Kensington Market is a charming, unique, offbeat, eclectic and culturally diverse neighbourhood located in Toronto, Canada where you will find unique independent shops featuring colourful storefronts, a fantastic selection of restaurants and cafes catering to health-conscious individuals and those seeking a diverse array of ethnic cuisines to choose from, streets lined with beautiful historic Victorian houses and narrow alleyways covered with brightly painted street art.
This multicultural neighbourhood features older homes with interesting and historic architecture, lots of beautiful and detailed street art and murals in vibrant colours and unique designs located prominently on the sides of buildings and hidden away down narrow back alleyways, a wide selection of unique and locally owned restaurants and cafes offering a variety of international cuisines from around the world, lots of unique and independent shops, and of course, a few open-air, outdoor sidewalk markets selling a variety of colourful and fresh fruits and vegetables and other food items. The neighbourhood has a bohemian, hippie, laid-back, chill and friendly atmosphere and vibe with a sense of community. You will see people from all walks of life here – a variety of ages, ethnicities, religions, and nationalities, although the neighbourhood primarily attracts an alternative hippie-type of crowd.
Kensington Market is a fantastic area of Toronto with so much to see, do and eat. It is a great place to do some exploring and is perfect for those seeking gluten-free/vegan/vegetarian grocery items, fresh produce; a diverse variety of ethnic restaurants; and a wide selection of funky, unique and independent shops. It is a hip and interesting neighbourhood with a great vibe.
The hostel where I stayed during my solo trip to Toronto in April of 2016 – The Planet Traveler (click on the link to read my detailed hostel review) – was situated literally only steps away from this fantastic and quirky neighbourhood, so naturally, I spent a lot of time exploring the area and I absolutely loved it! Everything about Kensington Market reminded me of the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood in San Francisco, as both places shared a similar alternative and counter-culture type of vibe, attracted a diverse and multicultural crowd, and had a gritty and authentic feel to them.
From the street art to the unique shops to the diversity and the variety of people that this area attracts, Kensington Market is a neighbourhood with lots of character and it is a wonderful and interesting place to wander around and explore, especially if you are a health-conscious individual and lover of the planet and environment! I thoroughly enjoyed exploring there and wandering the streets.
I have written this travel guide to exploring Toronto’s Kensington Market neighbourhood. If you are researching and planning your future travels to Toronto, I hope that you find this guide helpful! Please keep in mind that this guide is not all-encompassing and I will likely update it and add more in the future when I re-visit Toronto.
Things To Do and Places To Explore
Kensington Market is a wonderful place to spend some time when you travel to Toronto and there are a variety of unique and interesting things to do and places to explore while you’re there. Here are some of them.
Stroll the Vibrant & Bustling Streets
Walking around this vibrant and eclectic neighbourhood was probably my favourite thing to do in Kensington Market and it is a fantastic activity. I loved strolling along the lively and bustling streets – packed with people – while making stops at the outdoor sidewalk markets, unique shops, authentic and interesting restaurants and cafes, and narrow alleyways filled with colourful and unique street art and graffiti paintings.
I often felt like I was somewhere else in the world as I explored the neighbourhood and not in Toronto, with the diverse array of unique shops and ethnic restaurants selling food products and goods from South America, Central America, Asia, and the Caribbean among other places.
Augusta Avenue featured trendier shops and restaurants with some ethnic restaurants in between. Baldwin Street was concentrated with mostly restaurants and Kensington Street featured rows of historic and colourfully painted Victorian houses on both sides of the street which had a variety of second hand clothing shops and interesting restaurants inside of them. Kensington Street definitely had the most “hippie” vibe of the entire neighbourhood.
There is always something interesting going on in Kensington, so keep your eyes peeled as you walk around! Take your time as you explore this neighbourhood and enjoy the slower pace of life and laid-back atmosphere.
In addition to exploring the business area of Kensington Market, I also enjoyed wandering around the surrounding residential side streets. The tall Victorian houses were very pretty, had unique architecture and some of the houses were painted in vibrant colours.
Wander the Residential Areas
In addition to exploring the business area of the Kensington Market neighbourhood, I equally enjoyed my experiences while wandering the quiet and peaceful residential streets in the area around the busyness. The streets were lined with unique and pretty old Victorian homes featuring historic architecture.
