San Francisco’s Mosaic Stairway: A Hidden Pleasure

Julie Royce's picture

Several years ago I wrote a travel guide to Michigan’s Thumb. The subtitle was Exploring a Shoreline of Small Pleasures and Unexpected Treasures. The book was my stop-and-smell-the-roses project. I detailed few traditional tourist traps, no rollercoaster kinds of thrills, and no bigger than life resorts. I recommended savoring smaller, gentler delights: sitting on a beach and watching waves roll in, picking up Petoskey stones, licking a dripping ice cream cone on a hot summer day as you walked down the main street of a tiny village.


Near my new west coast home, we boast amusements of a much larger scale. In San Francisco, a city renowned for world-class adventures, visitors devote a day to the deYoung, a day to the MOMA, a day to Alcatraz, a day to Golden Gate Park, a day to Sausalito, a day to world-class shopping, and a day at the ocean before they head home, exhausted, from their weeklong vacation.


Surrounded by such grand diversions, my husband and I stumbled on a tiny treasure that brightened an otherwise foggy San Francisco morning. There was no crowd and not a line in sight. No one sold tickets or collected money. The Mosaic Tiled Steps are plopped, unobtrusively, in the middle of a Sunset District residential neighborhood. Your kids won’t rave, and you may only stay for a few minutes (although sitting on the steps for a daydream or two seems like a perfect escape from the city’s hustle and bustle). Not far from Golden Gate Park, these stairs are worth a half-hour deviation to enjoy the quiet joy of an amazing work of art. 



 Mosaic Tiled Steps, San Francisco

Brilliant colors decorate the panels.


The masterpiece was created from 2,000 handmade tiles and 75,000 fragments of tile, mirror and stained glass. The project was inspired by the Escadaria Selarón of Rio de Janeiro. The vertical mosaic runs up 163 steps and my calves and thighs will ache tomorrow from the climb.


It was too foggy and drizzly to fully enjoy our discovery.  My husband promised we’ll come back on a sunny day with the new camera we’ve ordered. We’ll bring a bottle of wine, sit about mid-way up the continuing sea to sky panorama, toast whatever is utmost on our minds that day, and afterwards explore Grandview Park, a short distance from the top of the stairs on 15th Avenue.


Mosaic Tiled Steps, San Francisco


Mosaic Tiled Steps, San Francisco

Even the morning fog couldn't diminish the stair's beauty.


We were on our way to brunch with three other couples when we stopped to ogle the stairs. Over mimosas we mentioned our find. A couple that lives just blocks from the Mosaic Stairway admitted they’d never seen them. Neither of the other couples had even heard of San Francisco’s most beautiful steps. I’m making it my mission to spread the word.

The steps are located at 1700 16th Avenue.


Mosaic Tiled Steps, San Francisco


Mosaic Tiled Steps, San Francisco








Julie Albrecht Royce, Travel Adventures Editor, is the author of Traveling Michigan's Sunset Coast and Traveling Michigan's Thumb, both published by Thunder Bay Press. She writes a monthly column for Wandering Educators.

On her blog, Julie is currently writing two weekly series.

On Mondays, she posts in her series, entitled "Ugly Shoes and Boomer Do Europe."
This series captures the humor and adventure of her rail trip from Amsterdam to Budapest and then return river cruise back to Amsterdam.

On Thursdays, Julie writes about PILZ, the legal thriller novel she has written. You can find it on Amazon:

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All photos courtesy and copyright Julie Royce