Explore the Camondo Stairs: Istanbul’s Art Nouveau Marvel

In the late 1800s, banker Abraham Salomon Camondo commissioned a grand stone staircase in the Turkish city of Constantinople—now known as Istanbul—so that his family could traverse one of the city’s steepest hills and travel to work and school with greater ease. The Camondo Stairs are a sprawling staircase with a distinctive curved design that is said to safeguard against accidents and falls.

Abraham Salomon Camondo was a Jewish banker with ties to Turkey, France, and Italy. Camondo was so well-connected that he attended the wedding of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria to Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria. Camondo built a handful of stately structures in Turkey, including the seaside Camondo Palace and the opulent Camondo apartments.

The Camondo Stairs are a fine example of Art Nouveau architecture. The Art Nouveau movement was wildly popular near the end of the 19th century. Art Nouveau integrates lines that are inspired by nature, such as curved vines, flowing water, and oval-shaped flowers. The Camondo Stairs draw so much inspiration from nature that the staircase is adorned with several stone planters.

In 1964, French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson immortalized the Camondo Stairs in an iconic photograph. In the decades that followed the Cartier-Bresson image, photographers have flocked to the Camondo Stairs to capture models, brides, and musicians striking a pose on one of the world’s most distinctive staircases.

No stroll through the gorgeous streets of Istanbul is complete without a jaunt up or down the Camondo Stairs. The Camondo Stairs serve as the scenic route to reach Galata Tower, which is an ancient observation tower that was used to scan the horizon for fires and potential invaders in previous centuries. Visitors can scan the horizon for the Camondo Stairs when looking at the city of Istanbul from the upper levels of Galata Tower.

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