Walking through Kensington Market feels like walking through an urban museum. Brick walls are disguised as canvases with vibrant graffiti. People can be seen displaying their own works of art in the forms of tattoos and attire. Blue Banana provides the funkiest gifts for every person and every occasion; they sell everything from beautiful jewelry and funky socks, to kitchen gadgets, and a wide array of hot sauces. Get your caffeine fix, and get some studying in, at Pamenar with a vanilla latte — stick around on a Wednesday night for weekly trivia. Kensington also offers excellent brunch options like those served at Aunties and Uncles. The classic diner is strewn with vintage knick-knacks and serves up breakfast, brunch, and lunch depending on what time you drag yourself out of bed. The vintage trend continues throughout the market, with numerous vintage shops to rifle through, such as Courage My Love. While you’re there, browse the bikes at Bikes on Wheels, because you may need to hop on one to get to the rest of the places on this list — they’re faster than the TTC, and a lot more fun.
Leslieville is a modest treasure in the east-end of the city, which has emerged recently as one of Toronto’s hippest neighbourhoods. Leslieville is a tight-knit community that specializes in a slow moving lifestyle. Drinking a perfectly pulled americano in one of the many independent café’s is a common pastime, and the leisurely pace of Queen St. East allows you to take some time to enjoy the authenticity of the streets and storefronts. If you have ever wanted to star on Degrassi, alongside our best friend from the 6ix, Drake, head to De Grassi Street. While you’re there check out Bonjour Brioche, which serves breakfast, lunch and of course, brunch. There will most likely be a line out the door, but the buttery deliciousness of their flakey croissants is well worth the wait. After brunch, count on Desmond & Beatrice, or Bobbette & Belle, to whip up scrumptious baked goods and cupcakes that you’ll want to devour after documenting their cuteness with an Instagram post. With a full stomach and a happy heart, you can visit one of the many café’s that serve the locals. Te Aro is a modern coffeehouse lodged in a converted garage with a beautiful patio. The coffee beans they use are roasted on site, so your velvety smooth latte is sure to be fresh. Of course, Leslieville has more to offer than delicious food, including many vintage clothing shops and antique stores. Gadabout sells unique oddities, accessories, clothing and textiles. If you decide to visit Leslieville at night, they have loads of restaurants and bars that are sure to serve a good cocktail or local brew, including Hitch and Goods and Provisions.
St. Lawrence Market
Wake up buttercup, there’s no better cure for last night’s shenanigans than to get up and explore an area of the city that is made for the morning — the Market Block. Established in 1803 at Front and Jarvis, St. Lawrence market is Toronto’s largest indoor market. It houses 120 vendors, merchants, and artisans who are passionate about the goods they are selling. Produce and meat are brought in fresh from Ontario farms, while the south market houses permanent meat, seafood, produce and restaurant stalls. The north market is open on Saturdays, and on Sundays for boutique selling. The south is open from Tuesday to Saturday. You’re going to work up an appetite fighting the crowds and practicing your restraint, so be sure to grab a peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery — a necessity now that you’re in Hogtown. If you’re up for an adventure, search out Anton Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard and giant pickles. The market block is also home to an antiques market that is only open on Sundays starting at dawn, so be sure to visit on a couple different occasions to experience it all.
Queen St. West
I’m talking way west. Queen St. West lost its edge when its storefronts became a copy of what you can see in the Eaton Center. The big box retailers took over and pushed the small guys out. But, if you work your way west of Bathurst, Queen West’s character has been retained with independent boutiques, unique restaurants, art galleries, and concert venues making Queen St. West the second hippest district in the world, according to Vogue magazine. Trinity Bellwoods Park — which extends from Queen St. West to College St. — welcomes hippies, hipster dog owners, and everyone in between. When you work up an appetite, Chippy’s Fish and Chips across the street serves up one badass Halibut. Keep heading west and you’ll find legendary boutique hotels, like The Drake and The Gladstone. The Drake is a one-stop culture haven that provides food during the day at multiple in-house restaurants, as well as nightlife and concerts after the sun goes down. Similarly, yet still uniquely, The Gladstone is adorned with art installations and hosts art exhibitions and small concerts. If shopping is your thing, set aside a whole day to wander the area (be sure to check out Philistine), and keep an eye on the time because it’s easy to lose track.
Article and photos by Victoria Banderob.