Every August, thousands of tourists and performers flock to Edinburgh for the Fringe: now the most famous of the various Edinburgh Festivals that take place over the summer. There is a great buzz in the city with street performers everywhere you look and disused church halls, university buildings and pretty much anywhere you can fit more than five people in transforming into an official "Fringe venue" to help accommodate the 30,000 performances that take place over the month. Areas like George Square Gardens, The Pleasance and George Street are completely taken over by pop up bars and food stalls. The vegan scene is fast growing in Edinburgh, which was recently declared as one of the UK's most vegan-friendly cities meaning now is a better time than ever to visit. To get the best out of your stay read my top tips below.
What to see
With over 2,000 different shows on during the Fringe, it can be a daunting process trying to decide what to see. How about some vegan themed stand-up comedy as a starting point?
Alasdair Beckett-King: The Alasdair Beckett-King Mysteries. 2-13 and 15-28 Aug, 6 pm, Pleasance Courtyard, £9.50 (age 14+).
C'est La Vegan. 3-27 Aug, 7 pm, Laughing Horse at the Counting House, free (age 18+ due to venue).
Where to stay
Edinburgh has a huge amount of accommodation to meet the volume of visitors to the city each year. Any hotel should be able to cater to a vegan diet but if you want to stay somewhere especially vegan-friendly check out Claymore Vegetarian Guest House on Pilrig Street. Located conveniently close to the City Centre and to Leith: the colourful home of Trainspotting and nowadays one of the best places in Edinburgh to eat out with its growing number of regenerated trendy bars (see below).
What to Eat
You shouldn't have to look too far to find decent vegan options like falafel wraps, veggie curries, and chilies at the numerous stalls at the Fringe venues. But once you have had your fill of street food, there are a vast number of options to choose from for a sit-down meal too. Here is a small selection of my favourites.
Around The Pleasance:
The Auld Hoose, St Leonard's Street:
This pub is popular with students and has lots of vegan options including their famous vegan nachos which are absolutely massive - come hungry or with a friend! Dog-friendly but not child-friendly.
David Bann's, St. Mary's Street:
A well established and very popular vegetarian restaurant with various vegan options. A good choice if you are looking for a more upmarket lunch or dinner venue. They also do brunch until 5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Around Bristo Square:
Paradise Palms, Lothian Street:
This trendy bar serves exclusively vegetarian and vegan "soul food". Great food, great atmosphere.
Civerino's, Hunter Square and Civerino's Slice, Forrest Road:
Visit the restaurant at Hunter Square for a 14" "meat is murder" sourdough pizza, or head to Forrest Road to grab a slice of "meat is still murder" from their casual slice shop. Take it away to sit in the meadows or sit inside and relax with a beer.
Brunch, George IV Bridge:
This place is doing a pop-up sandwich menu they call "Fringewich" every day during the Fringe which includes a couple of good vegan options featuring things like avocado and tofu. Alternatively, the hearty breakfast burrito stuffed with veggie sausages, avocado, mushrooms and vegan cheese is an ideal hangover cure after a late night.
Around George Square Gardens:
The Mosque Kitchen, Nicholson Square:
Excellent value for money, this large self-service casual eatery is a popular place to come for a decent curry in a hurry. Ran by the mosque, they moved to larger premises a few years ago due to its popularity. One of a handful of good places to grab a cheap curry in the area.
Around George Street:
Henderson's, Hanover Street:
An Edinburgh institution, this vegetarian restaurant has been around for years. Upstairs is a shop and deli while the salad bar downstairs has a self-serve area for quick meals, drinks, and coffees, as well as a table service area with full dinner menu. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed, often with live musicians to accompany the hearty food. Round the corner on Thistle Street is the Vegan Bistro, make sure you book ahead as it's small and gets busy. There is also a branch down at Holyrood open for breakfast and lunch, and often a pop-up stall at the Fringe too.
Away from the crowds and with its ever increasing number of trendy bars and restaurants, Leith is a great place to visit as a vegan. Here are my top picks:
The Rose Leaf, Sandport Place:
One of my favourite haunts, this cosy bar has great food and silly hats to try on. They have a good vegan menu which I like to call the "secret menu" as you have to ask for it at the bar. The cocktails are also excellent, check out the "pot-tails" (cocktails in teapots).
Cafe Truva, The Shore:
This Turkish Cafe is a great lunch option; ask for the vegan mezze plate (or salad box if you are taking it away), and you will be presented with a mountain of tasty morsels such as stuffed vine leaves, hummus, and pita bread. There is also a branch on the Royal Mile.
La Favorita, Leith Walk:
Come here for a massive Italian pizza complete with vegan cheese. They also do a delivery service (until 3 am) from various points in the city and sometimes a pop-up van around the Fringe.
Harmonium, Henderson Row:
Edinburgh's first fully vegan bar. Vegan versions of non-vegan food items like bacon, chorizo, and macaroni cheese feature big on the menu.
Elsewhere in the city:
Chocolate Tree, Bruntsfield Place:
I had to mention this cosy cafe-come-chocolate shop where they sell their own organic chocolates made from ethically sourced ingredients. Pick up a pot of their chocolate hazelnut spread or choose a selection of truffles to take away in a beautifully presented box (just ask which ones are vegan). Alternatively, sit in with one of their many flavours of hot chocolate (most of which can be made vegan) with optional whipped coconut cream on top. And if all of that's not enough, the vegan chocolate hazelnut torte is absolutely divine. A chocolate lover's heaven.