The South Tower of St Stephen’s Cathedral features prominently on the list of best places to get views of Vienna. And, unlike many of its competitors, it’s right in the centre. So you get 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
- See also: Stephansdom overview
Inside the south tower
(The cathedral’s south tower is on the right of the picture)
Rather unhelpfully, those medieval builders didn’t bother installing lifts in their constructions. Reaching the “top” (it’s not actually the very top) of Stephansdom’s South Tower involves a 67m climb and 343 steps that wind mercilessly up a dusky, narrow staircase.
So why would you want to put yourself through that?
Well, the chamber you eventually reach 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.
If that’s not enough, how about the view of the thousands of glazed tiles that give the cathedral its distinctive and colourful roof?
Another treat comes from spotting those little architectural touches barely visible from the ground. The journey up provides glimpses of little statues and gothic gargoyles.
There was even a little shop 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).
(Andreas Groll (Photographer), 1., Stephansdom – preparing for the installation of the new top of the South Tower on August 18th 1864, 1860–1864, Wien Museum, excerpt reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
Tickets & visitor tips
Adults pay €6 to go up at the time of writing. The South Tower is also part of all-inclusive and museum combination* tickets you can buy.
Be warned that the spiral staircase is narrow and not perfectly lit in places. However, benches at the top allow you to 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 marked south tower entrance towards the far end of the building.
Incidentally, you’re now only a few steps away from the rather nice Haas&Haas tea rooms, too. Just in case you need a refreshing cup of Darjeeling and a cucumber sandwich after all that exertion.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna