Stroll through a city and a number of things can catch your eye: the light glinting off of a skyscraper, the canopy of trees in a neighborhood park, or the way a bridge sparkles as the sun sets on the horizon. Cities come alive as you walk through them, whether on your daily commute or on a new urban exploration.
But while iconic skyscrapers and beautiful city halls are some of the best known destinations in a city, there are plenty of smaller, under-the-radar spots that can captivate and intrigue. Take staircases, for example.
In cities far and wide, staircases carry people to and from destinations. Some are rather mundane, while others can curve and spiral. A few are made of flagstone or concrete, while many are crafted with elaborate tile or ceramic pieces.
When done right, public staircases turn from an afterthought to an Instagram hotspot, a delightful example of a city’s culture and style. Without further ado, here are 15 of the prettiest urban staircases around the U.S. Know of one we missed? Tell us in the comments.
Saroyan Stairs, Los Angeles
This towering double staircase in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles was built in 1923 with a separated stone wall used to contain a running stream.
Fort Worth Water Gardens, Fort Worth, Texas
Designed by Philip Johnson, this refreshing oasis adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention showcases a series of walkways and steps that travel among three main pools of water.
16th Avenue Tiled Steps, San Francisco
In a hilly city full of gorgeous staircases, it takes a lot to stand out. But San Francisco’s most famous stairway is the 16th Avenue Tiled Staircase. Completed in 2015, the stairs feature 163 unique steps made from mosaics.
Pioneer Courthouse Square steps, Portland, Oregon
Sometimes called Portland’s living room, Pioneer Courthouse Square is a 40,000-square-foot brick town square designed by architect Will Martin.
Mount Bonnell stairs in Austin, Texas
The worn and storied flagstone stairs heading to Austin’s highest point—Mount Bonnell—are a heart-pumping workout paid off with the city’s best views.
Hoover Walk Stairs, Los Angeles
The area around Silver Lake is the stairway capital of Los Angeles, so head to murals like Ricardo Mendoza’s Fluid City Rising at the northern end of Hoover Street in Los Feliz.
Wilcox Wall Stairs, Seattle
Built in 1913, the Wilcox Wall in Seattle is a retaining wall with 785 steps integrated into its Byzantine-looking arches and artistic brickwork.
Arelious Walker Stairway, San Francisco
Located in San Francisco’s Bayview District, the Arelious Walker Stairway is another standout staircase in the city, paying homage to Dr. Arelious Walker, a pastor and neighborhood advocate. The stairs use textiles and ceramics from Africa, Central America, and the Middle East.
Meridian Hill Malcolm X Park, Washington D.C.
This park in Washington D.C., was built as an Italian style garden with a thirteen-basin cascading fountain and wide stairs on either side.
Times Square Red Steps, New York City
There’s a lot going on in Times Square, and these bright red, bleacher-style steps—which are right above the TKTS booth selling discounted Broadway tickets—are the perfect vantage point to take it all in.
1,000 Steps Beach, Santa Barbara, California
Originally constructed in 1923, these concrete stairs to one of Santa Barbara’s prettiest beaches have what seem like 1,000 steps; the number is actually closer to 150.
Lincoln Park Steps, San Francisco
Bright green, yellow, and orange hues make for a stunning collage at these steps situated off California Street where it dead ends into the Lincoln Park Golf Course.
Exorcist Steps, Washington D.C.
Located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., these stone steps are famous for an appearance in the film The Exorcist.
East Lake steps, Atlanta
This rainbow-colored staircase in East Lake, Atlanta, was transformed from dull concrete steps into an ombre masterpiece.
The Oakley Street Mosaic Steps, Pittsburgh
In the hilly city of Pittsburgh, residents are no stranger to stairs. But the steps on Oakley Street in the South Side Slopes neighborhood stand out thanks to 7,500 individual mosaic tiles.