The famed Edinburgh Festival is on, as of this writing (August 5) and runs through the next three weeks, offering some of the best opera, music, theatre, dance and visual arts on the planet. Visit the festival’s website to check it out.
If your travel itinerary is a bit later than August, not to fear — there’s still plenty to see here, including the spectacularly renovated National Museum (47-million pounds worth of work, by the way). The Victorian building, originally designed in the flamboyant style of the Crystal Palace, was given a thorough makeover by Scottish architect Gareth Hoskins, with acclaimed exhibition designer Ralph Appelbaum. The stunning centerpiece is the Grand Gallery, four-stories high, with over 800 animal artifacts — suspended from wires and flying over visitors’ heads! It’s dizzying fun hovering over a grounded, life-size cast of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and it’s Britain’s single largest museum installation, for now.
Three other hot tips for cool Edinburgh: First, catch new sculpture (plus drawings) by Tony Cragg at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, through November 6. Also, as you’re out sight-seeing, be sure to look down — especially if you’re near Waverly Station and climbing the “Scotsman Steps” — they’ve been given an artistic makeover in time for the Festival. Italian artist Martin Creed (commissioned by the Fruitmarket Gallery) has transformed the once dingy stairs with layers of gorgeous marble of varying tints. Work No. 1059, as it’s called, is being singled out as one of the standout “exhibitions” in town. Finally, be sure to visit Inverleith House, at the Royal Botanic Garden. On view now: Robert Rauschenberg: Botanic Vaudeville, and, outdoors, find Thomas Houseago: The Beat of the Show (large scale outdoor sculpture).