5 ways to enjoy Edinburgh International Book Festival for free

If you’d like to dip your toe into the glittering waters of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, there are plenty of things to do around Charlotte Square Gardens without parting with a penny. Just avoid the cafe if you’re skint.


1. Story Shop

Every afternoon at 4pm, you can listen to a selection of authors reading short stories. Story Shop is held in the world-famous Spiegeltent, which is worth a visit in itself, a circus tent turned literary cabaret! If 4pm doesn’t suit you, visit the Writers’ Retreat at 10am for daily doses of literature, poetry and non-fiction.


2. Unbound

Every evening from 9–11pm, Unbound is the club night of the book festival. Featuring music, comedy, performance and sometimes even book readings, Unbound is the wild child of the literary salon. Held in the Spiegeltent, Unbound also offers free drink, but get there early or you might be left out when the doors close.

3. Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers’ Series

Royal Bank of Scotland Garden Theatre, 5.30–6.15pm. Offering daily readings on the theme of freedom from imprisoned writers, this series is always thought-provoking. Highlights include Mon 11 Aug with writing from Africa focusing on the impact of the Commonwealth, Tues 12 Aug, featuring writing about government espionage on citizens, and Thurs 14 Aug, when escapees from North Korea tell tales about the regime.

4. Baillie Gifford Story Box

These half-hour storytelling sessions are aimed at children of all ages, perfect for family mornings out. Every day at 10am, you and your children can drop in to listen to famous children’s authors reading from their books. Story Box are running other free events at intervals throughout the festival, keep an eye out for one-off events like making your own comic (Sat 23 Aug, drop-in from 11am–1pm) or Bloomin’ Rubbish, making gardens from recycled materials (Sat 16 Aug, drop-in from 11.30am–3.30pm).

5. Lounge around in the EIBF garden

You don’t need an event to enjoy the book festival. Pull up a patch of grass in the private gardens in the centre of the festival, keep an eye out for famous authors, and watch the literary world go by. Have a copy of your favourite book signed by the author in the book tent, and nobody will bat an eyelid if you bought it years ago in a charity shop. For really big names, signings can be restricted to ticket-holders only, but for other well-known writers, you can just join in.


Enjoyed your taste of the book festival? Try out our pick of the (paid) events. Let us know which events are catching your eye in the comments below.

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