Toronto Canada is such an amazing place to visit with its great neighborhoods and population from around the world. One of the oldest and unique neighborhoods is Kensington Market ( Kensington-Market.com ), you can’t miss it if you visit Canada’s largest city. This “Bohemian” styled neighborhood is an eclectic mixture of markets, stores, restaurants, Victorian homes, etc. as well as its diverse people. You get a good feeling of all types of cultures that have come and set up shops here through the years. Many visitors come to experience the diverse restaurants that are located here influenced by nearby Chinatown and other diverse populations that have come to live here since the mid-1800s from around the world.
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Kensington Market is near both Chinatown and the University of Toronto. The approximate borders are College Street on the North, Spadina Avenue on the East, Dundas Street on the West towards the South, and Bathurst Street to the West. You can stroll through the neighborhood to see so much variety. Toronto is a melting pot, they say 50% or so of the people in Toronto are from other countries and this neighborhood is a great example of it.
I do recommend that you visit during the primary times to see the shops open; it is generally from 11 am to 7 pm. Many are just locally owned family shops that may be closed on certain weekdays or close early enough to spend time with family and friends, but there are several options for restaurants that are open later or earlier to meet your food needs. Some of the markets like grocers/florists maybe even open a little earlier. While some of the oldest ethnic groups in the area were Jewish families that have moved on, there are still two synagogues (vs. 30 in the 20’s/30s) that remain in the neighborhood and a great bagel shop discussed below. In 2006, Kensington Market was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada to preserve the neighborhood.
Take A Food Tour Of The Diverse Toronto Cuisine
One of the best ways to get a better feel of the area (and taste) is to take a food tour. We went with Chopsticks + Forks (@chopsticksandforks). Their Kensington Market International Food Tour is awesome and combines food samples from various restaurants and shops while giving you a good overview of the history of the neighborhood. On this tour, you walk throughout the area and try various foods and drinks that are so great and filling. We probably could have skipped breakfast that day since we started with some unique coal-fired bagels.
The stops included:
- Nu Bagel (@nubagel) offers wood-fired bagels, which are considered Montreal style vs. the New York Style bagel. The wood fire gives it a unique flavor. Try the bagel with lox and cream cheese, they also offer all types of bagels, sandwiches, and coffee.
- Jumbo Empanadas (@jumbo.empanadas) The restaurant features beef, chicken, and veggie empanadas. We also sampled some Inca Kola.:
- Golden Patty Bakery (GoldenPatty.com) serves Jamaican-style beef patty warped in a nice pastry-like shell. They have options like spicy beef and jerk chicken.
- Tibet Cafe & Bar @tibetcafeandbar) This Asian Fusion restaurant specializes in Tibetan-style food. Many try the dumplings and the butter tea. While the tea was not my typical taste, it was definitely unique.
- Fresco’s Fish and Chips (@frescosfishandchips) The restaurant offers fried fish with hand-cut chips (or fries as many say). Today, we had the fish with a sample of salad. It was quite good and I always love fish. According to their site, it says the fish is thoughtfully sourced.
- Finka Cafe (@finkakensington) This is a Swedish-inspired coffee and tea shop. Our last stop included a cup of tea and the deer-shaped cookie that tasted similar to a ginger snap. There is room to sit inside and outside the cafe, we particularly liked the backyard garden area. It was a nice ending to the 2.5 +/- hour tour.
While this gives you highlights, the expert tour guide goes more into the history of the neighborhood and you do get to meet some of the owners along the way of these locally-owned food purveyors.
Some Other Great Kensington Restaurants
Besides some mentioned above, we also ate meals at some great restaurants later at night in Kensington Market that was located on our street, Augusta Avenue.
- Trinity Common (@trinitycommon) Trinity was awesome and opened until 2 am every night. Trinity offers both beer, food, and music, i.e. the trinity. This craft beer hall has various food options and drinks. It offers both indoor and outdoor eating areas, depending on your dining style or the weather. It has a more trendy vibe and is a fairly popular place for dinner, etc.
