Parliament Square

The historic hub of the Old Town of Edinburgh.

TravelCurious Tip

The Signet Library offers an outstanding lunch in a special setting, surrounded by books in a library considered among the finest in the world by George IV

Parliament Square is found on the High Street, part of the famous Royal Mile which runs between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The Royal Mile is the central artery of Edinburgh’s history and culture, described in 1848 as “the busiest and most populous nook of the ancient capital”, and Parliament Square plays a large role in that.

In the 1700s Parliament Square was the hub of Edinburgh’s Old Town. Parliament house was built on the square in 1632, lending it its name. Scottish Parliament sat here until 1707 when members were moved to Westminster following the Act of Union. The square also holds a statue of the Merry Monarch King Charles II, who also ruled Scotland between those dates, if only for a brief time. At the time, it was the first lead statue in Britain.

Parliament Square also looks onto St Giles’ Cathedral, the heart of Christianity in Scotland. It’s spires dominate the city’s skyline, and the interior is equally spectacular with the beautiful Thistle Chapel and a forbidding statue of John Knox. Knox was a key figure in the Scottish Reformation, and a visit to St Giles’ is a must for anyone interested in this fascinating episode in Scottish history.

During the Edinburgh Festival the square is thick with vendors and performers, as it must have been in the 17th century. One building is obviously missing though: the notorious prison, the Old Tolbooth. Now there is a heart-shaped mosaic on the pavement where it once was. Ever since, locals have spat on its centre for luck.

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile
The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Princes Street Gardens
The lovely Princes Street Gardens lie in a valley previously occupied by the North Loch, drained during the construction of the New Town of Edinburgh.
St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral has been at the spiritual heart of Edinburgh for over 900 years.
Royal Mile Closes
The Closes of the Royal Mile are historic narrow alleyways named after their owners.
Elephant House
Go inside and sit at Rowling's favourite table!
Greyfriars Kirkyard
For over five centuries, Greyfriars Kirkyard has been home to hauntings and wizards. Look out for McGonagall or something more spine-chilling, like one Tom Riddle.

Related Tours

Secrets of the Royal Mile: Two Hour Walking Tour
Explore the cobbled alleyways of Royal Mile, uncovering the culture and history of Edinburgh's Old Town along the way.

  • Meander through the iconic Royal Mile
  • Learn about Scottish history at the Palace of Holyrood House 
  • Hear historic tales at landmark locations such as  St Giles CathedralParliament Square and John Knox House
  • Snap pictures of the looming Edinburgh Castle
  • Explore the vibrant markets of the Old Town 
  • Hear about extraordinary characters, including John Knox and Robert Burns 
Old Town Essentials 

On this walking tour of Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare running through Old Town, from Edinburgh Castle to the  beautiful Palace of Holyrood house, you will feel completely immersed in the rich Scottish history that is ever-present amongst the medieval labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways and tenements. Home to the fascinating St Giles Cathedral, Parliament Square and John Knox House, the Royal Mile is a UNESCO World Heritage site full secrets not to be missed.

Whilst exploring Old Town, one cannot help but notice Edinburgh Castle looming over the city. Your expert local guide will tell you about the fascinating history of this enigmatic fortress, including many of the bloody battles that took place here, such as the War of Independence between Scotland and England in the 14th Century, as well as its present day use as headquarters for the Scottish Division.

Vibrant Edinburgh

Along the way, you will have the pleasure of exploring some key historical and beautiful streets of Old Town, including: Castle Hill and Lawnmarket, originally a vibrant market that traded until the 1700s, Cannongate and Grassmarket, Edinburgh's famous closes and wynds, where you will listen to stories of the extraordinary cast of characters  who were proud to call Edinburgh home. 


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