Old Town Churches Walking Tour (Self Guided), Vienna

Sacred buildings in Vienna impress visitors with their historic architecture and magnificent interiors. The remarkable Gothic Stephansdom, charming Baroque St Peter’s church, and other sacred buildings of Vienna provide not only a history of the city, but a refreshing look at truly beautiful architecture, as you will see in this tour.
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Old Town Churches Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Old Town Churches Walking Tour
Guide Location: Austria » Vienna (See other walking tours in Vienna)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 15
Tour Duration: 3 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 5.8 Km or 3.6 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Malteserkirche
  • Kapuzinerkirche
  • Augustinerkirche
  • Lutherische Stadtkirche Wien
  • Hofburgkapelle
  • Minoritenkirche
  • Michaelerkirche
  • Peterskirche
  • Stephansdom
  • Franziskanerkirche
  • Dominikanerkirche
  • Jesuitenkirche
  • Heiligenkreuzerhof
  • Ruprechtskirche
  • Maria am Gestade

1) Malteserkirche

The Maltese Church (Malteserkirche) is a Gothic church of the Knights Hospitaller in Vienna, on Kärntner Straße. The first church on this site is mentioned in 1217, as a "House of the Prueder of the Order of Saint John", a commandry to care and support crusaders. The current building was built in the mid 15th century. In the 17th century it was a favored preaching location for Abraham a Sancta Clara. This building was rebuilt to fit contemporary taste in the Baroque era and in 1806, and the Kommendenhaus (1839) and parts of the church (1857) had stained glass added during the 19th century. The Order ran into financial trouble after the First World War and in 1933 had to sell the church and the Johanneshof, and the church was given over to other uses within a historical preservation order. It was bought back in 1960 and restored in stages, finishing with a general restoration in 1998. The church's high altarpiece was painted in 1730 by Johann Georg Schmidt.
Sight description based on wikipedia

2) Kapuzinerkirche

The Kapuzinerkirche or the Capuchin Church is also a monastery for the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. The building was started in the early 17th century, but was interrupted by the 30 years war. Finished in 1632, the church is best known for the tombs that lay beneath the Church itself. Here one will find the tombs of several of the Habsburg dynasty. The last Habsburg to lie in state at the church was Otto von Habsburg who died in July of 2011.

The Church is aisle-less, and its simplicity lends to its beauty. Although most tourists visit to tour the Imperial Crypt, this historical church is also important. It has survived throughout the centuries with minimal damage from war and other political events.

The Imperial Crypt is the final resting place for 18 Empresses and 12 Emperors. Around 120 other aristocrats also are housed here. Some of the tombs are very lavishly decorated especially those of Marie Antoinette’s mother and father. Tours are available to see the church and the crypt. Additionally, the extraordinary form of the Roman rite is celebrated daily at the church. Although this is not the most spectacular church in Vienna, it is a must for any history buff.
Sight description based on wikipedia

3) Augustinerkirche

The Augustinerkirche or the Augustinian Church was built to serve the royal court of the Habsburg dynasty. Built in 1339, the church was on the palace grounds but over time the palace expanded and the church is now part of the Hofburg. The church does have a rather beautiful steeple to set it apart from the rest of the facility.

The church includes a cloister for Augustinian friars and today six monks tend to the needs of the local flock. As you can imagine this church has played host to lots of royal functions over the centuries, including the wedding of Archduchess Marie-Louis to Napoleon Bonaparte in 1810. He however, did not show up for the wedding so the marriage was by proxy.

The inside of the Gothic church is starkly beautiful with its tall narrow windows and incredible chandeliers. The cenotaph for Maria Christina of Austria near the rear entrance is moving and lovely. The memorial was sculpted in 1805 and depicts the entire family going into a temple. There are also several chapels in the facility, two of which are open on a limited basis. The Loreto chapel has 54 silver urns that hold the hearts of departed Habsburg rulers and can be viewed thru a windowed door. The bodies are entombed the Kapuzinerkirche.

The best time to see these chapels are after Sunday mass. In the summer the mass features organ music which is breathtakingly beautiful in this setting. Be sure to arrive by at least 10:15 to find a seat for the 11 am mass as this is extremely popular.
Sight description based on wikipedia
Lutherische Stadtkirche Wien

4) Lutherische Stadtkirche Wien

Lutherische Stadtkirche Wien or the Lutheran City Church has been through many changes since it was first built in 1582. At that time it was a Catholic monastery built at the behest of Elisabeth of Austria. She lived here after being widowed and it is speculated that the church was built to atone for the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre.

