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Fascinating Stairs and Doors Hidden in Plain Sight in Rio de Janeiro

Stairs and doors are a way of life in Rio de Janeiro. But they’re not just your regular stairs and doors, they say a lot about the city.

Take doors, for instance. If you’re old enough to read this, you’re probably opening and closing doors multiple times a day to go from one room to another. But Cariocas are obsessed with doors, because doors keep you safe. The more doors the better. The upper-class lives in “condomínios fechados” with “segurança”—basically closed condos with security guard, so the building is fenced off and you’ll need to open at least two or three doors to gain access to it. Plot twist—your magnetic stripe card won’t work half of the time.

Fences all look the same in Rio—some kind of metal roundpost fence used everywhere from Leme to Leblon that gives a weird claustrophobic feel.

Stairs are another interesting feature in the city. Because Copacabana and Ipanema are so compact, many facilities are hidden underground. Don’t be surprised if you see a chef wearing a white coat emerging from a staircase you hadn’t even noticed on Avenida Atlântica. These small beach restaurants? Yeah, the kitchen is hidden underground.

You will also go down the stairs to use the bathrooms or take a shower on Ipanema and Copacabana and yes, facilities are clean.

Now, you probably don’t want to take the stairs if you don’t know where you’re going. Wandering, uneven, narrow and colourful staircases you barely notice between two buildings often lead to comunidades, also known as “favelas” although not all comunidades are slums. Such areas are best explored if you really know what you’re doing, no matter how tempting it is to just go up the stairs and take a look.

A typical fenced-off building on Av. Rainha Elisabeth, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
A typical fenced-off building on Av. Rainha Elisabeth, Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro
Cook going back to the underground kitchen after a smoke break, Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Cook going back to the underground kitchen after a smoke break, Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Staircase leading to bathrooms and showers, Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Staircase leading to bathrooms and showers, Avenida Atlântica, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Staircase leading to...? Av. Nossa Sra. de Copacabana, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro
Staircase leading to…? Av. Nossa Sra. de Copacabana, Copacabana, Rio de Janeiro

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