St. Stephen’s Cathedral is a gorgeous church that gets upwards of 3 million visitors a year. We didn’t want to miss out so we checked it out while in Vienna last month!
Surrounded by modern architecture and the heart of the city, St Stephen’s Cathedral is not just a church that holds 17 services a week, according to its website Stephansdom, it is also a “world famous cultural heritage site and monument that stands up confidently to international comparison” and a “national emblem of Austria and a symbol of Austrian identity.”
We visited on a Sunday morning so we could see a service taking place. Tourists swarmed the outside of the building and souvenir shops and restaurants were all a stone’s throw away. It seemed to me that visitors were more welcome here than in other European cathedrals, especially in the middle of a busy Sunday, so that was nice (i.e. no one glared at us or the crowd, no angry-looking security guards).
St. Stephen’s Cathedral was mostly destroyed by the end of the World War II, but has been rebuilt beautifully.
My son thought the church bench looked just like Santa’s sleigh and announced that loudly for all to hear.
Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed and not very excited to recommend it on the blog. The architecture is gorgeous, for sure, but it didn’t seem that different from the 10-15 other huge, European cathedrals I have seen in the past. But then I did my research…
Guided tours of the catacombs beneath the building are available every day of the week and the cathedral archives, including genealogy records, births, deaths, etc. dating back to the early 1500s are all on-site.
Visitors can view the “treasures” of the church in the west gallery of the cathedral that have been returned after the re-opening of the church 60 years ago.
You can also take an elevator to the Plummerin (Eagle Tower – North Tower) or climb up the South Tower (343 steps) if you want to see over the rooftops of downtown Vienna. I sooo wish we would have known about that!
I also really loved the atmosphere outside the cathedral. Bicycles lazily leaned against stone walls, toddlers chasing pigeons on the cobblestone, modern buildings nestled up against gothic and baroque buildings built centuries ago. Now that I know about the history, tours, and towers, I would definitely go again.
Have you been to St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna? I would love to hear about your experience!