My top 12 things to do in Amman
While Amman might be the capital of Jordan and the gateway to the country for those who fly in, a lot of travelers skip the city altogether. Don´t. Amman might not be a typical city destination, but it is a great one and really the best way to get an insight into the middle eastern and Jordanian culture. It is also a perfect entry point for day trips to Petra and Wadi Rum.
Amman is a big city, with around 4 million inhabitants and you can tell. The city is vibrant and full of life. Yes, sure it is a bit chaotic at first, but it adds to the charm. Once you get past the traffic and the noise you will see what Amman really is about.
My top 12 things to do in Amman
When to go | Where to stay | Top tips before you go | Top things to do in Amman | Jabal Amman | Rainbow street | Take a cooking class at beit sitti | Visit the roman theatre | Amman citadel | The abdullah mosque | Hammam in amman | Royal automobile museum | Visit the farmers market | Wander around el-weibdeh | Join a free walking tour | Float in the dead sea | The jordan museum
When to go
Even if the high season is from March to May and prices might be a bit higher, this is the perfect time to go weather-wise. The summers in Jordan are extremely hot and visiting in the summer puts your temper to a test. From March to May, the temperatures are comfortable, making it a perfect time to visit. If you go from December to February it is chilly and you need to be prepared to layer up a bit.
Where to stay
As Jordan can be pretty expensive, Amman is the perfect place to save some money on food and accommodation. I stayed at the Wanderers Hostel https://www.facebook.com/thewanderers.hostel/. It didn´t really feel like a hostel, more like a home. It is very central, clean and with a great atmosphere. Often dinners are made together and it just gives you that great travel community feeling that you´re looking for.
Top Tips Before You Go
1. Travel responsibly. Water is extremely scarce in Jordan. Tourists are thought to use 7x the amount of water that locals do so make sure you take short showers, turn taps off while brushing teeth, shampooing, etc. There’s absolutely no recycling in Jordan, even if some hotels want you to think so by putting out recycling bins. Avoid plastic water bottles and cutlery.
2. Don´t drink in public. Jordan is a Muslim country and while alcohol isn´t forbidden and there are plenty of bars and restaurants in areas like Rainbow Street, make sure to consume your alcohol in those places and not elsewhere.
3. Amman actually has four seasons, and it gets cold in the wintertime, so be prepared! While you won´t need plenty of layers, you will need at least a light jacket and jeans.
4. Getting around Amman is a bit of a mission. The public transport system is limited to buses and they are usually more work than what they are worth. They don´t run on time, they don´t stop at the bus stops and you don´t really save that much money by taking the bus compared to taking a taxi. Walking is an option for short distances, otherwise, there is also Uber or the Middle Eastern version of Uber, Careem. Just make sure before you get in the car that the actual asking price is the price stated in the app.
5. As it is a Muslim country, pack clothes that respect the culture. This goes both for men and women.
6. Most Jordanians speak English, so don´t worry about the language barrier. However it can be nice to learn a few words in Arabic before going.
7. Download the Aroundtown app to find out about ongoing events, cool bars, restaurants and promos.
8. Eat Mezze. Mezze is basically Middle Eastern tapas and it is a great way to get to try a lot of different things. It also usually means a lot of food for low prices, making it great for budget travelers.
9. Don´t be scared of the metal detectors when entering hotels, malls or supermarkets. Jordan is a safe country and this is one way to keep it so.
10. Learn the art of ordering coffee. Amman has plenty of amazing coffee shops and cafes, but there’s nothing like ordering coffee from the many street-side stalls serving Turkish coffee in small plastic cups for almost nothing. You just show with your fingers how many coffees you want and give a thumb up for sweetened coffee, flat hand for medium sweet and thumb down for unsweetened.
Top things to do in Amman
1. Jabal Amman
Jabal means hill in Arabic and Amman is the city of hills, seventeen of them to be exact. So, wherever you are in Amman, there is an amazing view to be seen. Jabal Amman is one of the first hills of Amman. Amman was originally founded on only seven hills not seventeen.
