We found this place on accident while walking around Chinatown. It was down a little side street and there were so many people walking and riding bicycles that you probably couldn't drive your car down there even if you wanted to. There were some interesting shops, such as Roach-A-Rama, where we ran, literally, into Woody Harrelson. He was on his way out as we were coming inside.
The best place was this little cafe on the corner of Augusta and Baldwin called Louie's coffee shop. The entrance was a broken wooden door painted white with Cafe Entrance scrawled in black marker across it. There was a very small counter where we ordered drinks and a wrap-around counter that was open to the outside for people to sit and watch the hordes. It was very cool.
Located just to the west of Chinatown, Kensington Market is one of the best neighbourhoods to visit, and one of the most accessible. Being on the radar of both locals and tourists alike, it is surprisingly not that busy most of the time. The time that it is busy is on Saturday.
The market has three cheese shops, some butcher shops, at least four fishmongers (Caribbean or Portuguese), stores specializing in dried goods (nuts and legumes), an entire block of vintage clothing shops and numerous eateries.
Saturday the market is jammed with people, and only the truly masochistic would attempt to drive here (though some do, amazingly). To best experience it, come on a sunny day (always the busiest and you’ll be outdoors) and bring an empty stomach. The food is dirt cheap and you’ll gorge yourself, disgorge, and gorge again for $20.
Grab a hot Trinidadian double, homemade ginger beer and killer baked goods at Patty King. Visit a latin grocer, head to the back and get a couple of pupusas. Segovia Meats has the best sausages in the city – take some with you for a barbeque.
Stop at Casa Acoreana and smell the place. They have a coffee shop next door, which is the second best place in the market for people-watching. The best is along the outside wall of the store, where after a couple of years of just me sitting there on the one lonely chair they’ve now got a whole row of them. Bring your food from wherever – they don’t care. You can sit there for hours, and if the weather’s nice you probably should.
Like I already said, Kensington Market is a great place for watching people and to be 'seen' yourself. You can find some excentric looking people walking on the streets. And the best place to do this is at Louie's Kaffee. It's on a corner in the heart of Kensington Market, you can't miss it! There are benches and barstools outside of the shop. All the windows are open... actually.... they are not there at all. So when you are inside, it's almost like being outside and you have a great view over the street. And it's also visa versa, you can just order your coffee from your barstool outside at the lady at the counter, it's as easy as that.
AND they serve a great cup of cappucino as well!!! I loved it here so much, sitting outside in the sun, watching the people walking by, hearing all different languages around me and having a great cup of cappucino. I sat there for quite a while, enjoying every minute of it. And I wasn't the only one, hahaha, some I saw still sitting there a few hours later :-)
Just like in Chinatown there are lots of fruitstands and shops in Kensington Market, yummie! Hahaha, this one was funny though as it still had some christmas lights and decorations hanging in the store..... and it's May!!! Hahaha, only something like that can happen in Kensington Market :-)))
When you are walking around in Kensington Market don't forget to look around you, not only on the streets, but also look up once in a while. You'll be surprised what kind of funny details you will see. Maybe you can spot some of these super models posing on the balcony above one of the shops.
There are lots of shops in Kensington Market that sell vintage clothing. I think the beauty of these shops is that they are all in the old Victorian Houses of this neighbourhood and don't look like a 'real' store at all.
Everywhere in Kensington Market you can find these colourful Victorian Houses. These type of houses are not only restricted to Kensington Market, but you find them as well in the adjecent neighbourhoods.
But of course in this 'bohemian' like neighbourhood the houses are painted a bit more colourful than the rest of the area :-)
To the west of Chinatown you can find Kensington Market. A totally different area but so much fun to visit! You have to go here on a beautiful sunny day, I think a Saturday would be best for a visit.
There are dozens of tiny shops and produce stands hidden in the labyrinth of little streets. Lots of people walking around shopping, relaxing, enjoying the beautiful summers day and also to watch other people or to 'be seen' themselves. It's amazing how many different cultures and characters are mixed together in this little neighbourhood of Toronto.
The spring is an excellent time to visit Toronto, it has been my favorite season so far to go here. Of course there is more chance of a rainy day in this time of the year, but when the sun starts to shine it's so wonderful to walk around in Toronto. All the people seem to enjoy that the winter is over and are in a good mood. Everyone seems to escape their houses after a long winter and walk around leasurely in the city. Enjoying the nice weather and wearing their summer clothes, even if it's not warm enough for that yet, LOL. But no one seems to be bothered by that and enjoys the beautiful sunshine. And Kensington Market, in my opinion, really reflects that feeling at this wonderful time of the year.
The temperatures can be surprisingly warm in the spring (but be aware that it can be quite cool also). In the summer it can get hot and sticky and no one seems to enjoy walking around in Toronto that much. Hahaha, no need to tell you about the winter... brrrr. way too cold to be here, and there's nothing to see and do on the streets at that time of the year.
And in a neighbourhood like this it is obvious there are some streetartists giving some entertainment to the leisurely walking crowds on the streets of Kensington Market. You have to take your time in Kensington Market, don't hurry, relax and enjoy and take in everything around you. That's the only way you can enjoy this area of Toronto to the fullest. In a way it reminded me of some parts of Amsterdam, hahaha, but on a much smaller scale of course :-)
I've been in doubt wether to put this tip under must sees or shopping, but I decided for the must see activity this time. I think this is what makes "Kensington Market" to what it is, a neighbourhood with a lot of atmosphere and bohemian feel. The antique shops add to this feel and you can see quite a few of them around. I took this photo through the window of an antique store and this woman was totaly taken but the old tv :-)
This neighbourhood has been home and gathering place for waves of immigrants for over a century. There are still stores and synagogues here here from the time when it was a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood. Now you can find Arab, African, Caribbean, and Latin American foods and goods. And there are lots of second-hand clothing shops. The area is also one centre for the artistic community of the city.
This is a great place to discover the true culture of the city. The market is an ecletic mix of cultures.
Good description from the Toronto's website:
During the 1920s, 80% of Toronto's Jewish population lived in Kensington. Many had bolted down pushcarts in front of their homes to sell a variety of goods. Business began to spill onto the lawns, then grew to their porches, and eventually onto the main floor of many of the houses. 'The Jewish Market' was born. As the city developed, new immigrants arrived. Most of the Jewish merchants move out and were replaced by Portuguese, West Indians, and other ethnic groups.
Picturesque Kensington Market is indeed a maze of narrow streets, some of which are lined with vibrant turquoise, aqua and traditional red-and-white houses. You are surrounded by a cacophony of sounds; music ranging from reggae to Latin American, the proud shopkeepers trying to entice visitors, and bargain hunters haggling. What looks like a chaotic street bazaar is actually an enjoyable experience, perhaps the best example of Toronto's culturally-diverse harmony.
Kensington is a great area, all kinds of cool shops, markets selling produce and restaurants and coffee shops, Awesome people watching too.
As if you need any excuse to shop, Kensington market a few times a year closes off its street to motorised vehicles and puts on a street fesitival.