Arrivals & Departures Edinburgh celebrates festival city milestone

Photo of Gemma Nisbet

This year Edinburgh celebrates seven decades as arguably the world's leading festival city, as two of its biggest festivals mark their 70th birthday. 

In 1947, in the wake of World War 2, the Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Edinburgh International Festival of performing arts and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe were founded. The latter can now lay claim to being the biggest arts festival anywhere on the planet.

Since then, the festivals have drawn people from around the globe. Today, they make a good basis for a trip to Scotland to soak up the festival atmosphere and shows before or after an exploration of some of the country's historic and natural attractions. 

The original festivals are now complemented by a range of other festivals over the summer. Combined, they attract more than 4 million people each year. 

The 11 major festivals in Edinburgh to look out for – and perhaps plan a trip around – this year are:

Edinburgh International Film Festival, June 21 to July 2. This year's festival will include a retrospective program featuring titles from former Beatle George Harrison's HandMade Films, classic early 80s science-fiction cinema and more. It'll also host the UK premiere of Pixar's Cars 3, with the full program to be announced in late May. 

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, July 14-23. A free street carnival featuring more than 700 performers, a New Orleans-style Mardi Gras and music from the likes of Jools Holland and the Blind Boys of Alabama will feature at this celebration of jazz and blues music. 

Edinburgh Art Festival, July 27 to August 27. Including artist talks, tours and performances, the UK's largest annual festival of visual art will this year incorporate exhibitions focused on botanical art, British realist painting of the 1920s and 30s, Caravaggio and his followers and more.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, August 4-26. More than a thousand military and civilian performers take part in this blend of music, ceremony and entertainment on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. Make sure to book your tickets early: the tattoo attracts an audience of about 220,000 (along with millions more via TV broadcasts) and pretty much always sells out in advance.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe, August 4-28. The world's biggest arts festival is open access, meaning anyone can take part, and has famously helped to launch the careers of the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Stephen Fry, Steve Coogan and Flight of the Conchords. 

Edinburgh International Festival, August 4-28. Highlights of this year's festival will include Bloom, a free opening event featuring light and sound installations and large-scale illuminations, and performances by PJ Harvey, along with theatre, dance, music and opera. 

Edinburgh International Book Festival, August 12-28. Attracting more than 800 participants from 55 countries, this literary festival hasn't yet released its 2017 program, but last year's line-up included Ali Smith, Philippa Gregory, Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin, Jonathan Safran Foer and Irvine Welsh. 

(Picture at top by Kenny Lam Photography)

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