Kingston Jamaica is a far cry from most sleepy Caribbean capitals. A sprawling city of over 700,000 people, Kingston is the largest English-speaking city in the West Indies and the vibrant center of Jamaican cultural life.
Kingston Jamaica was founded in the 1690s after an earthquake devastated the pirate stronghold of Port Royal, just across the bay. The city quickly developed into the islands largest. Kingston first became the capital of the British colony in 1755 and was established as the permanent capital in 1872. In 1907 the most destructive earthquake in the history of Jamaica rocked Kingston, killing hundreds and making thousands homeless.
In the years that followed, Kingston Jamaica grew into
a bustling urban metropolis, the center of an internationally
recognized music industry and a thriving business district.
Social pressures since the 1960s have brought an influx
of new residents and a spiraling circle of unemployment,
crime, and poverty. But despite the city's poor
reputation, Kingston travel is generally safe and enjoyable,
an opportunity to escape the tourist hotspots of Negril, Montego Bay, and Ocho
Rios and see a more authentic Jamaican lifestyle.
Any Kingston tour should include a visit to the National Gallery. One of the most impressive Kingston Jamaica attractions, the gallery features a world-class collection of work by the island's finest artists, including John Dunkley, Edna Manley, and Kapo. The gallery is part of the Institute of Jamaica, which includes such other Kingston Jamaica attractions as the Natural History Museum, National Library, and African-Caribbean Heritage Centre.
A Kingston tour of the historic houses is a trip through Jamaican history. One of the biggest Kingston Jamaica attractions is Devon House, a restored 19th-century mansion. Close by are two residences closed to the public: King's House, the home of the governor-general, and Jamaica House, home of the prime minister. Headquarters House, former residence of a Jamaican legislator and later home to the colonial government, is now run by the Jamaican National Heritage Trust. The parliament now meets in Gordon House, which is open to the public by appointment.
The highlight of Kingston travel for many visitors is a trip to the Bob Marley Museum. The famous musician lived and recorded in this building until his death in 1981. The museum, the most visited of all Kingston Jamaica attractions, preserved memorabilia from Marley's life. An exhibition center and unique gift shop celebrate the life and music of this Jamaican national hero.
The best hotels in Kingston are located in New Kingston or other uptown destinations. Travelers are advised to avoid downtown Kingston at night.
Kingston travel has a bad reputation due to crime and periodic civil disturbances, but savvy visitors will have no problems on a Kingston tour and will probably experience less hassles here than in the tourist towns. Crime is generally confined to the ghettos and is often gang or drug related. Several companies offer a guided Kingston tour to the major sights, but independent travelers used to navigating a major American or European city should have little to worry about.