Toronto Kensington Market is a neighborhood in Toronto that stretches along Dundas Street West, between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street. This is a unique and colorful destination filled with vintage clothing, street art, great food, and live music.
In this article, we’ll share 8 of the most interesting facts about Toronto Kensington Market that you may not have known. From guided tours and sit-down tea house experiences to the neighborhood’s bohemian culture and Victorian-style houses, there’s something for everyone to discover in this lively Toronto destination.
1. Here Listed are Eight Interesting Facts about Toronto Kensington Market
1.1. Victorian Houses
The Victorian-style houses in the neighborhood were originally built in the 1880s for Irish and Scottish workers coming to Toronto. The marketplace developed as the Victorian homes were converted into shops, first by Eastern Europeans. And then by groups of immigrants from Italy, Portugal, the Caribbean, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
During the Victorian era, Kensington had many famous residents like writer Charles Dickens and artist Sir Edward Burne-Jones. You can still see some of their former homes.
1.2. Vintage Clothing, Street Art
Did you know Toronto Kensington market is home to some of the most impressive and original street art? Walk around the area and you’ll see vibrant murals, amazing graffiti, and other forms of street art adorning the walls of many buildings.
You’ll also be surprised to find that many of the vintage clothing stores and thrift shops in Kensington Market have used street art as décor in their stores. It’s interesting to see and shop in these funky shops.
Also, check out alleys and backstreets where you’ll find even more stunning street art. And who knows, you might even stumble across an undiscovered masterpiece!
1.3. Pedestrian Sundays
Did you know that Toronto Kensington Market hosts one of the most happening events in the city? It’s called Pedestrian Sundays, and it’s held on the last Sunday of every month from May to October.
During this time, several blocks of the market are closed off to cars, creating a bustling pedestrian-friendly environment. The car-free groove is filled with live music, amazing food, and one-of-a-kind artisan goods. There’s no shortage of fun.
It’s all about getting Torontonians out of their cars and getting to know this rich, multicultural community at its best. Human beings feel at their best in vibrant, human-scale, friendly environments. Pedestrian Sundays allow us all to flourish in just such a space.
1.4. Bohemian Culture/Vibes
Toronto Kensington Market is known for its Boho culture, which is all about creativity, self-expression, and a rejection of mainstream society. What most people don’t know is that this culture has deep roots in the area’s history.
In the early 1900s, some of the Jewish immigrants who faced discrimination settled in the area and later created a strong community (celebrating their unique culture and identity). Which eventually gave a boost to the creative and bohemian vibe that still exists today.
The area continues to attract free spirits, artists, and performers from all over the world. They all feel at home in the vibrant streets of Kensington Market.
1.5. From London to Toronto: The Story of Kensington Market’s Name
Toronto Kensington Market is probably named after Kensington Avenue, which runs through the once predominantly Jewish neighborhood. Kensington Avenue itself was probably named after the Kensington district of London. Which derived from the Anglo-Saxon “Kenesignetun” or “Kenesigne’s land or meadows”.
The Kensington may be separated by an ocean. But they have one thing in common: London’s Kensington also had a market, a hub for various subcultures in the 60s and 70s, housed in a now demolished building.
1.6. Food and Shopping
As with any market, Toronto Kensington Market has a wide variety of options to choose from, it’s a haven for gourmets and shoppers. From vintage thrift stores and fabric shops to good coffee and spice shops, the area is home to a wide range of independent businesses.
Many Torontonians flock here to buy fresh produce, specialty cheeses, spices, meat, and seafood. There are also a number of health food stores that are popular with locals and the health conscious.
If you’re looking for exotic and hard-to-find foods, you’re more likely to find them in Kensington Market than anywhere else in the city. Each year there seems to be a new place to eat and drink. The culinary options are getting better and better with vegan, specialty, fusion, and everything in between.
1.7. Live Music and Street Parties
Toronto Kensington Market is not just about food, shopping, and vintage clothing. It also hosts many street parties and live music events throughout the year. Pedestrian Sundays close the streets to pedestrian traffic during the summer months. There are often art exhibitions, concerts, and street performances to entertain visitors.
Jazz fans from across the city flock to the annual Kensington Market Jazz Festival. And throughout the summer, the streets of the market square fill with the sound of live music as local musicians perform on sidewalks and in front of shops.
