A rectangular eye at the center of the urban hurricane that is São Paulo, Praça da República might have seen better days, but the plaza still holds on to its importance as a focal point for cultural life in the city. Built in 1889 to commemorate a new era in the city’s expansion and development, Praça da República served as the primary location for concerts, political protests, and other large gatherings. Perched within the otherwise tree-shaded plaza is the former Caetano de Campos School, now site of the São Paulo State Department of Education, a handsome structure of yellow brick that—at over 120 years old—contrasts greatly with the mid-20th century glass and steel towers fronting the park. Just across AvenidaIpiranga from the plaza is one of the city’s oldest Modernist residential buildings, the Edifício Esther, inaugurated in 1938, and overlooking the park from the southwest corner is the nearly 500-foot-tall EdifícioItália, São Paulo’s second-tallest building.
On weekends, the plaza hosts a large crafts fair and flea market, with over 600 vendors selling everything from colorful landscape paintings from Brazil’s northeast to woodcarvings and other household knickknacks. Despite 24-hour police presence, the area can get sketchy after dark, when hustlers and the homeless make their way into the park.