Kensington Market: Toronto in a Nutshell

Kensington Market Sign by Antenne Springborn
Kensington Market Sign
by Antenne Springborn

Kensington is a place for reflection. One of the most popular spots in Toronto's downtown, Kensington Market is a place where you can go to help you understand what's going on in your own head and to pick the brains of the creative and intellectual folks around you. It's a place for a cold beer or a hot cup of tea, for food and friends and discovery.

Mural in Sonyas Park by bookchen
Mural in Sonyas Park
by bookchen

As much as I love to seek out new places, I'll always have my favourites — a few gems that I feel will always be places of comfort to me. One is Sonya's Park. It's a tiny, hidden piece of paradise, tucked just behind Big Fat Burrito on Oxford Street. I bet you wouldn't even notice it if you were standing right in front of it — I know I didn't at first. It's quietly joyful, a place that seems like it's been loved by the community, with its bright murals and well-tended vegetable garden planted along one edge and plants hanging from recycled bags and backpacks along that same wall. I go there when I most need to understand myself — when I need to sit and think, and most of all, when I just need to be.

Latte Art by Coffee Hero
Latte Art by Coffee Hero

Then there's Moonbean Coffee Co. on St. Andrew Street (I dare you not to love the "Aloha Soy" smoothie or the "London Fog"). Moonbean feels organic and alive. It's one of far too few places where conversations can spring up so easily between people, drawing them together and out of the foreboding realm of "strangers." People as diverse as the market itself come there to congregate, to discuss and laugh and meditate and ponder the latest local artwork on the walls.

Bubble Rain in Kensington Market by somebody
Bubble Rain in Kensington
Market by somebody

But that's part of what I love most about Kensington Market as a whole. You don't have to have lived there to feel like you're part of the community. You bump into friends and family and meet new ones at every turn. You realize that the market is a microcosm of our city — that Toronto's beautifully immense diversity is reflected here, as if everyone had taken something from their own neighbourhoods and gifted it to this one. It's a place that transcends age and class and culture, and yet celebrates the great variety in all of them. It's a place where synagogues can stand next to Korean restaurants, where the young and old can learn from each other, and where diversity can translate into something breathtakingly unique.

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