Top 5 Things to do in Downtown Kingston
Jamaica’s busy cosmopolitan capital is often overlooked as a destination magnet. Kingston is one those international cities that is one of a kind. In many places it is an urban landscape that features street art, bustling street traffic, thriving businesses, vibrant people and the other side it’s a tranquil garden-scape, where you can relax outdoors in a hammock under a mange tree. Kingston is a crash course in Jamaican culture. Venture a little further below Half-Way Tree to downtown and rub shoulders with electric energy.
When visiting Jamaica’s capital, be sure to include these five things on your day’s itinerary. These off the beaten path locations in Jamaica’s gritty gem of a capital are sure to stimulate and educate with a good dose of fun.
Located directly on the waterfront in Kingston harbor, the National Gallery houses some of Jamaica’s premiere art collections. It is the oldest and largest museum in the English speaking Caribbean. The gallery has a frequent rotation of new exhibits showcasing local talent throughout the year. Admission is JMD $400.00. On the last Sunday of every month, the museum is free and they host poetry and musical guests. Don’t forget to go upstairs to the permanent Kapo and Edna Manley exhibits.
Address: National Gallery, 12 Ocean Boulevard, Block C, Kingston, Jamaica.
Phone: (876) 922-1561
In the heart of an urban community in downtown is Fleet Street. At first glimpse, Fleet Street is like no other block. Families are out playing football and volley- ball in the streets. Kids are riding their bicycles and push carts. In the middle of the block, artists affiliated with the Paint Jamaica project have turned abandoned buildings and street corners into gorgeous, vibrant murals. It is worth the excursion to see some stunning and thought provoking artwork.
A few doors down from the murals space, lies Life Yard, a delightfully hidden garden oasis operated by members of the Rastafarian community. Every available space is used for growing crops such as plantains, breadfruit, apples bananas, yam, peas as well as compost heaps and new planting techniques. The kitchen at Life Yard sells vegan, vegetarian and fresh juices for a nominal fee.
Address: 41 Fleet Street, Kingston 20, Jamaica
Jamaica’s National Heroes are honored and buried in this park. Walking through Heroes Park is indeed a great learning experience on the people who helped shape Jamaica. Sir Alexander Bustamante, Norman Manley and Marcus Garvey are all buried here. There are artistic symbolic memorials dedicated to Nanny of the Maroons, Sam Sharpe, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon of the Morant Bay Rebellion in 1865. The park doubles as a botanical garden and final resting place for Jamaica’s former prime ministers, governor generals and national heroes. Stroll leisurely among soaring avant- garde sculptures and watch egrets gracefully walk on the grass. You might spot a hummingbird or two.
The park is open from 6am-6pm on weekdays. Every hour on the hour you can witness the changing of the guard in front of the centograph, a tribute to the Jamaican soldiers killed in World War 1 and II. Much like Buckingham Palace’s members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force execute their movements with exact precision as they stand on ceremony. Have your cameras ready, because it happens fairly quickly. Also be sure to load up on sun- screen, as many of the tributes are a bit of distance from the shade of cool trees.
Address: National Heroes Circle, Kingston, Jamaica
Institute of Jamaica
At JMD $400 entry fee, the Institute of Jamaica (IOJ) is certainly more bang for your buck. Enter through the gift shop and purchase your ticket for access to the entire exhibitions housed under one roof. Exhibitions range from the historic Taino to more contemporary facets of Jamaican culture shown in displays, movies and photographs.
Address: The Institute of Jamaica, 10-16 East Street, Kingston.
Phone: (876) 922-0620-6
The legacy of the Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey’s life and work is displayed in this three- story multi-media facility. Visitors will appreciate Garvey’s impact on the world and pan-Africanist movement. This historic building was acquired in 1923 and was the venue for many activities of the Kingston chapter of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (U.N.I.A), which was formed to improve the situation of Black people worldwide. The Adrinka sign of sankofa– meaning, “to reach back and seek or take,” is welded all over the entrance gates. Walk around the courtyard to see the cheerful murals on the walls created by children with the help of volunteer artists. The center also provides homework help to the community’s children. There is an impressive library open for research on Garvey’s life and African history.
Address: Liberty Hall, 76 King Street