To protect you from the sun, covered arcades lead off King Street, but everywhere many people go about their business, including beggars and the inevitable peddlers who sidle up and offer "hot stuff, mon" -- which frequently means highly polished brass lightly dipped in gold and fraudulently offered at high prices as real gold.
There is no more typical or evocative city market in all of Jamaica than Jubilee Market, overflowing onto Orange Street on the west side of the Parade (Sir William Grant Park), under a roof and in the heart of Kingston. This market was named to honor Queen Victoria's Jubilee. A haven for pickpockets, it is nonetheless filled with all the flamboyant color and drama of Jamaica. Virtually "everything is for sale," one vendor told us, "from Jamaican babies to the most exotic fruits to possessions of Bob Marley." All the Marley mementos are fake, of course.
Kingston Crafts Market, at the west end of Harbour Street (reached via Straw Ave., Drummer's Lane, or Cheapside), is a large, covered area of small stalls, selling all kinds of island crafts: wooden plates and bowls; pepper pots made from mahoe (the national wood of the island); straw hats, mats, and baskets; batik shirts; banners for wall decoration, inscribed with the Jamaican coat of arms; and wood masks with elaborately carved faces. You should bargain a bit and vendors will take something off the price, but not very much.
One of the most modern shopping centers in Jamaica, the New Kingston Shopping Centre, 30 Dominica Dr., is known for the range of merchandise rather than for a particular merchant. It's sleek and contemporary, centered around a Maya-style pyramid. This is where to head if you're looking for the highest quality goods, including local items that might not readily be available in your hometown.
The Shops at Devon House, 26 Hope Rd. (tel. 876/929-6602), ring the borders of a 200-year-old courtyard once used by slaves and servants. It's one of the most beautiful and historic mansions on Jamaica. Four of the shops are operated by Things Jamaican, a nationwide emporium dedicated to the enhancement of the country's handicrafts. Shops include the Cookery, offering island-made sauces and spices, and the Pottery, selling crockery and stoneware.
Things Jamaican, 26 Hope Rd. (tel. 876/926-1961), is affiliated with the government and was set up to encourage the development of Jamaican Arts and Crafts. There is an array of products, including rums, liqueurs, jerk seasonings, and jellies such as orange pepper. Look for Busha Brown's fine Jamaica sauces, especially their spicy chutneys such as banana, and their spicy "love apple" sauce (it's actually tomato). Many items are carved from wood -- not only sculptures, but salad bowls and trays as well. You'll also find hand-woven baskets and women's handbags made of bark (in Jamaica, these are known, unflatteringly, as "old lady bags").
Wassi Art Gallery and Collectibles, 26 Hope Rd. (tel. 876/906-5016), is one of the most interesting shops in Devon House. All the merchandise is made by Wassi Art, a labor-intensive, low-tech Jamaican method. Look for functional, durable kitchenware prized by Jamaican homeowners for its eco-sensitive, earthy appeal. Anything you buy can be shipped home via FedEx.
Frame Centre Gallery, 10 Tangerine Place (tel. 876/926-4644; http://franecentregallery.com), is one of the most important art galleries in Jamaica. Its founder and guiding force, Guy McIntosh, is widely respected as a patron of the Jamaican arts. There are three viewing areas and more than 300 works.
The Mutual Life Gallery, Mutual Life Centre, 2 Oxford Rd. (tel. 876/929-4302), is one of Jamaica's most prominent art galleries. This center offers an insight into the changing face of Jamaican art. The gallery's exhibitions are organized by Gilou Bauer, who encourages unknowns as well as showcasing established artists with flair. Exhibitions change once a month, but there are usually long-term exhibits as well. The gallery is a not-for-profit institution.
Tuff Gong Recording Studios, 220 Marcus Garvey Dr. (tel. 876/923-9383), can be both a shopping expedition and an attraction. South of Denham Town, this is the headquarters of the late Bob Marley's family business. You might even run into his son, Ziggy Marley, coming out of a recording session; his Melody Makers have their headquarters here. Sometimes you can persuade someone to let you in for a tour. If not, settle for a visit to their gift shop, filled with reggae CDs and tapes, records, T-shirts, handicrafts, and other mementos. The studios can be visited as part of a brief and extremely informal tour that's conducted Monday to Friday 8:30am to 5pm for a cost of US$3.50 per person.
Loaded with a wider variety of medications than any other pharmacy in Kingston, the Dick Kinkead Pharmacy, Ltd., 72-76 Harbour St. (tel. 876/922-6525), has been compared to a civic institution. Local residents sometimes head here for advice before seeing a doctor. All substances are made on the premises, including a medicinal toothpaste made from tropical roots and herbs called Chew Dent; it's made from chew stick (gouania lupuliodes), in the tradition of West Africans.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.