During the religious turbulence of the 18th century, the church was abandoned. In 1783 the monastery was purchased and divided among the three new owners, the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church and a private investor who used his portion to build a palace. At this time in Vienna’s history, Protestant churches were not allowed to have steeples or any exterior adornments that would denote that a church was there. The building was significantly altered during this time.

In 1876 the winds of religious fortunes again changed and Protestant churches could now look like a church. Significant modifications were again made to the building. WWII bombing caused significant damage to the Church and the building was again rebuilt with a new face. The latest renovations to the building occurred in the late 1980s with a return to the 1907 look.

Several features have survived all the remodeling and damage. Christ on the Cross is a copy of the van Dyke painting that is the altar piece. There are also marble plates that are relics from when the hearts of several leaders were buried here. The church has no aisles which makes it rather unique too. Located at Dorotheergasse 18, there are also other churches and sights to see within just a short walk.
Sight description based on wikipedia

5) Hofburgkapelle (must see)

The Hofburgkapelle is a chapel that was essentially swallowed up by the Imperial castle. In fact at one point only the apse was visible externally. The chapel has been a part of church life in Vienna since at least 1424. While the castle around the chapel has been added to and ownership divided amongst various royalty, the chapel remained open for the use of all the peoples of Vienna.

Today, from September to April, the Vienna Boys Choir and members of the Vienna State Opera orchestra perform here at Sunday Mass. The music is absolutely phenomenal so be sure to book tickets as soon as travel dates are known. One can also stand outside the chapel in the narthex and here the choir if tickets were unavailable. The choir was originally 1492 to provide music for the liturgy. Although the choir has changed immensely over the centuries, it is enchanting to hear the boys sing with the incredible musicians as they were originally designed.

Inside the chapel are pillars that represent the Saints from around the time of Fredrick III who ruled throughout most of the 1800s. These pillars were refurbished in the 1970s to their original state. The chapel has been added to and redone so many times; it is nice to see parts of it being reverted back to its original splendor.

6) Minoritenkirche

Minoritenkirche is also known as The Italian National Church of Mary of the Snows. The corner stone was laid in 1276 and dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. As the name suggests, the church started out as a Minorite holding of the Franciscan monks. In 1782, Joseph II gave the church to the Italians and the name was changed. The Minorite community had fled the area under religious prosecution.

This old church has been through several changes in its long life, and it is easy to see where pieces and parts have been added over the centuries as different groups have had their influence. One of the most notable features concerns the lack of a spire on the top of the tower.

The tower really doesn’t fit the Gothic nature of the building as it was one of the parts that were added later. It did have a proper top, however, that was destroyed twice during wars in the 1500s. After rebuilding the top twice, a flat roof that was more difficult to shoot off was installed.

The inside of the massive church is just as distinctive. There are several chapels, and several modifications have been made over the centuries. The high alter has a Baroque feel to it, although most of the older Baroque adornments have been removed from the church to again have the Gothic style.

There is a mosaic of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper that was commissioned by Napoleon when he invaded Vienna. The mosaic was to have been in another building, but it was simply too large to fit there. After Napoleon’s defeat, the mosaic was purchased by Franz I and placed in the vast Minoritenkirche where its beauty can still be appreciated today.
Sight description based on wikipedia

7) Michaelerkirche

St. Michael's Church (German: Michaelerkirche) is one of the oldest churches in Vienna and also one of its few remaining Romanesque buildings. Dedicated to the Archangel Michael, St. Michael's Church is located at Michaelerplatz across from St. Michael's Gate at the Hofburg Palace. St. Michael's used to be the parish church of the Imperial Court, when it was called Zum heiligen Michael. Over its long history, spanning more than eight centuries, the church has incorporated a medley of architectonic styles. The church represents late Romanesque, early Gothic architectural styles dating from about 1220–1240. There is a document giving 1221 as the foundation date of the church, but this is most probably a 14th-century forgery. Over time, there have been many alterations, resulting in its present day aspect, unchanged since 1792.
Sight description based on wikipedia

8) Peterskirche (must see)

St. Peter’s Church sits atop one of the oldest known religious sites in all of Vienna. There has been a church on this site since the early 4th Century A.D. A much larger version of today's church was reportedly built here in 792 and was to have been founded by none other than Charlemagne himself.

In more modern times, Peterskirche takes up much less space, being crunched into what it occupies on Petersplatz. The overall architectural design is Baroque. In fact, this is one of the most decorated churches you will find anywhere, for any building designed in that style.

The outer color is white and a very light yellow. There are two towers that made up the classic outside look of the building. The turrets turn inward ever so slightly. It is said that the towers get their shape after the tent poles of the Turkish people who used to occupy this region in the late 1600s. You can also find a wonderful plaque on the outside of the building that tells of the legend of Charlemagne.

