It’s that time of the year again! For the next three weeks, Edinburgh is going to be taken over by comedians, theatre companies, dancers, artists and well…anyone who wants to perform as the legendary Fringe festival gets underway.

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival and consists of thousands of performers putting on shows catering for just about any taste imaginable. This year’s Fringe will see an incredible 2,700 shows across 279 venues, with just over 42,000 performances!

Anyone who loves the arts owes it to themselves to experience the Fringe Festival at least once and get properly immersed in the wealth of eclectic performances on offer. The beauty of the Fringe lies in the fact that the programme isn’t vetted by organisers; anyone from an amateur performing their first show to a multi-million pound grossing Theatre Company can perform.

To get the full ‘Fringe’ experience, it’s best to just get out on the streets of Edinburgh and walk into one of the many venues – you never know what you might see and what you might end up loving! However, it’s good to have a bit of direction when navigating the vast entertainment landscape so we’ve put together a quick guide to five of our favourite Fringe Festival venues.


Zoo, like quite a few of the Fringe’s ‘venues’ isn’t actually a single physical venue, but rather five performance spaces across two buildings. Zoo Southside is the bigger of the two boasting three performance spaces including the Main House, which has a 200 capacity and an elaborate stage lighting system that can be added for different performances. Last year, Zoo’s programme boasted over 90 shows across a wide range of genres, although dance and physical theatre are particular specialisms.

The Underbelly

2012 marks the 13th year the Underbelly has been at the Fringe, and it has become one of the largest venues at the festival. Based on Cowgate, Underbelly boasts a wealth of spaces hosting an eclectic range of shows. Underbelly is well known for the unique upside down purple cow which hosts E4’s ‘Udderbelly’. The Udderbelly has been criticised by ‘fringe traditionalists in recent years for ‘commercialising’ the festival, but remains an extremely popular venue!

The Gilded Balloon

Another of the ‘big four’ along with the Underbelly, The Gilded Balloon has come under fire in recent years but remains one of the best venues in Edinburgh. The venue holds nine spaces including the Debating Hall, which has 360 seats and boasts one of the best lighting and stage sound system set-ups at the Fringe. The Gilded Balloon is renowned for its ‘So You Think You’re Funny?’ competition, which has been won by the likes of Peter Kay, Lee Mack and Dylan Moran. Famous runners-up include Ed Bryne, Ardal O’ Hanlon and Johnny Vegas! The venue also provided a springboard for a certain Tim Minchin, who recently wowed theatre audiences with his adaptation of Matilda.

The Assembly Rooms

Not to be confused with Assembly (although it would be understandable), The Assembly Rooms consists of four spaces housed in a Category A listed building. Probably the least traditional ‘performance’ space on the list, the venue plays hosts to a wide variety of functions throughout the year. The venue is renowned for the calibre of performers it attracts; this year will see Russell Kane, comedy legend Stewart Lee and the WWE’s Mick Foley bring their shows to the rooms!


Of course, the Fringe would be nothing without its smaller venues and Whitespace is definitely a smaller venue! The name more or less describes the venue; a room with white walls…and that’s about it. It can house up to 60 chairs and is the place to go for more ‘niche’ entertainment from the likes of cult comedy favourite Simon Munnery and Moondial, a ‘bittersweet dark comedy told through the imagination of a young woman suffering from depression’!

Have you been to the Fringe before? We’d love to hear some of your favourite venues!