Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s most culturally unique and colorful destinations. With a unique selection of independent shops, bakeries, coffee houses, cafes, and restaurants, Kensington Market offers a truly original experience.
It’s not what most people think of as a market. Actually, it is a small neighborhood, contained within the area bordered by Spadina Avenue, Dundas Street, Bathurst Street, and College Street. Though the area is open seven days a week, each shop and restaurant keeps its own hours.
Located in the heart of downtown, Kensington Market is easily accessible via the streetcar, bus and subway networks. If you’re already downtown, it’s easy to walk to the area from most places. Note, parking around Kensington Market is extremely limited.
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More about Kensington Market
Just north of Old Town Toronto, Kensington Market is not your traditional market.
It’s an ideal stop for treasure hunting in the many vintage and artisanal shops, grabbing a bite to eat, admiring street art, and enjoying the vibrancy of the neighbourhood for hours. Grab your friends and spend the afternoon having a fun adventure. And that is part of the attraction of Kensington Market. Even the locals can’t resist the allure of finding the perfect treasure or the energy in the air.
And what can’t you find in Kensington Market? This diverse neighborhood has it all. With gorgeous Victorian architecture, brightly colored murals, unique shops, scintillating bakeries, atmospheric cafes and scrumptious restaurants, you’ll need a good chunk of the day to explore every nook and cranny. It’s an enticing maze of alleys and narrow streets. Don’t bother with a map when you visit, just enjoy walking around and see what you stumble upon.
Immediately, you’ll see that there’s no shortage of amazing things to buy. Independent shops of every kind reside in Kensington Market. Choose from vintage stores, artisanal shops, mixed food stores, bakeries, dry goods and spices stores and even cheese shops. Luckily, there are just as many cafes, restaurants, pubs and coffee houses to keep you energized throughout the day. And if you thought choosing what to buy was hard, wait till you see the variety of foods available. Culinary delights from around the world are found in Kensington Market.
But don’t spend all your time looking at shop windows. Half of the beauty of the area is in the facades of the buildings. Bright colors explode around you. Even shop signs are massively unique. And there’s plenty of free art to enjoy while exploring, from murals to sculptures.
The bestway to see everything that Kensington Market has to offer – and it’s a lot – is by walking. Bring a pair of your most comfortable shoes. If you’re visiting in the summer, plan your visit for a Sunday as Sundays are pedestrian only. Traffic is prohibited and Kensington Market comes alive with street performers, musicians and food vendors. Pedestrian Sundays add a festive flair to the area that shouldn’t be missed. In winter, the Kensington Market Winter Solstice Festival is held in December. The immensely jovial carnival parade attracts large crowds, proving there’s always a reason to visit no matter what time of year.
If you need a rest, rather than eat a meal indoors, order take out and head to Bellevue Square Park. Here you can sit in the grass and people watch, or take a selfie with the famous King of Kensington statue. In summer, enjoy Toronto’s smallest park at the Garden Car. Part piece of art and part park, this colorful car has been a beloved part of the Kensington Market for over 15 years.
Before diving into the shops and eateries, the first thing visitors notice is the mixture of architecture of Kensington Market. It’s an ode to its history and to the people who have called the area home over the decades. Perfectly preserved Victorian homes feel right at home next to colorful dwellings from the 60s. It’s the constant change in look that gives the area it’s irresistible charm.
The current area started in 1815, when the area was secured for a large estate by George Taylor Denison, one of the wealthiest landowners in Canada at the time. A few decades later, the land was split into small plots and sold to immigrants. And through the decades (into the mid-1930s), immigrants from every corner of Europe came into the area. It’s through this rich history of blending cultures and flavors that Kensington Market has evolved into the eclectic and beloved gem it is today.