Kensington Market and Chinatown are neighbourhoods in the western side of downtown Toronto. Kensington Market is one of the most eclectic and unique locations in the entire city. Everything from fresh food markets to restaurants and bars, vintage clothing boutiques, spice markets, and music shops are all contained in two small north-south streets and a handful of cross-streets. Chinatown, the second largest in North America after New York City, contains many Chinese and East Asian restaurants, shops and businesses. At the eastern edge of Chinatown is the acclaimed Art Gallery of Ontario. And south of these neighbourhoods is Queen St West and the Fashion District, home to both mainstream and independent shops.
During the 1920s, Kensington Market was known as the Jewish Market, once a centre of Jewish life. But since then it has morphed into the centre of Toronto's bohemian scene. Visitors will be assaulted by sounds and smells unlike anywhere else in the city, as narrow streets bustle with immigrants, punks, and yuppies alike. Today, you can sense the city's rich, multicultural mix, obvious in the shops packed with goods from Europe, the Caribbean, the Middle East, South America and Asia. A visit to Kensington is like a sensory trip around the world. It's also a treasure trove of vintage and second hand clothing shops, tucked in among eclectic restaurants and cafés.
Shopping in Kensington Market is centred along Augusta, Baldwin and Kensington as well as all along College Street. Many of the shops on Augusta tend to cater to a largely working-class clientele, with multiple shops selling tough, cheap clothing. Baldwin is focused mainly on food, with some of the finest butchers, grocers, bakers and fishmongers in the city. Kensington contains a jumble of Victorian row-houses housing second-hand clothing shops. College Street is packed with discount computer shops, particularly the closer you are to the university; further towards Bathurst Street, College becomes a centre of Latin-American restaurants and shops.
On Sundays throughout the summer the streets are shut down to motorists, and pedestrians take over the streets. There are frequently concerts, exhibitions of art (visual and performance), and occasionally political displays, which generally relate to ecology, going car-free, or anti-globalization.
Kensington Market is, first and foremost, a market: its shops are generally accepted as some of the finest in the city to purchase fresh food (especially cheese and meat), spices, vintage/thrift clothing and almost anything esoteric or exotic. Cash is often preferred by stores here, especially smaller shops. Some vendors do accept cards, but sometimes only above a minimum amount set above a single drink or snack.
The Market is also home to an eclectic art community, and there are several galleries, many of them free, offering constant shows of local talent. This is helped by proximity to OCAD (The Ontario College of Art & Design. If you see something in the sky that looks like the offspring of a crossword puzzle and a Rubik's Cube standing on pencil crayons, you're looking at OCAD.) There are no major concert venues in Kensington, but especially in summer, many cafes and restaurants offer live music; in particular, Supermarket (South of College on Augusta) is popular with young urbanites.
This is a very friendly enclave, but locals and regulars are protective of their independent stores, bars, cafes and restaurants, and chain businesses have not been welcomed along Kensington's streets. It's a great place to bring the kids and spend a day exploring the world, but it is not a shopping mall. It's gritty, it's real, and it's organic.
Chinatown runs along Spadina Street and is one of North America's largest Chinese districts. This ever-expanding area is home to ethnic Chinese from Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, Vietnam, and elsewhere. A wealth of oriental shops and fruit markets spills out onto the street, and a vast selection of authentic Chinese restaurants feature such delicacies as dim sum. Toronto's second Chinatown is located in the Broadview/Gerrard area, and three other distinctive Chinatowns are located in the suburbs.