- Film Cafe (@filmcafe.kensington) This restaurant is open from 8sm to 1sm daily (2 am on weekends) and offers a great mix of food, including breakfast all day. It has great decor and ambiance and makes you feel welcome. The weekend we went had a live singer to entertain. While it says the food is Japanese style, there are many options on the menu.
Other Tea and Coffee Options
- Cafe Pamenar (@pamenar_km) This modern cafe, coffee shop/bar offers trendy coffee drinks, and small snack plates, in a musical atmosphere. There is room to sit outside in front/back, as well as indoors. It appears to change to a bar later in the day and closes at midnight. We enjoyed stopping in here for a chat and a coffee.
- Kung Fu Tea For those of you who love bubble tea, you may want to try them at Kung Fu Tea. While they have several locations, this Taiwan/Chinese type tea is very popular in the area (with 6 stores in the Toronto area).
Getting to Toronto
The nice thing about Toronto is that it is the largest city in Canada, thus there are various modes of transportation to it, including flights. We flew from the USA from Florida and flew Swoop Airline to Toronto.
- Swoop Airlines (flyswoop.com) Swoop Airlines flies in the USA, Canada, Caribbean and Mexico. This is an ultra low cost airlines. Our flight left from the Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) located in Sanford. SFB reportedly stands for “simple, faster, better”. It turned out to be a great small airport that hardly had waits, so it made it an enjoyable option.
Notably, besides flying to Toronto, Swoop also flies to nearby Hamilton, Canada, that is located between Toronto and Niagra Falls, so its another smaller airport that gives you an opportunity to see both or all 3 locations. More will be written about that in another article, but I just wanted to point out that option since Hamlton is also a smaller airport and Hamilton is a cute area to visit.
Places to Stay in Toronto
There are so many places you can stay in Toronto since the city has good transportation and Uber. While in Kensington we chose a local place, Samesun Toronto, good if on a budget, and we also stayed at Hilton Toronto. This gives you an idea that there are all price ranges in this diverse city.
- Samesun Toronto – 280 Augusta Avenue (Instagram @samesunhostels)
Samesun Toronto hostel is a great place to experience and explore the Kensington neighborhood, especially if you are on a budget. This newly renovated hostel has both private and dorm-style rooms, a shared kitchen, and a living area. Wifi is available and the hostel is air-conditioned. We had a private room with a balcony. The shared restroom was down the hall.
The rooms are very good, Samesun recently purchased/renovated the building so it is very clean, bright, and welcoming with artwork on some walls and throughout the staircases. It was a great way to experience the area and a close walk to Chinatown, etc.
- Hilton Toronto (Instagram @hiltontoronto) 145 Richmond Street West
The Hilton Toronto is centrally located and it is close to many central attractions, but only a short ride to Kensington Market. This upscale hotel is 32 floors with both rooms and suites, with an Executive Lounge high up for great views, an indoor/outdoor heated pool with views of the CN Tower (awesome at night), a gym facility, and an on-site restaurant. We also loved riding up on the glass elevator for more awesome views.
To wrap this up, Kensington Market and the surrounding area are quite eclectic and provide a wonderful place to experience a mix of food at reasonable prices. The tour took us to try not only the food, but learn more about the melting pot of one of Toronto’s oldest neighborhoods. The variety of foods provided on the tour was awesome for all kinds of paletes and budgets in locally-owned establishments. I highly recommend a visit to Kensington Market. Staying in the neighborhood does give one a better idea of the diversity in the community. The narrow historical Victorian homes were also great to view and get a sense of this community and helped imagine how it was during earlier times. One can see why they want to preserve the “flavor” of the area through its 2006 national designation. Also, this is definitely a highlight an only a few hours a way from Niagara Falls. Check out my trip to Niagara Falls on the American side as well.