You will want to visit the inside also, as it contains some of the best paintings dating to the 1700s. Many of the wood carvings and alter pieces are also of that period. Currently, the structure is owned and operated by the Opus Dei.

Why You Should Visit:
Definitely a good place to marvel at sumptuous baroque architecture. Full of gold, marble, and finery!

Each day from 3 till 3:30pm you can listen to live organ music for free (donation only). The most impressive way of admiring this church!
Choir performances at the church are also frequent, with for-fee events in the underground vaults.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7am-8pm; Sat-Sun: 9am-9pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

9) Stephansdom (must see)

Stephansdom or St. Stephen’s Cathedral is an amazing work of art and a testament to one city’s love for their church. It is the home church of the Archbishop of Vienna. The large building can be seen from most of Vienna with its distinctive south tower that rises an impressive 445 feet in height. In fact, this tower was manned by a night watchman until 1955, and his duty was to ring the “fire bell” if any fires broke out in the city at night. There was to be a twin north tower, but due to several factors, it is considerably shorter and different in design than the impressive south tower.

The inside of the massive church contains several smaller chapels in addition to the main sanctuary. This huge portion of the edifice has 18 alters, but the most amazing alter is the high one. It is carved in marble and is a representation of the stoning of St. Stephen, the church’s namesake. The Wiener Neustädter alter is also a breathtaking work of art.

The Cathedral's bells are an important part of life in Vienna. While the oldest of the 23 bells are not rung anymore, several are and they all have a special meaning. One of the most special is the St. Mary bell. The original bell was made from the captured Muslim invaders cannons. The bell was badly damaged when it crashed to the floor during a fire; however, part of the damaged bell was used when casting the new bell.

The outside of the cathedral is also as distinctive. The incredible tile roof is covered by almost 250,000 tiles. The steep pitch of the roof keeps it fairly free of debris. The walls also have interesting features including the rods used as standard dry goods measure for drapes and linen cloth. Be sure to allow enough time to see this entire amazing Cathedral.

Why You Should Visit:
While incredible architecture can be witnessed anywhere in Vienna, this majestic Roman-Gothic masterpiece is absolutely unmistakable.

Visit the crypt (really interesting, although a bit macabre) and either the South Tower (if you can manage 350 steps!) or the North Tower (by taking the lift up).

Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat: 6am-10pm; Sun: 7am-10pm
Sight description based on wikipedia

10) Franziskanerkirche

Franziskanerkirche is also known as the Church of St. Jerome as well as the Franciscan Church in Vienna. The outside of this beautiful church is Renaissance while the inside is pure Baroque. It is a wonderful mix and an interesting place to visit. The location is not in a high tourist area, and there are wonderful little shops and cafes around to make the visit even more pleasant.

The present church was built in the early 1600s on top of the site of another church that had been destroyed. Both were dedicated to Saint Hieronymus and in fact, his likeness in the form of a statue guards the building entrance. Interestingly, the gate hints at the Baroque flavor that awaits those who venture inside the building.

Inside the church, amidst the gold and marble is the oldest known organ in Vienna, the Wöckherlorgel circa 1640. The high alter is beautiful and was designed by an Italian artist around the same time. While the majority of the church was done prior to the end of the 18th century, the tomb of Fr. Peter Pavlicek is a recent addition. He was an Austrian Franciscan priest who organized a Rosary crusade after WWII. He implored Austrians to pray the Rosary daily until Russian occupation of the country ended. Father Pavlicek died in 1982 and his remains are lying in repose here.
Sight description based on wikipedia

11) Dominikanerkirche

The Church of St. Maria Rotunda, also known as Vienna's Dominican Church (Dominikanerkirche), is an early Baroque parish church and minor basilica in the historic center of Vienna. It is the third church built on the same site in the course of time. The impressive facade was built in the Roman-Lombardic style with dominant columns, supporting the cornice. The church consists of a long central nave, flanked by three side chapels on each side, a transept, a choir and an apse. The nave is 25 m long, 14 m wide and 22.10 m high. The large dome reaches a height of 23.80 m. Above each side chapel is gallery with a shallow balcony. The ornate interior is imposing by its architecture and the exquisite stucco in the decorations. Semi-circular windows allow a soft light on the frescoes of the barrel-vaulted ceiling. 
Sight description based on wikipedia

12) Jesuitenkirche

The Jesuit Church or Jesuitenkirche is located on Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz in Vienna. This church was completed in 1627. It is a marvelous example of Baroque architecture with a few odd twists. The twin towers look a bit out of place at first, but the whole building balances out nicely. The niches on the building with the statues are simply lovely. The Church was dedicated to Saint Loyola and Saint Francis Xavier when first erected. However, in 1703 the church was rededicated to the Assumption of Mary.

