120 years of Avenida Paulista

One of the most iconic roads in Brazil celebrates its 120th birthday

Priscilla Vilarino/SP Turis
Traffic on Avenida Paulista

Busy, to the point where it can be difficult to walk in a straight line, Avenida Paulista is at once noisy, hectic and exciting. Lining the top of a long high ridge, it has become one of the city's postcard images, and its tall buildings and colourful telecoms towers can be seen from almost any point in the city. All manner of vehicles crawl up and down the long avenue while people from all walks of life pound the pavements.

Looking at Avenida Paulista today, it’s almost impossible to imagine that 120 years ago it was covered in forest – then known as Caaguacu, meaning 'patchy grassland' in indigenous Tupi language. Today, the avenue is an embodiment of the Brazilian dream – order and progress – and 8 December is its official anniversary. 

The transformation began 120 years ago when the forest was bought for development by an engineer – Joaquim Eugênio de Lima – who, like many of the city’s pioneering fathers, now has the honour of a street bearing his name. In 1891, when the city's population was under 100,000, the first paving stone, and the beginnings of Avendia Paulista, were laid.

One of the first of today's landmarks to be built on Avenida Paulista was Parque Villon – known today as Parque Trianon, though officially called Parque Tenente Siqueira Campos. The park opened in 1892 and houses the only protected snippet of Atlantic forest in the region, offering much-needed shaded on sunny days, and peace and quiet from the street's hustle and bustle. 

Avenida Paulista is also home to two of the city’s most important cultural institutions: the MASP, inaugurated in 1968 and home to an impressive collection of European and Brazilian art; and the Casa das Rosas, built in 1928, and now a cultural centre dedicated to literature and poetry, with an excellent café at the back. It's also home to a number of hotels and the headquarters of many of the world’s biggest companies and banks. 

A stroll down Paulista on its anniversary will leave you in no doubt that Christmas is just around the corner, with giant Santas and sparkling fairy lights adorning almost every building. But at any time of year, it's one of the most interesting places in the city to just wander along and watch the world go by.

Five things to do on Avenida Paulista on 8 Dec

By Time Out São Paulo editors


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