Amman has so much to offer visitors! It’s a mix of old world and new world with its modern cafes, art galleries, ancient ruins, hip bars and bustling souks. I would recommend spending at least two days exploring the city during your time in Jordan. It’s also a great jumping off point for a lot of days trips.
Getting Around Amman
The easiest way to get around Amman is by Taxi. Taxis are all over and relatively cheap. Make sure the driver turns on the meter or you negotiate the price (usually between 1-3 JD a journey) beforehand. It can also help to know the name of your destination in Arabic. Street addresses are rarely used and most taxis work my landmarks in specific locations.
If you want to avoid having to potentially negotiate the price and also be able to make sure you know where you are going, then Uber is the easiest way to go.
While Amman isn’t the most walkable of cities, if you are exploring the downtown area, much of it can be done by foot. A lot of the downtown area is hilly and has lots of stairs so you might find it easier to take a shared taxi (up to JD 1) up to some of the sites, like the Citadel. The shared taxis are usually waiting on some of the steeper hills to take people up.
Safety in Jordan
I’ve read a variety of crazy misconceptions about Jordan on some other blogs, and I often get asked if it is safe to visit Jordan given that it is situated in a part of the world that is currently fraught with political challenges and humanitarian needs. In my experience, I’ve felt very safe living in and traveling throughout the country. Jordan has a strong culture of hospitality – and from the hectic streets of urban Amman to the quieter more rural villages, I’m sure you’ll feel welcome wherever you go. Just use the same common sense you would use in any new place you visit. Watch your valuables, don’t wander alone late at night and dress and act in a manner appropriate to where you are visiting.
1. Check out the street art of downtown Amman
Street art is a relatively new thing in Jordan, but amazing works have started to pop up all over the city. A lot of great pieces are located in downtown Amman and can be easily found while seeing other sites in the area. Some of the messages behind pieces are thought provoking, while others are purely aesthetically appealing and add vibrancy to a city filled with beige colored buildings. While street art is increasingly becoming more accepted in Amman, it’s still a region steeped in tradition and artists have to steer away from anything religious, political or controversial.
2. Watch the sunset from the Citadel
One of my favorite things to do in Amman is to watch the sunset from atop the Citadel, which provides expansive views across the city. The view is particularly beautiful at golden hour and sunset when the sun shines soft orange, red and pink hues across the ruins of the Citadel and the surrounding city-scape. One of the most historic sites in Amman, the Citadel sits on the highest of the seven hills that make up Amman, Jabal al-Qal’a. It is a short walk from downtown, albeit a steep one. Don’t miss the Jordan Archaelogical Museum while you’re there as well.
Entrance cost: 3 JD ($4)
3. Sit on the steps of the Roman Amphitheater
Near the Citadel and downtown area of Amman is the Roman Amphitheater, which is another historic site that you should not miss on a visit to Amman. The 6,000 seat theater dates back to Roman times when Amman was known as Philadelphia. During my time living in Amman, I loved to sit on the steps on a sunny winter day and read. In the summer there are sometimes concerts in the theater itself. It’s worth checking with the Jordan Tourism office before your trip to see if any will be on.
Entrance cost: 2 JD ($3)
4. Eat Shawerma at Reem
You can’t visit Jordan without trying shawerma and one of the favorite spots among locals in Amman is Reem. Located in “the second circle”, this tiny family run joint, with its open-air storefront, is always pumping out shawerma. Confused about what shawerma is? Originally Greek or Turkish, it’s basically marinated meat grilled on an upright skewer, then shaved off in bits and rolled in a pita with other fillings. What makes it so unique at Reem is the marinade for the meat, which is a secret family restaurant that only the sons now know. For only about $1, you too can experience the famous Shawerma at Reem!
5. Umayyad Palace
The Umayyad Palace is a large palatial complex from the Umayyad period, located on the Citadel Hill of Amman, Jordan. Built during the first half of the 8th century, it is now largely ruined, with a restored domed entrance chamber, known as the “kiosk” or “monumental gateway”.
6. Wander the shops of downtown Amman
Downtown Amman, or Al Balad as it’s also known, is no short of shops and cafes. You can buy traditionally embroidered clothes, make your own perfume, buy spices, eat sweets, or simply just people watch. There are so many shops to discover that my best advice is to just wander throughout the downtown area and let yourself get lost in it all!
7. Eat falafel at Hashem or Al-Quds
A Jordanian favorite is definitely falafel and you are most likely to have it many times during your time in the country. Like Knafeh and many other Jordanian specialties, it is highly debated as to just WHO serves the best falafel in the city. A favorite among locals and tourists is Hashem in downtown Amman. It’s a great spot to also people watch and sit among the hustle and bustle of the city. Another famous spot is Al-Quds falafel which is located on Jabal Amman on Rainbow Street. Not sure which one to try? Go to both!
8. Take a day trip to the Dead Sea
Amman is a great jumping off point for a lot of amazing day trips and one of the best is to the Dead Sea. Located just 45 minutes from Amman, the Dead Sea can easily be reached by taxi or bus. The Dead Sea is the lowest spot on earth at 400 meters below sea level and a must see on any trip to Jordan. The public beach is free but tends to be less clean.
9. Visit the Jordan Museum
If museums are your thing, then the Jordan Museum is a must see in Amman. Located in the Ras Al Ain area of Amman, the museum is the largest in Jordan and houses some of it’s most interesting artifacts. One of the museums most interesting artifacts are the Ain Ghazal statues (7500 BC) which are thought to be the oldest human statues every made.
Entrance cost: 2 JD ($3)
10. Visit Al-Husseini Mosque
Another great mosque to visit in Amman is the grand Al-Husseini mosque in downtown. The mosque was built in ottoman style in 1924 by King Abdullah. If you are exploring the downtown area, you won’t be able to miss this mosque. It is the oldest mosque in Amman and has been a main gathering point in the heart of the city.
Tip: Avoid the mosque and this area on Fridays, the main day of worship in Islam, until after prayer time. The area gets very busy and there are sometimes protests going on there.
11. Visit the Mosque Abu Darwish
My favorite mosque in Amman is the Abu Darwish mosque. It is located on one of the city”s seven hills, Jebel al-Ashrafiyeh, and it was commissioned by King Hussein and built in 1961. It’s been built in a traditional Levantine style, but it is the black and white alternating striped stone that makes it so unique. Non-Muslims are not usually permitted inside but the views from outside are enough to make it worth visiting.
12. Enjoy a Cup of Arabic Coffee
My love for coffee does not falter in any particular region. I am a devout café-holic.
Arabic coffee can be distinguished between two types; Turkish and Saudi. In Jordanian tradition, coffee is served in small portions and the host/waiter will continue to serve more until the guest gestures he/she has had enough.
13. Make Your Own Perfume
Ever had the chance to choose from hundreds of scents to create your own perfume? In downtown Amman, there are tons of little perfume shops where you can test out musks and floral fragrances and bottle up your favorite. They even have some of the popular name brand perfumes like Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana, but for a fraction of the price.
14. Grab a snack and go explore
Habibah Knafeh on Al-Hazzar St is very famous as well for their khunafa. It’s a traditional dessert which is a layered desert: goat cheese, some crusty bits, and pistachios on top plus a sugary sweet syrup. I love goat cheese but this was a little sweet for me- but most sweets are.