Queen Street West
The intersection of Queen Street and Spadina Avenue is at the northern end of Toronto's former Fashion District that ran south on Spadina Avenue to Front Street; however, the garment industry jobs have long since left for cheaper places. The area is pretty much gentrified now and is losing its hipsters to up-and-coming West End neighbourhoods, such as West Queen West and Parkdale, with fewer Starbucks' and lower rents. The neighbourhood is centred along Queen Street running from University Avenue to Bathurst Street. The section of Queen from University to Spadina has become something of an open air Eaton Centre with chain clothing stores such as Club Monaco and The Gap dominating; despite this, there are still enough diverse restaurants and quirky independent shops to make this section of Queen a worthwhile visit. Immediately west of Spadina still contains remnants of the textile industry: a great many fabric shops. Further west towards Bathurst Street, Queen West shops seem more oriented to serve the surrounding residential neighbourhoods, with cafes and grocery stores.
Kensington Market and Chinatown are accessible by a number of streetcar routes, all of which are operated by the TTC. The 506 Carlton runs along College Street from High Park in the west to Main Street station on subway line 2 (Bloor-Danforth) in the east, it runs through Church-Wellesley and Cabbagetown, Queen's Park, the University of Toronto and Little Italy and connects to subway line 1 (Yonge-University) at College and Queen's Park subway stations. For Kensington Market, get off at Augusta Avenue or Spadina.
The 510 Spadina runs from Union Station in the Financial District to Spadina subway station in The Annex. It has its own right-of-way, making it much faster than other routes and even driving, however it can be extremely crowded, particularly during rush hour. For Kensington Market, get off at Nassau Street.
505 Dundas runs mainly along Dundas Street between Dundas West and Broadview stations on subway line 2 (Bloor-Danforth), with connections to subway line 1 (Yonge-University) at Dundas and St Patrick stations.
Another option is the 501 Queen streetcar, which runs along Queen Street through the northern end of the former Fashion District, south of Chinatown. It runs with traffic so it can be extremely slow, and it can also be extremely busy. Just south of that is 504 King streetcar which runs along King Street. It has two routes with overlapping branches, 504A and 504B, and both routes serve the Kensington-Chinatown area. While 504 King is much further south than 501 Queen, 505 Dundas and 506 Carlton, 504 King can be a good option during rush hour because a portion of King Street (including the entire portion along Kensington-Chinatown) has restricted vehicle movements which provides a faster and more reliable transit experience.
The more adventurous can hike over from Queen's Park subway station to Kensington Market. Exit the station by taking a right, then a left, and walk West until you hit Spadina. You can either continue along College, taking you past the border of the University of Toronto campus, or cut Southwest and pass through quiet, but pleasant, residential areas. When you hit the streetcar line, do a block or two more to the West, and you'll be in Kensington.
Chinatown can be reached from the St Patrick subway station. It is about two blocks west along Dundas St.
As Kensington is quite comparable to an open-air market, it's not an especially car-friendly place. There are "Green P" (Municipal) lots in the area, and there is street parking on most thoroughfares, but the sheer pedestrian volume (especially on weekends in summer) can make driving a daunting prospect. In particular, Kensington has "Pedestrian Sundays" in the summertime: any cars parked between noon and 7-10:00 PM (Depending on the location) will be towed to a local lot at the owner's expense.
If you must drive, park on Spadina or College instead. If you must drive through Kensington, keep an eye out for jaywalkers, and do note that most of the local streets are one-way.
Kensington Market is one of the most walkable neighbourhoods in the city. It is located immediately next to the University of Toronto and adjacent to Chinatown. College Street or Spadina Avenue are the best ways to access the area on foot as their sidewalks tend to be significantly wider than most in the city.
At or near Dundas Street West and McCaul Street.
- 1 Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), 317 Dundas St W (2 blocks east of St Patrick Subway Station (line 1) or 505 streetcar to McCaul St), ☏ +1 416 979-6648, toll-free: +1 877-225-4246. Tu Th 10:30AM-5PM, W F 10:30AM-9PM, Sa Su 10:30AM-5:30PM. The largest art gallery in Canada, redesigned from 2004 to 2008 by architect Frank Gehry. Home to many famous pieces of art ranging from very recent to artwork hundreds of years old. Artists from Monet to Warhol are represented here and the AGO has one of the largest collections of Henry Moore sculptures in the world. It has a great Canadian paintings exhibit and the European paintings exhibit has a few excellent pieces. The gallery also has one of the world's most expensive paintings on view (Ruben's The Massacre of the Innocents). Adult $25, 25 and under free, Indigenous peoples free, other rates for special exhibits.