It’s a great way to enjoy some great melodies and soak up the bohemian vibe of the neighborhood at the same time.
1.8. Immigrant Communities
Toronto Kensington Market has a long history of being a hub for immigrant communities. Many different cultural groups have made Kensington their home over the years. And you can see the influence of this in the various shops, restaurants, and businesses in the area.
You can find everything from Chinese herbs to Mexican tortillas to Jamaican patties in Toronto Kensington Market, reflecting the diversity of the people who live and work there.
It’s a great place to explore and learn about different cultures while also enjoying some delicious food and unique shopping experiences.
2. Some of the Other Interesting Things about Kensington Market
Property prices in the area have increased sharply, but despite its growing appeal to professionals, Kensington Market remains a predominantly working-class, immigrant community.
The Garden Car is one of the staples in the Kensington market. This is exactly what it sounds like. Every May, an old, graffiti-covered car takes up its spot on Augusta Avenue, where it is transformed into a community garden. It is tended by local volunteers. It attracts people of all ages every summer.
Over the years, many movies and TV shows have been filmed in Kensington Market, including “Suicide Squad“, “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and “The Handmaid’s Tale“. There was also a series called “King of Kensington“, which was based on a Kensington seller and was a huge success.
You will notice that, unlike most other neighborhoods in Toronto, there is a surprising lack of large corporations in the neighborhood. It’s because Kensington Market residents fight to keep big box stores out, so small, locally-owned businesses can thrive. This is why the neighborhood has such a special character and soul.
Did you know that Kensington Market was almost got destroyed in the 1960s? There was a plan to demolish Kensington Market and replace it with a highway to connect downtown Toronto and the suburbs. At that time a group of local residents and activists banded together to fight.
They formed the “Save Our City Committee” to protest and raise awareness about Kensington Market. Their efforts paid off, and in 1971 the City of Toronto announced it would not build the proposed expressway.
In 2006, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) designated Kensington Market as a site of national historic significance in appreciation of its cultural and historical significance.
2.1. Toronto Kensington Market Tours
You can experience Kensington Market better by taking a tour. There are many options-a walking tour, a food tour, or a bike tour.
People love walking tours because they can enjoy the Market’s sights and sounds at their own pace. You can also sample the food on a Food Tour.
The guides will keep you entertained with lots of anecdotes, stories, food, and new places to go for those who love authentic food. These guided tours offer a taste of each neighborhood, highlighting the best places to go and the hidden gems of the city. You can also take the tour on your own with maps and guides.
2.2. Toronto Kensington Market Insight
Originally a working-class area of narrow, crowded houses that attracted successive waves of immigrants, Kensington Market has always been known for its diversity and multiculturalism. Over the years it has evolved into a partially open-air market with an eclectic mix of cafes, shops, stalls, and attractions.
It was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 2006. The market is also known as a fiercely independent, counter-culture hub for artists and activists, and there are many galleries, theatre spaces, and live music cafes. Don’t miss Jumbo Empanadas for spicy Latin food, Courage My Love for vintage finds, and Moonbean Coffee for a London fog. Kensington Market is worth a visit.
And if you’re interested in learning a new skill, Kensington Market has plenty to offer. There are a lot of different classes to choose from like art classes and cooking classes.
Toronto’s Kensington Market was once home to the city’s largest horse market. Before cars, horses were the main means of transport. They were used for many purposes like farming, delivery, and transport. As time went on, cars and other forms of transport became more and more popular, and the horse market eventually closed down.
There are many hidden alleyways in Kensington Market. If you wander down one of these hidden alleys, you might find all sorts of interesting things. Like walls might have some street art, or there might be some cool little shops. Even a secret garden or artist community might be there. Basically, these alleys are like little hidden worlds within the larger neighborhood.
All in all, Kensington Market is a must-visit spot in Toronto. Its bohemian vibe is very similar to Camden Market in London, and you can explore the entire neighborhood in just half an hour.
Although it’s one of Toronto’s staples, but also one of its most exciting. So next time you are in the city, don’t miss Kensington Market. You can even read reviews online to learn more about the neighborhood’s attractions. And if you’re planning to visit January or October are particularly pleasant months.
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