A Guide to Visiting Stephansdom, Vienna (What to Do & Tips)

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At the heart of Innere Stadt, the Old Town of Vienna, stands the most majestic religious building in the city — Saint Stephen’s Cathedral or Stephansdom.

It’s one of the most distinctive, beautiful churches in Europe I have seen. Over 130 meters tall, the striking appearance of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral gives you an inviting impression that there are more beautiful things to see inside, which is undeniably true.

If you’re visiting Vienna and love exploring breathtaking churches, starting with Stephansdom is great choice. Along with Karlskirche, Peterskirche, and the quaint churches of the Old Town—which I consider to be Vienna’s little gems—Stephansdom won’t let you down if it’s beauty you’re seeking. As a wanderer, it’s an absolute must-see on any walking tour of Old Town Vienna. Good to know: parts of this attraction offer free admission.

Most importantly, Stephansdom is one of the most remarkable architectural landmarks you can visit in Vienna. And what’s more? Like Danube Tower, the rooftop of Stephansdom offers some of the best views of the city. This church is an experience you won’t want to miss.

Let me share with you every fascinating thing I discovered in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral as I discuss things you can do inside (and outside) the church. Tips, visiting information, and everything that you need to know is included in this mini guide.

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Here are some photos of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral to spark your wanderlust!

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Author’s notes

Whenever I plan to visit a new city in Europe, I always look forward to seeing the churches. They are not only places where I can connect with my Christian heritage, but also places where I can learn about the history and culture of the local people.

The churches, displaying the architectural and artistic achievements of different eras and styles, are also great places to get a sense of the city’s beauty. They inspire awe, which is good for many reasons. Awe can make you happier, healthier, more humble, and so much more.

Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna is no exception.

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Brief History

Before anything or before you visit Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, it’s worth learning about its history. This will help you appreciate the cultural and historical significance of the site, making your experience more meaningful.

Imagine walking into a cathedral that has been standing for over 800 years. That’s what you’ll experience when you visit St. Stephen Cathedral in Vienna. This majestic building has a fascinating story that began in 1147, when a small parish church was erected and named after Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr and the patron saint of Vienna. Several decades later, the church then underwent a transformation to a Romanesque style.

When Duke Rudolf IV (1339-1365) came to power, he saw the church improvements were not pretty enough. He dreamed of building a Gothic wonder that would rival the cathedrals in France and Germany. So, he initiated the project of the new cathedral in 1359, turning the church to Gothic style. He added the south tower, which still rises as the highest point in Vienna (old town) at 136.44 meters.

Throughout the centuries, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral has become a place of worship and a witness of a great history. It hosted many important events in the history of Austria and the Habsburg dynasty, such as the weddings of Emperor Friedrich III and Maximilian I, the coronations of Ferdinand I and Maria Theresa, and the funeral of Prince Eugene of Savoy.

It also survived political and religious turmoil, such as the Turkish sieges, the Reformation, and the Napoleonic wars. And guess what? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart tied the knot in this cathedral!

St. Stephen Cathedral was almost wiped out by the bombings during World War 2. But thanks to the generous donations from the public and the hard work of the restoration team, the cathedral was rebuilt by 1952 and restored to its former glory. Today, the story of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral continues as a symbol of Vienna’s identity and culture. And you’ll be a part of its story as a witness during your visit. 

If you want to learn more about Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, you can visit its official website or read its Wikipedia article linked at the resources section of this post. 

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How to visit

Getting to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is easy.

The cathedral is located in Stephansplatz, which has a subway train station. From there, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is only a few steps away. If you’re coming from Vienna Main Train Station, you’ll need to get to Südtirolerplatz Hbf (subway station) first. After leaving the station, it should take you about 15 minutes to reach Stephansplatz.

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What to Do During Your Visit? +Tips

As you step out of Stephansplatz subway station to see Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, you’ll probably be greeted by a swarm of people moving in every direction on the street first. Don’t be surprised — Stephansplatz is at the heart of Innere Stadt (Old Town), and it’s one of the busiest and liveliest spots in Vienna.

