The intricate black, green, blue and yellow tiled roof of St Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna
Photo by Juan Llanos  –  Link

St Stephen's Cathedral

Austria > Vienna

Looming over the city skyline, with four huge towers and a roof so detailed it looks like an optical illusion, St. Stephen's Cathedral is one of Vienna's most recognisable landmarks. Located at the geographical heart of the city, the Stephansplatz, and surrounded by a plethora of cafes and shops, the cathedral makes for a great starting point for a day spent walking around Austria's capital.

The origins of the cathedral:

The foundations of this site were laid almost a millennia ago, in 1137, with the consecration of this land as a response to the growth of the town of Vienna. Although that original building was lost to a fire, the cathedral that we see today still stretches back almost as far, with the two front towers and the current west wall believed to date from the early 1200s.

Over the years, the cathedral has been added to and adapted, with a number of towers, chapels and sculptures being attached at different times. The result is a mish-mash of styles that blend the Romanesque and the Gothic, sees colourful stained glass sitting flamboyantly alongside understated clear windows, and includes a smattering of O-T-T statues just for good measure. Its gigantic doors, which as one the cathedral's original features have bore witness the whole history of the city, are decorated ornately with birds, dragons, demons, lions and monks.

Having managed to avoid any extensive damage during the Second World War, in 1945 the cathedral's wooden-framed roof caught fire and came crashing to the ground, devastating the structure. Fortunately, many of the most precious artefacts escaped damage, but the ruin still left a scar on the city's psyche. Immediately afterwards, the residents of Vienna started fundraising to rebuild their damaged centrepiece and the building fully reopened as a symbol of national unity in the early 1950s.

Don't miss:

  • The Tirna Chapel: More specifically, take a look at the beard of Christ on the 15th-century Crucifix above the altar; not only is it made from human hair, it's said that it's still growing too.

  • The views: Clamber up the 300+ spiral stairs to the top of the South tower and enjoy the sweeping views across the city skyline from the old watchtower. For those feeling less agile, the North Tower has a lift to the top and also boasts incredible views across Vienna. Whichever way you choose to go, it's worth the money.

  • The roof: Perhaps the cathedral's most famous feature is its elaborately tiled roof, which is embellished with over 230,000 colourful mosaic tiles. Depicting the double headed eagle of the Habsburg dynasty - who ruled over Austria until the 1700s - holding the coats of arms of Austria and Vienna on one side, with a bright zig-zag pattern on the other, it's become an icon of the city in itself. Fun fact: It's actually so steep that it doesn't even need to be cleaned - gravity does it.

  • Down below: Inside the cathedral are the final resting places of many of the great and the good of Austrian history, including the Emperor Frederick III, whose tomb has 240 statues. Those who like a bit of the macabre should also check out the Ducal Crypt, located beneath the cathedral's chancel, where there are bronze jars containing the bodies, hearts or other innards of 72 members of the Habsburg dynasty.

    For an additional six euros you can also take a guided tour of the cathedral's catacombs, where the bones of up to 11,000 people, many of them victims of the bubonic plague, are held.

  • The bells: It's said that Beethoven learned the extent to which he was deaf when he saw birds fleeing the cathedral's bell tower as the clock struck, but he could not hear any noise. The swinging bell in the north tower, known as the Pummerin, is one of the largest in Europe, but now rings only a few select occasions each year.

Do remember: It's still a working church, so multiple services are held every day.

Opening Times

Throughout the Year

  • Monday to Saturday: 06:00 AM to 10:00 PM
  • Sunday: 07:00 AM to 10:00 PM
Price Information

Cathedral Admission - Age 15+

  • Adult : 6.00 EUR

Cathedral Admission - Up to 14 years

  • Children : 2.50 EUR

Catacombs Tour - Age 15+

  • Adult : 6.00 EUR

Catacombs Tour - Up to 14 years

  • Adult : 2.50 EUR

South Tower - Age 15+

  • Adult : 5.00 EUR

South Tower - Up to 14 years

  • Children (Ages 6 - 14) : 2.00 EUR

North Tower - Age 15+

  • Children : 6.00 EUR

North Tower - Up to 14 years

  • Children (Ages 6 - 14) : 2.50 EUR

North Tower - Kindergarden

  • Children : 0.50 EUR
Address

Stephansplatz

Vienna

Vienna

Austria 1010 Wien