- 2 Sharp Centre for Design, OCAD University (Ontario College of Art & Design), 100 McCaul St (South of Dundas St W). This stunning, fanciful building, designed by British Architect Will Alsop, is a box suspended four storeys off the ground by a series of multi-coloured pillars. The box is connected to the older building below by escalator and elevator shafts.
- 3 The Grange, Grange Park (Exterior best viewed from Grange Park around on the south side of the AGO). The Grange, a national historic site, is a Georgian manor which is today part of the Art Gallery of Ontario. The structure was built in 1817, making it the 12th oldest surviving building in Toronto and the oldest remaining brick house in the city. Visitors to the AGO may be able to view exhibits within the building.
- 4 Grange Park (Main entrance at north end of John St at Queen St W; other entrances off McCaul St and Beverly St). This grand park used to be the ample front lawn of The Grange before it became a museum. It features a carriage way, water features, a Henry Moore sculpture (Large Two Forms), a playground with an artistic theme and the ruins of a church (at John St).
- 5 Uplifting Each Other - Alley murals (laneway opposite St. Patrick's Church on McCaul St south of D'Arcy St). Thirty women artists created a series of murals on buildings along an L-shaped laneway running from McCaul Street through to D'Arcy Street. The project name was "Uplifting Each Other".
- 6 Memorial to Al Waxman, Bellevue Square Park (Northwest corner of the park). Kensington Market was the site of the Canadian television sitcom King of Kensington] which aired on CBC Television from 1975 to 1980 and starred Al Waxman, who was himself born in the neighbourhood. A life-size statue of Al Waxman was erected following his death in 2001, and depicts him casually standing between two park benches as if to converse with anyone sitting there.
- The intersection of Dundas and Spadina is the most visible symbol of the Chinatown community. On weekends, especially, the sidewalks are crammed with open-air food stalls, vendors, and thousands of people from all backgrounds eager to shop, eat, and socialize.
- 7 Chinatown murals, Dundas St W between Spadina Ave and Beverly St. When walking along Dundas St east of Spadina Ave, look down the alleys between buildings as there are 4 long alley murals, 3 on the north side and 1 on the south side, each having a Chinese theme.
- 8 Dragon artwork, Spadina Ave at Dundas St (At the north- and southbound streetcar stops). Two streetcar stops are decorated with dragons coiled in a figure 8 perched on top of columns. Because the pronunciations of "eight" and "luck" in Chinese are similar (both sounding like "baht"), eight is thus a lucky number to the Chinese community.
- Chinese New Year. With the large Chinese population in Toronto, this event grows every year. One of the most accessible ways to celebrate is to attend the Dragon Dance Parade, which winds through the Dundas St. Chinatown (end of Jan. or early Feb.). Colourful dragons, over 20 ft. long and supported by 12 or more people, dance through the streets to bless the shops and restaurants. Drummers, whose constant beat drives away evil spirits, accompany the dragons.
- Because of its interesting history and unique nature, there are several tours covering the Kensington Market neighbourhood. Tasty Tours offers a Sweets Tour where you get to sample a variety of multi-ethnic sweets from different stores.
- 1 Factory Theatre, 125 Bathurst St (1 block north of King St W east of Bathurst St; 511 Bathurst or 504 King streetcars), ☏ +1 416-504-9971. Heritage space with 2 stages dedicated to staging Canadian plays, from experimental to traditional.
The Kensington Market is a great place to find second hand clothing. There are many second hand and new clothing stores spread out through the market. On Kensington Ave, south of St Andrew St, houses on both sides of the street were converted to shops making the street look very bohemian.
