Tips + Trends

Nature and Culture Collide in Calgary’s Vibrant Kensington Neighborhood

When you hear the name “Kensington,” you probably think of London. But Calgary’s version of Kensington — officially known as Kensington Market — is just as packed with eateries, boutiques and cafés as the one across the pond.

Of course, this is Alberta, which means nature (in the form of the Bow River) is never far away, but neither is downtown. Kensington is just steps from the Peace Bridge, one of Calgary’s most Instagrammed landmarks, which leads you south into the city’s downtown.

Chic Eats in Kensington

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Scoop up your Ethiopian meal with traditional injera. (Photo: Getty Images)

As you stroll through Kensington’s chic streets, you’re bound to get hungry thanks to the delicious smells wafting through the air from the village’s eclectic eateries.

Nosh on the charcuterie plate at Vero Bistro Moderne, slurp down Tokyo-style ramen at Ikemen or eat with your hands (using spongy injera bread as a buffer, of course) at Marathon Ethiopian. Or enjoy breakfast all day at Red’s — perfect if your morning gets a late start.

Break Time on the Bow

No matter what time your Kensington adventure begins, there’s no bad time to make the short walk to the Bow River, whose stunning waters — they flow a brilliant blue-green, even on cloudy days — are just a few minutes to the south. Walk or cycle: Rent a bike from Rapid Rent, just across the river from Kensington, and ride it east or west along the 22-mile loop trail that runs along the Bow.

If you feel like adding calories along the riverfront instead of burning them, why not order your Kensington lunch to go and enjoy it picnic-style on the banks of Bow?

Retail Therapy, Kensington-Style

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Pick up quirky vintage finds in Kensington. (Photo: Shutterstock)

It’s unlikely that the crystalline blue waters of the Bow River won’t draw you toward them, but if for some reason you want to get your steps in without leaving Kensington proper, shopping at the neighborhood boutiques is a good strategy.

Create a new look from vintage finds at Peacock Boutique; explore a world of beer, wine and spirits at Wine Styles; or connect with your inner child at Livingstone & Cavell Extraordinary Toys.

Kensington is also home to Pages Bookstore, one of the few remaining independent book shops in Calgary. A trip here is a great way to support a local business and learn something new, to say nothing of the fact that it gives you something else to do should you decide to head down to the Bow again for more nature time.

Kensington’s Café Culture

It’s no secret among Calgarians that Kensington is the city’s coffee — and café — capital, so whether you need a pick-me-up after lunch or shopping, or to warm up after chilling (many months of the year this is literally what happens) along the Bow, stop into one of the cafés for a tranquil escape from your urban adventure.

Savor coffee roasted in house at the Roasterie or pair your afternoon cup of joe with fresh, organic cuisine at Higher Ground, whether you indulge in the sumptuous mac and cheese or take the healthy option and enjoy quinoa salad.

Kensington after Dark

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Set the nighttime vibe over drinks at Hayden. (Photo: Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey)

Kensington is beautiful and quirky during the day, but after dark it enters a new realm of dynamism. Get started with whisky cocktails at Hayden Block Smoke & Whiskey (where you can also down delectable Texas BBQ — Alberta is sometimes known as the “Texas of Canada,” after all); then grab a bar stool at Oak Street Tavern, whose frequent live music and other performances make Kensington after dark a must visit.

Nighttime also gives you an opportunity to finally walk south toward downtown — and, yes, the Peace Bridge — both of which will be lit up and at their most splendid by the time you leave the bars, cafés restaurants and boutiques of Kensington behind.