Monumental Staircases From Around the World

Stories from Travel + Leisure
March 11 2012 6:00 AM

Take the Stairs

The coolest staircases in the world.

120307_TL_stairwaysLaunch

This piece is reprinted from Travel + Leisure.

It looks like any old roller-coaster with curves and heart-stopping loops. But instead of zooming by, those people are walking—on inclines fitted with steps. German architects pushed the staircase into new territory in 2011, creating Tiger & Turtle-Magic Mountain purely for enjoyment.

While staircases are fundamentally a means to get from one point to another, they become cool—and worth seeking out—when the form is made at least as important as the function. Whether in shops, museums, religious sites, or the great outdoors, the staircases we’ve found are inspiring works of public art and provide interesting perspective on a destination. (From the steps of Tiger & Turtle-Magic Mountain, the views of Germany’s Rhine Valley are spectacular.)

Advertisement

Another kind of architectural feat came courtesy of Apple, a brand known for obsessing about design, even down to the details of its retail stores. Ultra-modern floating glass staircases are centerpieces at most of their shops; the staircase that spirals twice to the second and third floors at the West 14th Street Apple Store in New York City is the most impressive. And in the age of Apple’s iPad and other e-readers, Portugal’s Lello Bookshop attracts most travelers for the sight of its lavish red staircase with Art Nouveau flourishes rather than its volumes.

But our list isn’t limited to modern designs; one of the most ingenious staircases was built for entirely practical reasons outside the city of Jaipur, India, around the ninth century. The 13-story-deep step well served a common good, enabling locals to climb up and down to access water despite fluctuating levels.

We tried to consider only cool staircases that are accessible to the public, ruling out some enviable ones within private homes. One notable exception is Antonio Gaudí’s skeletal staircase at Barcelona’s Casa Batlló. What was originally the Batlló family’s private home is such a fine example of Modernist architecture that it was opened to the public in 2002.

So next time you travel, skip the elevator and take the stairs. We bet you’ll be so amazed by the world’s coolest staircases you won’t notice you’re getting a workout.

More from Travel + Leisure:

TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Yes, Black Families Tend to Spank More. That Doesn’t Mean It’s Good for Black Kids.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit It Yet

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 16 2014 4:08 PM More Than Scottish Pride Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 5:07 PM One Comedy Group Has the Perfect Idea for Ken Burns’ Next Project
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.