Jabal Amman is located in downtown Amman which is a great pedestrian area. Jabal Amman is home to a number of historic homes and is truly my favorite area in Amman. On Fridays in the summer (May to September) you can visit the Souk Jara flea market. This market is a must if you visit Amman in the summer! It is not touristy at all. It is made for the locals, so even if you don´t buy anything, it is the perfect place to take part in the local culture. Other than the locally crafted goods found here there are plenty of street food stalls and the sugar cane juice that they serve here really hits the spot in the Jordanian heat.
2. Rainbow street
Rainbow Street, the main street in the Jabal Amman neighborhood, is a popular leisure and culture district. It is the perfect place to walk around and take in the atmosphere of Amman among galleries, cafés, shops and restaurants. It is also the main place to go shopping, people watching or just have a rooftop terrace coffee. Going here by car isn’t really an option. Instead, it will be a walk among tradition, art, and history. Make sure to stop at Al Quds Falafel, serving freshly made falafel wraps for 0,5 USD a piece. You might devour quite a few but at that price, why not? If you´re looking to splurge; Shams el Balad Café serves the most amazing traditional meals. They have everything from the most amazing brunch, to everything from the Middle East that you could possibly wish for and authentic and creative traditional dishes.
3. Take a cooking class at beit sitti
To me, when it comes to understanding any local cultures, I usually turn to the food. If it´s because food can tell you a lot about the history that built a country or if it’s how everyone come together and share stories at the dinner table or if it is because restaurants and market places take a great part in modern culture, I can´t tell… But then again it doesn’t really matter which it is at Beit Sitti. Beit Sitti, which literally means Grandmother´s house, is located in Amman’s oldest neighborhood, Weibdeh and it gives you an opportunity not only to learn about Jordanian culture but to cook traditional Jordanian food. Maria and her staff give you a warm welcome and the setting of the restaurant and culinary school has the most amazing view over Amman. You get to make hummus, falafel, tabouleh, fatoush, pita bread and all you can ever wish for is there and it is made with local and fresh ingredients and produces.
4. Visit the roman theatre
The Roman Theatre located in downtown Amman was built two thousand years ago and holds around 6000 visitors. It is beautifully preserved and it is one of the most magnificent Roman relics in Jordan, so make sure to pay it a visit. I suggest going at sunset as you have the most beautiful view over Amman at the same time as you hear the prayers from the Mosque and the birds chirping over the city as the night falls. The entrance is included in the Jordan Pass, read about it in my post about [Jordan] LINK TO travelforyourlife.com/things-to-do-in-jordan. If you don´t have the Jordan Pass, but I highly recommend getting it, the entrance fee is 45 USD which gives you entrance to the two museums inside the area as well. The Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition and the Jordan Folklore Museum. Jordan Museum of Popular Tradition has a small collection of traditional costumes, jewellery, masks and mosaics and the Jordan Folklore museum was established in 1971 and showcase everyday Jordanian and Palestinian items such as handicraft, mosaics and musical instruments. After visiting the theatre head to the nearby Gold Shuk (market), if not to buy anything then to just to watch the spectacle.
5. Amman citadel
The Amman citadel towers over the city of Amman with a 1700 meter wall that dates back to the Bronze Age. Here you also have the iconic Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace which makes it well worth your while. It is located on the top of Jebel Al Qala’a hill, which is 850 meters high, I suggest you wear really comfortable shoes or take a taxi to get there. Beware that if you choose to walk there are a lot of steps and a taxi will cost you less than 2 USD, so if you´re not in it for the exercise I’d say a taxi is your best option.
The Temple of Hercules is the most famous site within the Amman Citadel. The temple was built by the Romans and today only a few parts of the structure remain. Within the citadel, there are also the ruins of a 6th Century Byzantine church. All that remains of the church today are pillars, the floor plan, and some mosaics, but it is a historical landmark well worth seeing. Entrance to the Amman Citadel is 2JD (2.82 USD) or free with the Jordan Pass. It is open from 8 am until 7 pm on Saturdays to Thursdays between April and September and until 4 pm between October and March.
6. The Abdullah Mosque
King Abdullah Mosque truly is an impressive sight. The mosque is huge, built between 1982 and 1989 by King Hussein as a memorial to his grandfather King Abdullah I. It can accommodate up to 10,000 people. The dome is 35m in diameter and with its bright blue mosaic shining in the Jordanian sun, it is hard to miss.