Browse the Unique Shops
A wide selection of interesting and unique shops, food stores and outdoor markets and ethnic restaurants can be found primarily along Augusta Avenue, Baldwin and Kensington Streets, where historic Victorian homes painted in a range of vibrant colours have been converted to house a variety of uniquely local and independent shops such as: vintage and used clothing shops, discount stores, cute hipster cafes, Latin American grocery stores, bike shops, used book stores, unique restaurants, bakeries and cafes offering a variety of cuisines from all over the world with many of them being vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free friendly, tattoo shops, ethnic grocery stores, health food shops, medical marijuana/cannabis clinics and more.
On sunny and warm days, the streets and sidewalks are packed with people wandering around everywhere! I experienced one warm day during my spring visit and with the amount of people and busyness, it almost felt like there should be a street festival going on. But nope, that is just how popular Kensington Market is on a normal day!
Both Augusta Avenue and Kensington Street are lined with a variety of independent shops selling an array of unique items that you won’t find anywhere else.
Here are some of the shops where I stopped in and took some time to browse:
- Butterfly – 42 Kensington Avenue. Vintage clothing and accessories.
- Flash Back – 33 Kensington Avenue. Used and vintage clothing.
- Courage My Love – 14 Kensington Avenue. Vintage clothing.
- Urban Catwalk – 10 Kensington Avenue. Used, vintage and consignment store.
- Dancing Days – 17 Kensington Avenue. Vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories.
- Blue Banana Market – 250 Augusta Avenue. Unique, interesting and one-of-a-kind gifts, souvenirs, jewelry, home decor, accessories, etc.
- Bungalow – 273 Augusta Avenue. Vintage clothing.
- Breathless – 9 Kensington Avenue. Vintage clothing store.
There was also a small and simple local shop along Augusta Avenue that had the descriptive name of, “Jeans, T-Shirts, Sweatshirts, Pants, Jackets, Winter Coats, Season Items,” which reminded me of the open-air sidewalk shops along the town and city streets in Mexico. Inside the shop were tables with bins filled to the top and overflowing with a variety of knick knacks.
In addition to the abundance of vintage clothing and accessory shops, Kensington Market also had a good variety of small specialty health food stores and ethnic grocery shops where you could purchase natural and organic ingredients, food items and produce.
- 4 Life Natural Foods – 210 Augusta Avenue. They focus on local and organic grocery and bulk products.
- Essence of Life Organics – 50 Kensington Avenue. They sell natural supplements, grocery products including organic produce, natural meats, vegan treats, gluten-free products, organic dairy and bulk products, and natural skin, hair and beauty products.
- Sugar and Spice – 265 Augusta Avenue. Health food store.
- Tutti Frutti Famous Foods – 64 Kensington Avenue. Health food store.
There were also quite a few shops restaurants selling Latin American products, which I loved!
- Perola’s Supermarket – 274 Augusta Avenue. Small and authentic grocery store offering traditional and difficult to find Latin American food products. 9902, 185, 9393,
- El Gordo – 214 Augusta Avenue. Latin American food and products. 9964,
- Emporium Latino – 243 Augusta Avenue. The store sells a variety of Latin American food products and there is a small restaurant in the back of the store where you can order a variety of authentic Latin American foods like pupusas and empanadas. 9900,
Attend the Summer Festivals and Pedestrian Sundays
I traveled to Toronto in the spring and didn’t have the opportunity to experience or attend the variety of outdoor festivals that the neighbourhood holds during the summer. According to the internet however, Bellevue Square Park hosts many outdoor concerts and festivals throughout the summer months. Also, on specific Sundays during the summer (Pedestrian Sundays), the streets are closed to traffic and a street festival takes place including lots of music, bands, street food vendors, and events.
Explore and Photograph the Colourful Street Art
The Kensington Market neighbourhood is filled with colourful and detailed street art around almost every corner and down every narrow alleyway. I really enjoyed wandering throughout the streets and into the random back lanes, while photographing and admiring the beautiful street art creations and murals in a multitude of vibrant colours. I loved how unique each mural and artwork was and it was amazing to see such creative talent and the variety of patterns and designs as well as to explore the alleyways in almost complete solitude with nobody else around.
