Small in size but overflowing with people and energy, Kensington and Little Italy draw people from all across Toronto to shop, drink and live.
While both neighbourhoods started with similar immigrant roots, they’ve grown into two distinct entities that still share the same spark of vitality.
Kensington is famous city-wide for its hip market stalls and under-the-radar cafés, and it still pulsates with artists and immigrants strolling through its narrow, old-world streets. Little Italy has become a haven for young professionals looking to enjoy trendy nightlife or start families of their own.
The entire area — from Spadina to Ossington avenues sandwiched between College and Dundas streets — is renowned for being the type of place Torontonians flock to and for good reason; cultural cachet is high and unique offerings abound.
Average property value: Kensington–$361,066, Little Italy–$485,954
Rent: Kensington–$892, Little Italy–$1,064
Homes you’ll see: Both neighbourhoods feature mostly Victorian homes -- particularly from the late 1800s and early 1900s -- in widely varying states of repair from run-down to fully renovated.
Bargain spot: Kensington can be cheaper simply because real fixer-upper opportunities exist close to the market, while Little Italy tends to have higher prices because many homes have already been renovated — although the occasional opportunity can arise if you have the money to spend on an expensive re-do.
Landmarks: Kensington Market in 2006 was designated a National Historic Site and is one of Toronto’s best-known and oldest markets with narrow streets best traversed on foot or bicycle and plenty of throwback-style open-air stalls that make the place a haggler’s delight. Canada’s first multicultural radio station, CHIN, was started in 1966 and sits at its expanded location at 622 College St.
Hot spots: Famous independent bookstore This Ain’t the Rosedale Library (86 Nassau St.) always has something unique on its shelves while Paul’s Boutique (2 Nassau St.) is a guitarist’s haven with walls of vintage equipment to buy.
Greasy and glorious, Sneaky Dee’s (431 College St.) always draws a chilled-out crowd of college kids and after-hours professionals for drinks, guacamole and live bands on the upper stage. Cafe Diplomatico (594 College St.) offers the quintessential Little Italy patio experience. The Orbit Room (580A College St.) is a cool music venue co-founded by rocker Alex Lifeson of the band Rush that features underground bands.
Education: Central Commerce CI (570 Shaw St.), Dewson Street Junior PS (65 Concord Ave.), Clinton Street Junior PS (460 Manning Ave.), St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School (80 Clinton St.), Montrose Junior PS (301 Montrose Ave.)
Getting around: TTC streetcar service along College and Dundas streets and Spadina Avenue. Bloor subway line access to the north at Spadina, Bathurst, Christie and Ossington stations.
Final thoughts: It’s hard to find a place with more tangible charm although homes in the area, even fixer-uppers, won’t come particularly cheap, but the area’s mixture of restaurants, bars, cafés, antique stores and nightclubs is tough to beat for sure. If you haven’t had a late night at one of the numerous night spots along College Street West, you probably haven’t been partying with the right people.