- 1 Courage My Love, 14 Kensington Ave (between Dundas St and St Andrew St; 505 or 510 streetcar), ☏ +1 416 979-1992. An eclectic vintage clothing store. A must-see on any trip to Kensington Market.
- 2 AAA Army Surplus, 199 Baldwin St (at Augusta St), ☏ +1 416 597-9592. M-Sa 9AM-7PM, Su 10AM-6PM. The place to buy all your fatigues, boots, flight jackets, handcuffs, etc.
- 3 Bungalow, 273 Augusta Ave (between Oxford and Nassau; 506 or 510 streetcar), ☏ +1 416 598-0204. M-F 11AM-6:30PM, Sa-Su 11AM-6PM. Vintage clothing, mid-century furniture and recent fashion finds.
- 4 Pink Canary, 280 Augusta Ave, ☏ +1 647 495-2479, firstname.lastname@example.org. Trendy women's clothing store in Kensington Market. They are known for their jumpers, rompers, maxi dresses and bum sculpting jeans. All the items are new. Very LA vibe.
In Chinatown, street signs in the area are written in both English and Chinese, and there are two large shopping malls that cater to a large Chinese clientele – the Chinatown Centre and the Dragon City complex, both near Dundas and Spadina streets.
- 5 Ten Ren Tea, 454 Dundas St W (at Huron St; 505 or 510 streetcar), ☏ +1 416 598-7872. Tea lovers will be fascinated with this store, which offers an unsurpassed selection of teas (some unusual to Western tastes), and hundreds of beautifully handcrafted teapots. In addition to green teas, fermented black tea, and ginseng, one of the teas available is called “monkey pick” because it is grown on cliffs that are so inaccessible only trained monkeys can harvest it.
Queen Street West
Stroll along Queen Street West, between University and Spadina Avenues, where there is a mix of unique, eccentric stores and North American chains.
- 6 Black Market Vintage Clothing, 256 Queen St W (between John and Beverley Streets), ☏ +1 416-599-5858. Used-apparel retailer showcasing vintage tees & casualwear. "Everything $10 or less" says the website.
- 7 Club Monaco, 403 Queen St W (½ east of Spadina Ave), ☏ +1 416-979-5633. Source for a mix of modern & vintage-style fashions for men & women, plus accessories & handbags.
- 8 Condom Shack, 231 Queen St W (just west of University Ave), ☏ +1 416-596-7515. Adult entertainment store.
- 9 Gap (1 block east of Spadina Ave), ☏ +1 416-591-3517. Clothing store.
- 10 Kiehl's, 407 Queen St W (½ east of Spadina Ave), ☏ +1 416-977-3588. Skincare, hair & beauty products for men & women.
- 11 Kops Records, 229 Queen St W (Short distance west of University Ave), ☏ +1 416-593-8523. Toronto's oldest independent record store; specialty: vinyl.
- 12 Sonic Boom, 215 Spadina Ave (2½ blocks north of Queen St W; 510 streetcar to Sullivan St), ☏ +1 416-532-0334. Independent music shop with new & used records, CDs, movies & T-shirts.
Spadina & College
- 13 Computer shops. College Street near Spadina Ave has several computer, technology, and repair stores. Computer products sold here may be cheaper than what you would find in big box stores elsewhere.
- Tech Source, 259 College St (south side, east of Spadina Ave), ☏ +1 416-916-8324. Policy: All sales final, no refunds. Beware of the cheap printer ink cartridges; their quality may not be as consistent as the more expensive OEM cartridges.
- Jump+, 275 College St (south side, west of Spadina Ave), ☏ +1 416-927-8000. Apple products. Of the computer shops in the area, this has the most attractive interior suggesting products might not be cheap here.
- Canada Computers, 284 College St (north side, west of Spadina Ave), ☏ +1 416-926-0107. Largest of the computer shops in the area, and part of a store chain. Consumer electronics are sold at a separate store at 366 College location.
