A trip to Toronto without a visit to Kensington Market doesn’t make any sense. Despite its diminutive size, this neighborhood packs plenty of activity within its boundaries. Arrive hungry: Restaurants and cafés dish out bites like tapas, poke, Salvadoran pupusas, Tibetan momos, and Ojibway-style fry-bread tacos. Secondhand shops are so plentiful that vintage fans will think they hit the jackpot, especially while browsing at standout shops Exile and Courage My Love. In warmer months, pedestrians crowd the streets, wandering from comic-book store to restaurant to art gallery all weekend long. The park at Bellevue Square is getting a much-needed makeover that will, when complete, add even more allure to this busy community.
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Vintage Shopping in Kensington Market
The vintage shops in Kensington Market are some of the best I’ve ever seen—dresses, old suede jackets, leather cowboy boots, and hats from an era past are mixed in with Bob Marley themed-everything. This is the perfect area to peruse and wander, especially on a sunny day. Dip into artisanal cheese shops like Global Cheese, as well as Charcuteries, eclectic candy shops, and coffeehouses. Kensington Market is the ultimate place for a day with no plans. Wander through the graffiti street art alleyways and grab some food, take it to the park and soak up the mix of old and new in this beautifully diverse area of Toronto.
I’ve visited more than 30 countries in the past five years; my adventures abroad have taught me a few lessons about how I should explore my own back yard. The desire to find something new in a place I knew well led me to this little restaurant, in an alley off a major street I had passed hundreds of times before. Toronto is one of the world's most underrated foodie towns, with Kensington Market serving as one heck of a place for Peking Duck. If you can't catch a Red Eye to Beijing, this will do.
San Francisco's streetcars get all the press, but if you're looking for an authentic transit experience, Toronto's streetcars can't be beat. Toronto is notorious for having some of the worst traffic in North America, but the streetcars are generally unaffected—meaning you can get around quicker than you would if you drove yourself or took a taxi, and you see a whole lot more than you do when diving down into the subway tunnels. The cars roll through iconic neighborhoods like Kensington Market, Toronto's bohemian paradise, making it easy to tour around, jump on and off, window shop, and do it all over again.
One of the things I liked about Toronto is the different neighborhoods and that each of them had its own open market. I was also pleasantly surprised at the abundance of street art. The photo above was taken on one of the surrounding streets near Kensington Market. The house isn't a museum or a shop or anything. The painting was just there for any passersby to enjoy.
Though the graffiti alley off of Queen St. West is an amazing site, some of my favorite graffiti is in Kensington Market. All you have to do is stroll around to find some really inspiring images. The image pictured is reminiscent of an Alfons Mucha painting scrawled on a wall on Augusta Ave. On Kensington Avenue you'll find a beautiful mural of a Mona Lisa knock-off. It's one of the many reasons I love Kensington Market!
If locals claim that Toronto is the most multi-cultured city in the world, then Kensington Market would be its downtown. It really is a melting pot of cultures that you can spend a whole day (heck even just a few hours) travelling the world in one neighbourhood. Have h(hands down) the best tacoes in the city for lunch (El Trompo) or maybe Chilean emapanada (Jumbo Empanadas), Have coffee at a Portugese family-owned Casa Acorea, maybe shop at the multitude quirky stores that line the streets? Come and celebrate on the street every summer for Pedestrian Sunday (every last Sunday of the month). Jive with the local Jamaicans (Patty King) or indulge in African culture at Tribal...this is where you indulge in so much culture in so little space.