Top 10 Things To Do in Toronto Kensington Market
Published: June 5, 2023
Rich in local history and bohemian ambiance, Kensington Market is one of the most unique and diverse neighbourhoods in Toronto. Originally founded by immigrants in the 1880s in search of cheap real estate and places where they could work, set up shop and sell their wares, the area was long known as a haven for those looking to start a new life. For over 140 years, immigrants to Toronto have settled around the market resulting in an eclectic mix of Irish, Jewish, Portuguese, Caribbean and East Asian influences.
As a result, you’ll find it’s one of the most exciting neighbourhoods in Toronto to explore for visitors and locals alike – by day or night! Many of the traditional Kensington Market stores sprawl out onto the street and the food, clothing and crafts for sale are eclectic and offer visitors a wide world of flavours, styles and ideas that they can sample, buy or partake in. With an easy transfer from UP Express Union Station or Bloor Station to local TTC transit to Kensington Market, you’ll find plenty to do in this vibrant area of Toronto.
So, where does one begin? With our Top 10 Things To Do In Kensington of course!
Explore Kensington Market on Foot
One of the best ways to take in all Kensington Market has to offer is to head out on foot to check things out and soak it all in. Take some time and familiarize yourself with the layout as you pop in and out of shops and local businesses you won’t find anywhere else in the city. If your next visit to Toronto is over a weekend, the best day to tour Kensington Market is Sunday in the summer months when the streets are closed to traffic and live music fills the air. This year, Kensington Market Pedestrian Sundays returns as of May 17! If you want to sample some of the many flavours of Kensington while exploring, book yourself a walking food tour with Tasty Tours. It’s one fun way to taste some of the city’s best bites while learning about the history of the neighbourhood.
If you’re planning on spending the day in Kensington Market, the best way to get there is by leaving the car at home and arriving via UP Express and TTC. Purchasing a ticket on UP Express has never been easier with our e-tickets you can buy before you board. Plus, Youths and Post-Secondary students save 40% off a standard UP Express fare when travelling with PRESTO allowing you to travel cashless connecting between UP Express and TTC.
All that walking and shopping around Kensington Market can feel like a workout so be sure to refuel at one of the many cafes here. Jimmy’s Coffee is a Toronto staple serving up locally-roasted coffee on their pretty back patio in Kensington or check out small-batch coffee roaster Moonbeam Coffee Company for your caffeine fix with a cup of coffee or tea. You’ll want to get your phone out for an Instagram snap at the Swedish-inspired FIKA Café in front of their popular “book wall” décor. After wandering the market streets you already know that Kensington is a multicultural place, so why not give Coffee Dak Lak a visit and sample their authentic Vietnamese coffees made with condensed milk? The coffee break possibilities are endless!
Pick Out a New Wardrobe
You want fashion diversity? You’ve got it! Kensington Market stores feature something for everyone. From trendy threads, vintage wear and alternative fashions to clothes and designers from around the globe, it’s as far as you can get from “one size fits all”.
Looking for something a bit more worn in? Kensington Market is the place in Toronto for vintage clothing with several stores to choose from. Start with Vintage Old And New, Exile Vintage, Urban Catwalk or get a mix of old and new at Courage My Love where you’ll not only find a rack of deals but up-cycled clothing and accessories. If new kicks and streetwear are on your shopping list, Rerun has new and used options. For men looking to snag a new suit, Tom’s Place has been known for its designer men’s suits at bargain prices since 1958. Plus, check out Flamingo Vintage for their selection of vintage Levis.
Go Grocery Shopping
Kensington Market is a chef’s best friend! Back in the early days of Kensington Market, people would shop here because it was one of the only places to get a taste of home and traditional food items. Today, there are butchers, cheese shops, fruit stands and bakeries everywhere. You’ll also find exotic herbs, spices and delicacies from all over the world. Cheese lovers absolutely shouldn’t miss out on visiting Global Cheese Shoppe, established in Kensington Market in 1970. It’s basically a mouse’s idea of what heaven must look like. Be sure to bring a reusable shopping bag with you as single-use plastic bags are banned in Ontario.