- C Jay Computers (CJ Laptop Service Centre), 287 College St, ☏ +1 416-321-2911.
- Modcom, 298 College St, ☏ +1 416-413-9709.
- 14 Canada Computers, 366 College St, ☏ +1 416-926-0107. Consumer electronics only. Computer products are at 284 College location.
There are a cluster of major banks at Spadina and Dundas; don't mind the Chinese signage, the tellers also speak English, as do the ATMs. Many of Kensington's smaller shops will not accept credit cards or debit, so visitors are advised to bring at least some cash with them if they plan on doing any shopping.
There are many places to buy food.
- 1 Jumbo Empanadas, 245 Augusta Ave (between Nassau St and Baldwin St), ☏ +1 416 977-0056. M-Sa 9AM-8PM, Su 11AM-6PM. Delicious and inexpensive empanadas in both meat and vegetarian varieties.
- 2 King's Cafe, 192 Augusta Ave (between Baldwin St and Denison Square), ☏ +1 416 591-1340. M-Sa 11:30AM-9:30PM, Su 11:30AM-9PM. A Chinese-style vegetarian restaurant.
- 3 Big Fat Burrito, 285 Augusta Ave (at Oxford St), ☏ +1 416 913-7487. Su-W 11AM-9AM, Th-Sa 11AM-10PM. Try the Yam Burrito.
- 4 Urban Herbivore, 64 Oxford St (at Augusta St), ☏ +1 416 927-1231. 8AM-sunset daily. A vegan restaurant with huge sandwiches and build-your-own salads.
- 5 Last Temptation, 12 Kensington Ave (between Dundas St and St Andrew St), ☏ +1 416 599-2551. 11AM-2AM daily. Known for its seafood and tropical decor.
- 6 Global Cheese Shoppe, 76 Kensington Ave, ☏ +1 416-593-9251. Likely one of the best places to buy cheese in the city. Excellent, friendly, knowledgable staff.
- 7 Supermarket, 268 Augusta Ave (just South of Augusta St and College St), ☏ +1 416-840-0501. A wide selection of Asian fusion dishes, and the bar is quite popular with bright young people in the evening. A bit more upscale (in decor, menu and price) than the rest of Kensington.
- 8 Hibiscus, 238 Augusta Ave (Near Oxford St). Everything is gluten free. Excellent buckwheat crepes and salad bowls. A meal is about $8.
- 9 Market 707, 707 Dundas St W (Just east of Bathurst St on the south side), ☏ +1 416-392-0335. Market 707 is an open-air food court with vendors housed in retrofitted shipping containers. This space offers various types of international street food. There are a few picnic tables on the sidewalk patio. For washrooms, visit the nearby Sanderson Library around the corner off Bathurst St during library hours.
- 10 Tortería San Cosme, 181 Baldwin St (at Kensington Ave), ☏ +1 647-345-2473. Opens dailay at 11am. Mexican sandwiches ("tortas" according the chef). Specialty: Cubana sandwich ($12). Counter service. Mexican decor with pleasant recorded Latin American background music.
Kensington coffee shops
Kensington Market has perhaps the highest concentration of independent coffee shops in the city. Here are just a few of them:
- 11 I deal Coffee, 84 Nassau St (On Nassau St, a bit west of Augusta St), ☏ +1 416-364-7700. The sign advertising this cafe sports a steaming cup of coffee and doesn't actually contain its name. Fair trade coffee at reasonable prices, by the serving or in bulk. This is also a great place to find out what's happening in Toronto.
- 12 Cafe Pamenar, 307 Augusta Ave (On Augusta St just south of College St, next to Bikes on Wheels), ☏ +1 647-352-3627. One of the newest cafes in the Market, it's gotten a good deal of attention for its espresso. A spacious enclosed patio in the rear makes for a nice place to hang out in warmer weather.
