Many people simply don’t visit Amman. They are going directly to the more famous Petra or the Red Sea, not knowing that Amman has so many things to offer.
Amman is the gateway for all tourists who choose to visit Jordan and you should spend at least a few days here.
The city lays over 19 hills and has over 3000 years of history behind it. It will “strike you” from the first sight with a contrasting image between new and old: the western part of the city is undergoing a spectacular development with imposing buildings, malls, and modern districts, but just a few streets away you can enter in another world: the old city, with its maze of streets, old buildings, markets, spice shops, street vendors and crazy traffic. Total madness!
Ok, the city doesn’t have the luxury of the Emirate or the history of Jerusalem or Damascus, nor the oil and money of their more fortunate neighbors, but Amman has the hospitality of the people who are ready anytime to invite you to their house for tea. They have also the culture and old customs, the colorful shops and beautiful landscapes with Arab style houses built on the hills, and…the amazing food.
We arrived at Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport around noon and we were picked up by a hired driver (we arranged for a car with our hotel). We booked a hotel in the old city to be in the middle of the real charm of Amman.
Many people consider the old city center a dangerous place to stay in or visit, but for us, it was authentic and brought us closer to the real people of Jordan.
We spend few days in Nobel Hotel, in the old city center, a hotel which we do not recommend for many reasons.
Things to do in Amman
Indulge in the Jordanian Cuisine
The first thing that we did was to look for a restaurant to eat in. Due to its geographical location, Jordanian cuisine has many influences from Persia, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. It is said to be one of the most delicious cuisines in the world. So, while in Jordan, don’t miss the delicious food like Mansaf, Zarb, Mezze, Knafeh.
We went to Al-Quds Restaurant in the center (must try here the Mansaf dish) and we had our delicious desert at Habiba restaurant; it’s 100 m from Al-Quds Restaurant (must try here Knafeh). Later on, we discovered a local restaurant called Cairo, somewhere close to the Grand Husseini Mosque. The place doesn’t look so clean, but the food is authentic and they have very good prices. The small restaurant is nontouristic, locals are coming here to eat. Alcohol, on the other hand, is really expensive.
Strolling the old city
After dinner, we had a walk in the old center.
There is no better way to know the real Jordanians than to visit the old city of Amman.
Downtown Amman is an experience next to none, you’ll experience the real traditional Middle Eastern country with authentic clothes shops, herbs, traditional restaurants (sweets like knafeh and food like falafel, houmous and so many more).We went to a vegetable market where we bought delicious fruits and nuts.
Everything there was authentic. We even sow people roasting coffee with cardamom outside in the street. It was cool!
Visit the Citadel
Amman is built on the sands of time with a history of over 3,000 years and is one of the most important cities in the region. It was the capital of the Ammonites, then led by the Persians, Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Byzantines or the Ottomans. Amman has a history as old as Jerusalem or Damascus.
The Amman Citadel is located on top of a hill overlooking the old city.
The area of the citadel dates back as far as the Bronze Age. Since then many things changed during the Iron Age, Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad eras. Today only a few things remained.
– The Temple of Hercules which was built by the Romans. Today only a few parts of the structure remain.
-The remains of Umayyad Palace are the best-preserved structure at the Citadel.
The palace originally covered a large complex of buildings, most of it was destroyed by an earthquake.
-Within the citadel, there are the ruins of a Byzantine church. All that remains of the church today are pillars, the floor plan, and some mosaics.
The Amman Citadel should be at the top of your itinerary. Because of its archaeological significance but mostly for its unique panoramic view of the city.
Watching the sunset or sunrise from the citadel hill is one of the most romantic things to do in Amman. Entrance to the Amman Citadel costs 2 JOD or it comes free with the Jordan Pass.
8.00-19.00 Saturdays to Thursdays between April and September
8.00-16.00 Saturdays to Thursdays between October and March.
10.00-16.00 on Fridays
You can walk up to the citadel (be aware of the many steps) or take a taxi (1 JOD)
This is another historical must-see in Amman and an amazing thing in almost perfect condition.
Roman theatre is one of the most important legacies of Roman Philadelphia (Amman’s name during the Roman empire). It could hold up to 6000 people. Although the theatre was restored with non-original materials, the outcome is an impressive attraction.
Today cultural events are hosted and I recommend to find out the events schedule because a concert in a Roman theater can be amazing.
Roman Theater is located at a 20 min walk from Amman’s citadel and has a free entrance.
Take a day trip to Jerash
The next day after our arrival, we rented a car and went on a day trip to Jerash, which is one of the best-preserved Roman ruins in the world. You will be able to walk in the hippodrome which once hosted chariot races watched by 20,000 spectators or Hadrian’s Arch, built to commemorate the visit of the Emperor. The site is well preserved and it’s easy to imagine the grandeur of the city that once was.
