On your holiday to Jamaica, make it a point to visit Kingston, Jamaica’s capital city and cultural heart. A visit to Kingston will show you a different side to the country that you won’t really get to see if you spend all your time at the beach on your Jamaican holiday. Kingston is large, home to half of the country’s population of nearly three million. It’s vibrant with music and color. It’s breathtaking, sandwiched between the Blue Mountains and the harbor.
You need to jump into the city’s lively scene when you visit Kingston. And while you’re there, don’t forget to see these seven of Kingston’s must-see attractions.
Bob Marley Museum
You can say that Bob Marley is Jamaica’s greatest contribution to the world. This legendary musician brought reggae, Jamaica’s soul music, to the world’s stage. His message of peace and freedom still reverberates today, in music and in popular culture. Although this singer-activist was taken away from this world far too soon, his memory lives on through the Bob Marley Museum. You can also visit his final resting place at the Bob Marley Mausoleum right next door.
No visit to Kingston would be complete without a tour of Devon House, one of the city’s most precious cultural jewels. Formerly the home of Jamaica’s first black millionaire, George Stiebel, the Georgian mansion sits on 11 acres of prime property that formed part of Kingston’s Millionaires’ Corner. Devon House still contains most of its original furniture and décor, thus offering the visitor a glimpse back in time. While you’re there, stop by the Devon House I-Scream, Jamaica’s premiere ice cream shop.
Kingston’s Emancipation Park is famous (though some would say notorious) for its seven-foot sculpture of a naked black man and woman rising from a dome-shaped fountain and looking up to the heavens. Embossed on the dome is a line from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song: “None but ourselves can free our minds.” The sculpture is a tribute to the British government’s Emancipation Act of 1834, which saw the liberation of slaves in the British West Indies and allowed them to live their lives as they saw fit.
Hope Botanical Gardens
The Hope Botanical Gardens is the largest botanical gardens in the Caribbean. Once part of the sprawling Hope Estate, the 200-acre Gardens contains various attractions, including greenhouses, a cactus garden, an orchid garden, fountains, landscaped walks, sculptures, and plant nurseries. It provides a respite against the noise and bustle of daily living to local Kingston residents.
National Gallery of Jamaica
The National Gallery of Jamaica is the largest and oldest art museum in the Caribbean. It is the home of the works of some of Jamaica’s most important local artists, particularly of Edna Manley, the mother of Jamaican art. The Gallery also houses relics and artifacts from Jamaica’s pre-Columbian era.
The village of Port Royal was once the largest and most important city in the Caribbean. Built on the mouth of Kingston Harbour in 1518, this “London of the Caribbean” was the center of trade and politics in the region. However, an earthquake in 1692 decimated Port Royal, prompting its denizens to move further inland. This in turn led to the development of Kingston as Jamaica’s primary city. Port Royal is the place to go to learn more about Jamaica’s colonial heritage. Two-thirds of the city is known as the Underwater City of Port Royal, sunken by the 1692 earthquake. This underwater area is under consideration as a potential World Heritage Site.
Unlike foreign tourists, Kingston locals don’t really get to go on holidays to the beach. Instead, they sail to Lime Cay on the weekends to swim, snorkel, picnic, party, and have fun. Lime Cay is a beautiful islet just off the coast of Port Royal. There are no facilities on the islet; it’s all sand and woodland. While it can get crowded on weekends, on weekdays it’s often deserted so you can safely sunbathe in the nude there if you want.
Kingston is a rich city of contrast and color. It’s a must that you visit Kingston on your holiday to Jamaica.