The South Tower of St Stephen’s Cathedral features prominently on the list of best places to get views of Vienna. And, unlike its competitors, it’s right in the centre, giving you a close-up aerial perspective of the very heart of the city.
- Climb up the tower for spectacular views across Vienna
- It’s a lot of steps, mind you
- €5 for adults (or buy the all-inclusive Stephansdom ticket on site or in advance*)
Rather unhelpfully, those medieval builders didn’t bother installing lifts in their constructions. It’s 343 steps and 67m up to the “top” (it’s not actually the very top) of the South Tower, steps that wind mercilessly up a dusky, narrow staircase.
So why would you want to put yourself through that?
First, the chamber at the top offers splendid views across Vienna in all directions. To the west, St Peter’s Church, the Hofburg, the Rathaus, and the Votivkirche. To the south, Karlsplatz. To the east, Belvedere Palace. And, to the north, the Prater, United Nations and the Danube Tower.
This chamber served as an observational post for watchmen and firefighters from the 1400s right through into the 20th century, playing a special role in the two sieges of 1529 and 1683.
Because Stephansdom cathedral is, obviously, slap bang in the middle of the city, you get a marvellous feel for old Vienna out the tower windows.
You see the true scale of the Hofburg Palace and the Graben shopping street below, enjoy sneak peeks into ivy-clad courtyards, and discover the hidden rooftop gardens of those able to afford an apartment in the very centre.
Now if that’s not enough, how about the close-up view of the thousands of glazed tiles that give the cathedral its distinctive and colourful roof? Or the glimpses of little statues and gothic gargoyles along the way up that you can barely see from the ground?
There’s even a little shop at the top, selling postcards and souvenirs (but no cold drinks, which I would have paid a lot of money for after a hot midsummer climb).
Adults pay €5 to go up. The South Tower is also part of the all-inclusive ticket you can buy from ticket counters or in advance*. Opening hours were 9 am to 5.30 pm daily at the time of writing, but check the official website for the latest info.
Be warned that the spiral staircase is narrow and not perfectly lit in places. However, there are benches at the top, where you can take a breather before the trip down. If you can’t manage the steps, the North Tower has a lift: the view is not quite so high or clear, but you get a better look at the wonderful roof tiles.
How to get to the South Tower
The main article on St Stephen’s cathedral has travel tips. You access the tower from the outside. When you face the main doors into the cathedral, go around to the right until you reach the entrance towards the far end of the building.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website