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During midday, there are all kinds of people in Stephansplatz, from street performers to tourists exploring every corner of the city on their tricycles. But even with all the hustle and bustle, it’s sure that you’ll quickly get the sight of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral.  Its gigantic and angelic, white Gothic southern tower is a natural eye catcher for anyone in Stephansplatz. 

If you’re like me, a lover of old architecture, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral would be love at first sight. It’s stunning! However, the spectacular view of the cathedral from Stephansplatz is just the beginning. This architectural marvel has more to offer, and you’ll learn about them through my list of seven things to do in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral.

1. Appreciate The Exteriors

Before stepping into Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, take a moment to walk around its exterior. The cathedral’s facade is a work of art in itself, rich with symbolic designs and features to connect you to Vienna’s storied past.

Note: I assume you’ll be arriving from the Stephansplatz subway station. So, I’ll begin by highlighting the interesting features of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, starting from the south side, then moving to the back, then north, and finally its facade.

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The rose window of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The rose window of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
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South Tower

Near the subway station, you’ll find Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and its many stunning features.

The south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral during the golden hour, Vienna, Austria
The south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral during the golden hour

The South Tower, in particular, is likely to capture your attention with its commanding presence. With its skyscraping size, elaborate Gothic tracery, and countless croquet, there’s no doubt! Ironically, despite its impressive stature, the Viennese have lovingly nicknamed it “Little Stevie” or “Steffl”.

Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s incredible details at incredible height, Vienna, Austria
Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s incredible details at incredible height

Yes — from a distance, the Southern tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is an impressive sight. But to fully appreciate its details, it’s worth taking a closer look.

View of the south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral from the back of the church, Vienna, Austria
View of the south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral from the back of the church

One fascinating detail of Little Stevie is the cannonball embedded in the middle buttress above the low, green roof. It serves as a reminder of the Ottoman Turks’ siege of Vienna in 1683. As you gaze upon it, you can simply imagine the thousands of others that flew over the city back in the day.  With a pair of binoculars or a smartphone equipped with a 50x zoom camera, you can get a closer look at the “1683” markings on the cannonball, signifying the date it hit the cathedral.

Tiled Roof (South)

As you scan the buttresses in search of the cannonball, you may find your attention drawn to the cathedral’s steep and colorful roof. It’s quite a sight, impressive, especially when you learned that it’s covered with more than 230,000 ceramic tiles.

The zigzag design of the roof of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The zigzag design of the roof of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

The eastern portion of the roof displays only geometric patterns, but as you pass by the Southern Tower, you’ll see a double-headed eagle depicted — the coat of arms of the Habsburgs. The double-headed eagle gazes both east and west, symbolizing the Habsburgs’ oversight of both sides of their empire, according to historians.

The emblem of the Habsburgs on the roof of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The emblem of the Habsburgs on the roof of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

To see the entire coat of arms, you can stand further away from the cathedral along Churhausgasse. As you get a better view of the roof, you’ll see the characters “1,” “8,” “3,” and “1” surround the coat of arms, indicating the year the roof was installed.

Cathedral Walls (East)

As you make your way past the Southern Tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, you’ll come to the back of the church, where the walls are adorned with carved reliefs, memorials, and tombstones. These serve as a reminder that the area surrounding the church was once a graveyard, until 1780.

Religious artworks at the back of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Religious artworks at the back of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Here, you can also discover stunning reliefs, murals, and tablets that illustrate significant values and events in the Christian faith.

Little gems, religious reliefs and murals at the back of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Little gems, religious reliefs and murals at the back of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

As you make your way towards the northern side of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, you’ll come across the 18th century marble pulpit, adorned with a statue of a saint triumphing over a vanquished Turk. The gold-painted sculpture of the Eucharist, emitting rays of light, on the statue makes it easy to spot. 

The small pulpit at the back of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The small pulpit at the back of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Here, you can gain insight into the challenges faced by the people of Vienna in the past, including the influence and threat posed by their enemy: the Ottoman empire. You can imagine a priest standing at the pulpit, addressing the people with the message conveyed by the sculpture.

