Perhaps one of Toronto's most paradoxical and diverse neighbourhoods is Kensington, or Kensington Market. At once, it's home to a small army of anarchists, hippies, drug counterculture soldiers, writers, artists, immigrants, entrepreneurs and LGBTQ activists. Named for the famous market that draws visitors from across the city as much as tourists, the neighbourhood is home to independent cafes and bakeries, a flurry of festivals, cannabis boutiques and art shops. Decades ago, Kensington Market was a students-only universe, but ever since the 1990s, immigrant entrepreneurs have taken over. Now, more than half of Kensington residents are non-Caucasian; meanwhile hipster culture is moving in on the community, attracted by the anti-corporate attitude that prevails here and is opening up upscale but independent stores and cafes. Housing here is as varied as the residents, including brightly painted Victorians, tiny apartments that hover above street-level shops, new townhouses and some condo buildings. The average income in the area is just over half of the Toronto's average, yet while there are some small, run-down rentals available for below-average rates, many nicer apartments, condos and houses command dollar figures that surpass the city average as well.
A rainbow of ethnicities mainly with lower incomes, plus a new influx of somewhat higher-earning hipsters. The average age here pushes young to new limits for a whole neighbourhood, with most residents falling into the 20 to 35 bracket. Counterculture soldiers rule Kensington Market.
Singles and couples without kids who dig the values of anarchy, believe in legalization, have an affinity for the hippie way of life, and might want to open up a little market stall to sell homemade goods or underground book titles.
Anyone who likes anything mainstream. Whether you're middle-aged, have a family with kids, like larger houses, enjoy the quietude of suburbia, are an empty-nester, dislike rowdy demonstrations in the streets, or prefer shopping at the Bay and enjoy a good cuppa from Starbucks from time to time, Kensington Market will not tickle your fancy for any longer than a weekend afternoon spent perusing the market stalls.
The market is the main element of the Kensington Market lifestyle, where residents come together to catch up and check out what other stalls are selling. But there's much more to the neighbourhood than its namesake market, and smaller markets exist if you know where to look. A solid Rastafarian community here initiated a small flea market and hosts get-togethers with music, singing and toking, as do the few local cannabis cafes. Live performances are a regular occurrence here at a few indoor venues such as Videofag, but the local squares and parks often play host to impromptu performances from members of the neighbourhood's vibrant arts scene. In general, hanging around with friends is a favourite pastime in Kensington Market, with the independent cafes, bookstores, vintage shops, market stalls and ethnic eateries being among the top destinations. On Pedestrian Sundays, virtually the whole community shuts down to cars and becomes pedestrian-only.
Renters will generally find tons of options in Kensington Market, ranging from the unaffordable to the dirt-cheap.
Studio apartment: $996
Avg. rent compared to other Toronto neighbourhoods
Kensington Market is 11% lower than TO average
Victorians built pre-1900 painted bubblegum pink, teal, or some other bright colour, as well as small low-rise apartments
In 2002, Nike tried to open up a store in Kensington Market. Soon, the store's front windows were tagged with "Nike=sweatshops=get lost" and local residents littered the ground outside with running shoes splattered with red paint. The indie youth of Kensington protested Nike's sweatshop manufacturing practices and forced the store out of the community.
Apart from the market stalls, which are scattered around the neighbourhood, the community is home to some truly unique businesses that are independently owned and do a stellar job of reflecting the local counterculture, like the Moonbeam Cafe, Fika and the cannabis haunt called Hot Box Cafe. Then there are great places to buy vintage clothes like Exile, and one of the original taco shops, El Trompo. The main park in the neighbourhood is Belleview Square, though many people complain that it's being overrun by unsavoury types.