This post may or may not contain affiliate links, meaning if you happen to click on one I might earn a little bit of dinero at no extra cost to you. And you’ll get a warm fuzzy feeling inside for helping to keep the site alive. Go you!

You know when you just step into a room or a building, read a certain book or poem or simply hear a few words, and it sends shivers down your spine in an unexplainable way?

That’s the feeling I got at Escadaria Selarón.

World famous not only in the art world, but also in pop culture, having featured in many music videos, TV shows and advertising campaigns, this crazy beautiful staircase truly is a labour of love like no other.

Jorge Selarón, Chilean artist, began renovation of the steps outside his home in 1990 using broken pieces of porcelain and mirrors. At first people didn’t take note of his efforts, some even ridiculing him. Within time, travelling neighbours began bringing him tiles from the countries they visited, and soon enough people were sending tiles of all shapes and sizes from all over the world.

Obrigado Selarón

In all it took 20 years and over 2000 tiles donated from more than 60 countries to be completed. Even then, his work wasn’t done: Selarón continued to periodically chip off some of the old tiles and replace them with new ones, meaning that his work of art was ever-changing.

The tiles themselves are a beautiful chaos. There is no order, there is no logic in their placements. Hindu deities mingle with Quranic passages, watched over by Homer Simpson while the Playboy bunny and Barack Obama look over from the other side of the steps. Countries from opposing continents are now neighbours – European Vienna living atop of Caribbean Curacao. Randomly, Kazakhstan crops up a fair few times.

Curacao and Vienna

On January 10th 2013, Jorge Selarón – the man who put Lapa on the map – was found dead on the steps he’d spent decades forming into a masterpiece. He was burnt and covered in flammable paint thinner. He had reportedly been depressed and suicidal in the lead up to his death, but allegedly had also received death threats. Although circumstances are to this day not 100% clear, it is assumed that he ended his own life.

No matter what the circumstances, the fact that Selarón took his final breath on the very thing he had put so many years and so much love into creating, is somewhat reassuring. Before his death he would often be seen on the steps, posing for photos and entertaining visitors. Even now after his death, you can still feel his presence.

In fact, the higher up the steps you wander, the quieter and more poignant it gets. Many tourists don’t venture much past the “Escadaria Selaron Rio de Janeiro” tiles, which is the place to get your obligatory tourist snap. So if you’re able to escape the crowds, head on up the stairs, sit yourself down and just take in the whole aura of the place.

He was born in Chile, but Selarón really did leave his heart and legacy in Brazil.



  1. carlinn meyer Reply

    Oh my goodness this is so gorgoeus and what a project as well! It must be interesting checking out all the different tiles to see where they are from. I feel kind of bad for the ones they replace, hopefully they do it so they don’t damage them and keep them somewhere 😛

  2. Oh my goodness this place looks incredible!! I love a good colorful wall, but this take it to a full other level!

  3. This is just plain awesomeness. I like the mad-dash artistic flair of these stairs. I can imagine myself just poring over each tile.

  4. This is one masterpiece! 2000 tiles is an incredible, I can only imagine the hard work he’s put into creating these steps. His death made me kind of sad though… I wonder why (if true) he was getting death threats and why he was feeling suicidal and depressed.

  5. These steps are so beautiful. Although they are made of different tiles, they come together as a magical whole. I’ve seen them in photos before but didn’t know the story behind them. Jorge Selarón certainly had great artistic flair.

  6. What an amazing place and thank you for introducing me to yet another place and person. I feel so…sheltered after reading everyone’s experiences. Beautiful staircase.

  7. How that tragic the story of the creator of this magnificent artwork is still unknown… But ihe did leave an artistic legacy that will be known to the world.

  8. Vicki Louise Reply

    These steps are so gorgeous and its such an incredible piece of living art. I had no idea about the history of the steps or that the creator was found dead on his masterpiece. I hope he found whatever peace he was looking for.

  9. I went here in December …and it was packed with people. Its great to see that you could find some time and space to get a picture with not too many people around! It is so amazing to see tiles from around the world…I saw some really nice ones from the Middle East and CIS. Thanks for the nostalgia!

Write A Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.