Tiled Roof (North)

Opposite the two-headed eagle on Saint Stephen’s Church’s roof are two additional emblems: eagles symbolizing the state of Austria and the state of Vienna. The year the roof was put in place is indicated by the numbers “1,” “9,” “5,” and “0.”

The coat of arms of Vienna and Austria on the roof of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The coat of arms of Vienna and Austria on the roof of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

For a better perspective, you can make your way to the corner of Stephansplatz, beside the Cathedral’s bookshop with its Dombuchhandlung signage.

North Tower

From Dombuchhandlung, you can also get a great perspective on the North Tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. There you’ll see it’s almost as elaborate as the South Tower, but not quite as high.

The north tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The north tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Actually, the North Tower is only half as tall as the South Tower, though it was intended to be the same height. Had the Ottoman Empire not gone to war with Vienna and the Habsburgs, the Viennese people could have focused their resources on completing the construction of the North Tower.

The view of the north tower of Saint Stephen's Cahtedral with its north and west facades, Vienna, Austria
The view of the north tower of Saint Stephen’s Cahtedral with its north and west facades

On a typical day, you can often see people atop the tower, taking in the cityscape from this lofty vantage point. I suggest checking the tower up close— you’ll be able to appreciate its stunning medieval architectural features more. One particularly fascinating detail is the gargoyle sculptures, whose mouths serve as drains for rainwater.

The intricate Gothic portal and the Renaissance cap (water tower top) of the north tower of Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The intricate Gothic portal and the Renaissance cap (water tower top) of the north tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

When I saw it, I felt impressed to see the level of attention paid to such beautiful details. It’s a shame that society has shifted its focus away from such artistry, towards purely utilitarian design.

Main Entrance

The oldest part of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is its main entrance on the west side.

The main entrance of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The main entrance of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

This portion of the current cathedral was also part of the church that previously occupied this spot. As per written accounts, the main entrance of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral has been in existence since 1250.

The west facade of Saint Stephen's Cathedral at day and at night, Vienna, Austria
The west facade of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral at day and at night

What makes the main entrance of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral so intriguing are the Roman-era statues set into its facade. These serve as a nod to the city’s ancient roots, and may explain why you’ll also see hints of Romanesque style in the cathedral’s architecture. Interestingly, a pagan temple once stood in place of the current cathedral.

2. Explore The Interiors

If you’re a believer and an architecture enthusiast, then a visit to the interior of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna would be an unforgettable one. The cathedral is home to an array of miraculous religious items, stunning religious artworks, and impressive architectural details that are sure to inspire awe and admiration. As you wander through the cathedral, you’ll surely be tempted to take numerous photos to capture its beauty.

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Stunning architecture of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Stunning architecture of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
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Narthex

You don’t have to go far into Saint Stephen’s Cathedral to see its most important treasures. Just inside the entrance, in the Narthex, you’ll come across the Mária Pócs Icon.

Mária Pócs Icon in a Gothic Altar in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Mária Pócs Icon in a Gothic Altar in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Legend has it that this image of Mary shed real tears when Muslim Turks threatened its original home, the Hungarian village of Máriapócs. The icon was moved to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral after Prince Eugene rescued the village from an Ottoman attack. This miraculous image of the Virgin Mary continues to be popular among many people, as seen by the lighted candles and flowers left in offering.

Where is Mária Pócs Icon exactly? You can find the Mária Pócs Icon on the right side of the Narthex when facing the nave.  Expect no trouble finding it — it’s easy to locate, as it’s housed in a gold and silver frame that resembles a sunburst.

Before leaving the Narthex, take some time to wander around and you’ll come across a chapel with a gated entrance. This chapel is dedicated to Prince Eugene, one of the most celebrated military leaders in Habsburg history. He saved Vienna from the Turks just as the city was about to be conquered by the Ottoman Empire. As a result of his heroism, he accumulated a vast fortune, which enabled him to build the Belvedere Palace. The palace is now a museum that boasts magnificent views of the city and an extraordinary art collection.

