Holiday » The Colourful Revolution of Istanbul’s Rainbow Steps

The Colourful Revolution of Istanbul’s Rainbow Steps

There’s a beautiful story behind Istanbul’s Rainbow Steps, guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Some pre-trip research on Istanbul in Turkey, brought up some very colourful photos on Instagram. They were of the so-called ‘Rainbow Steps’ linking the arty districts of Findikli and Cihangir.

Rainbow Steps, Istanbul, Turkey
Rainbow Steps, Istanbul, Turkey

They reminded me of the Lapa Steps in Rio… another magical set of stairs that brought tourists to an otherwise overlooked area.

Wanderlust Chloe Lapa Steps, Rio
Sitting on Lapa Steps, Rio De Janeiro

So, what’s the story? Are they highlighting LGBT issues? Something political? Or are they just a bit of fun?

In 2013, retired forestry engineer Huseyin Cetinel spent four days and around £500 transforming the huge staircase, from concrete grey, to beautiful rainbow colours. It was a kind of guerrilla street art project. No one expected it, but everyone fell in love with it.

Huseyin Cetinel on the Rainbow Steps, Istanbul
Huseyin Cetinel on the Rainbow Steps, Istanbul

It caused quite a buzz across the city! Many assumed it must be connected to the gay rights movement, seeming to fit with the rainbow flag. Some said it must be an outcry against the controlling government (particularly after the Gezi Park protests that had just taken place). Huseyin’s motivation was something entirely different… “I didn’t do it for a group or as a form of activism. I did it to make people smile.”

Rainbow Steps, Istanbul
Rainbow Steps, Istanbul

Sadly, overnight, the stairs were repainted a dull shade of grey. While the local government didn’t own up immediately, it caused such a stir, and they were forced to take ownership of the act. Many saw it as an example of a controlling government, and a lack of respect for the people. It was time for a revolution… a rainbow revolution!

Rainbow Steps after being painted grey
Rainbow Steps after being painted grey

Within a few days, not only were the stairs repainted, but volunteers also started painting other staircases and walkways in cities across Turkey. Photos spread via Twitter, and crowds flocked to take photos of the colourful sights.

 

News articles about the Rainbow Steps in Istanbul
News articles about the Rainbow Steps in Istanbul

When I visited the steps in April, a couple stopped by to take their wedding photos, a group of tourists ran up and down, while locals casually used them as they probably do everyday. Not only is there the main set of stairs, there are smaller offshoots (also painted) and another large painted (but rather weathered) set of steps one street away.

Wandering down the Rainbow Steps, Istanbul
Wandering down the Rainbow Steps, Istanbul
Bride posing for photos on the Rainbow Steps, Istanbul
Bride posing for photos on the Rainbow Steps, Istanbul
A second set of rainbow steps one street away
A second set of rainbow steps one street away

It’s definitely worth a visit… and Huseyin was right. His work certainly does “make people smile.” Not only is it a beautiful story, it translates to anywhere in the world. Perhaps it’s time to bring some colour to your neighbourhood?

The Rainbow Steps are located on Sali Pazari Yokusu (Café Nove is on the corner).

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The Colourful Revolution of Istanbul's Rainbow Steps

11 thoughts on “The Colourful Revolution of Istanbul’s Rainbow Steps”

  1. Love the rainbow stairs! Do you know where exactly in Cihangir they’re located? I googled but can’t find which street the stairs are at!
    Or do you think one can find them by just walking around Cihangir ?

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  2. I was in Istanbul in June 2014 and saw these! I love street art so spent a while photographing them, but I didn’t realise the story behind them! Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  3. I found these on Instagram as well! I’m always looking for new things to see in Istanbul (I go there once or twice a year) and this is on my to-do list now!

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