Visitors are welcome every day, except Fridays, as this is prayer day. Female visitors will need to cover their hair and arms. Legs (for both men and women) and cleavage should be fully covered. If you happen to be around and aren´t covered properly, hooded gowns are available for visitors, free of charge. Remember that it is a religious and holy place, so be respectful. It is one of the few mosques in Jordan that allows visitors from all religions.
7. Hammam in Amman
Turkish baths in Jordan? Yes. At least if you go to Al Pasha Turkish Bath. It is a traditional style hammam and it is beautifully designed and gives you a really authentic feeling. The best thing, for only 35 USD you get two hours of soaking, scrubbing, lathering and olive oil massaged by a professional male or female therapist. There are separate times for male and female access. It is open daily from 10 am to midnight and it is really a treat after a few days in the city. Wear a swimsuit/bikini and flip flops (both will be provided if you don’t bring your own). Hibiscus juice and water are complimentary, so you stay well hydrated. If you didn’t like SPAs before, you will now.
8. Royal automobile museum
The Royal Automobile Museum is the place for history lovers as well as car lovers. Heck, even if you´re not it is worth a visit because it really is something. It is home to a collection of cars and motorbikes owned by King Abdullah I, King Talal and King Hussein of Jordan. The museum shows the history from 1916 to the modern-day and displays a wide range of rare classic cars and motorbikes that have a history within the royal family. It is open 10 am to 7 pm and the entrance fee is 7 USD and free for holders of the Jordan Pass.
9. Visit the farmers market
This is the place to get your organic local produce as well as other handmade, artisan items. It is open every Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm . At the market, you can find plenty of goodies to support local Jordanian businesses like locally grown organic fruit and vegetables, jams and jellies, baked goods, cheeses, sweet treats like pastries and cookies and all sorts of handicrafts. There is usually on-site entertainment and a food court and picnic area where you can devour all your newly bought treats and delicacies. I bought both locally produced soaps and lotions as well as the most delicious dates to bring home as gifts.
10. Wander around El-Weibdeh
El-Weibdeh is a historic district of Amman that has now become a bohemian, hipster area with painted murals, new restaurants, inexpensive bars and plenty of places to enjoy live music. It is a hidden gem that not many tourists know of, however, there are plenty of expats in the area. It is perfect for grabbing a coffee and enjoying a more quiet part of the city. Here you will also find plenty of art galleries and up and coming artists, such as the most influential centers of culture and art in Jordan, Darat Al Funun Gallery open Saturdays to Thursdays from 10 am to 7 pm.
11. Join a free walking tour
I joined Free Walking Tour Amman and I didn´t regret one second of it. The tour guide Mohammad was fascinating and so inspiring when showing us around Amman. You learn a lot about the local way of life in downtown Amman, as well as learning about the long and impressive history of the city. Mohammad took us to places I would never find myself, such as local markets (where he got us the local prices of course), shops and he showed us some really cool spots. We got to taste a lot of local specialties and he also showed us the best places to go for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
Taking a free walking tour in Amman is great if you just have one day to visit or if you want to get a great introduction to what the city has to offer. It doesn´t get you to any of the touristy sites, but the guides are happy to explain how you get there. The tour is free but of course, the guides appreciate a donation/tip at the end of it.
12. Float in the dead sea
While Amman isn´t located by the Dead Sea, it is just 1,5 hours away. Accommodation at the Dead Sea is super expensive and I didn´t really find a way to make it cheaper, as there are only five-star hotels around. But staying in Amman and taking a day trip or guided tour to the Dead Sea makes floating around at the lowest point on earth possible even for budget travelers. And honestly, you can´t go to Jordan without a visit to the Dead Sea.
13. The Jordan museum
The Jordan Museum tells the story of Jordan with over 2,000 artefacts on loan from the Department of Antiquities. It gives you an insight to Amman’s Egyptian heritage, as the city was once known as Philadelphia, after the ruler Philadelphus (283-246 BC). It is located in the Ras al-‘Ayn area of Amman and is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day except Tuesdays when it is closed. It is not included in the Jordan Pass and the entrance fee is 7 USD.
What things to do in Amman are you looking to try when you get there? Let us know in the comments below.
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