If you want to see 14th-century stained glass, a 15th-century pulpit, a 16th-century sarcophagus, 17th-century choir stalls, and the chapel where they baptised two of Mozart’s children, then grab your audioguide and step this way for the self-guided Stephansdom tour…
- Pass through the barriers to get close to the main altar and over 700 years of history
- Audioguide reveals lovely details and background stories
- At the time of writing, €6.00 for an adult with audioguide (or buy, for example, an all-inclusive museum plus Stephansdom ticket*)
- See also: Stephansdom overview
(Emperor Frederick III died in 1493 and is buried in the cathedral)
Only a small part of Stephansdom’s interior is freely accessible outside of services; a tour is the only way (other than a guided tour) you can access the main part of the cathedral. Otherwise, you’re left pressing your nose up against the railings among the masses, vainly wishing your smartphone had a bigger zoom.
In fact, by paying you get to enjoy the cathedral in (relative) quiet.
The audio tour has 12 stops, each with 2-3 mins of spoken text. The guide covers the history of the building and provides an array of often intriguing stories and background information on the cathedral and the features inside.
The highlights for me were:
- The 1476 marble font in St. Catherine’s chapel, with its remarkable wooden crown featuring scenes that represent the seven sacraments
(Josef Bucher (Artist), F. Kargl (Printer), “Sarcophagus of Emperor Frederick III”, possibly produced around 1850–1860, Wien Museum; excerpt reproduced with permission under the terms of the CC0 licence)
- The huge marble sarcophagus of Emperor Frederick III, complete with lamenting monks and bishops. It took so long to finish he was only moved here 20 years after his 1493 death
- The 17th-century main altar, whose black and white marble introduces a beautiful ebony/ivory quality
- The late 15th-century sandstone pulpit, complete with snakes, lizards, and frogs crawling their way up the handrail to be repulsed by a stone guard dog
Since Stephansdom is not as opulently Baroque as many religious buildings in Austria, it’s easy to get a feel for the spiritual atmosphere that people would have enjoyed even many centuries ago. You can imagine the awe it would have inspired.
Tickets & visitor tips
Buy a ticket and pick up an audioguide from the information counter (middle-left when you enter the cathedral). You need to leave some form of identity (like a driver’s licence) as a deposit.
Tell them you want an English-language audioguide and they’ll set it up for you.
At the time of writing, a ticket is €6.00 for an adult with the audioguide. But if you’re going to visit more than a couple of Stephansdom attractions, get an all-inclusive ticket.
Stephansdom is a working cathedral, so the tour is not possible all the time. The most reliable times to get in are probably in the afternoons.
- Look for the burgundy signs with numbers on them, as indicated on the map you get with your ticket. Those are the audioguide indicators. Ignore the numbers mounted on brackets on the walls and columns – they’re something else
- You can get round in half an hour if you want, but take time to look more closely at what you pass. There are lots of tiny details to delight the eye (like the frogs mentioned above)
- When at the main altar, look back down the nave for a beautiful view of the cathedral with the bright stained glass at the other end
- For another gothic church experience, walk along the pedestrianised Graben and up Kohlmarkt to find the Michaelerkirche, parts of which date back to the 13th century
How to get there
See the main Stephansdom article for tips on reaching the cathedral.
Address: Stephansdom, Stephansplatz, 1010 Vienna