As we spent two weeks in fascinating Jordan, our journey started from the capital Amman, a real Middle Eastern metropolis.
Amman has an ancient history, estimated at more than eight thousand years. Conquered by the Egyptian pharaoh Philadelphus, it was renamed Philadelphia in the third century BC, and kept the name under the Roman Empire. It passed to the Byzantines, then under the control of the Arab Caliph and later of the Ottomans.
In recent times, Amman has started to grow rapidly both economically and urbanly. The city today is a large metropolis with over 4 million inhabitants, its modern area is a classic model of a global city.
The city’s architecture reflects its history, with a mix of Roman and Greco-Byzantine temples, churches, theatres, as well as typical mosques and buildings of the Arab world, skyscrapers and avant-garde buildings in the new districts.
Let’s see the most significant places to see in 2 days in Amman.
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WHAT TO SEE&DO IN AMMAN, JORDAN
ROMAN THEATRE OF AMMAN
The first stop we recommend is the beautiful Roman Theatre, also known as the Philadelphia Theatre. To be precise it’s an amphitheatre, it was erected by the Romans in second century AD.
Built in white limestone, it has a capacity of around 6,000 spectators.
Today, the Roman Theatre of Amman is one of the city’s most important archaeological sites and a popular tourist attraction.
Entry to the theatre is included in the Jordan Pass, however let us tell you a little anecdote: as we approached the entrance early in the morning, the guards asked us for our nationality before the tickets. To our “We are from Italy” their response was “You can come in for free, this place is yours!” showing gratitude to us Italians, descendants of the Romans who built the splendid amphitheatre. An example of the fantastic Jordanian hospitality!
TIP: A couple of hundred metres further, you can also visit the Roman Nymphaeum, which houses the remains of what was once a large two-story complex with fountains, mosaics and sculptures.
The Amman Citadel is the archaeological site located on the highest hill in downtown Amman. It’s the most visited place by tourists and also the most iconic in the capital.
As evidence of the various civilizations that have passed here over the centuries, the symbolic buildings are the Temple of Hercules, the city walls, the Umayyad Palace and Mosque and the Archaeological Museum.
The Temple of Hercules above all is spectacular, especially when viewed at sunrise or sunset: today a number of limestone Corinthian columns remain, some of which are still standing.
The Umayyad Palace was the residence of the Umayyad caliphs, while the Archaeological Museum showcases a large collection of artifacts.
Admission included in the Jordan Pass. Avoid the hot and crowded central hours and go to the Amman Citadel to enjoy the panoramic view over the city, which appears endless!
Rainbow Street is a colorful and picturesque street located in the Jabal Amman district. It has recently been renovated and turned into an attraction, thanks to its variety of shops, cafes and restaurants.
Here you can eat excellent falafel at Al Quds and find all kinds of restaurants and clubs to spend the evening. There is no shortage of bars that offer shisha, or hookah. Choose your favorite fragrance (average price 5JD) and smoke in good company like Jordanians do.
TIP: Check with the hotel if Souk Jara on Rainbow Street is open while you’re in Amman. Souk Jara is a market that offers street food and a nice atmosphere with music and entertainment, usually active on weekends, but was still temporarily closed after Covid in November 2022.
KING ABDULLAH I MOSQUE
We move to the modern area of Amman (we recommend Uber to cover the distance from the old city), where luxury hotels and the Abdali Mall mega shopping centre are located. Here is King Abdullah I Mosque, or Great Mosque, one of the most important in Jordan. It was built in 1989 in honour of the founder of the Jordanian kingdom, King Abdullah I.
The mosque is covered in geometric patterns in a shimmering blue-turquoise. It features a large courtyard, a main prayer hall and four 90-metre-high minarets, and can accommodate up to 7,000 worshippers.
While Muslims enter freely for prayers, the mosque is open to visitors with an entrance fee of 2JD (3€). Women are given a covering hooded gown, and shoes must be removed to enter the prayer hall.
TIP: To enter and exit the mosque they will make you go through a side bazaar, a widespread practice that we have also seen in Jerash for example, to entice tourists to buy some souvenirs.
Here we met the classic skilled Jordanian salesman, as kind as he was insistent, who spoke Italian fluently! Having just arrived in the city and unaware of the prices, we negotiated but not enough, paying 7JD for a kefiah, which you will find at half price elsewhere. Always bargain with a smile, and watch for prices!
THE ROYAL AUTOMOBILE MUSEUM
If you are a fan of vintage and classic cars, don’t miss the Royal Automobile Museum in Amman.
It is a grandiose private collection of the King, which has over 70 well-kept and restored vintage cars from all over the world. There is no shortage of motorcycles, sidecars, and various unique pieces, used even during military parades or on film sets.
The museum is located 10 kilometres from the modern area of Amman and can be reached by taxi.
The Royal Automobile Museum is open daily from 9 am to 7 pm, entrance fee is 3JD and audio guides are available.