The old organ of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The old organ of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Lastly, on the upper level of the Narthex, in the choir loft, sits one of the largest organs in Europe — the 10,000-pipe organ of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. Unfortunately, it is no longer functional.

Different views and lighting of the old organ of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Different views and lighting of the old organ of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
Nave

One of the breathtaking sights that awaits you during your visit to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is the view of the nave from the Narthex.

Breathtaking nave of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Breathtaking nave of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

At nine stories high, the nave of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is truly massive. Its architectural and structural design are nothing short of incredible, especially when you consider the technology that was available during its construction. The strands of stone that extend from the ground, through its slender pillars, and up to its ceiling form a crisscross pattern that is a visual delight.

The slender pillars of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral that will lead your sight from ground to the ceiling, Vienna, Austria
The slender pillars of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral that will lead your sight from ground to the ceiling

Your first view of the nave of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is sure to leave you in awe. Stand in the middle of the nave and gaze upwards — it will deepen your appreciation for the architecture of St. Stephen’s Cathedral. And if you look around, you’ll notice that the cathedral has a distinctive style — a fusion of Gothic and Baroque.

Gothic pillars and Baroque Altars of Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Gothic pillars and Baroque Altars of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Take a moment to check out the small altars standing by the pillars and see how two architectural styles of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral blend together. Also, pay attention to the pillars. Like the altars, they too have statues of saints and religious figures. If you count them all, you’ll find 77 statues.

Catholics drawing spiritual inspiration from the likeness of the saints while praying in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Catholics drawing spiritual inspiration from the likeness of the saints while praying in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

The most intriguing pillar is the first one on the right, though. On the side facing the wall is the Madonna with the Protective Mantle. She is shown using her cloak to provide refuge to grateful people from all walks of life. You should see Moses with the Ten Commandments on that same pillar.

Pulpit

If you’re on a quest to find the most magnificent religious artwork in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, your journey might end at its 16th-century pulpit.

The beautiful pulpit with the view of the altar in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The beautiful pulpit with the view of the altar in St. Stephen’s Cathedral
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This sandstone work of art is packed with religious meaning that will keep you spellbound. Its intricate stone lacework, looking like frozen flowers and vines arranged in a beautiful pattern, rendered me speechless. The most significant features of the pulpit are the four church “fathers” who had a profound impact on church doctrine. From back to front, their faces reveal unique expressions: Saint Ambrose (the contemplative), Saint Jerome (the skeptic), Saint Gregory (the mentor), and Saint Augustine (the listener).

The stairway of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s pulpit, Vienna, Austria
The stairway of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s pulpit

Don’t forget to take a look at the stairs of the pulpit, particularly the statue of a man peeking out from a small window beneath it. Scholars believe that this is a self-portrait relief of the artist who created the pulpit. Essentially, this means that the pulpit was created at the dawn of the Renaissance in central Europe; the time when humanist Renaissance ideals were spreading from Italy. You see, in medieval times, just before the Renaissance, art was created for the glory of God and artists worked anonymously.

Different sides of the pulpit (the self portrait of the sculpture seen below the pulpit) of Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Different sides of the pulpit (the self portrait of the sculpture seen below the pulpit) of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

While it is clear that the relief of the man represents a self-portrait of the artist responsible for the pulpit, it is not known for certain if that artist is the Dutch sculptor Nicolaes Gerhaert van Leyden or the Hungarian mason Anton Pilgram.

Another self portrait of the artist behind Saint Stephens Cathedral Vienna Austria
Another self portrait of the artist behind Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

The pulpit in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is one of the first sights you’ll see upon entering the nave. It’s just a short walk from the ticket booth, located between the nave and narthex.

Altars (choir)

As with most cathedrals and churches, some of the most important treasures and religiously meaningful artworks are located in the choir.

The high altar of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The high altar of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

It’s well worth taking a moment to admire the objects in the choir of Saint Stephen’s Church. Specifically, there are three things you should focus on: the high altar, the tomb of Frederick III, and the Wiener Neustädter Altar.

