Quite apart from the fact that they simply make you dizzy beyond belief, spiral staircases are definitely not for the faint of heart, as this post will show. They are often in lofty places, or the opposite, cramped dungeons, so mastering a spiral staircase is not a question of simply walking up or down.
Claustrophobia, vertigo-inducing views and stomach-churning heights have to be braved because of those adventurous minds that installed spiral staircases in the scariest of places.
Long way down and low handrail at a tall pagoda in Singapore
Like a slightly heart-shaped vortex: Don’t get sucked in
The square yet spiral staircase in an old apartment house in Hong Kong. Is that a trap door at the bottom?
Treehouse: Here’s a view from low down
Next, on to a treehouse: at 80 ft in height, the spiral staircase winding around a fir tree at Cedar Creek Treehouse, Mt. Rainier, is called “Stairway to Heaven”.
Treehouse from up top
The reason it’s called “Stairway to Heaven”? It leads to Cedar Creek Observatory, reachable via a 43 ft-long suspension bridge.
Almost there: The treehouse observatory
We’re not sure what’s scarier: the climb up the tree, or the walk across the bridge.
Old chimney in Terrassa, Spain
This scary outside staircase winds its way around the chimney of the old Bóbila Almirall in Terrassa, Catalonia. At 63 m, it is the world’s tallest chimney with a spiral staircase. In case you’re contemplating going up, it’s 234 steps to the top and there’s not much of a handrail to hold on to!
Looking up at the lighthouse in Brunate, Italy
Lighthouse stairs definitely have their scary element, given their height and the claustrophobia factor.
Santa Barbara lighthouse with see-through staircase
And fire escapes and building staircases can be scary if the view down makes your stomach feel queasy. We’ve found a few that fit the description.
Inside the Julius Tower in Berlin Spandau
This image was taken inside the 30 m tall Julius Tower. It is part of the Spandau Citadel, one of Europe’s most important Renaissance forts, built between 1559 and 1594. Its famous wooden spiral staircase was reconstructed in 1964 after the neo-Gothic one of 1843.
Only in emergencies: Old fire escape on a building in Boston
Moaning Cavern: Dark, rickety and claustrophobic
Those who like to go spelunking may want to tour California’s Moaning Cavern. Just be warned that this rickety looking staircase is part of the package…
Statue of Liberty: Looking up at the steel construction
The Statue of Liberty in New York, though exhilarating to get to, rich in history and an important monument, is not for those with an aversion to cramped spaces and climbing tiny, dizzying steps in one direction.
Statue of Liberty: This staircase used to take tourists up – no longer because of security reasons
Climbing up to the crown: Statue of Liberty
Iraq’s Malwiya Tower
Then, there are buildings that are only staircases – the spiral minaret, or Malwiya Tower, above at the Great Mosque of Samarra, 125 km (78 miles) north of Baghdad, is one of them. Commissioned and built in the 9th century, at 52 m high and 33 m wide at the base, it was for a long time the world’s largest mosque. Though the ramp spiraling up to the top is quite broad, there’s no protection on the sides; one step too far and it’s a free fall down.
Malwiya: Here’s an image with people, tiny in comparison
Sagrada Familia: This is just the beginning…
Anyone who has been inside the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s monumental church in Barcelona, Spain, will agree that its long and winding stone staircases in each 170 m-tall spire are by far the building’s scariest features – about 20 stories tall without a handrail.
Or option 2: Sagrada Familia’s elevator
Sagrada Familia: Before you know it, you look down at something like this
Talking about how he took this shot, photographer Travis Miller says: “I was the only person in the towers this day and going down was quite the mental challenge to keep my mind focused on the task at hand… don’t know if I could handle it today… I was tottering quite badly.”