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EDINBURGH (Reuters) - The Edinburgh Festival Fringe offers everything from street buskers and mimes to top-class singers, actors, comedians and cabaret stars at hundreds of venues around the Scottish capital and that's in addition to the international book, art, jazz festivals and the Military Tattoo, which are all part of the cultural cornucopia that is Edinburgh in August.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge provide some helpful hints for enjoying 48 hours of crowds, comedy, theater, dance and art on the hilly, cobblestoned streets.
6 p.m. Book into your hotel and then hit the streets, probably after arriving at Edinburgh Waverley train station, which lies at the center of the city under the brooding shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Top tip: You can order a Fringe program before you go, online at www.edfringe.com.
The Fringe website also advises you where and how to book tickets, so it is well worth consulting before you come to Edinburgh - and after you arrive.
Wander over to the Royal Mile and take in the sights and sounds in a city where more than 21,000 performers are ready to entertain you with over 2,500 shows.
One of the great spectacles of the Festival is the Military Tattoo, which caters for 220,000 spectators over its three-week run to August 27.
The Tattoo, with over 1,000 military and civilian performers, is sold out early in the year. But you can try your luck at the ticket office 33-34 Market Street, just round the corner from Waverley Station - or you can check at your hotel desk if any are available.
8 p.m. Head for some food and drink. Try the Royal McGregor pub at the heart of the Royal Mile. (www.royalmcgregor.co.uk). The pub is run by the McGregor family and boasts of its links to the MacGregor clan. Have a pint of local ale to slake your thirst and order from the traditional and modern food menu.
10 p.m. Head to bed because Saturday will be a long slog running from show to show and seeing the sights. Or if you're feeling like making it more of a night out head off the Royal Mile. One Edinburgh treat is The Royal Oak pub at 1 Infirmary Street (www.royal-oak-folk.com), a focal point for traditional folk musicians.
10 a.m. Start your day with a hearty breakfast at any of the many pubs and restaurants catering for hungry festival-goers. Wander along the Royal Mile to take in the sights and sounds of everything from buskers to acrobats, mimes, magicians and dozens of other eye-catching shows along the street cut off to traffic for the festivities. Small troupes promoting themselves also line the street begging for you to come to their shows, people in pajamas, funny hats, colored hair, dressed as anything from giant poppies to crazy animals will clamor for your attention and there is an army of young women all toting placards and handing out flyers. Drink it in.
The main official Fringe venues are clustered in the shadow of Edinburgh University's McEwen Hall, where giant tents have been erected on open ground. The box offices for the Assembly Rooms, Pleasance and Gilded Balloon are to be found there. The offices of the Underbelly is on the Cowgate leading into the Grass Market under the southern ramparts of the Castle.
Take time to visit the Castle itself (www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk). Perched on an extinct volcano it is classed as a World Heritage Site. A fortress of some kind has stood here since 600 A.D. and it is still an active military center.
1 p.m. If you hear a booming noise then that's the one o'clock gun fired from the castle almost every day since 1861. Head to any sandwich shop nearby for lunch, or make your way down the Mound past the National Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy, over Princes Street to the parallel Rose Street, which is filled with pubs, restaurants and bars.
Alternatively, book a posh lunch at The Witchery (www.thewitchery.com) located in an historic 16th-century building by the gates of Edinburgh Castle. The oak-paneled walls are hung with tapestries, mirrors and carvings. But make sure you've made a reservation.
After lunch, take in another show, cruise the Royal Mile and watch the buskers or take a spooky walking tour with Auld Reekie tours (www.auldreekietours.com), who advertise on the Royal Mile or the nearby Mary King's Close (www.realmarykingsclose.com).
Both take visitors on tours of the forgotten bits of the city that lie beneath the Edinburgh of today. See the old haunts of body snatchers, criminals and witches.
6 p.m. You're tired and hungry, so you'd best head for food and drink before a busy evening of shows and fun.
It's time for traditional Scottish food: "Haggis neeps and tatties" or Sheep's offal boiled in a sheep's stomach and served with mashed parsnips, potatoes and covered with a whisky jus.
There are a number of places that serve traditional Scottish food and one close by the festival at 15/16 Market Street is the Doric Bar and Restaurant (www.the-doric.com), which bills itself as Edinburgh's oldest gastro pub.
The Doric was built in the 17th century and serves locally sourced homemade food in its ground floor bar and traditional fare like haggis in the wooden-floored restaurant upstairs with an extensive wine and whisky list.
8 p.m. Head out to some shows you've booked or drop into a Free-Fringe show in a pub or restaurant. More than 500 free shows are available through the city during the festival: buy a drink and take in the entertainment. The performers would be grateful if you could toss a coin or two into a waiting bucket.
11 p.m. As you head for your lodgings, hit one of the many late night comedy and cabaret shows.
10 a.m. Grab the newspapers over breakfast and coffee at your hotel or a nearby restaurant before setting off on another rollicking day at the Fringe.
11 a.m. Take a stroll around Edinburgh's Princes Street, Nicholson Street and George Street to take in the shops because you just need to have those knick knacks for those back home.
Edinburgh is filled with shops selling kilts, tartan scarves, rugs, hats, clan badges and joke Scottish memorabilia that is irresistible
You can lunch at Edinburgh's B'est restaurant on Drummond Street for some good old fashioned British hospitality brought to you by "Faulty Towers," a comedy based on the hit British television show, which starred former Monty Python John Cleese.
Basil, Sybil and the bumbling Manuel serve up a hilarious three-course meal. There is also a dinner show.
If you are in an artistic frame of mind, try the national picture gallery at the foot of the Mound on Princess Street.
There is also a fine exhibition of Northern Renaissance Art from the Queen's collection at the Queen's Gallery nestled in the outside wall of Holyrood Palace, opposite the Scottish parliament at the foot of the Royal Mile.
You might also take a look into the Scottish National Museum, which has just been reopened to great acclaim after a refurbishment on Chambers Street near Fringe Center.
As evening comes round, it's time to start winding down. Find a good place to settle in and recount your trip to Edinburgh in a comfortable spot with whisky and a spot of dinner afterwards.
The 180-year-old Cafe Royal on West Register Street, just off Princes Street in the center of Edinburgh, has a bar and a restaurant. Take a seat at one of the booths surrounding the carved wooden bar and order some of its famous oysters, local beer and of course a whisky or two. The Edinburgh institution is decorated with the original stained-glass windows, Victorian plasterwork, irreplaceable Doulton ceramic murals and is said to be haunted.
Created by Paul Casciato