Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday
By Andrew, Detourist Guide
With a labyrinth of narrow, one way streets, navigating Kensington Market by auto can be difficult on the best of days.
But today, and on the last Sunday of each summer month through October, not only is exploring this Toronto landmark neighbourhood by foot recommended, it’s required. In their 7th year, Pedestrian Sundays take over Kensington Market, adding the flare of street food and entertainment to an already eclectic mix of shops, cafés and galleries.
The area’s vibrant nature can be attributed to its colourful past, which began as a hotbed for immigrants in the 1850s. Over the years, this multicultural refuge has raised many flags, representing all regions of the world from Africa to Asia and Europe to South America. Investigating the nooks of the nationally influenced vendors is a taste of world exploration without having to leave the market borders.
Roughly bounded by College Avenue and Dundas Street West to the north and south and Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street in the east and west, the heart of the Market is Augusta Avenue and Baldwin Street, where you will find fresh produce, baked goods, meat mongers, cheese shops, galleries, counterculture cafés and patioed restos. An afternoon can be spent lunching on legendary Chilean fare at Jumbo Empanada (245 Augusta Ave), which National Geographic Traveler calls “toothsome, piping hot, and perfectly oven-gilded” or digging through the treasures a few doors down at Arnold Layne (281 Augusta Ave), the Market’s original retro-funk clothier.
Several companies like A Taste of the World or Tour Guys provide walking tours of the area, but if you are looking for a self-guided excursion, check out National Geographic Traveler’s itinerary, which propells you to several stops in the Market as well as throughout the more southerly Trinity-Bellwoods area of West Queen West.
With such an important multicultural history and a status made immortal in such films as Police Academy (1984) and, of course, CBC’s The King of Kensington (who’s deceased star’s bronze effigy now patrols Bellevue Square Park), Kensington Market was rightfully designated a National Historic Site in 2006. Wandering around the streets is not only a great way to pass a Sunday afternoon but also to absorb a slice of Toronto’s past, present and future.
Photo: Himy Syed