Location – On the sides of buildings throughout the neighbourhood; in random back lanes and alleyways primarily along Augusta Avenue and Kensington Street.
Shop for Fresh Produce at the Sidewalk/Street Markets
The neighbourhood is named Kensington Market for a reason, and in addition to all of the cool and unique shops and restaurants, there are also a variety of outdoor and open-air sidewalk and street markets located primarily along Augusta Avenue and Baldwin Street, which are great places to purchase fresh produce and support local businesses.
Underneath the awnings overhanging the sidewalk, were an abundance of wooden crates stacked to the top with piles of fresh vegetables and fruits! Although the prices weren’t super cheap, it was amazing to see so much local produce – including exotic fruits and vegetables from around the world – even in late April during my visit. In addition to the fresh produce, these markets sold herbs and spices and other typical grocery store ingredients.
There’s something about the experience of shopping for food at a local market while being outside that feels so much better, healthier and more satisfying than simply picking up your groceries at the supermarket. I enjoy supporting local and buying quality, fresh, whole foods like the many fruits and vegetables they sold at the markets.
I absolutely loved all of the open-air markets spilling out onto the sidewalks and streets throughout the Kensington Market area! I enjoyed browsing the markets and photographing the vibrantly coloured produce and I enjoyed the atmosphere of shopping there.
These are some of the outdoor sidewalk markets in Kensington Market:
- Oxford Fruit – 255 Augusta Avenue at Nassau Street.
- Augusta Fruit Market – 65 Nassau Street.
- Sunwah Fruit Market – 229 Augusta Avenue.
- Jungle Fruit – 55 Kensington Avenue.
Relax and People Watch at Bellevue Square/Park
Bellevue Square Park is a small green space located in the heart of Kensington Market. The peaceful park features benches for seating, located along the winding pathways; tall trees scattered throughout the park; a children’s wading pool and playground; and open grassy space. The residential streets surrounding the park were beautiful and were lined with gorgeous and large historic Victorian houses.
I visited the park a few times during my time spent in the neighbourhood and it was a pretty place to sit and relax and do some people-watching of the interesting characters all around. The park was a busy place when the weather was warm and sunny and during one of my visits, there were street performers entertaining people passing by and those who chose to sit and listen. It was a great vibe!
The park was pretty and it had a hippie vibe consistent with the rest of neighbourhood. It seemed to attract a diverse crowd and variety of people, which made it an excellent place to do some people-watching! The smell of marijuana was quite strong in the park and there were people openly smoking while socializing and relaxing on blankets on the grassy portion of the park.
The park was a great place to visit during the day but I heard from a few locals and read online that the area can get sketchy in the evenings and at night as it becomes a place where drug dealers, sex trade workers and the homeless tend to congregate and do their business.
Bellevue Park is a pleasant park in Kensington Market and it is a great place to visit and relax during a sunny day!
Location – 5 Bellevue Avenue (between Bellevue Avenue and Augusta Avenue to the west and the east and Denison Square and Wales Avenue to the north and south).
Where To Eat
There are so many wonderful restaurants to choose from in Kensington Market, serving a wide variety of ethnic cuisines from around the world! There are also lots of restaurants offering vegetarian/vegan and gluten-free meals and foods made using fresh, whole food and organic ingredients. Kensington Market is a great neighbourhood to visit if you are a health-conscious individual. These are the restaurants that I ate at and loved during my trip to Toronto.
Hibiscus is an adorable restaurant and cafe situated in the heart of the Kensington Market neighbourhood, with a charming and cozy atmosphere. They serve healthy vegetarian/vegan, and gluten-free food made using fresh and organic ingredients and their extensive menu features a variety of options including soups, salads, crepes (both savoury and sweet), ice cream and other desserts and sweet treats at reasonable prices. The interior of the restaurant was small but cozy and it featured simple and unique decor (like the retro old-fashioned cameras behind the cashier desk!).
