm, £12/£11
Tim Key: Megadate, Pleasance Courtyard, 11.15pm
Britain's weirdest poet (and Alan Partridge's Sidekick Simon) returns with a hysterically funny show about courtship, with temperamental cans of lager, costume changes and some celebrity guest spots to look out for.
Pleasance Courtyard, Tue 16-Sun 26 Aug (not 21, 22), 11.15pm, £14
TIME FOR A DRINK?
That's a long day of shows, it would be no surprise if you wanted to cap it off with a well earned beverage. With all those performances fresh in your memory, why not hit up Whyte & Mackay's popup bar in Bristo Square, where you can share your thoughts on the shows you've seen in the Roaring Review Booth, and earn the chance to win prizes while doing so? Open from 10am until 4am, there's plenty time to enjoy a wee dram with friends.
If it's beer you're after, The Salt Horse on Blackfriars Street is in the thick of the action, and has a remarkable selection of craft favourites (over 300!) both in its bar and its bottleshop. If it's a reasonably priced pint you're after, The Brass Monkey on Infirmary Street is free of the eyewatering prices some of the venues will charge. The pick of the venue bars is arguably the Pleasance Courtyard, if you're lucky enough to grab one of the outdoor tables it's a great place to pass a few hours.
To find out more about what Whyte & Mackay is up to during the festival, head to whyteandmackay.com. And if you want to win tickets to a comedy show and a bottle of whisky, check out this competition.
El Cartel New Town
64 Thistle Street,
Mexican street food with frozen cocktails and a long list of tequilas and mezcals. Walk-ins only.
3a St Andrew Square,
Stylish Bombay-style café serving small plates of delicious Indian fare, with friendly service and chai on tap.
5 York Place,
Cheerful cavern with all the ingredients required for eating, drinking and being merry.
56 Cowgate (entrances on Victoria Street and Cowgate),
49 Forrest Road,
Wide variety of crispy, thin, sourdough pizza by the pie or the slice, with a student buzz and pretty quick turnover.
Ting Thai Caravan
8–9 Teviot Place,
Delicious, no-frills, street food-style Thai restaurant that’s easy on your budget but big on fun and flavour.
41 Lothian Street,
Good-time cocktail lounge vibe which goes beyond student land. The vegetarian soul food has spirit, as do the drinks.
Gilded Balloon Teviot
13 Bristo Square,
The Gilded Balloon is one of the largest and most well-known venues at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The Gilded Balloon has experienced a dramatic evolution from its modest origins of one studio theatre with seven shows per day in 1986, to operating…
Heroes @ The Hive
15–17 Niddry Street,
1 Bristo Square,
Monkey Barrel Comedy
9–11 Blair Street,
Plush, red-hued comedy club.
The City Café
19 Blair Street,
American-style bar and diner with a pool table, good quality burgers and one of the city's best pre-club atmospheres.
Just the Tonic @ the Mash House
37 Guthrie Street,
East Market Street,
Hip coffee shop and donutterie serving drinks, breakfast, baking and freshly made lunches under the arches near Waverley Station.
The Original Mosque Kitchen and Aroma Café
Edinburgh Central Mosque, 50 Potterrow,
Without delving too deeply into some slightly murky internecine politics, we can report that once again there's curry being served in the courtyard beside Edinburgh's Central Mosque. Previous occupants 'Mosque Kitchen' established a new restaurant under…
80 Nicolson Street,
Machina Espresso's second branch brings their fastidious attention to detail to busy Nicolson Street.