- 13 Hot Box Cafe, 204 Augusta Ave (on Baldwin St between Kensington Ave and Augusta St), ☏ +1 647-308-7845. This notoriously relaxed cafe, located inside a head shop, is known for its private back patio, where customers openly smoke marijuana (so long as they make the minimum $4.20 purchase). Vaporizers are available for rent, as well. Check out the selection of delicious smoothies.
- 14 Moonbean Coffee Company, 30 St. Andrew Street (On St. Andrew St just east of Kensington Ave), ☏ +1 416-595-0327. An enormous selection of coffees and teas, and vegan baked goods. Patios in front and back.
The restaurants are a big attraction to visitors, as the familiar "North American Chinese" menu is all but non-existent here. Instead, chefs in the area produce a variety of authentic cuisines, including Szechwan, Hunan, Mandarin, and Cantonese. Their ingredients are purchased fresh from the stalls lining the streets. And it's not unusual to pass dozens of shop windows lined with barbecued pork, duck, steamed buns, and other more exotic fare.
There is an immense (and frequently changing) selection of restaurants in Toronto's Chinatown. Most are cheap, and many use plastic tablecloths that are picked up by the corners along with all the dishes. They may look bad, but the food is frequently excellent. If you're on a tight budget, this is a good way to go. Bakeries are particularly cheap and filling, and do offer many meat and veg options.
- 15 King Noodle Restaurant, 296 Spadina Ave (North west corner, Spadina and Dundas), ☏ +1 416-598-1817. Th-Tu 9:30AM-8:30PM. An authentic Chinese noodle joint, great selection of congees, chow mein, fried noodle in generous portions. Sit at a big round table with a bunch of other patrons happily slurping and chewing. Excellent dim sum.
- 16 Sky Dragon Chinese Restaurant (龍翔酒樓), 280 Spadina Ave (Spadina and Dundas (south-west corner), top floor of Dragon City Mall), ☏ +1 416-408-4999. 9AM-10PM. One of the premier dim sum restaurants in Chinatown. Almost all dishes are quite good. Much larger variety than other smaller restaurants in Chinatown. In addition to bilingual menus, it has menu with pictures for dim sum dishes.
- 17 House Of Gourmet, 484 Dundas St W (Just east of Spadina Ave, north side), ☏ +1 416-640-0103. A basic but good restaurant. Seafood is quite good here and many types of fish are available fresh from the tank at the back of the restaurant. If King's Noodle is full, this place is a good alternative.
- 18 Swatow Restaurant, 309 Spadina Ave (east side of Spadina north of Dundas), ☏ +1 416-977-0601. Open to 3AM. A more upscale noodle joint, smaller better portions, same round tables, more crammed-in ambiance. Cantonese cuisine, rather than Szechuan, so not as spicy.
- 19 Rol San Restaurant, 323 Spadina Ave, ☏ +1 416-977-1128. Location closed but will reopen at 388 Spadina Ave, date unannounced. Popular both with Chinese families for dim sum lunches, and with inebriated university students for post-club snacking, Rol San has something for everyone. For dim sum, anything with shrimp is recommended (and very cheap!).
- 20 Buddha's Vegetarian Foods, 666 Dundas St W (1 block east of Bathurst St). Closed on some Tuesdays. One portion serves at least 2 very hungry people and costs $8.
- 21 Asian Legend, 418 Dundas St W (1½ blocks east of Spadina Ave; 505 streetcar to Beverly St), ☏ +1 416-977-3909. Northern Chinese cuisine including northern-style dim sum, distinctly different from Cantonese dim sum. Dim sum for 2 persons: pork potstickers, rolled onion pancake with sliced beef, sesame biscuit stuffed with egg & pork floss, pan fried green onion pancake.
North of AGO
North of the art gallery, there are restaurants on the north side of Dundas Street, the west side of McCaul Street and on both sides of Baldwin Street (Baldwin Village) within 1 block west of McCaul Street. Baldwin Village is quaint with houses converted into restaurants and shops along a tree-lined street.