I ordered the vegan mozzarella tomato basil spinach mushroom gluten-free crepe which was beautifully presented and tasted so fresh, flavourful and absolutely delicious. I also ordered a strawberry banana smoothie which was equally as tasty. The sweet crepes looked and sounded just as scrumptious as the savoury ones and I look forward to trying one of them when I return to Toronto in the future! The service was friendly and prompt. I loved the white interior of the restaurant and simple decor and although it was a little bit cramped, with the small tables located fairly close to each other, I thoroughly enjoyed the laid-back and relaxed atmosphere.
As someone who has Celiac disease (which basically means that I am allergic to any foods containing gluten, wheat and/or flour), I thought it was amazing that all of the meals served at Hibiscus were completely gluten-free! They were also all organic and vegetarian/vegan! I love finding healthy restaurants on my travels and this one was definitely one of my favourites that I visited in Toronto. I would totally recommend this restaurant to any health-conscious individuals looking to eat a fresh and tasty healthy meal in Kensington Market!
Location – 238 Augusta Avenue. They are open from 11:30 am to 6 pm daily, except Mondays when they are closed.
El Trompo is a family-owned and simple traditional-style taqueria serving authentic Mexican food inside a cozy, bright and vibrantly coloured eatery. The restaurant is located inside an older building along Augusta Avenue. I absolutely loved the interior, where the walls were painted in bright Mexican-inspired colours and featured a variety of unique Mexican decor. Having traveled to Mexico numerous times, I can honestly say that this place felt very authentic and I felt like I had been transported to Mexico after stepping inside the restaurant! Their menu features a variety of simple and traditional Mexican dishes including breakfasts (like huevos rancheros, huevos revueltos, huevos a la Mexicana and more), appetizers (such as pico de gallo and guacamole), tacos (including al pastor, chorizo, tinga, cochinita pibil, fish and more), corn and flour quesadillas (cheese, mushroom and more), alambres (beef, al pastor, chicken and veggie), queso fundido, pozole, and more. Everything was priced inexpensively.
I visited this restaurant twice during my travels in Toronto and ordered the same thing both times (once I find something I love, I keep coming back!) – the Quesongo Tacos, which consisted of corn tortillas (gluten-free) and a filling of grilled mushrooms, cooked onion, melted cheese and coriander. I also ordered the chilled Jamaica tea (made from hibiscus flowers). Everything tasted delicious, fresh and very authentic. The service was friendly and prompt and I loved the charming and welcoming Mexican vibe of the restaurant! There was a decent amount of tables and seating inside the colourful restaurant and there was also a patio area on the sidewalk just outside of the restaurant, which would be the perfect place to eat and enjoy some people-watching during a warm summer day. For those who are gluten-free like me, this taqueria had a good selection of options including the tacos and quesadillas which were both made from corn tortillas, as well as the alambres and a few of the appetizers.
I would recommend a visit to El Trompo to anyone looking for tasty and authentic Mexican food in Toronto.
Location – 277 Augusta Avenue. They are open from 11 am to 8:30 pm from Tuesday to Thursday, 11 am to 9:30 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 11 am to 6:30 pm on Sunday. They are closed on Mondays.
Seven Lives Tacos is a casual, fast-food style taqueria in Kensington Market serving a selection of tacos from their simple menu. The interior of the restaurant is small and has only a few bench seats along the front windows in addition to one small table, so it is primarily a place to grab take-out and then eat elsewhere. There are also a few wooden benches along the sidewalk outside the doors of the restaurant. You order and pay at the counter and are then called when your food is ready. This is not a sit-down restaurant. Their menu features eight different kinds of tacos including their famous Gobernador, Baja Fish, Blackened Mahi Mahi, Camarones a la Diabla, Carnitas, Pulpo Enojado, Catch of the Day and Mushroom and Cactus.
This restaurant is very popular and it was packed full of people during my visit, with absolutely no seating available. I ordered the only vegetarian taco that they offered which was the mushroom and cactus taco. The restaurant was busy and crowded and I had to wait quite a while before my taco was ready and I heard my name called. Since every single chair and bench was occupied, I walked around Kensington Market and finally found a bench to eat at along Augusta Avenue. My taco was huge and very filling. It had a very generous amount of toppings and was also topped with a dollop of guacamole and sour cream. I was really hungry and my taco was delicious. It tasted fresh and flavourful and definitely satisfied my taste buds!
