The visual image most closely associated with historical Vienna is Stephansdom (St. Stephen’s), seat of the city’s bishop and an obligatory stop for visitors.
- Iconic gothic cathedral with baroque fittings
- Various attractions include:
- Catacombs tour
- Dom Museum (over the road)
- The Stefansdom Treasury and relics (closed at the time of writing)
- You can see part of the interior for free, otherwise you need tickets for each area
- All-inclusive ticket with Dom Museum also available*
Stephansdom accompanied Vienna through much of the city’s history, with the initial foundation stone dating back to 1137.
That original 12th-century church is no more. The current incarnation has its origins in 1263; the main entrance door, for example, dates back to this time.
Over the centuries, various towers, extensions and other features were added to create today’s working gothic building with its sprinkling of baroque features.
Amazingly, Stephansdom survived the aerial bombings of WWII, only to suffer from mindless vandalism when looters set fire to nearby buildings in April 1945. The fire spread to the cathedral, destroying parts of the building.
Despite the deprivations of the post-war period, the city and community repaired all the damage within just a few years.
Stephansdom now peers down benignly on the “young” buildings that surround it, like a towering giant of a great-uncle. Albeit one with a delightfully multicoloured roof. And it manages to be tranquil, reverential, and delightful in equal measure.
What’s inside Stephansdom?
If you just want to get a quick taste of Stephansdom’s atmosphere and architecture, you can: the front of the nave and part of the northern side are open access. Everything else requires a ticket.
So you’ll need to pay (see below) to get close to the altar, climb a tower or view the catacombs.
The “free” public area gives you views down the length of the cathedral. You can also visit several small altars with pews for prayer and reflection, light a votive candle, or visit the cathedral shop. The latter is an incongruous mix of secular and ecclesiastical “souvenirs”, where crucifixes, rosary beads and Cathedral wine rub shoulders with Mozart drink coasters.
You won’t get a great view of the main altar or giant sarcophagus of Frederick III, for example, but you get reasonably close to the 1447 altar with its decorated panels. Nevertheless, I’d recommend at least taking the self-guided tour of the rest of the interior, because Stephansdom’s true delights are revealed only in close-up.
Other ticketed options are:
- The South Tower: a long climb up 343 steps to an observation chamber with great views of Vienna
- The North Tower: a lift up to a viewing platform and the 21,283 kg Pummerin bell
- Cathedral Treasury: an extensive collection of relics and other historical treasures (closed at the time of writing)
- The Catacombs: a guided tour among the crypts and corpses below ground
Tickets & visitor information
Unless you’re only interested in one or two things, consider the all-inclusive tickets, which save buying separate tickets for each attraction. These cost €14.90 for an adult when I visited: about a third less than individual tickets would cost.
The cathedral itself is open year round, from 6am to 10pm (from 7am on Sundays and holidays), and there are numerous services held every day (including a mass in English). The ticketed areas have different opening times; check my articles for details.
- Don’t forget to walk around the outside of the cathedral, too. The most striking parts are the main tower, which rises over 136m, and the roof’s 230,000 coloured tiles
- As a working cathedral, respectful behaviour is expected. For example, remove hats, don’t eat or drink, don’t make phone calls, etc.
- If you need a little quiet time on a hot day, Stephansdom is lovely and cool inside
- Guided tours are also available at 10.30am in English, Monday to Saturday (at the time of writing)
- In summer, the cathedral square and surrounds are a nice place to hang out in a street cafe or with an ice cream and watch the world go by. In winter, the square hosts the Stephansplatz Christmas market
How to get to Stephansdom
Since it’s right in the centre, you’ll probably wander past on your first stroll through town. Otherwise:
- Use the U1 or U3 subway lines, getting out at the Stephansplatz station
- Take a 1A, 2A or 3A bus (the stop is also called Stephansplatz)
Once you get off the bus or leave the subway station, you can’t miss the cathedral. It’s rather obvious – just look up.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna | Website