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People walk down street in front of colorful buildings in Kensington Market, Toronto

In the Neighborhood: Your ultimate guide to Toronto’s Kensington Market

Head to Kensington Market and discover a vibrant, youthful and extremely walkable neighborhood with a captivating 1960’s hippie vibe.

By Jim Byers | July 26, 2023

Toronto’s Kensington Market is arguably the most diverse, multicultural and trendy part of the ultra-cosmopolitan city. It was a center for Jewish immigrants at the turn of the century, and has since welcomed people from Jamaica, Asia and South America. Look for old synagogues, independent shops that spill out on the sidewalk and homes painted everything from salmon to powder blue. Be sure to visit the area on what’s known as Pedestrian Sundays, a period from May through October when many streets close to cars from 1 p.m. onward.


As the melting pot for one of the world’s most diverse cities, Kensington Market is home to a range of must-visit eateries offering everything from South American empanadas to Indian food and Italian-Jamaican fusion. Try:

- The inventive RASTA PASTA, which serves up Jamaican classics such as spicy jerk chicken and ackee with codfish as well as pasta with jerk meatballs or lasagna with steamed callaloo, a Caribbean leafy green.

- El Rey, a Mexican restaurant and mezcal bar with a nice patio. Look for craft cocktails such as the Open Windows, with chili-infused tequila, mezcal, pineapple and lime. Menu standouts include the al pastor tacos, crispy squid tacos and birria quesadillas.

- Grey Gardens: A relaxed setting for casual dining, this wine bar and restaurant is a light and airy spot with a menu that includes dishes like beef tartare and asparagus with shawarma spice, hummus and tabbouleh.


Kensington Market is one of the best places for people-watching in the city, but you’re also close to some fine attractions, galleries and nightlife spots. Experience:

- The Art Gallery of Ontario, which received a major overhaul by Toronto native Frank Gehry. The stunning atrium features pale, polished wood and Gehry’s famous curves. With thought-provoking artwork on display, the gallery is extremely accessible to visitors, offering free admission for anyone aged 25 and under.

- The popular El Mocambo nightclub, recording studio, bar, live music venue and long-time fixture on the city’s music scene. The space has hosted some of the biggest names in rock-and-roll and features concerts well worth stopping in for.

- Chinatown, cheek-to-jowl with Kensington, this enclave has countless Asian restaurants and shops, as well as an open-air market with local vendors selling fruit, vegetables, spices and souvenirs.


If you’re looking for unique buys, vintage clothing or rare ingredients at terrific prices, this is your part of town. Browse:

- King of Kensington, one of many vintage clothing and variety stores that line Kensington Market. Look for everything from cowboy boots to designer purses and old-time Hawaiian shirts.

- House of Spice, if you like to cook or enjoy exotic spices and ingredients. The family-owned store is crammed with everything from black Persian lime powder to salted lemon pistachios, pineapple habanero hot sauce, Bengali spices and Israeli couscous.

- Good Egg, a beautiful store selling cookbooks, children’s books, paper goods, pottery, kitchen gear, candles and more. If you’ve got kids in tow, you’ll be happy to see the play table near the back!

Kensington Market might just be the epitome of immigrant-rich Toronto, with a dash of this, a pinch of that and a free spirit that never fails to satisfy.

Jim Byers is a travel journalist who writes for publications around the world. He lives in Toronto.