13 Sep Amman Travel Tips + Photos
AMMAN SURVIVAL GUIDE
My impression of Amman: I found Amman to be a modern, cosmopolitan, albeit big and busy city. If you’re entering Jordan by air, then you are likely going to be flying in and out of Amman. Good news is that unlike many capital cities, Amman is actually quite pleasant. It is modern, liberal, clean and has very good infrastructures.
Click here see my photos of Amman.
How much time to spend in Amman? There were enough things to do here to occupy me for 2 days and it also was a good base for day trip to the northern cities of Jerash, Um Qais, Ajlun. For a first-timer, in total, I recommend spending 3 days: 2 days to see the sight and 1 day for a day trip to the North.
Click here for my North Jordan Travel Tips
Where to stay? What to eat? I would recommend getting accommodation near the hip Rainbow Street, where you will find great restaurants, cafes, bars, art galleries, etc. It is relatively traffic free in the evenings and makes for a pleasant stroll along the main streets and the peaceful, family-friendly streets that surround it.
Click here to read about Things to Eat in Amman
How to get around? Amman is quite a big city and you will need a car to get around. I don’t recommend driving in Amman, although driving outside of Amman is fine. I saw a handful of foreigners driving around in Petra and northern parts. Traffic during peak hours in Amman is quite bad. Best way to get around is to take a taxi or Uber or Careem (pronounced as Kareem). I did not have good experiences with taxis. Taxis are supposed to use meters but often refuse to and you have to haggle. Your best bet will be Uber or the alternative to Uber, called Careem, as long you have internet access. Careem is cheaper than Uber and just as good. I took both Uber and Careem and found no difference.
Don’t miss Amman’s top sights:
Do not miss the two main sight in Amman: 1) The Citadel and 2) Roman Amphitheater. Both of these are highly impressive and can be easily combined for a day trip. Read about the Citadel and Roman Amphitheater travel tips below. Click here see my photos of The Citadel, the Amphitheatre and Amman.
What is the Citadel? The Citadel (pictured above), which has been occupied since the Middle Bronze Age times, is not just one building. It is a collection of a number of Greco-Roman and couple of Islamic ruins, including the legendary Temple of Hercules built by the Romans, Byzantine church ruins, Umayyad Palace and the Ayyubid watchtower.
Amman Travel Tip: The Citadel sits on top of the highest hill in Amman and makes for a fantastic view of the city! Go here on a clear, sunny day as the views are stunning. You will get a 360-degree panoramic view of Amman in addition to being able to see many ancient ruins up close. Now that is some bang for bucks! Like I said in the Jordan Travel Tips (click here to read) page, Jordan is a small country that packs a massive punch and The Citadel is a great example of this.
Amman Travel Tip: Also in The Citadel is the Archaeological Museum, which I zipped through in less than 10 minutes. After being among the ancient ruins that you can walk amongst, touch and feel, I found the museum, well, kinda boring. But on a hot, sunny day, it was a nice to go inside for some air conditioning!
Amman Travel Tip: If you go on a hot and sunny day, take the usual precautions of water, hat and sunscreen. The Citadel sits on top of the highest hill, you will feel the sun even more!
Why is there a Roman Amphitheatre in Jordan? Some of the most impressive sites in Jordan are Greco-Roman. Remember, the Roman occupation of Jordan, along with Syria and Palestine, started way back in 63 B.C.! There was a time when Amman was not called Amman; it was known as Philadelphia! The Greco-Romans have left behind an impressive collection of artifacts that can be throughout the country. This Amphitheatre was built between 169 and 177 AD, during Emperor Marcus Aurelius’ reign, and is still sometimes used for concerts.
Thank you, Jordan for preserving these sites! I recently visited Iran and it was disheartening to see the government, for political reasons, is neglecting sites that are not Islamic. Jordan thankfully has taken a different approach. Other than Petra, click here to read my Petra Travel Tips, most of Jordan’s historical monuments come from the Greco-Roman times, such as the spectacular Jerash and Umm Qais in the northern part of the country. Click here to read my North Jordan Travel Tips
Amman Travel Tip: By the entrance of the Amphitheatre, tucked away in the corners, are two small museums: Folklore Museum (on the right side of the entrance) and the Jordanian Museum of Popular Traditions (left-hand side of the entrance). They are nicely curated and I recommend that you don’t miss either of them. The Folklore Museum is a bit cheesy. It has mannequins dressed up in traditional clothing, doing chores like they did in the old times. While a tad hokey, they do a nice job of giving a glimpse into the traditional way of life that existed a few decades back. Jordanian Museum of Popular Traditions contains traditional clothing, jewellery, utensils, guns and other artifacts. Downstairs are mosaics from Greco-Roman times that you can see up close.
Interesting Fact: In 1948, the Amphitheatre was used as a shelter for 50,000 Palestinian refugees fleeing their homes after Israel occupation of Palestinian authorities.
Amman Travel Tip: Don’t miss the Odeon, which is tucked away on the left-hand side of the Amphitheatre. Although the Odeon is part of the Amphitheatre complex, it is a stand-alone structure, built around 2nd century AD. It is much smaller than the Amphitheatre and can be missed so make sure you check it out. Again, it is on the left-hand side after the main entrance.
THINGS TO EAT IN AMMAN
So another great thing about Jordan is the food! OMG! If like me, you can’t get enough of Middle Eastern food, then you will love eating your way through Amman! There are so many fantastic things to eat in Amman and here is a short list:
1. Mensaf – you must try mensaf, the national dish of Jordan! Composed of rice, roasted lamb, and jameed (dry yogurt made into a tangy, delicious sauce), mensaf is divine!
2. Kanafeh – shredded pastry soaked in sweet syrup and layered with cheese and nuts. While delicious, they are quite sweet. Best places to try them in Amman are at either Habibah Sweets or Nafisa Sweets, two places that local invariably recommend.
3. Shwarma – of course! Try them at Shawremeh Reem, where there is usually a long line up but worth the wait.
4. Falafel – the best place to have them is at Al-Quds, which is also known as Jerusalem Cafe (Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem).
Amman Travel Tip: Street food in Amman is limited to fairs like falafel and shawarma. To try the street foods, I recommend doing a food tour. By now, you may have realized that I love doing food tours in countries known for its food. On my first full day in Amman, I did a city+food tour and I highly recommend that you do this. You get the best of both worlds: see the top sights of Amman and eat some great street food!
Amman Travel Tip: Interestingly, some of the best Jordanian foods are in higher-end restaurants in Amman. My recommendation is after the falafels and shawarmas, try some modern Jordan cuisine in one of the fancier restaurants.
Amman Travel Tip: To try the traditional mensaf (pictured on the right) and other, more modern Jordanian cuisine, head to Rainbow Street. There is a restaurant called Sufra which serves fantastic food. It is always busy so make a reservation ahead of time. They have great fukharat (veg or non-veg dish slow cooked with spices in a clay pot) and some really delicious meze (small dishes that are great for sharing). What I liked about this place was that it had both the traditional fares and also, modern take on traditional Jordanian food.