How the most crowded road of São Paulo transforms into a city park for all Paulistas
Avenida Paulista is a 2.8 km long iconic street that runs through the heart and history of São Paulo. In 1909 it became the first paved road in the city, and today it is the financial and cultural center of the capital. As a result, it’s also one of the most crowded streets of São Paulo. Shiny shopping malls, sleeping street kids, screaming street vendors; an overwhelming experience. However, one day of the week it’s a completely different world. On Sundays, cars are blocked from Avenida Paulista and this overcrowded entry-lane transforms into a huge city park.
The avenue opened in 1891 and quickly became the symbol of prosperity. The street was meant for all Paulistas (inhabitants of the state of São Paulo), but became so high valued that mostly rich coffee traders were able to buy an urban house along the avenue.
In the 1950’s, São Paulo’s booming economy and speculative real estate market brought to life a new reality. The coffee traders’ villas were replaced for massive residential and commercial high-rises; Avenida Paulista became the economic and cultural heart of the city. Big banks, hotels, shopping centers and important cultural institutions established themselves around Paulista. For example Conjunto Nacional, the first shopping mall in South-America, and the iconic Museum of Art of São Paulo (MASP), the biggest museum in the country.
Due to its status and because it is one of the main entry lanes into the city, Paulista also became one of the most important venues for protest and celebrations. Brazil’s World Cup soccer victories, big political demonstrations and the world's largest Gay Pride; they all take place here.
Until today, Paulista Avenida is one of the most important streets in the city. Ten thousands of Paulistas and people from out of São Paulo pass through here by car, foot or bike every single day. It creates a vibrant and confronting environment, in which those who do, and those who don’t benefit from the city’s economic success, intensively occupy the public space.
In 2015, after numerous traffic incidents and growing public concern, former mayor Fernando Haddad decided to implement a program called ´Ruas Abertas´ or ´Open Streets´. For the first time in history, the iconic Avenida Paulista (among other streets) banned cars and opened up for pedestrians and cyclists.
Since then, this crowded road transforms into a huge city park every Sunday. On this day, the streets are taken over by families, skaters, runners and cyclists. Paulistas can enjoy live music, stroll around markets and of course Brazilian snacks can be found everywhere. It’s the perfect time to catch your breath before it’s business as usual and Paulista transforms back into one of the busiest streets of São Paulo.