The inside of the Jesuitenkirche is beautiful and well worth a visit. Be sure to see the wonderful trompe l’oeil dome that is painted on the barrel ceiling to look like a dome. It commissioned by Emperor Leopold I and is simply spectacular. The artist is Andrea Pozzo and he was also responsible for designing the frescoes in the building.

Vienna in the mid 1400s was very important in European academia. After the constant barrage of war, few students remained in the area by the late 1500s. The university and the Jesuits merged forces in 1623 and this church was the result. The Jesuits as a whole had its ups and downs in Austria, but the building is once again.
Sight description based on wikipedia

13) Heiligenkreuzerhof

The Heiligenkreuaerhof and Bernardikapelle is a collection of shops, apartment’s courtyards and one beautiful old church. This area may be a bit difficult to find, but it is worth the effort. This area was once home to merchants and the shops were outside of the protective city walls. Some of the basements date back to the 12th century although most of the visible parts of the buildings there now are considerably older. The buildings were generally built in the mid 17th to mid 18th centuries.

Although the Bernadikapelle may be a bit understated from the outside, this little chapel is beautiful on the inside and is a very popular spot to have a wedding. The chapel is not open for public display, but tours are regularly given. Be sure to sign up for the tour as the chapel is an excellent example of Baroque furnishings at its best.

The area is sometimes called “Vienna’s oldest apartment block” and the name may make one disinclined to make the effort on a busy vacation to visit this spot. However, the small shops here and the lovely chapel will not disappoint. It may well be one of the highlights of any trip.

14) Ruprechtskirche (must see)

Ruprechtskirche or the Church of St. Rupert is thought to be the oldest church in Vienna. Although there has recently been some dispute about that fact, it is home to the oldest stained glass window and the oldest bells in Vienna. The church is named for St. Rupert of Salzburg, the patron saint of Viennese salt merchants.

Tradition has the church being built in the early 8th century although even that date is in dispute. The first written record about the church occurs around 1200 and the document calls the church the oldest in Vienna. The church has had an interesting history that includes being a center for the salt trade and also housing prisoners.

The church has seen several renovations, especially after a devastating fire in 1276. The oldest stained-glass window that survives was probably inserted around this time period. It is on the Madonna and Christ child along with the Crucified Christ. As recently as the late 1990s modifications and renovations have taken place.

The church is open to the public and visitors are encouraged to come in and look at the beautiful, old sanctuary. Religious services are not routinely held here, although there are several events held in the venue. Feel free to come in to reflect, wander around, and enjoy this old treasure.

Why You Should Visit:
The stained-glass windows are stunning and the simplicity is a change from the baroque seen elsewhere.

Don't miss the 'Alte Musik in Ruprecht' concerts that the church offers, featuring music from the Medieval to early Romantic periods played on original instruments by world-class artists.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 7am-6pm
Sight description based on wikipedia
Maria am Gestade

15) Maria am Gestade

Maria am Gestade (English: Mary at the Shore) is a Gothic church in Vienna. One of the oldest churches in the city - along with St. Peter's Church and St. Rupert's Church, it also is one of the few surviving examples of Gothic architecture. Located in the Innere Stadt at Salvatorgasse 12, near the Donaukanal, the church was traditionally used by sailors on the Danube river. The name reflects the former location on the Fluvial terrace of an arm of the Danube river, prior to its regulation.

The church's most striking characteristic is the 56 m (180 ft) high open work tower, built in 1419-1428 in Gothic scroll-work. It is recognizable from a great distance and is depicted on the oldest images of the city. The choir, whose construction began in 1330 contains two high Gothic panels. The windows contain surviving fragments of medieval stained glass. The nave due to the limited space, is narrower than the choir. Because of the course of the Danube arm the nave is slightly bent. Construction was started in 1400, and it is said that Duke Albrecht III himself was the builder.

The church has three porticoes that are decorated with reliefs and figures. The choir door shows a Virgin of Mercy and a Coronation of the Virgin, both dating from around 1350, as deduced from during the Middle Portal which has realistic depictions of angels playing musical instruments. On the main portal on the west facade, canopies crown reliefs of the two Saint Johns (Baptist and Evangelist) from about 1410, in a style also seen at Prague's St. Vitus Cathedral and a range of sculptures and mosaic decoration, which date from the 20th century.
Sight description based on wikipedia

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