Kensington Market is a great place to wander. I especially love the traffic free Sunday's in the summer. Sadly they are a pitiful once a month. Oh well it's a start.
The market area has great fruit and veggies stands, smelly fish markets along with kitchy second hand clothing store, cafe's and bars and so much more.
Great during the hustle and bustle but once all the shops and markets close down the area looks a little seedy. But that's okay we love it anyway.
Kensington Market is probably the best place to learn about Toronto's social history in 30 minutes. The market was originally a place where East European immigrants set up shop and lived in the first half of the century. Ukranians, Poles, Russian and Jews started their first stores here after arriving in Canada. As these immigrants, and their children, moved up the socio-economic ladder, new immigrants moved in, and the age of their stores is key to when the wave arrived: first Portuguese and Italians, the Chinese, Vietnamese and finally, the latest wave, Hispanic. The counter-culture feel and the cheap cost of living in the market also attracted large numbers of punks, hippies, beatniks, rastafarians and Communists, all of whom set up shop. Today the market shows clear signs of gentrification, but it is very easy to get back to the immigrant feel of the market.
Kensington Market had to have some of the freshest fruit I've ever seen in their store fronts. I wanted to jump in to the fruit stands along Baldwin St.
Between this one and Chinatown we saw some things in the store windows that made our stomachs turn. Funny how we can eat ham and bacon, yet we see half of a pig's head in the window, snout and all...and get grossed out! Ducks with their necks still attached and huge hocks of meat hanging up...it's amazing how we don't see this here, yet it's proudly displayed on a daily basis in other countries and cultural areas.
A bit of European flavour, at the NE corner of Baldwin and Augusta in the heart of Kensington there is an open booth/shack that you can stand or sit, relax, drink a good cup of coffee while you watch life swirl around you.
I am not sure if the name is cuppa joe it is attached to a shop that sells Reunion Island Coffee beans (one of my favorite Fair trade roasteries.
As you walk further west past Chinatown, you eventually cross into the shopping district known as Kensington Market. The Market is bordered basically by Dundas, Spadina, Baldwin and Augusta. Here, once again there are many street vendors, food markets, etc selling their items. This is definitely a more eclectic group of folks, and the thing that caught my eye most often was the vintage clothing that was for sale.
Even though a number of streets run through the market area, it looked to me like driving and parking was a nightmare, so I'd park elsewhere and walk around. It makes it easier to cut back and forth across the street when things catch your eye!
Lots of tiny shops and fruit/vegetable stands are hidden in this maze of tiny streets just west of Chinatown. Kensington Market is bordered by College Street (north) and Dundas Street (south) A huge variety of excellent produce and meat shops are found along the hidden tiny streets.
The market is famous for having a cheese shop. It sells only cheese. The choice is huge. You can hardly see the owners behind the counter due to all the cheese piled up. The man did have a sense of humor. I asked if they sell cheese. His response? Sorry, we sold out!
I live in Kensington and its a great place to wander around. I feel like the whole world is on my doorstep.
The Japanese place on Augusta does a great bento box, big fat burrito do killer wraps, and Akram's do the best falafels I've come across. Jamaican doubles at the bakery on the South of Baldwin remind me of a chickpea curry in a big spongy bread, and go down Kensington to check out the Organic Ice Cream shop and its friendly owner.
A massive array of produce shops hawk every conceivable ingredient, so its a good place to go if you want to cook up your own food, or even assemble a picnic.
Vintage clothes shops abound, and are consistently popular with Toronto's fashionistas who prefer not to spend $500 on a handbag.
A very interesting little corner, but for me it was basically the most convenient spot to get fruit and veg and do other shopping. Sometimes there is a sweet smelling smoke wafting through the air as you walk by. My Market Bakery has delicious breads and bagels and the cheese shops are also good. Several second-hand T-shirt shops too.
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.
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.
The Kensington Market is more than a market, it's a funky neighbourhood in Toronto. The main "drag" is Kensington Avenue but it's actually a few blocks of shops, markets, cafes, bakeries within the perimeters of Dundas Street W, Spadina Ave, College St. and Bathurst St. Kensington and Augusta are the main streets with several cross streets making up the bulk of the shops, many of which are in old houses. There are a lot of vintage clothing and jewelry shops and we also saw craft shops and costume shops, bakeries, and fruit and Veg stands. There are bright murals on buildings and there are racks of clothes and bright fabrics, lanterns and flags outside many of the shops. It makes for a very colourful neighbourhood!
You are also on the edge of Chinatown so don't be surprised to see many shops and signs in both languages. We had a walk through the Chinatown area of Dundas St. W and Spadina, and then walked along Kensington Ave. looking into some of the shops. Later we had a quick coffee in a small takeout bakery that only had two stools for customers! It was mainly based on take out and catering, to be fair. We rifled through the second hand leather coats in Exile and saw some old costumes hanging around the door at another shop. Lots of lovely fresh fruit and veg including some exotic items (but, again, remember, Chinatown is around the corner).
When you enter the neighbourhood, you step away from the bustle of the city, it seems. Though it's busy, it also seems much quieter with less vehicle traffic. The shop owners were happy to see you and would be helpful if you wanted or let you browse on your own. If you're looking for something a bit off the beaten track in a large urban "concrete" jungle, you won't go wrong exploring Kensington Market.
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.
It's hard to miss this mural in Kensington Market, it's huge! I call it the Banana Lisa, hahaha, The Mona Lisa, but than Kensington Market style :-)))
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.