One of Stephansdom Cathedral’s unique attractions is its multicoloured roof. Unfortunately, being a roof, it’s…well…quite high up. That’s where the North Tower comes in.
- A lift takes you up over 60m for views to the north, east and west
- Get close to the cathedral’s wonderful coloured roof and 21 tonne bell
- See also: Stephansdom cathedral
Inside the North Tower
Construction on the North Tower began around 1450, but its completion took almost 130 years thanks to budget problems (they needed city money for more pressing concerns, like keeping the Ottoman Empire outside the city walls).
A small lift runs up to a stone viewing platform that surrounds the bottom of the green-domed bell house that caps the tower (located on the left-hand side of the photo above).
The open-air platform gives you views in various directions. However, the cathedral roof blocks the south and southwest.
This is actually a good thing, since you get a perfect close-up look at the multicoloured mosaic tiling that went in after WWII to replace the original Gothic roof lost to fire.
You do still get views across much of Vienna, and large labelled photos allow you to understand what you’re seeing. However, some of the city’s iconic buildings lurk behind the roof (the Hofburg and Schönbrunn Palace, for example).
Nevertheless, you can see across to the Prater area and the famous Riesenrad Ferris wheel, various churches (e.g. Votivkirche, Jesuitenkirche, Franziskanerkirche), and some of the newer buildings, such as the DC Tower or Wien Mitte station building. Catch glimpses of Belvedere and the Rathaus too.
If you’re just interested in the cityscape, then the cathedral’s South Tower offers clearer views in all four directions from its observation chamber. However, you have to work a bit harder to get up top: there’s no lift…just steps (343 of them). Nor does the South Tower offer quite such wonderful views of the roof.
Another advantage of the North Tower is getting almost within touching distance of the famous Pummerin bell that the viewing platform surrounds. As one of the largest free-hanging bells in the world, the Pummerin weighs in at over 21 tonnes with a height of almost 3m.
This bell only dates back to the early 1950s. Its 1711 predecessor fell and shattered during a fire at the end of WWII, but they used the remains to construct the new one.
The old bell was itself built from Turkish cannons captured at the 1683 siege of Vienna (you can still see its clapper in the catacombs).
The Pummerin only rings on special occasions (like Easter or the death of a Pope). Indeed, most of Austria holds its collective breath at 11.59pm on December 31st and waits for Stephansdom to ring in the New Year on radio and TV.
Tickets & visitor tips
Adults pay €6.00 to go up at the time of writing: there’s a ticket counter next to the lift. The latter has an attendant, so simply wait at the bottom (or top) for them to arrive and beckon you inside.
The North Tower is, of course, included in an all-inclusive ticket* for the cathedral.
A few tips:
- Tall, mesh fencing surrounds the stone platform, which is quite wide. So there’s plenty of room up top, though be warned that the view down is somewhat sheer in places.
- There’s also one set of stone steps between two viewing areas. You can still see most of the view without going up to that separate area, though, if the steps trouble you.
- In addition to the views and roof, be sure to look at the other details on the cathedral building, such as floral stone carvings largely invisible to those down below.
- Vienna offers plenty of alternatives should you wish more views of the city from above. Try these suggestions.
How to get to the North Tower
See the information on St Stephen’s cathedral for directions and public transport tips. Once you’re inside the cathedral, head off to the left and up the side to find the north tower lift and ticket counter. You can’t miss it.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna