Kensington Market

Kensington Market
Kensington Market
S. of College St., W. of Spadina Ave

Toronto’s most unique community, Kensington Market is a distinctive multicultural neighbourhood in downtown Toronto, Ontario. The Market is an older neighbourhood and one of the city’s most well-known. Its approximate borders are College St. on the north, Spadina Ave. on the east, Dundas St. W. to the south, and Bellevue Ave. to the west.

Most of the neighbourhood’s shops, cafes,  and other attractions are located along Augusta Ave. and neighbouring Nassau St. and Kensington Ave. The market is best travelled on foot or bicycle, as the narrow one-way streets and numerous dead-ends are difficult to navigate by car. Narrow streets make the market challenging for those driving and especially parking in the neighbourhood. On Saturdays and some late afternoons, pedestrians walk freely down the middle of the street or between slow-moving cars.

Kensington Market is a haven of fresh fruit, vegetables and dry goods stores. Some of the best local produce and meat shops are found on these cramped little streets.  There is seafood, dry goods and dollar stores on Spadina that are just a few blocks away. Kensington Avenue itself also houses several cafes and the best vintage clothing stores in the city.

Kensington Market Facts

Kensington is constantly reinventing itself. The original market dates back to British settlement in the 1790s, after which it experienced waves of immigration from many different countries.

It was home to more than 80 per cent of Toronto’s Jewish community, in the early 1900s. By the 1950s, the market became more multicultural, a product of the immigrant influx after the war.

Today the area represents the true meaning of the word eclectic, with people from more than 30 cultural backgrounds, including Portuguese, East Indian, Ethiopian and Caribbean.

In more recent times, Kensington Market has lent its name to CBC television shows like The King of Kensington, and the sitcom Twitch City. There was even a band called Kensington Market that recorded between 1967 and 1969.

On December 1, 2006, Kensington Market was proclaimed a National Historic Site

Some area landmarks are the Number 10 Fire Station, Tom’s Place, Bellevue Square Park with a statue of actor Al, and St. Stephen’s Community House.

Kensington Market Festivals

The annual Kensington Market Festival of Lights is celebrated on the streets of Kensington Market and at Bellevue Square Park during the Winter Solstice in December.  This carnival parade of giant puppets, firebreathers, stiltwalkers and samba was first created by Ida Carnevali in 1987 as a way of beckoning the return of the sun on the longest night of the year — an ancient solstice tradition celebrated around the world.

After collaborating for 3 years Ida officially passed the torch to local artists in 1995. In 1987 the parade consisted of a handful of costumed revellers — it now welcomes over 10,000 people and continues to grow annually.

Parade goers of all ages make their own fantastic paper lanterns at Red Pepper’s storefront studio in popular workshops during the month prior to the parade. All parade imagery is collaboratively created by community artists, local schools, community organizations and volunteers working with Red Pepper’s creative team.

The festival moves its way through Kensington’s narrow streets witnessing surprise theatrical scenarios on rooftops and at intersections throughout Kensington Market. A giant fire sculpture marks the final send-off to the old year.

The Festival of Lights remains hand-made and commercial-free since 1987.

Kensington Market Cultures

The culture of the Kensington Market is a very hip, trendy and open. It has been the home and founding location of many punk and metal bands. There are also several movie and television series filmed in the area.

Along with the movie and music scene culture, there is a strong Marijuana culture. The market is home to one of Canada’s few cannabis cafés and boutiques, as well as a couple of head shops where drug paraphernalia is sold . The Hot Box Cafe and Roach’o'Rama are businesses in Kensington Market where the consumption of cannabis takes place openly.

Kensington Market Hours

Generally, the Market is open 7 days a week excluding Christmas and New Years. The best time for optimal shopping is between the hours of 11:00am and 7:00pm. Many of the grocery and fresh vegetable stores, however, are open earlier than 11:00. Of course bars, restaurants and entertainment remain open well into the evening.

Kensington Directions

By TTC Public Transit

4 streetcar lines provide direct access to Kensington.

From the Bloor Subway: take the Spadina or Bathurst streetcar south. Get off at College or one or two stops further south.

From Yonge/University Subway: take the College or Dundas streetcar west, getting off at Spadina or the next stop.

From Union Station: take the Queen’s Quay/Spadina streetcar. Enjoy the ride along the lake, where it turns north on Spadina. Get off at Dundas or the next couple of stops.

Kensington Market Location

Kensington Market Video

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