The Jordanian capital, Amman, is often seen as a mere springboard for tours of the ancient rock-hewn city of Petra, the revered Dead Sea and the desert haven that is Wadi Rum. The city is relatively 'new' – at least as far as capitals in the Middle East are concerned – so it lacks the enchanting charm one would expect when visiting such an important and historical part of the world. Still, we think Amman offers one of the most accessible and enjoyable introductions to Arabic and Islamic culture. We believe staying here a few days before heading off on a country-wide tour is absolutely worthwhile.
Modern, vibrant, young, safe, enticing and cultured, Amman is a thoroughly enjoyable city to explore for a few days. Fight the urge to hop in, hop out, and stay a while –plenty here to enjoy!
Here are some of Amman’s most delightful attractions you really shouldn’t miss:
- The Citadel: Perched atop the highest hill in the city, the Citadel features the ruins of ancient structures, including the Temple of Hercules, and a museum showcasing artefacts spanning centuries.
- The Roman Theatre: Built in the 2nd century AD, this is the oldest Roman ruin outside Italy! It offers stunning city views and is still used for cultural events today.
- The Jordan Museum: The Jordan Museum is home to a vast collection of artefacts that tell the story of the country’s past, from prehistoric times to the present day.
- Rainbow Street: This vibrant pedestrian-only street in the heart of Amman is lined with cafes, restaurants, and shops. It's a great place to soak up the city's atmosphere, sample local specialities, and taste local daily life.
- King Abdullah Mosque: This impressive mosque, one of the largest in the Middle East, features a striking blue dome and ornate architecture. It's open to non-Muslim visitors on guided tours.
- Darat al Funun: This cultural centre is dedicated to the arts and features rotating exhibitions, workshops, and events programs. It's housed in a beautiful villa in the Al-Weibdeh neighbourhood.
- The Royal Automobile Museum: Car enthusiasts will love this museum, which houses a collection of vintage cars and motorcycles, including some owned by the royal family.
- Abu Darwish Mosque: Located on top of Jebel al-Ashrafiyeh, this mosque offers spectacular city views and is a popular spot for photographers, especially at sunset.
- Souk Jara: This weekly outdoor market takes place in the summer months and features an array of local crafts, food, and entertainment. It's a great place to experience the hustle and bustle of Amman's street life.
The best suburbs to stay/visit in Amman:Amman's suburbs are compact and centred on Downtown, so many significant streets start in one and end in the other. Walking or taking an Uber to get around is easy and perfectly safe for tourists
- Old Downtown (Wasat Al Balad) - the ancient heart and core of the city, Downtown Amman is home to an array of historical and cultural sites, including the Roman Amphitheatre, the Citadel, the Al-Husseini Mosque, and the fabulous Rainbow Street.
- Shmeisani is perhaps the best area to stay in if visiting Amman for the first time. You'll have many restaurants, excellent local cafés and shopping malls nearby, and easy access to all the main cultural attractions.
Jabal Amman is a young, trendy, hip neighbourhood favoured by budget and solo travellers. It's home to several art galleries, boutique shops, and cafes and makes up the first circle from Old Downtown. Once the domain of the elite, including dignitaries, business magnates, and even royalty, this tranquil neighbourhood dates back to Amman's early days as a small town nestled in the valley floors of Downtown. Today, many streets still boast an array of exquisite century-old villas.
Insider tip: take a guided walking tour, and you'll learn all about the fascinating stories behind the suburb's graffiti
- Abdoun is an upscale suburb favoured by expats – so here you'll find the best-rated restaurants, hammams, and shopping experiences. This is an excellent option for those looking for a more luxurious experience.
- Al Swefieh in west Amman, Swefieh is a popular neighbourhood home to modern shopping centres, the Jordan Gate Towers (two of the country’s tallest buildings, offering stunning city views) and a happening nightlife. If you’d love to go out at night for a drink and a little socializing, this is the suburb you’ll want to stay in.
- Al-Weibdeh is a bohemian and artsy area also found in west Amman. It's home to several art galleries, cafes, and independent shops. Cultural highlights in this suburb are the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts and the Darat Al Funun Cultural Centre.
Best Time to Visit Amman
The best time of year to plan a trip to Jordan is in the northern Spring and Autumn – so March to June and again from September to November. The Jordanian desert highlights – like Wadi Rum and Petra – can suffer scorching summer temperatures. You'll want to plan your trip for the milder months mentioned when extensive walking is enjoyable.
Are you planning a trip to Jordan this year? Tell us, in the comments, what you’re looking forward to most!