Toronto houses many different neighbourhoods that are distinct from all the rest, and a few that have no parallel anywhere else in the country. Kensington Market, which stretches from Spadina Avenue in the East to Bellevue Avenue in the West, certainly belongs in the latter category.
Kensington Market has been a part of Toronto's residential scene since the 1880s, when houses built on the land were erected by Scottish and Irish immigrant labourers. Since that time, the Market has retained its identity as a multi-cultural, working class neighbourhood, although of course the culture has changed.
Today, Kensington Market looks much the same in structure and style as it did almost a century and a half ago. The market atmosphere still defines the area, although don't expect to find an outdoor market here during the frigid Toronto winters. The shops and stores are all located inside buildings, but there is literally something for everyone. But you won't find an abundance of modern luxuries and car sweepstakes here. It's more for unique and interesting items.
As for residential space, Kensington has been exempt from much of the vertical development Toronto has seen over the last two decades in the form of condos in places like Grand Harbour Toronto. While many of the small traditional standalone houses were slated to be torn down in place of high density structures in the middle of the 20th century, the plan never came to fruition. This means that Kensington Market is one of the few areas of downtown Toronto real estate where the modern condo does not reign supreme, although you will find a few condos here and there.
Kensington has a reputation for offering affordable single dwellings to those looking, but remember that those costs are relative to the rest of real estate in Toronto. As the Market's popularity has increased, so to have the prices of dwellings in the area.
Still, many people would say it is worth the price to live in this neighbourhood, which although trendy still retains much of its historic appeal. You won't find a lot of the chaos that exists in places like Yonge and Eglinton; the narrow streets tend to discourage most traffic.