Discover 20 of the world’s most spectacular staircases

These staircases aren’t just a means of movement—they’re dramatic works of art.

By Starlight Williams
Published 31 Mar 2019, 14:11 BST
Munich, Germany
Two spiral staircases dance and twist to create “Umschreibung,” a 30-foot-tall sculpture whose name translates to “transcription” or “rewriting.” The flights interlock at the peak to create a continuous loop. Erected in 2004 by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, the stairs can be found in front of the KPMG building complex in Schwanthalerhöhe.
Photograph by Eric Criswell, National Geographic Your Shot

A practical creation that transports you from one destination to the next, stairs rarely garner much attention beyond being cumbersome to climb. But staircases are one of the oldest architectural creations, dating to the second millennium B.C. Ancient steps provided strategic ways to traverse rough terrain, and some believed they connected Earth to the heavens.

But artists and designers throughout the ages have transformed stairs beyond mere functionality. With towering spirals, daring designs, and classic ornaments, staircases have become statement pieces and dramatic works of art that are destinations in their own right. (See 24 unconventional art destinations around the world)

Members of our Your Shot photography community captured the dramatic beauty of staircases around the world. Join the Your Shot community to share a photo of somewhere that's meaningful to you.

Starlight Williams is an editorial researcher and writer at National Geographic. Follow her on Twitter @star_lightw and Instagram @starlightwilliams.

Explore Nat Geo

  • Animals
  • Environment
  • History & Culture
  • Science
  • Travel
  • Photography
  • Space
  • Adventure
  • Video

About us


  • Magazines
  • Disney+

Follow us

Copyright © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society. Copyright © 2015-2023 National Geographic Partners, LLC. All rights reserved