- 22 Art Square Café & Gallery, 334 Dundas West (in mid-block opposite the AGO), ☏ +1 416-595-5222. This crêpe café shares space with an art gallery, where the gallery is at the entrance and the café is in the rear. The Canadian Breakfast on the menu is a rather tasty way to enjoy a crêpe with two sunny-side-up eggs. After your meal, you can look around the small gallery in front. Moderately priced.
- 23 Cafe la Gaffe, 24 Baldwin St (Baldwin Village) (1 block north of Dundas St W, 1 block west of McCaul St), ☏ +1 416-596-2397. Mediterranean cuisine. Medium priced.
- 24 Vegetarian Haven, 17 Baldwin St, ☏ +1 416-621-3636. Staff are friendly and the restaurant is clean and charming, very filling, big portions, outdoor seating a big plus, although some find the food underflavoured. $13.60 for entree and soup.
Queen Street West
- 25 La Palette, 492 Queen St W (at Denison Ave; 501 streetcar), ☏ +1 416 929-4900. 11AM-11PM daily. This intimate French bistro has been charming visitors and locals alike with its appealing cuisine. Favorite dishes include luscious Camembert fritters, garlicky escargot, accompanied by a stellar wine list.
- 26 Little India Restaurant, 255 Queen Street West, ☏ +1 416 205-9836. Good Indian restaurant. Can get very busy.
- 27 Madeline's (Susur Restaurant), 601 King St W (504 streetcar to Portland St), ☏ +1 416 603-2205. Open Tu-Sa. Susur is located slightly outside of the boundaries of the Entertainment District, but it is one of the few options for foodies looking for fine dining in the area. Chef Susur Lee offers 5- and 7-course tasting menus, the style is Asian-inspired fusion. Lee's next door is more casual.
- 28 Queen Mother Cafe, 208 Queen St W (TTC: 501 Streetcar to McCaul St or subway line 1 to Osgoode station), ☏ +1 416 598-4719. M-Sa 11:30AM-1AM, Su noon-midnight. This place at the eastern end of Queen West follows the Toronto trend of Victorian-Bohemian cafe-bars. It serves mostly pan-asian cuisine. Dinner Entrees $12-$21; Lunch Entrees $9-$12.
- 29 Queen Street Live Fresh Food Market (St. Patrick's Market), 238 Queen St W (TTC: 501 Streetcar to John St), ☏ +1 416 599-6111. Built in 1912, this historic building was once a fresh market, but was last used as a food court. As of March 2018, the facility has been closed since March 2018 for renovations. St. Patricks Square is at the rear outside providing park benches under shade trees.
Kensington is a great place to go to find an out of the way quiet bar with cheap drinks and a friendly atmosphere. Spadina and Queen West have some of Toronto's best known bars for live music, like the El Mocambo and Horseshoe Tavern.
- 1 Embassy Bar, 223 Augusta Avenue, ☏ +1 416-591-1132. Cozy place to get a drink, with couches and booths as well as a patio in the summer.
- 2 Last Temptation, 12 Kensington Ave (On Kensington Ave just North of Dundas St), ☏ +1 416-599-2551. They have reasonable priced pitchers of some popular Ontario beers.
- 3 Thirsty and Miserable, 197 Baldwin Street, ☏ +1 647-607-0134. A punk-rock dive with a well-curated selection of craft beers.
- 4 Ronnie's Local 069, 69 Nassau St (On Nassau St just west of Augusta St). A small, hip dive with a patio that is usually jam-packed.
- 5 Cold Tea, 60 Kensington Avenue. A compact bar hidden in the back of the Kensington Mall, named after the code phrase that you can use in certain Chinatown restaurants to get a discreet teapot full of beer after hours. Fresh dim sum served until last call.
