Climb this urban staircase to experience one of Rio’s largest and most useful public art projects, a series of mosaics created singlehandedly by a much-loved Rio personality.
Rio is rich in public art, but none is as loved and used as Selarón Steps (Escadaria Selarón). During the 1990s, local artist Jorge Selarón transformed this once average urban utility into a technicolor stairway of brightly colored tile mosaics. Walk up the flights of steps, admiring tiles from throughout the world and appreciate the monumental scale of this eccentric artists life’s work.
The Chilean-born Selarón moved to Rio in 1983 after a life of travel. In 1990, he decided to decorate the unsightly staircase outside of his house. Using stray pieces of ceramic tile, he turned the whole 250 stairs into a huge mosaic. As he worked, his art gained popularity, eventually achieving world fame in music videos by music stars like Snoop Dogg. Until the day of his death in 2013, Selarón could still be found working on the steps wearing his signature red hat.
Selarón Steps are an intricate masterwork. Start from the bottom of the steps and walk up. On the front of each step is a unique mosaic consisting mostly of blue and yellow tiles. On either side of the staircase, Selarón has arranged a wide array of bright-red tiles. Climb all the way to the top of the steps to see a mosaic of the Brazilian flag.
Throughout his mosaics, Selarón has placed original artworks and tiles donated by visitors from throughout the world. See which tiles you can recognize; Diana, Princess of Wales, Barack Obama and the state of Georgia are just a few of the commemorative tiles featured on the steps. More than 2,000 tiles from over 60 countries can be found on Selarón Steps. Study Selarón’s paintings, which often feature his signature subject, a pregnant woman.
Selarón Steps straddle the neighborhoods of Lapa and Santa Teresa, both of which are situated in the southeastern part of downtown Rio de Janeiro. Parking in the area can be difficult, so it is best to reach the stairs by public transportation. Bus stops surround the area and the metro stop at Cinelândia lies just to the north.