The Local's Guide: St. Lawrence Market
First established as a public market in 1814, the structures have been rebuilt several times since and have served as a Post Office and City Hall before returning to their original purpose of a community marketplace.
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A stop at the St. Lawrence Market is always a highlight when visiting Toronto, in fact it was once named the world’s best food market by National Geographic.
It’s warm, vibrant atmosphere attracts hundreds of visitors daily but also holds great sentimental value to Torontonians. Locals come for the fresh, quality produce and often chefs will personally travel to the market to buy ingredients for their creations. In the market close connections are forged with the artisans, farmers and specialty vendors who are more than happy to share their passion and insider tips.
While the grand and picturesque St. Lawrence Hall is primarily used as office space and rental space for special events, people shop at the South and North Markets.
There is limited parking available, however the market is just a 10 minute walk from Union Station, and accessible by public transport. For the ultimate introduction, join local Toronto foodies at Culinary Adventures Co., TO Food Tours or Bruce Bell Tours on a walking tour of the market.
Open every day except Sundays, Mondays and holidays, the multi-level South Market is filled with vendors offering an extensive array of groceries, freshly prepared food, meats, cheeses, and baked goods. To fully appreciate the St. Lawrence Market experience, visit with an empty stomach and an open mind, since there are so many culinary delights to satisfy even the most discerning palate. For example, Kozlik's Mustard offers 36 types of mustard and delicious recipe ideas to use them.
There’s no shortage of coffee selections for those who seek liquid energy, like the popular Italian Illy coffee from Pasta Mia. While there, purchase your favourite fresh pasta to make at home. Dine on the outdoor terrace of Paddington’s Pump Restaurant, which opens at the crack of dawn for breakfast service.
If you love cheese, head to Olympic Cheese Mart and explore the 600+ varieties. Churrasco’s does a perfect Portuguese grilled chicken – a yummy snack to enjoy while you explore the rest of the market. DiLiso’s Fine Meats offers high-quality cuts of meat, which you can order ahead of time if you’re in a rush. Cruda Café sells quality, organic raw food and Urban Fresh Produce offers great vegetarian selections. At Domino Foods, find obscure cooking ingredients that are not available at most conventional places.
On the lower level of the South Market, Aren’t We Sweet is your go-to for a variety of sweets, authentic French-style goods and chocolates that will satisfy any sweet tooth.
There’s lots to discover beyond food in the South Market, such as Anything Goes Accessories, the perfect place to buy special gifts and one-of-a-kind accessories. Another notable jeweller is Bright Sky Jewellery featuring beautiful jewellery pieces with gemstones. Check out Souvenir Market for keychains, pins, magnets and other reminders of Canada. Intitaita Impressions offers 100% Pima cotton clothing that’s both cozy and breezy, perfect traveling attire.
The South Market’s second floor houses the Market Gallery and Museum that honours the legacy of St. Lawrence Market from the mid-1800s to present day. The St. Lawrence Market sits on what was once Toronto’s city council chambers dating all the way back in the 1840s.
The gallery of photos, art and artifacts are featured in the space capture what city council chambers looked like all those years ago. The museum also hosts cultural exhibitions so check the market calendar online to see what’s happening in the Gallery.
Currently the North Market in the St. Lawrence District is under construction. Once complete, it will be a spectacular state-of-the-art, multi-level, glass building designed to showcase spectacular views of the area, including St. Lawrence Hall and the South Market. A temporary building has been constructed to house the farmers’ market and antiques market that normally occupy the space.
The farmers’ market operates on Saturdays. From dairy to organic fruits and vegetables, many of the farmers have provided farm fresh products at this location for generations. The Sunday Antique Market is another popular attraction that can’t be miss if you’re a treasure hunter looking for jewellery, vintage products, one-of-a kind gems and unique collectibles.