Back to the centre of Amman, in the Ras Al-Ein district we have the Jordan Museum. It’s not that far from Rainbow Street (1.4 km), however be mindful when using Google Maps because the various ups and downs and stairways will weigh on your legs!
Opened in 2014, the Jordan Museum is the largest in the country and houses its most important archaeological finds. It features pieces from various prehistoric sites in Jordan, including the Ain Ghazal statue from 7,500 BC, considered one of the oldest statues ever made by human civilization. The museum was strongly desired by famous Queen Rania of Jordan.
ABU DARWISH MOSQUE
Another particular mosque we want to mention is that of Abu Darwish.
Seeing it dominate the old city from the window of our hotel, it intrigued us for its black and white colour, therefore we decided to take an Uber (1.50JD) to make the climb by car.
The contrasting colours and modern design with a mix of traditional Islamic elements make it very attractive from the outside. Perhaps due to the time in the morning, we couldn’t understand if it’s open to foreigners, it looked shut and empty.
We then advise you to continue on foot, strolling through a neighbourhood that is not touristy at all, and enjoy scenes of Jordanian daily life, going down the steep hill among the typical white and low houses of Amman.
Here you’ll notice several cages on the roofs with pigeon nests, much loved by Jordanians almost to the point of being considered sacred. Unlike our city pigeons, Jordanian ones are well fed and kept as pet birds, have various shades from white to brown, always return to their cages, and it is a real pleasure to see them harmoniously fly over the city.
TYPICAL JORDANIAN DISHES
Last thing you absolutely must do in Amman, eat traditional Jordanian food! You will have plenty of time to taste the various typical dishes during your trip to Jordan, but here are the ones not to be missed in the capital:
- Falafel: these chickpea patties are one of the most loved delicacies in the Middle East. Try them at Al Quds or Hashem restaurant in the old city.
- Hummus: the same goes for hummus, which you’ll find in literally all sorts of ways in Jordan. We had our fill of hummus at Hashem!
- Shawarma: being lovers of what we simply call kebab in Europe (which actually translates to skewer), we could not miss shawarma, chicken or lamb meat cut into thin strips. You can order a plate or have the shawarma rolled up in a pita bread wrap. We had great shawarma at Abu Zaghleh.
- Kunafa: kunafa, also spelled kunnafah or knafeh, is the dessert par excellence in Jordan: made from fresh cheese covered with a crunchy semolina paste, soaked in a sweet sugar syrup. Very sweet but delicious! You’ll find it alongside baklava and other similar sweets at Habibah Sweets.
For a more complete list of typical Jordanian dishes, read our article What to eat in Jordan: 10 typical dishes.
Here ends our post on what to see&do in Amman. Check out our Jordan in 10 days itinerary guide to plan for your upcoming trip!
Enjoy your trip to Jordan!
HOTEL – WHERE TO STAY IN AMMAN, JORDAN
You can book all your stays in Amman and Jordan with free cancellation here.
- Nomads Hotel Amman, cozy and central, in the old town of Amman.
- Rainbow House: at walking distance from colourful Rainbow Street.
- W Amman: admire Amman from above from one of the newest hotels in town.
HOW TO GET AROUND?
- On foot: Amman’s old city is interesting to walk around. From the Roman Theatre to the typical restaurants, passing through Rainbow Street, you can get anywhere in 15-20 minutes. The climb to the Citadel is tougher.
- Car: Several well-known car rental companies are present at the airport, slightly more expensive than the Jordanian ones which have offices 10-15 minutes away and pick you up at the airport. The cheapest options start at €20/day, petrol costs around €1.50 per litre. With an additional 20-30€ per day on average it is possible to hire a driver for your trip to Jordan.
- Check out your options for renting a car in Jordan here.
- Taxi: Avoiding to drive in busy Amman is not a bad idea. Taxis are cheap and reliable, especially if booked through the Uber app which gives you a set fare.
WEATHER&CLIMATE – WHEN TO GO TO JORDAN?
Jordan has different climate areas, with hills, sea and deserts. Even if the sun in Jordan feels very hot, the temperature is not always high. Amman is cool in the evening especially during winter, being over 1,000 meters above sea level. Also in Wadi Rum the thermal shock is considerable, you will need to cover up well as soon as the sun sets.
In the winter months there can be severe thunderstorms and flash foods, so much so that Petra and its canyons can be flooded. Snow is also not uncommon in January or February, although it melts quickly during the day.
The Dead Sea is an inhospitable and torrid place, don’t stay more than half an hour under the scorching sun. Similarly, take baths of less than 15 minutes in duration given the extreme salinity of the water.
Bring comfortable walking shoes, long but light clothes, a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water!
- Never leave home without a reliable travel insurance. We have two options for you to browse: request a quote with Worldnomads here, or get up to 20% off as a reader of A Million Travels for Heymondo insurance here.
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