The South Tower of Stephansdom cathedral features prominently on the list of places to enjoy views of Vienna. Unlike many alternatives, though, it’s right in the centre. So you get an aerial perspective of the very heart of the city.
- Narrow climb up, but spectacular views
- It’s a lot of steps, mind you (no lift)
- Buy your ticket at the tower
- Consider all-inclusive options
- On-site tickets are cash only
- Book full cathedral tickets* (with Dom Museum) online
- But check the cathedral calendar for days when entry times may be restricted
- See also:
Inside the tower
(The cathedral’s south tower is on the right of the picture with the temporary Himmelsleiter “heaven’s ladder” installation visible)
Rather unhelpfully, medieval builders failed to install lifts in their constructions.
So reaching the “top” (it’s not the very top) of Stephansdom cathedral’s South Tower involves a 67m climb and 343 steps that wind mercilessly up a dusky, narrow staircase.
You might ask why you’d want to put yourself through that?
Well, the journey takes you up to a top chamber that 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.
More importantly, the same chamber offers splendid views across Vienna in all directions.
To the west, look down on 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.
Because Stephansdom cathedral is, obviously, slap bang in the middle of the city, you also get a marvellous feel for old Vienna out the tower windows.
You see the true scale of the Hofburg palace complex 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.
If that’s not enough, how about a closer view of the thousands of glazed tiles that give the cathedral its distinctive and colourful roof?
Another treat comes from spotting those architectural touches barely visible from the ground. The journey up provides glimpses of little statues and gothic gargoyles.
(Preparing for the installation of the new top of Stephansdom’s South Tower on August 18th 1864, photographed by Andreas Groll; Wien Museum; excerpt reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
A small shop stood at the top on my visit, selling postcards and souvenirs (but no cold drinks, which I would have paid a lot of money for after a hot midsummer climb).
If you can’t manage the steps, the North Tower has a lift. The view is not quite so high or clear at the top, but you get a better look at the wonderful roof tiles and the huge Pummerin bell that rings in the New Year.
Tickets & visitor tips
Adults pay €5.50 to go up at the time of writing, with a ticket counter at the foot of the tower (cash only).
Consider a combination ticket that also includes the other ticketed parts of the cathedral. Stephansdom has an all-inclusive version available on site for cash.
Alternatively, an online purchase option is one that includes both towers, the neighbouring Dom Museum with its art and historical artefacts, the catacombs tour, and access to the main cathedral area with an audio guide:
(Booking service provided by Tiqets.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
(NB: Check the cathedral calendar for occasional service-related limits on visiting times)
Note that the spiral staircase is fairly narrow, which makes for a lot of winding turns. However, benches at the top allow you to take a breather before the trip down.
How to get to the South Tower
The main article on Stephansdom has travel tips; you access the South Tower from the outside.
When you face the main doors into the cathedral, go around to the right until you reach the marked tower entrance towards the far end of the building.
Incidentally, a few steps further on takes you to the rather nice Haas&Haas tea rooms. Just in case you need a refreshing cup of Darjeeling and a cucumber sandwich after all that exertion.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna