Think of the old laid back vibe of the 60′s, an outdoor neighbourhood market in London or New York, a sunny afternoon with your friends, and a street party in an exotic city. Well, mix all of these things together and you are getting close to the experience you’ll have when you visit Toronto’s Kensington Market.
In the center of Toronto in a warren of side streets, you’ll find a little market with a big reputation. So big in fact that in November 2006 the market and the neighbourhood surrounding it were designated as a National Historic Site of Canada. Also, Robert Fulford said in 1999 that “Kensington Market today is as much a legend as a district.” And with good reason. There has been a market here in these parts since the early 1900′s and it’s always been a gathering spot for Torontonians, Canadians and international visitors.
During the early twentieth century Kensington became populated by eastern European immigrants and Italians. From around that time there was a market there and it sold items imported from the homelands of the various immigrants that lived in the neighbourhood. That market became known as the ‘Jewish Market.’ Jewish merchants operated small shops like tailors, furriers and bakers.
Today the market has grown bigger and expanded to include these kinds of shops but many others like used clothing stores, record shops, coffee shops, restaurants of all ethnicities, bars, bric-a-bac stores and many others. Another attraction of the market is the constant presence of buskers, musicians and street performers. It all adds up to a carnival-like atmosphere taking place all year round. But like most places, the busiest times are on the weekends and at times can get so crowded that you wonder where all the people have come from!
Over the years the little tangle of streets have also attracted the counter-culture like Trotskyists, Vietnam War protesters and several radical bookstores found their way into the market as well. It shows that the market is open to all and has no biases. Kensington Market welcomes all and everyone to do and act as they please though one thing you can be assured of is that the atmosphere is, and has always been, one of fun and good times.
Though the market is a great hub of activity and a big draw for locals and tourists alike, the rest of the neighbourhood should not be discredited as a unique and important area within Toronto as well. There is a great deal of history, architecture and culture in the streets surrounding the market and if one spends some time exploring them they will be highly rewarded.
Next time you are in Toronto drop by Kensington Market and the surrounding neighbourhood. Take a stroll, have a coffee, do some shopping, listen to some music, get your picture taken with a street performer. Kensington market is as Canadian as the beaver, hockey and maple syrup! You’ll have a great time.
The GCAT team guarantees it!