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June 25, 2012

Rise to the Top: The World's Coolest Staircases



By Lacy Morris
06/25/2012

comments Comments (3)

Bramante's Staircase, Vatican Museum,Rome, Italy-200366505-001(Karl Weatherly,Digital Vision,Thinkstock)
Bramante's Staircase, Vatican Museum, Vatican City, Italy (Karl Weatherly/Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

The internet is abuzz about how to stay in shape while traveling. There are how-to's, what-not's, and green everything. But the real trick is to visit one of the world's coolest set of stairs, and to skip the elevator. These winding steps lead to a hilltop house of prayer and a queen's sleeping quarters, and sometimes to nowhere. But it's the journey, not the destination, when it comes to these four winding, worldly locales.

Tiger and Turtle, Magic Mountain
Duisburg, Germany
Sitting on a hill in Angerpark in Duisburg, Germany, the 147-foot structure resembles a twisting rollercoaster at your favorite amusement park. But instead of seatbelts and high speeds, this ride is done on foot. The massive staircase was imagined by German artists Heike Mutter and Ulrich Genth, with 249 stairs, all of which are illuminated by an LED system when the sun goes down. The structure is open to the public free of charge, and all portions are free reign except the upside-down loop, for what we hope are obvious reasons.

Bramante's Staircase, Vatican Museum
Vatican City, Rome, Italy
Perhaps one of the most photographed staircases in the world, this swirling structure was designed in 1932 by Giuseppe Momo to transport you from the Vatican's ground level up to its museums. Though the building houses more than nine miles of famed art, the stairs are most certainly the highlight for many tourists. They're actually two different cases, one leading up, the other leading down, twisting together to form a double helix, closely resembling a DNA strand, which at the time of creative inception was yet to be discovered.

Bhutan, Tigernest Monastery-93169950(iStockphoto,Thinkstock)
Paro Taktsang Monastery, Paro, Bhutan (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Paro Taktsang Monastery, The Tiger's Nest
Paro, Bhutan
Precariously perched on the side of a granite cliff, Paro Taktsang Monastery is famed in the country of Bhutan as the holy place that the "Precious Master" Guru Rinpoche went to seek enlightenment. If you want to follow in his footsteps, you'll have to work for it. It is a two-hour climb from the valley floor, and this gets you only to a vast outcropping overlooking a plunging chasm—the monastery is on the other side. From there, you must feel the burn up more than 700 stairs until you reach a height of 10,000 feet above sea level. Remove your shoes, step through the doorway, and explore the three temples inside, including the cave where Guru Rinpoche is said to have meditated.

Tulip Stairs, Queen's House
Greenwich, London, England
The Queen's House in Greenwich, London, was built between 1616 and 1619 for Anne of Denmark, the queen of King James I of England. Tradition holds that the king had the house commissioned as a gift for his wife in apology for swearing at her in public after she accidentally shot his favorite dog during a hunting trip. The "tulip stairs" within are by far the house's main attraction, named after the wrought-iron balustrade that features small accented flowers, though no famous landmark goes without a bit of controversy—the flowers in question are actually thought to be fleurs-de-lis. The house is open daily, free of charge. And if you happen to be attending the 2012 London Olympics, you'll literally be in the queen's backyard; the grounds behind the house will be transformed into a stadium for the Games' equestrian events.

Been to one of these? Visited a different set of stairs you want us to know about? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


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These all are really most beautiful places to visit. It is very difficult to cross 700 stairs of this Monastery for me, but still I will try cause I know I must love the place where Guru Rinpoche have meditated.

This article would have been vastly improved with pictures of all four staircases.

While much smaller, I still think the staircase in Santa Fe should be mentioned. It can be found it Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, NM, and this is what the website says:
"The design was innovative for the time and some of the design considerations still perplex experts today.
The staircase has two 360 degree turns and no visible means of support. Also, it is said that the staircase was built without nails—only wooden pegs. Questions also surround the number of stair risers relative to the height of the choir loft and about the types of wood and other materials used in the stairway's construction."

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