- 6 Sin & Redemption (Péché et Rédemption), 136 McCaul St (at Dundas St W; 505 Dundas streetcar), ☏ +1 416-640-9197. Belgium-themed pub offering 80 varieties of beer (mainly Belgian and German brands) either on tap or bottled, plus a menu with many choices. Behind the bar is a replica of Manneken Pis in action. The pub is located across from St Patrick's Church. When the church pastor was asked to comment on the pub's name, he replied: "Even God has a sense of humour." Moderately priced food menu.
- 7 El Mocambo, 464 Spadina Ave (On Spadina Ave just south of College St). El Mocambo has frequent musical acts upstairs and is one of Toronto's oldest musical venues. Acts that have performed here include Elvis Costello, who recorded a live album, and the Rolling Stones.
- 8 Grossman's Tavern, 379 Spadina Ave (3 blocks south of College St, on the east side), ☏ +1 416-977-7000. Grossman's Tavern is a very unassuming hole-in-the-wall that hides it's truth as one of the most respected blues joints in Canada. Many legends have played this room. Live musicians play most nights of the week. Very casual, almost rustic, if an urban dive bar can be such. They also serve food that is extremely cheap and surprisingly good.
- 9 Comfort Zone, 480 Spadina Ave, ☏ +1 416-975-0909. The Comfort Zone is perhaps the most notorious club in Toronto. Opening at 6AM Sa&Su, Comfort Zone is the home of the late late LATE night partiers, and some of Toronto's best tribal house music.
- 10 The Cameron House, 408 Queen Street West (501 streetcar to Spadina Avenue), ☏ +1 416 703-0811. Open at 4pm. This is a Queen West institution and has featured some of the biggest names in Canadian music before they became famous.
- 11 Bovine Sex Club (Bovine Club, BSC), 542 Queen St W, ☏ +1 416 504-4239. The is a Queen Street institution west of Spadina. It has no sign or visible window, but can be recognized on the north side of the street by the large selection of metallic junk welded together as what passes for their sign. It caters to an extremely eclectic crowd of people - some with mohawks, some who wear their mohawks inside their head - and plays an eclectic range of music. If you are not scared by the term 'punk' then you should be right at home. Note that the 'Sex' in the bar's name is purely provocative - this is not a strip club or swingers bar.
- 12 Horseshoe Tavern, 370 Queen St W (Just east of Spadina Ave), ☏ +1 416-598-4226. The Horseshoe Tavern is another Queen West institution, which specializes in quality modern live music. Assorted bands and artists perform almost every night of the week, at a range of ticket prices. Although the name suggests country and western, the entertainment rarely has any relation to that genre, falling instead into the broad category of Alternative Music.
Neither Kensington Market nor Chinatown are major hotel neighbourhoods, most visitors stay in hotels in other parts of the city. Yorkville is a nearby neighbourhood with many high-end hotels.
- 1 Super 8 Downtown Toronto, 222 Spadina Ave (South of Dundas St). Opened in June 2007, and provides excellent quality.
- 2 The Rex Hotel Jazz and Blues Bar, 194 Queen St W (TTC: 501 Streetcar to Simcoe Street), ☏ +1 416 598-2475, email@example.com. Check-in: 3PM, check-out: 11AM. This hotel is nearly a Toronto institution, with the restaurant playing host to some of the greatest jazz performers. Single bed, shared bath from $115, Double bed en suite from $140.
- 1 Sanderson Library, 327 Bathurst St (At Dundas St W), ☏ +1 416-393-7653. Closed Sundays. Wi-fi, computers with internet access.
- 2 Young's Smoke & Variety, 283 College St (just west of Spadina Ave). Closed Sundays. Stamps, shipping services, money orders.
Here are a list of neighbouring downtown districts:
- Entertainment and Financial Districts: CN Tower, Union Station.
- Harbourfront: Harbourfront Park, harbour tours, Toronto Islands.
- Yonge-Dundas: City Hall, Eaton Centre, Yonge-Dundas Square.
- Yorkville and the Annex: Yorkville, Mirvish Village, Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto.