Top Things to do In Amman Jordan
Amman is home to over 4 million of the country’s 9 million people and is characterized by ancient Roman ruins and modernity’s coffeehouses! A city of contrasts, with its age on display in the heart of the city and among the city’s hilly terrain. Yet, it is no stranger to modern convinces with Samsung stores littered among the narrow, winding streets and fast food franchises situated next to typical Jordanian eats. There are plenty of things to do in Amman, whether you are visiting for one day or one week. Continue reading and plan your itinerary for your visit to Jordan’s capital city.
- 1 Top Things to do In Amman Jordan
- 1.1 Top Things to do In Amman
- 1.2 Things to do in Amman at Night
- 1.3 Where to stay in Amman
- 1.4 Amman Overview – What to Expect in the City
- 1.5 What to Wear in Amman?
When you visit Jordan on a guided tour, you will likely have a whirlwind week exploring everything that Jordan has to offer. Hopefully that includes at least a night in an Amman hotel with time to explore a few restaurants in Amman, have tea in a local cafe, see downtown Amman and of course the Citadel and the Roman Amphitheatre.
If you do have some free time in Amman or are traveling Jordan independently, this list of the top things to do in Amman as well as tips on where to stay, what to eat and what not to miss if your time is limited.
Top Things to do In Amman
The Citadel (Jabal al-Qala)
Atop Jabal al-Qala sits the remains of the Citadel, and important historical location in Amman. It has evidence of being occupied since 1550 BC and its advantageous spot atop a “jabal” (Jabal is the arabic word for hill) meant that it was occupied for hundreds of years and it is known as one of the world’s longest continually inhabited places.
Atop Jebel al-Qala lies the massive remains of the Hercules temple, built during the reign of Marcus Aurelius in the second century AD, and the fist of Hercules, the only remaining piece of the estimated 13 meter statue erected at the site, its shattered pieces long since pillaged. There is evidence that the Jebel al-Qala has been occupied since about 1800 BC due to its strategic location. From the top of the hill, you can see the the Roman Theatre in downtown Amman, cut into the side of a mountain.
When I say tourists, do not think that you will be among hundreds of onlookers when you explore Amman. The first thing I said to our guide, Awad was “Where are all the people?”
You can plan to spend about an hour here
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After seeing it from above at the Citadel, the Roman amphitheatre should be explored from the inside. You can walk down a series of steps (past some beautiful graffiti) from the Citadel and cross the street to find the entrance of the theatre. Once holding thousands, you will likely have the place mostly to yourself where you can climb to the top, or preach from the bottom and hear the centuries-old acoustics fill the room as you can be heard in every seat in the house.
The theatre was cut into the side of a rock cliff, likely to protect many of the 6000 spectators it could hold, from the sun. Built in the 2nd century AD it is an impressive remnant and one of the most popular attractions in Amman for tourists.
About 30 minutes is enough time to have a quick look around. Do not miss the Audium, a smaller theatre, once used for city meetings, to the right of the stage.
The hours for attractions in Jordan vary by the seasons, and during Ramadan. If you have a Jordan Pass, most of these attractions are included with it. You can see hours here.
Hashed Restaurant is the most well known restaurant in Jordan and has been doing business for over 80 years. Despite its appearance, it will seat King Abdullah II, celebrities in town, locals and tourists alike. It is a must for any foodie! Dining on plastic chairs, this 24 hour vegetarian restaurant serves up excellent falafel and hummus and I guarantee you will leave with a full stomach! It does have indoor seating, but literally wedged between two building, most of the patrons spill into the patio and enjoy their meal outdoors. If you arrive right at dinner time, expect it to be busy. Try and pick a non-peak hour to visit if possible.At peak times you can see lineups down the street on account of its excellent food, cheap prices and strategic location downtown. A meal at Hashem for two people will cost about 4 JD – 10 JD.
Getting to Hashem: If you are in Amman’s old downtown core Ask any local and they will be able to point you in the direction of Hashem.
Enjoy Kunafa at Habibah
The most popular Kunafa in Amman will be found at Habibah in downtown Amman. Kunafa is a must for you to try while you explore Amman and you can watch it being freshly made at Habibah. Situated in a tiny alley, you will likely dine with over 20 others, enjoying their desert with a foam plate and plastic fork. There are two types of kunafa, most easily explained in English as “soft” or “rough.” One is topped with shredded wheat (kheshna) and the other is topped with semolina (na’ma). Try both and see which one you like better. A small portion is around 1-2 JD
Visit Habibah across the street from the downtown police station. It is beside the main branch of the Arab bank
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Visit the Amman Souq
The Souq in Amman is as chaotic as the streets. Shoppers weave around stalls as sellers hawk their their goods to passerby. When I took my boys here, they were wide-eyed with the commotion of buyers and sellers, with the “Welcome to Jordan,” flashy smiles, and the auctioneer style chants, as sellers compete to gain attention (and well, to make as much noise as possible). It was a busy place, as Jordanians bought fresh fruits, veggies and other wares to take home. While Amman has built modern malls in recent years, and does boast a large grocery store to two (one was even a Safeway), a lot of food is still bought from traditional markets or roadside stands.
Home to Jordan’s share of the Dead Sea scrolls, as well 8000 year old statues, this international standard museum should not be missed in Amman. You will be able to see Amman’s Egyptian heritage, as the city was once known as Philadelphia, after the ruler Philadelphus (283-246 BC). It was also one of the cities of the Roman Decapolis, before becoming part of the Empire around 30 B.C. The museum will help you get a feel of Amman’s long and storied history.
A quick look at the Nymphaeum, a partially preserved Roman public fountain (which is currently being restored) should be part of your itinerary. Built in the second century A.D., it was believed this public bath contained a 600 square meter (6450 square feet) pool. The toughest part of your walk may be trying to navigate your way across the street. While I read a copy of Lonely Planet’s Guidebook, there is an entire half page dedicated to tips on how to cross the road. I laughed at a comment I read online to “find an old lady and have her help you across.” Watching the traffic and the pedestrians from a cafe, can provide entertainment, and a few near misses.
Rainbow street is a popular place to wander and chill. Enjoy an ice-cream, a coffee, smoke shesha, or have a meal at Rainbow street while you are taking a break from the Jordan attractions in Amman.
Explore Amman’s Graffiti Scene
Graffiti art in Amman is a relatively new thing for tourists and is one of the fun things to do in Amman when you are looking to find more than just the tourist attractions. When you walk from the citadel to the Roman theatre, tread carefully as your eyes will be drawn to the beautiful colors all around you. Only recently have Amman businesses and government officials been open to beautifying the city with graffiti. the residents are still a bit wary about the art, so artists stick to animals, flowers and portraits, but they stay away from political messages or subjects around morality.
Things to do in Amman at Night
Some of the popular things to do in Amman at night include visiting old buildings, now housing busy coffeeshops, listening to traditional music played on an ude, or dining in one of the many restaurants. Amman nightlife does not usually include a lot of drinking, but smoking shesha is very popular and you will see plumes of fragrant smelling smoke coming out of all of these places.
If a glass of wine if something you enjoy, you can easily find it, just ask before you enter a restaurant or bar if they serve alcohol. If they do not, they will direct you somewhere nearby that does. There are also liquor stores to buy alcohol, but many hotels will not permit you to bring them into their hotel.
Where to stay in Amman
Amman has accommodations for all budgets and traveller types. It is a huge modern city and has hundreds of hotels.
Luxury Hotels in Amman
Amman has most of the world wide hotel brands, a quick search will bring up dozens of options. One of the best hotels in Amman in my opinion, is the Landmark Hotel Amman. The outdoor pool was nice, a bit cold even in late September, but the kids loved it! Their breakfast was excellent, they have newly renovated rooms, and their staff was polite and attentive to any need. Their wifi was also excellent.
Midrange Hotels In Amman
Three star hotels in Amman are also plentiful. You will give up a few luxuries such as a swimming pool and an international style breakfast but you will save a lot of money. Expect a good breakfast features a more local palette. Go for breads and hummus, as well as olive oil and zater, those are my favourites!
Budget Hotels In Amman
There are dozens of hotels for the budget conscious traveller in Amman. A quick search will come up with hundreds of options. Here are a few —> CLICK HERE
Amman Overview – What to Expect in the City
In Amman, You will not find thousands of tourists dotted like ants among the relics like you would see in Rome. You may encounter another tour group or other visitors, but for the most part, both the Amman Citadel and the Amman Roman Theatre were quite empty in the morning when we visited them. On a second visit, when I negotiated a taxi to Jabal al-Qaia, there were a few hundred school children on a field trip, and I had dozens of selfie requests. I could not say no as girl after girl came up to me, nervously trying to get their cell phone settings correct to take a quick photo!
Is Amman Safe?
Tourism in Jordan is suffering due to the instability in the region but has been steadily increasing and you will find some places with hotels fully booked! Despite its neighbour’s conflicts, the negative media coverage on the Middle East in Western media, and the two million refugees camped near Jordan’s Northern border, we felt completely safe the entire time in Jordan. Safer, in fact, than in many Western cities such as Paris or LA (I have a whole post coming, dedicated to safety in Jordan) You can read my post about Safety in Amman and Jordan.
We travelled to Jordan for the first times in the fall of 2016 and I have since been back 3 times ( most recently April 2018). I expected a high military presence on my first visit, but while there was an abundance of security, it was not what i was expecting. I pictured heavily armed, camo wearing soldiers, and honestly saw 1 person with an automatic weapon on our entire 7 day visit. Before visiting I was not eve sure if armed escorts would be common in the country.
There are different levels of police, from traffic police littered on the streets and highways, often attempting to direct the traffic at busy intersections. There is the regular police, who are doing regular police duties. The gendarmerie, who perform national security for the country (we mostly encountered them unarmed, in casual uniforms, as more of an event type security role), as well as the army. Coming from Canada, we are not accustomed to seeing heavily armed forces, Jordan felt just like home. there was no intimidation from the police or security.
Major hotels in Jordan have metal detectors and bag scanners, which the locals are accustomed to, and it gives an extra sense of security to visiting guests. i did not find this caused me or my family any worry. In fact, the kids were (for once) happy to carry our bags and run them through the scanner. The security at the door were always friendly and happy to show the boys pictures of their scanned bags.
In fact, everywhere we went, we encountered welcoming friendly people. Everything I read about the Jordanians included comments about their hospitality, and those comments were genuine! Most Jordanians working in the tourism industry speak impeccable English, on account of their education and English being taught in the schools. Each person we met, whether it be a coffee shop or a restaurant, wanted to know where we were from, offered a sincere “Welcome to Jordan” and proceeded to give the kids handshakes and welcomes and interacted with them directly! The kids, while a little shy at first, were happy for the attention and picked up on the adults attention quite quickly.
Amman Demographics and Infrastructure
In more recent history, Amman has been influenced by Arabs and Jews fleeing the 1948 Palestine War and more recently by refugees from Syria. In the three areas of the city where the Palestinian camps were built are still known as the “Palestinian Refugee Camps” despite the array of buildings, shops and schools. Only in name, do they bear any resemblance to their original purpose.
Since 2011 Syrian’s fleeing their native country have moved into Amman and other Jordanian cities. The influx of refugees has seen an increase in rents and food prices in Amman. Where rent was once JD250 (USD350), it is now JD400 (USD 565) and the price of food staples has increased as well. In 2018 the government stopped subsiding the price of flour to bakeries, thus increasing the cost of bread, a main staple in Jordanian diet, putting more financial pressure on Jordanian families.
Jordanians are now seeing less money in their pockets as wages have not increased at anything close to the rate of inflation on rent and goods. In a country where half of the population is under 25, King Abdullah II feels his country is in dire straits. Unemployment is skyrocketing, and the schools and healthcare system are under extreme pressure. Jordan is a country historically known for its welcoming nature, but in a country where resources such as water are limited, the Syrian refugee crisis is putting pressure on this friendly country.
When it comes to infrastructure, Jordan is a modern city. It has world class healthcare (If you need to visit a doctor while you are there, it is relatively easy. You can read my post about visiting a doctor in Jordan). There are busses and a good transportation network, although the streets of Amman take some getting used to.
What to Wear in Amman?
Before visiting Jordan I was conscious of their conservative values. Despite being officially a Muslim country, there is a large Christian population as well. Women are not required to wear head scarves, nor is it recommended. The Christian women do not cover their head, so unless you are Muslim, I do not suggest it (unless of course you are visiting religious centre such as temples or mosques).
You will find women in Amman dress very well and match their conservative values with their sense of style. Young people will wear ripped jeans, but long sleep shirts, despite the hot climate, on account of their modest clothing values.
As a women, wearing conservative shorts will not garner you unwanted attention in Amman, but you will stick out of the crowd. People in Jordan do not dress the same as we do in North America. You could walk the streets of Amman wearing a tank top, or Lululemon style workout gear, but you will honestly look silly. It just screams tourist. It is the same way in Paris. Always best to blend in with the local culture just a little bit. I found myself in jeans often, with sandals and a t-shirt. Long sleeves are not necessary, a short sleeve t-shirt will be fine. Cotton and flowing fabrics will help keep you cool in the hot temperatures.
You can find more of our posts on Jordan here.
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