Kingston’s city life is among the best – and the worst – in the Caribbean. There are excellent restaurants, first class hotels and great shopping deals – try the Chelsea Galleries or the Sovereign Shopping Centre. The downtown streets are lined with hordes of street vendors known as higglers. They have a style of commerce that is as uncomfortable as it is unwelcome. Downtown Kingston is not a shopper’s paradise! However, the uptown and New Kingston areas offer a rather pleasant shopping experience with numerous shopping malls.
The city has a few excellent museums, such as Devon House, the National Gallery, or the Arawak museum. Bob Marley fans are in luck. Kingston has the one and only Bob Marley Museum (Bob Marley was a Reggae legend who died of cancer at 36). Much of Jamaica seems to follow Bob’s lifestyle, and the deadly influence of drugs on daily life has really been detrimental to the look and feel of certain parts of Kingston over the last 25 years.
Kingston is also the home of the Jamaica Campus of the University of the West Indies. It is the main academic campus of the UWI and home to much of the University’s academic faculties. Some UC regulars may see visitors from abroad as ‘oppressahs’, so North American and European travellers can expect vigorous and unpleasant verbal dustups with local academics!
In the harbour you can visit Fort Charles, one of about 24 forts that protected Jamaica against invaders since 1655 during the era of colonisation. Port Royal is the former pirate hangout, now restored as yacht moorage and, naturally, a bar. Historians will love the many historical sites in Kingston which have been restored by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust.
The greens might say that Castleton Botanical Gardens, Hope Botanical Gardens and the Caymanas Park are the lungs of the city. In truth, all of Jamaica is an explosion of botanical wonders. Castleton is a wonderland of flowers and shrubs, Caymanas has horse racing on Wednesday, Saturday and holidays. There are no decent beaches in Kingston; the nearest being Hellshire Beach (1/2-hr SW of Kingston). World class cricket matches occur in Kingston, and there’s lots of good football (soccer), too. Jamaica made it to the World Cup in 1998 in France, but was knocked out in the early stages of the compeition.
Live outdoor theatre is especially entertaining. There are few reggae concerts in the metropolitan area. However, there are numerous reggae concerts, mostly dancehall reggae, in various parts of the country throughout the year. The dancing is excellent. The churches are filled with awesome voices on Sunday.