Not a market in the traditional sense, Kensington Market is a unique, trendy Toronto neighborhood with an eclectic range of restaurants, stores, and galleries.
Its narrow streets, alleyways, late 19th century cottages and colorful Victorian style row houses in addition to a broad ethnocultural history are part of what led to Kensington Market becoming a National Historic Site of Canada in 2006.
The neighborhood is a favorite of Toronto locals because of its diversity, walkability and relative affordability. The vibe is hippie chic with an international flair. Learn more about this unique destination.
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Kensington Market History
Kensington Market's history dates back to the late 1800s when housing was built for immigrant laborers coming to Toronto. Many of these original Victorian row houses still stand along Wales Avenue and elsewhere today.
In the early 20th century, Eastern European Jewish immigrants arrived in the area and in the decades that followed, so too did South American, Asian, African and other ethnicities. In addition to overseas immigrants, a significant number of draft dodgers from the U.S. opposing the Vietnam War came to Toronto and settled in Kensington Market, further contributing to the community's countercultural framework.
Today, Kensington Market residents and store owners vigilantly protest chain stores and franchises, despite the appearance of one or two, to preserve the neighborhood's unique and unconventional character.
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What You Can Expect to Find
Kensington Market has numerous grocers - both mainstream North American and ethnic - plus cheese shops, spice shops, bakeries and more.
Greek, Mexican, South American, and vegan are just a few of the types of cuisines you'll find in Kensington Market. In addition, several food stands offer a unique array of munchies. Just watching the production of the food can be an event in itself.
Vintage, consignment and other one-of-a-kind type shops give Kensington Market its unique counter-culture feel, in addition to Hot Box, which is a cafe that allows patrons to bring their own marijuana and smoke it and a few alternative bookstores.
Other exclusive stores include Things Japanese, KNIFE, the Paper Place and other such stores that fill niche shopping needs.
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Kensington Market is a downtown Toronto neighborhood.
It is bordered by College to the north, Spadina to the east, Dundas to the south and Bathurst to the west.
The closest metro stations are St. Patrick and Queen's Park, though both are a 15-minute walk away. The Dundas streetcar will drop you along Kensington Markets south side.
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While You're in the Area
The market is close to the Art Gallery of Ontario and Chinatown, so you can easily make a day of visiting this area and walk from one place to the other.
Also nearby on Spadina is Grossmans Tavern, a true watering hole with cheap draft beer, sold by the glass or pitcher. Go Saturday to catch the Happy Pals, a seven-piece jazz band that has played Grossman's every weekend for the past 40 years.