While Paris has the Champs-Elysées, and New York boasts Fifth Avenue, São Paulo  wouldn’t be São Paulo without Avenida Paulista (www.avenidapaulista.com.br ). In comparison to these other two famous main drags, Avenida Paulista is more varied, vital, messy, and raw.
In fact, the first time you lay eyes upon a Paulista (as residents refer to it), you’ll be in for somewhat of a shock. The multilane thoroughfare resembles a freeway, and the roughly hewn, unpolished concrete skyscrapers that line it really do resemble a “concrete jungle.” It’s hard to imagine that a little over a century ago, this 2.8-kilometer (1.7-mile) mega-avenida was a mere country road.
In the late 1800s, it was widened into a European-style grand avenue by coffee barons and industrial magnates who chose to live along the avenida in sumptuous mansions that were built in wildly diverging architectural styles. Shortly after, Avenida Paulista was the first of São Paulo ’s streets to be paved (with asphalt imported from Germany).
Avenida Paulista was also the first to go completely vertical in the 1940s, as São Paulo’s industrial economy grew at rates of up to 60 percent a year. By the 1970s, the avenue had been widened to keep up with escalating traffic, and almost all of its beautiful mansions had been replaced by skyscrapers (one of the very few survivors is now a McDonald’s) housing banks and multinational companies.
In recent years, corporate headquarters have moved south to the spanking new bairros of Brooklin and Berrini. However, Avenida Paulista still remains the city’s symbol and vibrant nerve center: a place where commerce and culture thrive (the avenida concentrates numerous cultural centers and large-screen cinemas) amid urban hustle and bustle.
Strolling along its wide black-and-white mosaic sidewalks may not be the most relaxing experience in the world, but nowhere else in the city comes close to capturing and condensing the city’s energy and adrenaline. This is especially the case whenever the city is in the throes of a major protest or celebration (particularly political or sports victories); inevitably, traffic comes to a standstill and a Paulista explodes into partying mode.