The painting of Saint Stephen and the high altar of the cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The painting of Saint Stephen and the high altar of the cathedral

On the high altar, you’ll find a large painting of the cathedral’s patron saint, Stephen, and his story as the first Christian martyr. In the painting, Saint Stephen is depicted at the bottom, surrounded by an angry mob throwing rocks at him because he refuses to renounce his faith. As he kneels, ready to meet his fate, he looks up and is rewarded with a vision of Christ, the cross, and the angels of heaven. He is undoubtedly a great example of a true Christian.

The elaborate Tomb of Frederick III in Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
The elaborate Tomb of Frederick III in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

To the right of the high altar, you’ll discover another religious artwork of profound historical significance: the tomb of Frederick III. Considered the “father” of Vienna for transforming the small village into a royal town and center of the empire, his red-marble coffin resembles a large king-size bed with his likeness lying on top. And like the cathedral where it is located, the tomb is richly decorated.

Stunning details of Frederick III’s tomb in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Stunning details of Frederick III’s tomb in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

The coat of arms of the emperor’s dominions adorns the tomb, along with an incredible array of some 240 figures beneath it. They left me at a loss for words, and perhaps they will have the same effect on you. With all the intricate details visible on the tomb, it’s easy to see why Frederick III’s tomb is considered one of the most important works of sculptural art from the Late Middle Ages. The tomb was likely designed by Nicolaes Gerhaert van Leyden, who may have also created the pulpit.

Wiener Neustädter Altar in Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Wiener Neustädter Altar in Saint Stephen’s Cathedral

Across from the high altar, you’ll discover the Wiener Neustädter Altar — an embodiment of High Gothic religious art. Commissioned by Frederick III in 1447, this three-panel masterpiece is adorned with intricate carvings and opulent golden embellishments, making it yet another treasure of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral.

Mozart

If you’re a fan of Mozart, be sure to check out the plaque dedicated to this musical genius in the right transept (south). It explains that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Costanze Weber were married in St. Stephen’s Cathedral and that Mozart’s life in Vienna was closely connected to this church.  The plaque reveals that not only was Mozart married here, but he also attended mass and baptized two of his children here. 

3. Visit The Catacombs

If you enjoy discovering unusual places and having unique experiences while traveling, you may want to consider taking a guided tour of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s catacombs. These catacombs date back to the 14th century and contain some of Vienna’s most peculiar discoveries, including the remains of bishops and notable Viennese figures.

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One of the tombs in the catacombs of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
One of the tombs in the catacombs of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
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What to expect + Facts + Tips

Among those buried in the catacombs are Rudolf IV (1339-1365) and his family, as well as Franz Cardinal König, the Archbishop of Vienna, who was laid to rest there in 2004.

One of the strangest parts of the catacombs is the ducal crypt where organs from princes, queens, and emperors are preserved. Incredibly, there are over 60 jars containing imperial intestines in this crypt including one with Empress Maria Theresia’s stomach inside it.

It’s hard to understand why these organs are being kept but not long ago one jar’s seal broke leaking 200-year-old fluid onto the floor below it. The smell was so terrible that it took a day or two before anyone was willing to go down there and clean it up but don’t worry! The smell is gone now and it’s perfectly safe to visit these catacombs again.

For more information about visiting these catacombs check out Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s official website which is linked in this post’s resources section.

4. See the Bell in the North Tower

While wandering around Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, you might see that visitors are able to climb to the top of the cathedral’s north tower. If you’re curious about whether you can do this too, the answer is yes! To me, this is one of the must-do activities when visiting Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, as it offers stunning panoramic views of Vienna and a chance to see the cathedral’s mosaic-tiled roof up close.

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What to expect + Facts + Tips

Climbing the North Tower also gives you the opportunity to see one of Vienna’s historical treasures: the bell. The best part? You don’t have to climb any stairs to get to the top. An elevator is available to take you directly to the viewing platform, so there’s no need to worry about your knees hurting.

