The smudged yellow chalk on the sidewalk could be the remnants of an epic game of hopscotch or some basic directions to last night’s sweaty after-hours – or both. The sun yawns between rooftops and through leafy canopies as a last-minute delivery truck squeezes through the throat of Augusta Avenue to double-park near the front doors of a fruit stand. Disheveled shopkeepers hose away last night’s fun and a busy Sunday is about to unravel and shut down traffic.
If you aren’t familiar with downtown Toronto’s original market neighbourhood, you’re in for a tasty treat. What began as an inexpensive place for immigrants to live and set up shop in the late 1800s has retained its authenticity and remains the unpretentious creative enclave it later became and made Kensington Market famous. Although its vibe has changed very little over the years, the many eclectic shops that fuel the area’s diversity change constantly. Still, there are no slick chain stores and no signs of gentrification.
If you come spring through fall, come on the last Sunday of any month. Although residents have been pushing for the district to be entirely car-free for decades, the local government has recently given them an inch, agreeing to pedestrian-only Sundays once a month. As bustling as the market normally is, it shines on these magical days.
New Orleans caliber street music screams from every street corner, ranging from Acadian folk to Balinese percussive and literally everything in between. Buskers breathe fire, juggle and joke for their suppers as rows of teens loiter under the shade of a maple in front of a grilled cheese shop.
Stroll past sugary wafts of freshly-made churros, growing gelato queues and down-home empanada emporiums or tuck down an alley to a table-filled courtyard for a spiked lemonade thirst-quencher at Cold Tea. Outside Trinity Common, local DJs take turns dishing out soulful house music to bopping youngsters on the sidewalk dance floor and to anyone within a lucky earshot. The air is thick with ripe berries, Sriracha sauce and herb as a drum circle explodes in full swing.
Come for the vintage clothing shops, fair-trade Americanos, Otto’s Berlin Doner and a pint or two at Ronnie’s Local 069, but whatever you do, stick around for a late night dance at Round, voted Toronto’s best dance floor experience by NOW Magazine.
Designated a National Historic Site of Canada just a decade ago, the area that spans the market, with its classic Victorian homes, cozy ma & pa shops and impromptu parkette gatherings is a whimsical oasis enjoyed by generations. Surrounded by Little Italy, Chinatown, trendy Queen Street West and Trinity-Bellwoods Park, the market is the stomping grounds for nearby U of T students, rent-sharing artists and musicians, neo-hippies and anyone looking for an alternative urban experience. It’s also home to the many that work there and their families, like it was more than a hundred years ago.
Some would say that no visit to New York City is complete without making it atop the Empire State Building, while others would argue that it’s all about the boroughs. And while the CN Tower is kinda cool, Toronto is nothing without its neighbourhoods, and Kensington Market continues to top the list of cool.