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In the Spotlight: St. Lawrence Market Complex
This iconic landmark is a culinary hotspot featuring more than 120 merchants and farmers.
In the centre of historic Old Town Toronto, close to the hub of today’s downtown sits the St. Lawrence Market Complex (93 Front St. E.)—three buildings that have served as Toronto’s social centre, City Hall and marketplace throughout the city’s history.
Explore the South Market building with its restaurants, artisans and specialty food vendors offering visitors the unique and lively atmosphere of an authentic farmers’ market; the Market Gallery with changing exhibits dedicated to Toronto’s art, culture and history; and the Market Kitchen with cooking classes for all ages and abilities.
In the North Market building, you’ll find the farmers’ market where farmers arrive every Saturday at dawn to sell their meat, cheese and produce—just as they have been doing for more than 200 years. St. Lawrence Hall, which contains the magnificent Great Hall, continues to be Toronto’s favourite site for social and business functions. Complete your visit with a walking tour of the St. Lawrence Market Complex to hear about its 200-year history.
Places to eat in St. Lawrence Market
Known for its breadth of options and best-of-the-best quality, St. Lawrence Market has no shortage of places to snack, dine or imbibe.
Buster’s Sea Cove
With a beloved fish and chips recipe, made from fresh seafood, this humble chippie is perfect for a satisfying lunch. Buster’s has been a mainstay at the market for several years, making it one of Toronto’s favourite St. Lawrence eateries.
Crepe It Up Café
The heavy nod to Canada’s French linkage is clear with this fresh creperie. Order exactly what you love to eat with your crepes and watch the chefs grill it up right in front of you.
For almost 20 years, Yip’s kitchen has provided mouth-watering Chinese food to St. Lawrence customers. With a constant carousel of new customers, your food is always fresh—though you should expect to wait in line because Yip’s is just that popular.
If the words spanakopita or baklava strike your fancy, plan a stop to Yianni’s Kitchen, the best place for Greek food in Toronto. With tasty Greek omelettes for breakfast and juicy roast lamb for lunch, there’s no shortage of new things to try at this restaurant.
Things to see at St. Lawrence Market
In 2012, National Geographic spotlighted the world’s best food markets in a special article entitled “Food Journeys of a Lifetime.” St. Lawrence Market outranked New York’s Union Square Greenmarket and St. Lucia’s Castries Market to claim the top spot.
A visit to the market makes it easy to understand why. Row upon row of locally grown produce, freshly baked goods, gourmet cured meats, specialty cheeses, preserves, soups, sandwiches and international foods are enough to make anyone’s mouth water. And the friendly vendors will make you feel at home as you take in the sounds, sights and smells of this cosmopolitan marketplace.
St. Lawrence Market may be known primarily for its food, but it’s also a great destination for shopping and activities, especially during the iconic Saturday Farmers’ Market. Each weekend, local farmers and artisans set up shop indoors and outdoors, filling the complex with delicious and beautiful treasures for you to buy.
On Sundays, the market transforms into an antique shop with the finest wares of times past. From unique rugs and furniture to quirky tchotchkes to bring home, perusing the Sunday Antique Market is a uniquely Torontonian experience.
During a normal weekday, local craftspeople and artisans come to the market to set up shop and display their wares. With everything from handcrafted jewellery, to quality natural clothing, to accessories, crafts and souvenirs, it’s an ideal place to find that perfect one-of-a-kind item.
If you’re feeling inspired by the endless selection of gourmet food, why not drop by for one of the market’s cooking classes to learn how to prepare culinary masterpieces of your own? With classes on everything from baking to knife skills to cooking with wine, there’s no better place to hone your skills as a chef.
The history of St. Lawrence Market
- 1803: Lt. Governor Peter Hunter proclaims that all the land north of Front, west of Jarvis, south of King and east of Church Street, would be officially known as the Market Block
- 1831: The original wooden market building is replaced by a brick structure
- 1845: City Council moves into the Council Chambers on the second floor of the market building
- 1849: The Great Fire of Toronto destroys the brick structure and much of the city. Plans are drawn up to rebuild the Market Block to include a new St. Lawrence Hall
- 1850: St. Lawrence Hall, designed by William Thomas, is unveiled and quickly becomes the social centre of the city
- 1851: A new North Market building is constructed at the south end of St. Lawrence Hall
- 1904: The City Hall building is demolished and a new one is built to accommodate Toronto’s growing population
- 1967: The third floors of the building are restored as part of the City of Toronto’s Centennial project
- 1968: The North Market is demolished and replaced with the present-day building
- 1972: A group of Torontonians propose to the City of Toronto’s Property Department that the historic South Market building be renovated. Originally the planning board had discussed demolishing it
- 1974: Renovations begin with funding from a Federal-Provincial Winter Capital Projects Fund
- 1977: The City Property Department obtains approval to restore the original City Hall
- 1978: Renovations are completed at the South Market. The basement is gutted and made available for retail use
- 1979: The Market Gallery opens on March 7, 1979
- 2003: St. Lawrence Market celebrates its 200th anniversary
How to get to St. Lawrence Market Complex
By car: From downtown, drive along Dundas Street West. Turn onto King Street or the Esplanade to land at either end of the market complex.
Parking: At Saturday markets, park downtown for $1 per hour. All other times, paid parking is available at the market and around the surrounding streets.
By subway: The Route 1 subway to King Station drops you off about a five-minute walk from the market.