The official church of the Church of Scotland, St. Giles Cathedral and its famous crown spire tower over the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. With a history stretching back over 900 years, St. Giles is renowned for its beautiful stained glass windows, ornate Thistle Chapel, and busy concert calendar.
The interior of St. Giles Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is spacious and filled with nearly 200 statues and memorials to distinguished figures from Scottish history, including John Knox, the Protestant leader of the Scottish Reformation, who preached here. Other highlights include exquisite stained glass windows, the intricate Thistle Chapel, and one of the most impressive organs in Europe, with 4,000 pipes. The church holds numerous musical performances throughout the year, with a number of free events that are popular with locals and visitors alike.
Many Edinburgh city tours include a visit to St. Giles Cathedral, along with other top attractions along the Royal Mile such as Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House. Take a hop-on hop-off bus tour to visit all the top sites at your leisure, or opt for a fully customizable private tour. Things to Know Before You Go
How to Get There
- St. Giles Cathedral is free to enter, but donations are encouraged.
- Purchase a permit to take photos inside the church.
- This is an active place of worship; be respectful and do not take photos during services.
- Guided rooftop tours are available and must be booked the same day.
- On-site facilities include restrooms, a café, and a gift shop.
- Most of St. Giles is wheelchair accessible, with the exception of the Thistle Chapel and the café.
St. Giles Cathedral is located at Parliament Square, along the Royal Mile, in Old Town, Edinburgh. The city’s main train and bus terminal (Waverley Station) is also within walking distance of St. Giles. When to Get There
St. Giles Cathedral is open daily, with slightly shorter visiting hours in the winter (October to April). Regular services are held daily at noon, with more services on Sundays. The church is usually closed around Christmas and New Years. Musical performances are held throughout the year. It’s best to check their calendar for the latest schedule. Thistle Chapel
At the southeast corner of the cathedral, find the Thistle Chapel, the private chapel of the Knights of the Thistle, the only Scottish chivalric order. There are stalls for the 16 knights, one sovereign stall, and two royal stalls. The interior is filled with intricate carvings, including those of an angel playing bagpipes.