Indeed, the highlight of visiting Saint Stephen’s North Tower is seeing the bell that is said to be the second-largest swinging bell in the world. It’s truly extraordinary and massive, measuring 3 meters across and weighing 21 tons. Known as “the Boomer” or “Pummerin,” the bell symbolizes Vienna’s victory over the Ottomans in 1683.

Interestingly, the Pummerin was cast in 1711 from cannons and cannonballs captured during Vienna’s liberation. However, during World War II, when the church caught fire, the Pummerin fell to the ground and cracked. It had to be melted down and recast.

In addition to the Pummerin, the north tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral houses three other bells. The oldest of these, the Kleine Glocke (Small Bell), was cast in 1280 and weighs a mere 62 kilograms. The other two bells are the Speisglocke (Dinner Bell), cast in 1746, and the Zügenglocke (Processions Bell), cast in 1830. Sadly, these bells are no longer functional.

5. Behold the View of Vienna from the South Tower

While you can already enjoy a panoramic view of Vienna from the north tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, the view from the south tower is even better and higher. From high above the tiled roof, a 360-degree panorama of the city awaits you.

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What to expect + Facts + Tips

The viewing deck is a must-see spot if you enjoy seeing the city from a unique perspective. However, there is one drawback. Unlike the north tower, there is no elevator to take you to the viewing deck of the south tower. You’ll have to climb 343 steps to reach the Türmerstube or tower room, where the most breathtaking views of the city can be seen.

Besides being able to see the cathedral’s tiled roof from several meters above, you can also visit the roof terrace of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral’s South Tower. This gives you a chance to see the tiles of the roof up close.

The stairs leading to the top of the South Tower wind round and round without any breaks, with only occasional small windows allowing you to see how high above the ground you are. The stairs are quite narrow, so when two people meet, it’s best for one to stop and let the other pass.

To make your journey more fun, you can imagine yourself as a medieval guard on the lookout for approaching enemies and dangers. Climbing these stairs is part of your noble duty. Did you know that the south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral once served as an important watchtower for the entire city, helping to protect Vienna from devastating fires? The cathedral continued to serve this vital function until as recently as 1955.

And here’s a fun fact: the south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral also played a military role, serving as an observation post during the sieges of Vienna in 1529 and the Battle of Vienna in 1683.

The entrance to the South Tower is located outside the cathedral. If you’re looking at the west facade or main entrance, walk to the right of the cathedral and you should see it just before you reach the back of the church.

6. Attend a Concert

Like many churches in Europe, Saint Stephen’s Cathedral is also a venue for concerts. Classical music pieces by Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and Haydn – some of the greatest musical geniuses – are performed by musicians in the cathedral. The church’s new 12,000-pipe organ is used to fill the interior with a calming atmosphere. From the end of May to October, Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” is performed on Saturdays.

Fun fact: Vivaldi was a master at creating musical imagery – from gentle breezes and powerful storms to birdsong and barking dogs, hunting scenes and peasant dances. His work is something you might like to hear in person before you leave the cathedral.

Tip: To maximize your time and have a chance to rest, consider attending a concert after climbing the South Tower.

You can find out more about the concerts at Saint Stephen’s Cathedral by following this link.

7. Continue to Dom Museum Wien

Did you know that Saint Stephen’s Cathedral has its own museum located right next to the church? The museum boasts an incredible collection of sacred and historic artifacts, covering a wide range of periods from Gothic to Art Deco. You’ll find sculptures, precious altars, sacred objects adorned with gold and jewels, portraits, liturgical manuscripts and books, and stunning vestments.

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What to expect + Facts + Tips

One part of the museum is the Cathedral treasury, which holds unique objects dating back to the Middle Ages, including pieces from the time of Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria. He founded St. Stephen’s Cathedral and transformed Vienna into the center of the Habsburg Empire. Among the highlights of the collection are his painting, widely regarded as the oldest portrait in the western world, and his gold-threaded burial shroud.

Surprisingly, Dom Museum Wien is also home to the famous Otto Mauer Collection, an extensive collection of modern and contemporary art featuring works by Expressionists and Secessionists as well as prominent figures from the Austrian and international avant-garde. The collection is constantly expanding to include works by contemporary artists.