Location – 69 Kensington Avenue. They are open from 12 pm to 8 pm from Wednesday to Sunday and are closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Emporium Latino is tiny and authentic Latin American market that sells a variety of grocery items, spices and products from Latin America. In addition, they also sell a selection of delicious traditional Colombian snacks and meals that are freshly prepared and cooked up with love by two women in a small kitchen at the back of the store. You order food at the same counter where you purchase your goods. The store was located inside an unassuming older building along Augusta Avenue, with a brightly painted blue front door and garage door with windows along the top half. It was a small, charming, and locally owned little place and the staff were very friendly and pleasant.
While wandering Kensington Market, I decided to stop here to try some authentic Latin American food. I ordered the plantain empanadas and an horchata beverage to drink. The menu offered a variety of South and Central American meals, snacks and beverages including pupusas, tamales, soup, stuffed poblano pepper, fried tacos, and empanadas. The market and restaurant was busy and although I waited quite a while for my food to be prepared, it ended up being worth the wait! The empanada was yellow-ish in colour, a round shape and looked like a ball of dough. Inside the empanada were warm refried black beans. It was also gluten-free! The empanada tasted absolutely fresh, homemade, and delicious and the plantain dough gave it a hint of sweetness, which was perfect. The horchata was also very flavourful. There were three wooden picnic tables for eating, located in a small and slightly cramped space at the front of the market/restaurant and the atmosphere of the place was simple and casual. With the combination of the bustling environment inside the restaurant, hearing Spanish being spoken from people all around me, the delicious smells wafting throughout the shop, and the traditional foods being served, it almost felt like I was in a Latin American country and I loved it!
Emporium Latino is definitely a hidden little gem in the Kensington Market area! If I lived in Toronto, I can definitely see myself spending too much time here.
Location – 243 Augusta Avenue. They are open from 9 am to 7 pm from Monday to Friday, 8 am to 7 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday.
Cosmic Treats is a cute and quirky restaurant serving a range of delicious vegan dishes and specialty desserts. I stopped in there for a lemon-flavoured bowl of ice cream and which was very tasty and refreshing. I loved the retro diner appearance with the bright orange colours and unique decor inside the restaurant. They had seating inside in addition to a patio on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant, which would be a fantastic place to do some people-watching in this diverse neighbourhood! All of the dishes on their menu are vegan and they offer more than simply the delicious desserts and sweet treats, but also a variety of brunch dishes, salads, sandwiches, appetizers and soups, freshly baked bread, and main dishes. In terms of desserts, they have frozen yogurt, homemade ice cream, sundaes, and milkshakes. They even offer the option of a gluten-free cone!
If you’re looking for a vegan meal or satisfying dessert while wandering around Kensington Market, I definitely recommend heading over to Cosmic Treats!
Location – 207 Augusta Avenue. They are open from 11:30 am to 9 pm Tuesdays to Thursdays, 11:30 am to 11 pm on Fridays, 10 am to 11 pm on Saturday, 10 am to 9 pm on Sunday, and closed on Mondays.
Grasshopper is a small and cute restaurant serving a variety of flavourful vegetarian dishes and I absolutely loved its name! Although this restaurant is technically not located within the Kensington Market neighbourhood, it is just on the edge of the neighbourhood so I thought I would include it here anyways. The interior of the restaurant was small and narrow and had seating along both walls with a long bench and tables on one side and bar-type chair seating at a counter on the other side. I loved the modern and inviting feel of the restaurant and the brick interior walls. The atmosphere was comfortable and cozy. Their menu offered a variety of unique comfort foods including vegetarian appetizers, soups and salads, bowls, sandwiches and beverages (including smoothies).
During my visit, I ordered the roasted chickpeas and a blueberry basil smoothie for a snack. Although I had to wait quite awhile for my chickpeas, both were absolutely delicious. I was pleasantly surprised with the flavour of the smoothie and wasn’t expecting it to taste so good! The service was friendly and personable.
Grasshopper is the perfect place to eat for vegetarians or anyone looking for flavourful food near Kensington Market.
Location – 310 College Street. They are open from 11:30 am to 10 pm daily.
Bunner’s is a small and popular local bakery serving completely gluten-free and vegan baked goods, located in the heart of Kensington Market.
