Escadaria do Patapio, São Paulo’s Decorated Stairway

The colorful steps and street art of Escadaria do Patapio

photography by: Omri Westmark

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When thinking about an ornate set of stairs in Brazil, the first thing that probably comes to mind is Rio de Janeiro’s Escadaria Selarón with its tourist-infested steps. It might then come as a surprise that the country’s largest city, São Paulo, also boasts its own decorated stairway. Chock-full of colorful tiled steps and a hodgepodge of murals, Escadaria do Patapio offers a mesmerizing sight to behold, just without the crowdedness of its more famous counterpart.

In sheer contrast to the incessant influx of visitors in Escadaria Selarón, Rio de Janeiro’s globally renowned steps, Escadaria do Patapio in São Paulo seems rather empty. Up until recently, the ultra-decorated stairway in the trendy neighborhood of Vila Madalena was merely an unassuming passage, connecting Medeiros de Albuquerque and Patápio Silva streets.


In 2015, as part of the Design Weekend events, dozens of artists and local residents have taken turns adorning the then gritty staircase with decorative tiles. The beautification campaign was the brainchild of Elcio Torres, a Brazilian plastic artist who worked side by side with a local ceramic store, which supplied most of the panels. While some clusters of tiles form whimsical figures like a butterfly or a bee, others feature Portuguese slogans that resonate with the place’s flamboyant character.


In the years that followed, the surrounding walls along the 94 steps became a canvas for multiple taggers who covered every square inch of them with vividly colorful murals, posters and also simple graffities. The ultra-ornamental staircase and the upper street it connects to are both named after Patápio Silva, Brazil’s most illustrious flutist who tragically died of a fever at the young age of 26.


As Escadaria do Patapio is located only a minute away from Batman’s Alley, an open-air gallery of mind-boggling murals, it is recommended to incorporate both places in the same visit.