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Kensington Market is one of Toronto’s oldest neighbourhoods, and definitely one of its most interesting. It was designated a Canadian National Historic Site in 2006 and for good reason: its history is rich with the city’s immigrant story.

It was first settled by European Jews in the early 1910s. They started moving out in the 1950s, and were replaced by the city’s growing Asian population. As they spread east to create Chinatown, the Caribbean community moved in and gave Kensington a genuinely chill vibe. They’ve since been joined by the South American community who’ve brought with them fantastic food, music and art. Most recently, the hipster crowd has started taking hold. But the cultural richness of the area seems to be safe.

Of Kensington Market, journalist Robert Fulford wrote: “it’s as much of a legend as it is a district.” And a stroll through the narrow streets of Kensington Market reaffirms that position.

Kensington Market is about 30 minutes by foot from Pantages. It’s an easy (no hills), interesting walk along Dundas Street through Yonge and Dundas Square, the Discovery District and Chinatown. And it’s well worth it for these six reasons:

Kensington Market is a microcosm of Canada

Canada has over 120 nationalities, and most if not all are on display in Kensington Market. Grab a seat on the patio at Trinity Common and listen to the languages.

The stores are some of the city’s most fun to visit

You won’t find major labels or big brands in Kensington Market. Instead, you’ll find the city’s artisans from painters to furniture makers to chefs. If you’re looking for something uniquely Toronto as an accent piece for your home, Kensington’s the place to go.

Kensington Market is amazing on a Friday or Saturday night

The streets are lined with trendy restos, bars and clubs. And they all come alive during play time. Live music’s also a big number in Kensington Market, and the venues are small and intimate. One of our favourites is The Handlebar, both for the vibe and their consistently awesome lineup.

Street art

It’s everywhere. It’s great. It’s so diverse. And it’s not just on the walls. While you’re walking around, see if you can spot the famous flowered-up car.

Cheap and cheerful eats

Nothing in the city’s quite like grabbing a bite at one of Kensington Market’s restaurants. First of all, you quite literally have the world at your fingertips, from Ethiopia to Ecuador. You won’t spend much to get a big meal. And it’s all authentic. Rent in Kensington is still relatively cheap so many of the shops are run by recent immigrants not too far removed from the old country.

One last thing about Kensington Market

Don’t let the area’s relative run-down look deceive you. It’s all part of the scene and it works. So please don’t think you can litter. You’ll find trash cans on almost every corner. Use them. For proximity to Kensington Market and so many more of Toronto’s best neighbourhoods, stay at Pantages next time you’re here.

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