Escadaria Selarón (Rio Day 5 & 7)

We visited the famous Selaron Steps (or Escadaria Selarón in Portuguese) twice while in Rio. We visited briefly while on our food tour while walking between two different eateries and then again on our full day private tour. The iconic steps were created by the Chilean artist Jorge Selarón as a tribute to the Brazilian people. The artist lived along the street and he began covering the run down steps near his doorway with multicolored tiles. The Selaron Steps run from Joaquim Silva Street to Pinto Martin Street connecting the Lapa neighborhood to the Santa Teresa neighborhood. There are a total of 215 steps covered in tiles and feature tiles from over 60 countries both on the steps and the surrounding walls.

It’s an incredible display of work and love to the Brazilian people. Our food tour guide said she was glad that the Rio government recognizes the artwork and is dedicated to making sure it is protected. She said the project could have easily gone the way of destruction and abandonment, but thanks to Snoop Dog’s music video shot there it helped gain international recognition and has since become an icon of the city.

Escadaria Selarón

Escadaria Selarón

The artist, Selarón, has died in 2013 and we heard multiple stories from both guides who took us there as to how he died. There seems to be no conclusive evidence either way. Some evidence points to a homicide and other reports have been made of him being depressed, so a suicide hasn’t been ruled out either. It’s a tragic end to an artist that brought a beautiful piece of art to a city desperately needing something of the sort.

Escadaria Selarón Escadaria Selarón Escadaria Selarón Escadaria Selarón

The steps were incredibly crowded both times we visited, as we expected, but even with the crowds you are able to really appreciate the amount of work put into making the steps what they are today. It was fun looking at all the different tiles from around the world and spotting different countries we had been to or were wanting to go in the future.

Escadaria Selarón Escadaria Selarón Escadaria Selarón Escadaria Selarón

We also spent a small amount of time in the Santa Teresa neighborhood while on our full day tour with Bernard. He took us to a restaurant, Bar do Mineiro. He had given us a couple choices and we told him to choose the place he would recommend for local Brazilian food that didn’t cater exclusively to tourists. He led us to the cute little restaurant on the main Santa Teresa street. The place was packed with what seemed like locals and we had a short wait for an open table. We were all glad for Bernard to help us navigate the menu, ordering, and paying as it was a bit chaotic inside. We ate the local dish, feijoada, and a couple smaller appetizer dishes. While I can’t rave about loving Rio food, this restaurant did seem to feel very local with good local food. I’m glad we ate here and were able to try the national dish, even if I didn’t particularly love the dish itself. Feijoda is made with black beans and meat, served with rice, kale, cassava flour, and orange slices.

feijoada

We also briefly walked around the Santa Teresa neighborhood. We didn’t have a lot of time to visit this cute neighborhood full of colorful houses and street art. If we had had more time to spend visiting the city, this is where we would have returned. The one downfall of spending much time here is, that the neighborhood is a bit removed from the rest of Rio and is located on top of a hill. There is a bright yellow tram that connects the neighborhood to downtown Rio. We wandered in and out of different local art shops during our time in the neighborhood and picked up a couple of souvenirs.

Santa Teresa Santa Teresa Santa Teresa Santa Teresa Santa Teresa

We also made a brief stop at a viewpoint overlooking a favela before heading into Santa Teresa. Favelas are an integral part of Rio de Janeiro culture. We had briefly considered going on a favela tour, but struggled with how to do it in a respectful manner. With the time we had available, we felt we wouldn’t be able to pay the respects to the people living in the favela appropriately and decided to bypass that tour option. Instead, we went to an overlook of one of the favelas and our guide gave us some insight into the neighborhoods and the challenges facing them today. He hadn’t grown up in an favela, but of course, knew many who did. It’s incredibly heartening to picture how different your life would be if you had grown up in a favela and many living there, don’t know any different life and it’s hard to judge them for that. It’s an incredible important part of Rio culture and if you are visiting Rio, I highly recommend at least learning about favelas in the appropriate way and not go gawking through one. There seem to be plenty of tours through a favela that provide a benefit to the favela itself and the guides are residents there. Those would be the type of tour I would look for, if you want to visit one.

Favela Favela

Travel Tip: Santa Teresa was the prettiest neighborhood of Rio that we visited and we all left wishing we had more time to spend there. Devote more than a quick walk around to the neighborhood if at all possible! 

Money Spent approx:
Lunch = R$113
Souvenir (postcard) = R$1
Souvenir (small painting) = R$28

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