For more information about Dom Museum Wien, be sure to check out their official website. You can find the link in the resources section of this post.

Are you interested in visiting both Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and its museum? Here’s where you can get the combi-ticket to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral and Museum.

Summary

To summarize, St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a must-see when visiting Vienna. Its architecture inspiring awe can simply explain why you must visit it. It’s the city’s most famous landmark and it’s far from ordinary. 

The cathedral offers a rich blend of history, architecture, art, and religion, as well as breathtaking panoramic views from its towers. With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why it’s considered a must-see, particularly if Vienna is one of your first destinations in Europe.

But if you’ve already been to other European cities or churches with similar experiences, or if your time in Vienna is limited, or if religious landmarks aren’t really your thing, then maybe just stopping by the cathedral for a quick photo will be enough.

Visiting Information

One thing to keep in mind when planning your trip to Vienna and including St. Stephen’s Cathedral on your itinerary is that the cathedral is massive! There are several parts to explore and a museum to visit.

At a minimum, you might want to allocate 2 hours of your day to St. Stephen’s Cathedral, and perhaps 3 hours if you want the full experience and to listen to the entire length of the church’s audio guide. If you’re planning on climbing both towers of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, you might need more than 3 hours.

Note: There’s no time limit on top of the towers, you can hang out as long as you like. Take in the moment and savor the view from the heart of a historic city!

Practical information:

  • You can enter into the cathedral at no cost — everyone’s welcome! Just a heads up, some special areas inside do have an entrance fee like the large part of the nave, catacombs, south tower, and north tower. Here’s where you can book your tickets that include  a complete experience to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral (with an audio guide).
  • The main entrance, known as the ‘Riesentor’ or ‘Giant’s door’, is on the west side of the cathedral, right across from the underground station.
  • Looking for the South Tower entrance? You’ll find it at Stephansplatz, tucked away behind the tower across from the ‘Curhaus’ (Haus Stephansplatz 3).
  • As you wander within the church, feel free to snap away and film to your heart’s content for personal use, but keep the tripods inside your bags.  If you’re thinking about using any photos or videos of the interior or special areas for non-private or commercial purposes, you’ll need to get written consent from the Church Master’s office first.
  • Whether you’re there to worship or sightsee, please dress in a way that respects the dignity of this beautiful church. Gents – hats off inside, please!
  • If you’re interested in learning more about the cathedral, there are public guided tours available in English at 10:30 am (Monday to Saturday) and in German at 3:30 pm (daily).
  • The catacombs, however, can only be visited on a public guided tour. They are available at various times throughout the day (Monday to Saturday) and at 13:30, 14:00, 14:30, 15:30, 16:00 and 16:30 (Sunday and holidays).
  • The south tower is open from 9:00 am to 8:30 pm (last ascent at 8:15 pm), while the north tower is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (last ascent at 5:15 pm). 
  • Lastly, make sure that you’re informed of the mass schedules of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. Visits aren’t allowed during mass hours.
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Ticket prices to other parts of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Ticket prices to other parts of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
Entrance to the south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Entrance to the south tower of Saint Stephen’s Cathedral
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Sources

For the latest news, updates, and additional information about St. Stephen’s Cathedral, take a look at these websites:

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We’ve only just begun to uncover the beauty of Vienna with Stephansdom. Just take a self-guided stroll along Ringstrasse and you’ll see what I mean!

For a more immersive experience, don’t miss out on the visually impressive destinations like the city’s palaces: Belvedere Palace, Imperial Palace, and Schonbrunn Palace (and its picturesque gardens). If you’re into museums, you’ll not be disappointed. You absolutely must visit the Museum of Military History and the Kunsthistorisches Museum.

After you’ve had your fill of the city, why not take a day trip? If you’re planning to explore more of Austria from Vienna, I highly recommend nearby attractions like Liechtenstein Castle, Laxenburg Castle, Kreuzenstein Castle, and Melk Abbey. A day trip to Salzburg from Vienna is also great!

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