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Kingston Travel Guide – Things to Do & Insider Tips

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Kingston – Pure Joy of Life and Music

Kingston was founded in 1692 out of necessity, as an earthquake had completely destroyed the neighboring town of Port Royal and driven the survivors to the foot of the Blue Mountains.

Today Kingston is Jamaica's financial, economic, and industrial center and contrasts the very relaxed pace on the rest of the island. The cityscape is characterized by differences: modern buildings against decaying architectural relics. Fires in 1862 and 1882 and an earthquake in 1907 severely damaged the city and destroyed almost all of its historic buildings. The Headquarters House on Duke Street gives a sense of how it once looked. Life in Kingston takes place on the streets. Food, flowers, clothes, technology, everything your heart could desire can be found at the street stalls.

The many food stalls prepare typical Jamaican food, and there is a heavenly exotic smell of spices and grilled meat. Be sure to visit Mathews Lane. The street is one big colorful beauty salon. Everything is possible here, whether styling hair, painting fingernails, gluing eyelashes, or getting a tattoo. Plus the latest gossip or a spontaneous dance contest.

But if you look closely, you see the other side of Kingston. Products stand behind thick glass walls, more and more people move from the countryside to the city in the hope of a better life, but in doubt, they are worse off than before. In addition, rising unemployment and the temptingly fast drug money are leading to serious crime problems.

Yet Kingston is a colorful and vibrant city full of joie de vivre, dance, and music. In 2015, UNESCO designated it a Creative City of Music. In recognition of the important role, Jamaican music has played in shaping the city's economic, political and cultural identity. No wonder Bob Marley lived and recorded his wonderful music here until his death. A visit to the Bob Marley Museum is an absolute must.


Top Things to Do

You should definitely visit Kingston, and that doesn't just mean the Bob Marley Museum, but also the city itself. You don't have to stay in Kingston itself, but can easily sleep somewhere nearby, like Ocho Rios. Be sure to visit the Blue Mountains!

1 - Hike through the Blue Mountains

The Blue Mountains are the longest mountain range in Jamaica, and the highest point is Blue Mountain Peak, at 7,402 ft (2,256 meters). On a clear day, you can see all the way to the south coast of Cuba. It is also home to the famous Blue Mountain coffee. The landscape of the Blue Mountains is breathtaking!

By the way, they are called the Blue Mountains because the peaks are usually shrouded in fog, giving them a bluish glow, especially in the morning.

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2 - Bob Marley Museum - Every Little Thing Is Gonna Be Alright
The most famous reggae singer, Bob Marley, lived in a lovely house on Hope Road from 1975 until his death. Today it is the Bob Marley Museum, a tribute to the music legend and his works. His awards, furniture, stage costumes, photos, and instruments can be seen.

From his bedroom window, you can look directly at Blue Mountain Peak. No wonder so many legendary records were made here. The tour of his home is very special, more like listening to old stories from a family member. With an extraordinary touch, we won't tell you more. Goosebumps guaranteed.

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3 - Kingston Highlights Day-Tour

Many tours allow you to explore the highlights of Kingston. From the Bob Marley Museum to Devon House, the National Gallery, Trench Town, the National Heroes Park, and much more.

The tours come in many combinations, and you can do them from other locations, so you don't have to stay overnight in Kingston. Some tours also offer a meal together at a typical Jamaican restaurant. We find it a super convenient, safe, and cultural way to explore Kingston.

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4 - Devon House and one of the best ice creams in the world

A masterpiece of Caribbean architecture, built by George Stiebel, Jamaica's first black millionaire. Take a heritage tour and see what luxury living was like more than 130 years ago.

Be sure to try I-Scream, a world-famous ice cream. According to National Geographics, it's one of the top ten ice cream stores in the world. Whether it's the classic Rum & Raisin or Pistachio, Mango, Coconut, or the beer-based flavor called Devon Stout.

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Arrival by Plane

There are direct flights from Europe, the USA, and Canada. The Norman Manley airport in Kingston is a bit out of the way, with a fantastic view of the sea and the mountains. You could also start your trip through Jamaica from here.

Airport Transportation

Some accommodations offer a pick-up service; otherwise, you can take a cab from the airport. Practical, reliable and easy to book in advance is this airport transport:

Arrival by Bus

The Knutsford Express is the perfect way to get to Kingston; it stops right in the middle of the city. Take a cab to your accommodation or have someone pick you up; walking is not an option as Kingston has no pedestrian lights.

Arriving by Rental Car

Definitely bring patience, because here traffic jams are pretty regular and also the driving style is a lot wilder than on the rest of the island. Capital city. Depending on where you're traveling from, it's a very winding drive here. If you have a rental car, be sure to get an all-day attended parking lot and never leave anything in the car.

How to Get Around

Kingston has no pedestrian lights, so walking here is zero fun. We tried it anyway, and let's just say: don't! Stand on the side of the road and wait for a route cab; they will stop on their own if they have available seats. Get in and say where you want to go.

The driver will let you out at your destination; you must pay first. Carry your valuables directly on your body, and do not carry a purse or backpack if you want to discover the city on your own. This is not the case with an organized tour. Always take a cab after dark.

Where to Stay

If you want to stay overnight in Kingston, make sure your accommodation is centrally located. Anything close to Devon House / Bob Marley Museum is perfect. Don't skimp on accommodation costs – safety comes at a price here, and you should pay it.

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Where to Eat

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Restaurants we tried and liked
Our Recommendations for $ - $$
Our Recommendations for $$ - $$$

Our Insider Tips

1 - Visit the night market in Kingston

One of Kingston's greatest pleasures is the night market. From local treats, handmade jewelry, live music to artful paintings. There's nothing you can't find here. It's a fantastic way to dive deeper into Jamaican culture.

2 - Marketplace

Visit the Marketplace at sunset. Here you will find restaurants, pubs and the famous sports bar Tracks & Records. Why famous? It's owned by Olympic sprinter Usain Bolt. Try the Nine.58, a rum punch named after Bolt's 100-meter world record.

3 - Fleet Street & Life Yard

Vibrantly colored houses line the street. But the main attraction is the exciting murals. They were painted by local and international artists as part of the Paint Jamaica project. The campaign has been around since 2014, and it all started at 41 Fleet Street.

Paintings full of hopes, dreams, and experiences – each mural tells a different story. The Life Yard initiative promotes sustainable agriculture and teaches children in the community the importance of organic farming and arts and crafts.

4 - Emancipation Park - relaxing and aerobic at the same time

In the middle of Kingston is Emancipation Park. The park is full of beautiful trees, flowers, and fountains. Perfect for a walk, picnic, or fitness. You can also play chess or table tennis there, and there are various aerobics classes. Snacks and drinks are available from the vendors outside the gate, and across the street, you'll find the Sweetwood Jerk Center and Jamaica Pegasus Restaurant.

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