Grab a Bite to Eat
There is one rule for visiting Kensington Market: come hungry! With dozens of tasty restaurants, take-out counters, food stalls and vendors, the hardest decision you’ll have to make is what to eat first. Empanadas, pho, jerk chicken, pancakes and waffles, tacos and crepes are just some of the diverse offerings that can all be had here. Are you vegan, vegetarian or gluten free and craving Caribbean? Check out Veggie D’Light. In the mood for Mayan? Ko’ox Hana is the ticket. Can’t decide between Jamaican and Italian? Rasta Pasta has you covered with their unique fusion. Craving for Mexican tacos? Seven Lives Tacos y Mariscos is hands down one of the best taco spot in the city. Be sure to try their yummy Grilled Octopus taco! Check out Eat Nabati for plant-based Middle Eastern dishes that are sure to satisfy your cravings. There’s nowhere else in Toronto where you can try a world’s worth of cuisine all within a few city blocks.
Support Local Artists
There are loads of galleries and craft shops in Kensington Market giving you plenty of opportunity to find that unique one-of-a-kind Toronto piece you won’t find anywhere else. Visit Orbital Arts Gallery to check out original paintings and artwork that “inspires self-awareness” and stop by Whippersnapper Gallery where they’re known for showcasing upcoming artists. If you’re looking for a special souvenir of your Toronto visit, over at Kid Icarus you’ll find handmade goods, greeting cards and locally made gifts.
Of course, you don’t need to visit a gallery to see some of Kensington Market’s best art. While you’re walking about, check out the many murals by talented graffiti artists that give colour and life to the market. See if you can spot the garden car: a semi-permanent art installation that has been on display for over 17 years from mid-May to November. Filled with plants and flowers, the ancient Ford has been nicknamed “Toronto’s tiniest park” and even has its own Instagram #gardencar following.
Go Record Shopping
Vinyl is back big time and Kensington Market has its fair share of places you can score some classic wax! If you’re between flights with time to spare, browse for records during your Toronto layover with UP’s Long Layover Ticket. Simply purchase a discount fare return ticket from Pearson Airport to downtown Toronto’s Union Station. You’ll have up to seven hours of worry-free time for record shopping and more before heading back to the airport and continuing your travels.
Most of the vintage clothing stores in Kensington Market also have records for sale and you can sometimes score a gem for cheap. Paradise Bound specializes in collectible records and sells them in-store and online. They also sell Japanese prints, scrolls, tea bowls and pottery sets. Elsewhere in the market you’ll find J Poison Records for great clothing and vinyl while just across from inner Kensington on Spadina Avenue is the tiny Play De Record for all your new and vintage vinyl needs as well as DJ accessories and turntable cartridges.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
If you’re looking for a sugar fix, you’ve come to the right place. Here, you’ll find Bunner’s Bakeshop, Toronto’s top vegan and gluten-free bakery known for their ooey-gooey cinnamon buns and cupcakes. Fill up on Japanese-inspired desserts at Little Pebbles, snack on gloriously tasty donuts at Dipped Donuts Inc., try to choose just one treat at Blackbird Baking Co. or cool off with a frozen treat at Boho Gelato. You won’t want to miss Wanda’s Pie in the Sky where seasonal local flavours reign supreme like their summertime peach and cherry pies and delectable pumpkin pie in the fall.
Hit A Patio
Torontonians love a patio! There are loads of patio options in Kensington Market where people watching is a past time. There are restaurants, bars and even some store front patios where you can kick back and relax after wandering the market. In our opinion, nothing beats sitting on a hot patio with your sunglasses on and a cold sangria in hand at KOS, sampling the mezcal on the streetside patio at El Rey Mezcal Bar, or joining the locals with a pint on a picnic table at Ronnie’s Local 069 dive bar. Trinity Common beer hall shouldn’t be overlooked either, although it does get quite busy at peak hours and fills up quickly. For a complete listing of patios in Kensington Market, check out this guide to the market’s patios.
Explore the Nightlife
It should come as no surprise that Kensington Market has a thriving nightlife filled with locals and visitors to our great city. Supermarket is a restaurant, bar, music venue and dance club all rolled into one. Trinity Common hosts live, acoustic and DJ sets which usually have people up and moving. If relaxed vibes and dive bars are more your thing, head to Embassy for low key beers on the back patio before visiting artsy Armenian spot The Oud & The Fuzz for live music and great snacks. There’s usually something fun happening at bicycle-themed bar Handlebar where live music and DJs pair nicely with the bar’s beer menu. If you’re looking for a more upscale evening, Kensington has you covered with the dreamy Grey Gardens wine bar for sharable snacks and a curated wine list.
These are just some of the things you can do in Kensington Market. There are lots of other activities, shops and things to see in Toronto’s coolest neighbourhood.