We drove north from Amman to Jerash for about 1h.
The Entrance fee is included in the Jordan Pass.
Take a day trip to Mount Nebo and the Baptism Site
On our third day in Amman, we decided to have a day trip to Mount Nebo and the Baptism Site. First thing in the morning we headed to Mount Nebo.
You shouldn’t miss heading to Mount Nebo, where Moses first glimpsed the Promised Land after having led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt.
It is not a particularly tall mountain, but the view is amazing. This is believed to be where God led Moses to show him Israel and the Promise Land.
Today the mountaintop is a popular pilgrimage site with a fourth-century church and view of the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea. On a clear day, you can see Jerusalem in the distance.
We drove from Amman for about 35 km.
The entrance fee is 2 JOD and it is not covered by Jordan Pass.
Whether you are a Christian or not, you can’t ignore the historical significance of this site.
Also known as Al-Maghtas, is a peaceful holy site where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus. Right from the beginning, in the Byzantine era, Christians considered this a worship place and conducted baptisms of their own.
Even today, it is not uncommon to hold baptisms at this site.
The River Jordan splits the two countries: Israel and Jordan and there are Baptism sites on both shores.
The Baptism Site in Jordan is located on the eastern bank of the River Jordan and it is not as well-known comparing with the Israel shore although it is UNESCO World Heritage Site. The place is surrounded by baptism pools and calm, quiet caves in which monks worshipped, it is easy to appreciate the stunning spirituality of this holy place.
The Baptism Site is open daily from :
Winter Time (Nov.1 – April 1)8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. (Last entry 3:00 pm)
Summer Time (April 2 – Oct.31)8:30 a.m – 6:00 p.m (Last entry 5:00 pm)
Entrance fee: Other Nationalities: 12 JOD included in Jordan Pass if you pay extra for this site (+8JOD instead of 12JOD)
The shuttle bus and local guide are included in the entrance fees.
For us this day was a special one because we visited these places on Christmas Eve, so everything had a special meaning.
Enjoy the rainbow street
For fun, coffee and cocktails go to Rainbow Street in Amman. The old buildings have been modernized, new terraces have risen.
Amman was our base for a few days, while we discovered the soundings, for this reason, we didn’t spend a full day in Amman. Mostly we enjoyed the morning and the evening.
But we enjoyed Amman. It has character! It is vibrant! It is unique!
What to expect in Amman:
Language: Locals speak Arabic, but most people in Amman have a basic knowledge of English.
Dress code: In Amman is much more relaxed on women’s clothing compared to other places in the Middle East. But women should dress more respectfully. Don’t wear something too tight, or too revealing, and no shorts or short skirts.
Credit Cards: ATMs can be found in many places around the city, while major hotels and restaurants will accept Mastercard and Visa. But it is better to have all the time cash.
Safety: Amman is a safe city, but of course you should pay attention to your belongings.
Driving: Driving in Amman is crazy.
Climate: Amman is quite warm throughout the year, winter is not harsh. Of course, it will be colder comparing with the rest of the country.
The best time to visit is spring and autumn when the temperatures are pleasant.
If you want to know more things about what to know before visiting Jordan you can read HERE.
How to reach the city center:
Will cost about 22JOD (40-60 min)
Airport Express Bus, it is easy to get downtown since it operates 24 hours from Queen Alia Airport. Depart every 30 minutes from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm, and every 60 minutes from 6:00 pm to 00:00 am.
Travel time to/from the airport to Tabarbour bus station in Amman -with a stop at the 7th Circle- it takes about 45-60 minutes.
There are three main bus stations: Tabarbour, Abdali and JEET.
The Airport Express bus one-way fare is 2.50 JOD
Tickets can be purchased at the official kiosks within the airport premises
From Tabarbour to the city center you can take a taxi or another bus.
This is another option. Best one in our case, because we were a group of 9 people.
In Amman accommodation is not the best.
The rooms are very affordable in Jordan, if you choose from 3 stars or below, will cost up to 30 euros for a double room. But pay attention to the conditions. Although on Booking.com they looked great and had just as good grades, they didn’t look too promising on the spot.
You can find budget hotels or hostels that offer rooms for around 7-10 euros/night.
You can find everywhere hotel for around 30 euros/night for 3-4 stars. But you should choose wisely and read the review, because most of the time, on the booking site it is not shown the reality.
Most of luxury world known hotels are in Amman if luxury is your type of trip. But it will come with a price.
We spent 3 days in Amman, which was the starting point of our 2 weeks itinerary around Jordan. The next stop was Dana Biosphere Reserve where we had an amazing hike around the canyon. More things about Dana you can read in our article HERE.
If you are interested in the full itinerary you can find that article HERE.