14 Best Sights in Kingston, Jamaica

Bob Marley Museum

Fodor's choice

At the height of his career, Bob Marley purchased a house on Kingston's Hope Road and added a recording studio—painted Rastafarian red, yellow, and green. It now houses this museum, the capital's best-known tourist sight. The guided tour takes you through rooms wallpapered with magazine and newspaper articles that chronicle his rise to stardom. There's a 20-minute biographical film on Marley's career. You can also see the bullet holes in the walls from a politically motivated assassination attempt in 1976. On the property is a gift shop, record shop, and the One Love Cafe.

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Bank of Jamaica Money Museum

Kingston CSO

You don't have to be a numismatist to enjoy the exhibits at this museum, which offers a fascinating look at Jamaica's history through its monetary system. It includes everything from glass beads used as currency by the Taíno Indians to Spanish gold pieces to currency of the present day. Ultraviolet lights enable the viewing of detailed features of historic bank notes. There's also a parallel exhibit on the general history of currency through world history.

Duke St., Kingston, Jamaica
876-922–0750
Sight Details
Rate Includes: Free, Closed weekends

Devon House

Built in 1881 as the mansion of the island's first black millionaire, George Stiebel, who made his fortune from gold mining in South America, this National Heritage Site was bought and restored by the Jamaican government in the 1960s. Visit the two-story mansion, furnished with Venetian-crystal chandeliers and period reproductions, on a guided tour. On the grounds, there are restaurants, crafts shops, a bakery, and a spa. Probably the biggest draw is the Devon House I-Scream shop, where lines of locals form, especially on Sunday, to get a dip of their favorite ice cream, often rum raisin.

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Emancipation Park

Seven acres of lush greenery make a popular respite from New Kingston's concrete jungle. Locals come to jog, play table tennis, see concerts, and relax. Clowns entertain children, and photographers take romantic pictures of couples by the fountain. At the south entrance, Redemption Song is a pair of monumental statues of slaves, a reminder of the island's colonial past.

Hope Royal Botanical Gardens

The Caribbean's largest botanical garden, originally called the Hope Estate, was founded in the 1600s by an English army officer. Today it's often referred to as Hope Gardens, and the 2,000 acres feature areas devoted to orchids, cacti, and palm trees making it the perfect spot for large festivals, picnics, and intimate gatherings. The gardens are also home to the Hope Zoo Kingston.

Hope Zoo

Lucas, a regal male lion, is the zoo's most popular sight, but there are many interesting animals, including iguanas, the Jamaican boa snake, and a colorful array of parrots and other tropical birds. Exhibits also showcase zebras, crocodiles, monkeys, and deer.

Institute of Jamaica

Dating to 1879, this museum covers early Arawak residents to modern times. Collections span art, literature, and natural history, with exhibits from Jamaican furniture to Marcus Garvey.

Jamaica Defence Force Museum

This museum is dedicated to Jamaica's military history. Exhibits include plans of the forts built around Kingston in the 18th century, as well as information, weapons, medals, and uniforms of the West Indies Regiment and the Jamaica Infantry Militia.

National Gallery of Jamaica

The artists represented may not be household names, but their paintings are sensitive and moving. You can find works by such Jamaican masters as painter John Dunkley and sculptor Edna Manley, and visitors are introduced to the work of contemporary Jamaican artists through events such as the National Biennial and the National Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, staged each July and August, respectively. Guided tours (J$3,000 for groups of up to 25) must be booked in advance.

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National Gallery of Jamaica

Established in 1974, this gallery is the oldest and largest public art museum in the English-speaking Caribbean. The gallery features early, modern, and contemporary artwork (some of it on permanent view) from Jamaican and Caribbean artists. The gallery offers tours, lectures, exhibitions, and children's programs. There is also a gift shop and a café.

National Stadium of Jamaica

Constructed in 1962, this 35,000-seat arena (nicknamed "the Office") hosts national and international soccer matches. It's the home of Jamaica's national team, dubbed the Reggae Boyz, which made strong showings in world competitions several years ago. One of the statues in front of the main entrance honors not a soccer star, but music legend Bob Marley, paying homage to an iconic moment in Jamaican history. During the 1970s, Jamaica was torn by political unrest when the ruling Jamaican Labor Party met a strong challenge by the People's National Party. Armed gangs representing the parties battled in the streets. On April 22, 1978, while Bob Marley and the Wailers were performing the song "Jammin'" at the packed stadium, he called for the leaders of both parties to join him on stage and made a spirited plea for peace and unity. For the night, at least, civility and harmony prevailed.

Arthur Wint Dr., Kingston, Jamaica
876-926--1514

Peter Tosh Museum

In the heart of New Kingston, this museum is dedicated to one of Jamaica's greatest reggae singers, Peter Tosh (born Winston McIntosh). Tosh, along with two other reggae legends—Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer—formed the Wailers in 1967. After the group split up, Tosh went on to have a successful solo career, spanning a decade, until he was killed during a robbery in 1987. Lots of Tosh's memorabilia, including his custom M16 guitar and unicycle, are on display.

Spanish Town

Originally called Santiago de la Vega (St. James of the Plains), this was the island's capital when it was ruled by Spain. The town, declared a national monument by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust, has a number of historic structures, including the Jamaican People's Museum of Crafts and Technology (in the Old King's House stables) and St. James Cathedral, the oldest Anglican cathedral in the Western Hemisphere. Other historic sites include the Old Barracks Building, built in 1791 to house military personnel. Although in disrepair, its facade of brick and native stone is still imposing. The Phillippo Baptist Church honors a local hero, the Reverend James Mursell Phillippo, a missionary who led the fight for emancipation of Jamaica's slaves. His grave is in the church's graveyard. The Iron Bridge at Spanish Town was built in 1801 of prefabricated cast-iron sections imported from England. The bridge, said to be the oldest such bridge in the Western Hemisphere, has recently been restored and carries pedestrians across the Rio Cobre.

Trench Town Culture Yard Museum

This restored tenement building where Bob Marley spent much of his youth is now a protected National Heritage Site. Marley wrote frequently about life in the "government yard," and the area is credited with being the birthplace of reggae. It's also where the Wailers band was formed—they recorded Catch a Fire here. The project was developed by the Trenchtown Development Association, a group dedicated to breathing new life into what had been one of Kingston's worst slums. There's a museum of Marley and Wailer memorabilia and a souvenir shop.

Tours are best arranged by calling in advance, but there is a tour guide on the property, in case you arrive without a reservation.

6–10 1st St., Jamaica
876-859–6741
Sight Details
Rate Includes: $12 culture yard tour; $18 culture yard and Bob\'s Mother\'s house; $30 for the town of Trench Town