Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Kingston
Jamaica’s most famous son is Reggae musician Bob Marley, who came from the island’s capital of Kingston. And in the uptown part of the city, the Bob Marley Museum, which occupies the singer’s former home and recording studio, in the most popular tourist attraction on the island. Marley lived and recorded music in the colonial-era home from 1975 until he was killed in 1981, and the home-turned-museum remains much as he left it, including bullet holes in the wall from an assassination attempt. A visit to the museum includes an hour-long tour of the home, during which you can see Marley’s gold and platinum records hanging on the walls, articles of his clothing, and his favorite guitar still resting beside his bed. Behind the home is his recording studio where you can see photos of the legend and watch a short film. The on-site One Love Café serves some of Marley’s favorite food and drink, and you can pick up souvenirs in the gift shop.
Jamaica’s National Gallery is the biggest and oldest public art museum in the British Caribbean. Opened in 1974, the gallery features an impressive collection of Jamaican art. Visitors explore the works chronologically, starting with exceptionally rare woodcarvings from the Taino people who lived in the Caribbean before Columbus, moving through the colonial eras into the modern day. There’s an entire exhibit devoted to the works of sculptor Edna Manley, considered the mother of modern Jamaican art. Temporary exhibits showcase contemporary artists.
Kingston’s largest green space is National Heroes Park, a 50-acre former horse track that now features monuments to important figures from Jamaican history. Among them are monuments and tombs to people like Marcus Garvey, Normal Manley and Sir Alexander Bustamante, among many others. There’s also a war memorial to Jamaicans who died in WWI, which was relocated here from an earlier locations, and it’s the site of memorial gatherings on Remembrance Day.
Take a break from the hustle of Kingston with a visit to Emancipation Park, a seven-acre swath of green space in the New Kingston area of the Jamaican capital. It’s a popular spot for local to have lunch or walk the track around the park’s perimeter. Within the park you’ll find fountains and gardens of native and imported plants. Art pieces also dot the scenery, including the “Redemption Song” statue at the park entrance, honoring native son Bob Marley, and there are also African Adinkra symbols incorporated in the scenery, like the Futumfrafo, a two-headed crocodile, on the sides of the benches, and the Wafa Aba, seed of the Wafa Tree, decorating the top of the perimeter fence.
In the late 1600s, Jamaica’s Port Royal was second only to Boston as the largest European city in the New World, but it also had a reputation as the “most wicked and sinful city in the world,” a hot bed of pirates, rum and brothels. The settlement is at the end of a spit of land wrapping around Kingston Harbour, and in 1692, a devastating earthquake sent much of the town into the sea, where it still lies underwater. Today, visitors can take walking tours of spots built in the same locating, including Fort Charles and the Giddy House, which rests at an odd angle from another earthquake in 1907.
Originally built as Fort Cromwell in the mid-1650s, Fort Charles was one of the few structures that survived the 1692 earthquake that sent much of Port Royal into the sea. Reconstructed after the earthquake, it continued to be used as a British fort and a headquarters for the British Navy. Even Admiral Horatio Nelson did time as a lieutenant here during 1779. Today it houses the Fort Charles Maritime Museum, which includes a reproduction of Nelson's quarters, among other artifacts and exhibits. On the grounds is a former artillery storehouse now called the Giddy House because it was twisted sideways by another earthquake in 1907.
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