A church with plenty to offer the visitor; Karlskirche (St. Charles’ church) has Baroque beauty, classical music, and a rare chance to go out onto an ecclesiastical rooftop with panorama views.
- 18th-century church built by Charles VI
- Stairs take you up to:
- a close-up look at the organ
- a large cutaway church model
- the treasury
- the panorama terrace
- Book a Vivaldi concert* at the Karlskirche
- See also:
St Charles Church
(Front view of the church)
Unlike many of Vienna’s great churches, Karlskirche can be approached from a distance as you walk across the open area before it.
The exterior architecture impresses with its great dome and the two giant columns. The latter’s reliefs and golden imperial eagles offer a clue to the history of the church, which Emperor Charles VI built in the early 18th-century and named after Saint Charles Borromeo.
You need a ticket to enter outside of church needs and events (the revenue goes toward renovation work). But it’s very much worth doing so.
As you might expect from a Baroque place of worship, the inside glows with a smorgasbord of decorative delights…rich in marble stonework, wall paintings, reliefs, statues, scroll work and carvings, with regular splashes of gold. And all in beautiful condition.
(One of the many hints at mortality thanks to the buildings origins in times of plague)
Karlskirche is more subtle than some of its over-exuberant colleagues, though, with enough white space to give the senses a rest now and then.
Apart from the interior itself, the church has a triple treat for you, accessed via a spiral stone staircase just past the ticket counter…
1. Church model and organ
The first stop is a large cutaway model of the church with some historical architectural drawings associated with its construction.
That same level lets you into the balcony home of the giant organ; the central part dates back to 1739, with the wings added in 1847.
The balcony gives lovely views down the church interior, also revealing the oval design of the pews.
2. The treasury
The next level has a small display that includes, for example, a silk mitre with gold lamé; documents suggest it belonged to Charles Borromeo himself.
This treasury room also holds such jewels as a 15th-century choir cape and 18th-century reliquaries, one of which (allegedly) contains wood particles from the cross.
3. The panorama terrace
The top of the stairs leads out to a small terrace right above the huge portal. You can see the bannisters in the photo below:
(The view at night)
From this height, you can see the Musikverein building and new Wien Museum off to the side of Karlsplatz, but also catch glimpses of Stephansdom cathedral, the domes of the Kunsthistorisches and Naturhistorisches museums, the top of the Rathaus tower, the DC Tower, and more.
You also get a closer look at the reliefs and eagles on those giant columns and a view across the park; this must be rather lovely during the Advent season, when the Art Advent Christmas market occupies the area in front of the church.
(The market makes for great photos from below, too, with its lighted stalls and the Karlskirche backdrop.)
(The column on the left is covered in narrative reliefs)
Tickets & visitor tips
As with most of Vienna’s great churches, the Karlskirche acoustics lend themselves to classical concerts: the Ensemble 1756 performs Vivaldi’s Four Seasons here. That very composer is buried just a few yards away (see below).
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
(Nothing on your dates? Try some alternative concerts*)
On my last visit, a standard adult ticket to view the church cost €9.50. I bought my ticket at the entrance, which is around to the right as you face the front of the church.
- As you buy your ticket, look to the right for a plaque commemorating the funeral of Anton Bruckner in the Karlskirche on October 14th, 1896
- For a little architectural bonus, pop across the park to the station pavilions built by Otto Wagner. Not quite Karlskirche in scale, but excellent examples of Jugendstil design
- For those with a love of classical music…
- The Brahms monument lies just across from the church
- A small commemorative plaque on the TU Wien entrance diagonally opposite the front of Karlskirche marks the nearby grave of Vivaldi (now buried under the university buildings)
How to get to the Karlskirche
The church is within walking distance of the very centre of town, but might be one of the easiest sites to reach by public transport.
Subway: Karlskirche sits more or less above Karlsplatz subway station, where the U2, U1 and U4 lines intersect. Look for exits to Resselpark.
Tram/bus: numerous trams travel to Karlsplatz or the Karlsplatz/Oper stop, including those that skirt the old town – lines 1, 2, D and 71
Address: Kreuzherrengasse 1, 1040 | Website