The bakery was really cute but I was slightly disappointed that they didn’t have any seating area inside, aside from a bench situated along the front window. I stopped in on a rainy morning and ordered a cinnamon bun with a thick layer of icing on top. The dough was so gooey and moist and it was one of the most delicious and flavourful gluten-free desserts that I have ever tasted! The menu offers a wide variety of sweet baked treats like muffins, cookies, pies, cupcakes, cakes, brownies, donuts, tarts, ice cream and more.
Location – 244 Augusta Avenue.
Toronto Popcorn Company
The Toronto Popcorn Company is a small and adorable little shop specializing in popcorn. After you walk inside, you will see jars filled with popcorn in a variety of colours, and unique sweet and savoury flavours.
They offered a few different popcorn flavours which were specifically labelled as gluten-free, but the majority of the popcorn was not gluten-free, which was slightly disappointing for me. You are able to sample however many flavours you want before purchasing and I chose to taste the few gluten-free flavours, but they weren’t spectacular and I chose not to buy a bag. I would love to see this place expand on their gluten-free options in the future.
It was such a cute place and perfect for popcorn lovers and those looking for a delicious snack!
Location – 147 Baldwin Street. They are open every day from 11 am to 8 pm.
Some restaurants and cafes that I didn’t have time to check out during my trip to Toronto but which are definitely on my list for my next visit include: Grk Ygrt, The Witches Brew, Moonbeam Coffee Company, and Fika Cafe.
How To Get There
Kensington Market is an easily accessible neighbourhood from all areas of Toronto.
Bicycling to the neighbourhood is probably the fastest option of getting there during the summer, as there are designated bike lanes throughout downtown and there is lots of bike parking within the Kensington Market neighbourhood.
Another option is taking the streetcar. Kensington Market is accessible from the 506 College and 510 Spadina street cars, operated by the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission).
And of the course the easiest option of all would be walking, provided that your accommodation is relatively close to the neighbourhood. Once you find your way to Kensington Market, the neighbourhood is very walkable.
Where To Stay
This is where I stayed in Kensington Market:
The Planet Traveler is a comfortable, clean and budget-friendly hostel to stay in and it is conveniently located right along the edge of the Kensington Market neighbourhood, on College Street. I stayed at this hostel for three nights during my travels in Toronto and absolutely loved it! It was located inside a beautifully restored and renovated historic building; everything was brand new and clean; it was a comfortable place to relax after my full days of exploring Toronto; the atmosphere was friendly, laid-back and social; the common areas were cozy; the dorms were super comfortable and great; and the rooftop patio had amazing panoramic views of the downtown Toronto skyline and the Little Italy neighbourhood along College Street.
Interested in reading more about The Planet Traveler? Click here to see my full and detailed review of this hostel.
>>If you are ready to book your accommodations for your trip to Toronto, click here to book using my affiliate link for Hostelworld. If you do so, I will receive a small commission from Hostelworld at no extra cost to you. This will help to support my blog so thank you in advance!<<
Kensington Market is a small neighbourhood situated north of downtown Toronto and it is located between College Street on the north and Dundas Street West to the south and Spadina Avenue on the east and Bathurst Street to the west.
Kensington Market is a fantastic neighbourhood of Toronto that offers so much to see, do and eat including: colourful and vibrant street art tucked away down every narrow alleyway and situated on the sides of buildings; cute and independently owned shops selling unique items that you won’t find anywhere else; outdoor sidewalk markets offering fresh and local produce; and a variety of restaurants serving ethnic cuisine, vegetarian/vegan, and gluten-free offerings. Kensington Market is a funky and interesting area filled with colourful street art, interesting people, unique stores and delicious food that is worth spending a day or more wandering and exploring, taking in the sights, and satisfying your taste buds.
Exploring this neighbourhood was one of my favourte parts about my trip to Toronto, and it provided a unique and interesting experience. I loved the artsy and hippie vibe, the gritty and authentic feel, the colourful and historic Victorian homes, unique shops, and sampling Mexican, vegan and gluten-free foods from a variety of the different restaurants in the area.
If you are traveling to Toronto, I highly recommend adding Kensington Market to your itinerary.
Have you explored Toronto’s Kensington Market? What was your favourite part about the neighbourhood?
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Thanks for reading!