Discovering Amman, Jordan: A Journey Through Time And Culture

Last Updated on 23 Jun 2024 by Fiona Perisone

Amman is a modern and ancient city with rich history and cultural heritage. It's a melting pot of different civilizations and a great destination for visitors looking to experience Middle Eastern culture and history.


Amman is filled with archaeological ruins, fascinating galleries and museums, beautiful mosques, and a unique shopping experience. Located near many favorite tourist destinations, such as Petra and Wadi Rum! Use this travel guide to help you plan an unforgettable trip to Amman, Jordan.

Best Time To Visit Amman

Like all of Jordan, Amman is warm all year long - since it sits at over 2 thousand feet above sea level, it's dry and has arid heat. Amman is an often overlooked tourist destination, so the climate (rather than the crowds) will determine the best time to visit. Aim to explore Amman between March and May or between September and November. These months will keep you out of the excessively hot daytime temperatures you would experience during the summer!

Top Attractions

Amman Citadel

Amman Citadel

Jabal al Qal'a (or Citadel Hill) is situated over the remains of the Ammonite city of Rabbath Ammon. This is one of the most popular things to visit in the Amman governorate. During the Roman occupation of the Bronze Age, the city was cleared, a wall was built, and many palaces and buildings span the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods. You can see evidence from each of these cultures! The most striking ruins are the Temple of Hercules (built during the reign of the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius) and the Umayyad Palace. The adjoining archaeological museum delves into the history of the place, which is a fascinating must-see for history buffs.

Roman Theater

Roman Theater

Near Citadel Hill is the magnificently restored Roman Philadelphia theater. Originally built in the 2nd century, restoration began in 1957, and the theater is frequently used to host summer concerts. At the top of the theater sits a small shrine, which once housed a brilliant golden statue of the goddess Athena.

Downtown Amman

Downtown Amman

Shopping opportunities abound throughout Amman, but the city's wealth is concentrated in West Amman. Heading towards the downtown area, you'll see elegant stone buildings, art galleries, and contemporary cafes. The peak experience is on the cobblestoned Rainbow Street, named for the colorful awnings and pennants that cover it. The street is filled with open-air markets and bazaars. The shopping here is less tourist-centered and more focused on what locals need for their daily lives. It's a fascinating glimpse into the culture. Free guided walking tours are available to help you explore downtown Amman.

National Gallery of Fine Arts

National Gallery of Fine Arts

Darat Al Funun (or the National Gallery of Fine Arts) is a perfect blend of art and archeology. Built-in the ruins of a 6th-century Byzantine basilica, this gallery hosts works by Jordanian and other contemporary Arabic artists. Many sculptors and painters will host master classes here, so check the schedule ahead of time if you'd like to take part!

Jordan Museum

Jordan Museum

For a full history of Jordan, from the Ammonites through the Nabataean civilization to the modern day, head to the Jordan Museum. Whereas Amman is a new city compared to other ancient places in Jordan, this museum holds statues over 9 thousand years old! It also houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and many artifacts from Petra.

Abu Darweesh Mosque

Abu Darweesh Mosque

There are many mosques in Amman, but two stand uniquely among the rest. The first is the Abu Darweesh mosque. It sits atop the Jabal Ashrafieh hill, the highest point in the city, and is covered with a remarkable black-and-white checkered pattern. Its style and ornamentation are unique to the Jordan region.

King Abdullah Mosque

King Abdullah Mosque

The newest mosque in Amman, Jordan, is the enormous King Abdullah mosque, which finished as recently as 1989. It features a magnificent blue mosaic dome. Muslims may visit the mosques to offer prayer freely, but non-Muslims are asked to pay a small fee and take care to dress respectfully.

Ain Ghazal

Ain Ghazal

The Neolithic ruins at Ain Ghazal are considered to be the oldest human-sized statues ever discovered. Located on the outskirts of Eastern Amman, this city once held over 3 thousand people. The limestone statues found here are covered with white plaster and painted. Some of these statues have been moved to the Jordan Museum, but you can still find ruins of the statues, and the town itself, in their original location.

Royal Car Museum

Royal Car Museum

For a completely different flavor, check out the Royal Car Museum. This is a private collection of the cars and motorcycles of King Hussein, located near the royal palace. This museum is more than just looking at cars. It gives you an insight into the history of modern Jordan.

Things To Do

Beit Sitti cooking class

Take A Cooking Class (Beit Sitti)

A fun way to experience Jordanian cuisine is by taking a cooking class through Beit Sitti. Here, you'll cook a three-course Arabic meal and then enjoy it on the shaded terrace with a glass of wine and a gorgeous view over Downtown Amman. The project was started by a trio of sisters, wives, and mothers who teach the classes with a lifetime of traditional cooking expertise.

Rainbow Market

Pick Up Handmade Souvenirs From Rainbow Market

Between May and until the end of September, be sure to visit Rainbow market or known as Souk Jara. It opens every Friday from 10 am to 10 pm. Here you will find handicrafts, antiques, crafts, food, streetwear, art, and traditional products from around the Kingdom.

Dead Sea day trip

Take A Day Trip

Many explorers use Amman, Jordan, as a home base for excursions to nearby locations. In fact, you can find tour groups and travel guides to each of these locations in Amman itself. Here are some great places for day trips:


Wadi Rum

Wadi rum, also known as "Mar" on earth, offers colorful and unique rock formations that are incredibly breathtaking. The rust-red sandstone mountains are favorites for backpackers and hikers. Fun fact: many movies based on Mars are filmed in Wadi Rum! Including Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars, Transformers, Prometheus, and so many more!


Wadi Rum is approximately 215 kilometers (134 miles) southwest of Amman. Depending on traffic, it is a three-hour drive one way. It's recommended that you stay one night here and star gaze!


Petra

A mysterious city carved right into the sandstone cliffs by the Nabataean civilization. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the entrance to Petra is magnificent and feels other-worldly. To get there, you'll follow a winding trail through a narrow canyon.

Petra is approximately 264 kilometers (164 miles) south of Amman. Depending on traffic, it takes about a four-hour drive one way. 


Dead Sea

Visit the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea. The salt lake is about 400 meters above sea level and has a salt concentration about ten times saltier than the ocean. Because of its high salt content, you will float on the surface, and it's difficult to sink. This is the ideal spot for a day of relaxation as you enjoy the salt water.

The Dead Sea is approximately 65 kilometers (40 miles) east of Amman. Depending on traffic, it takes about an hour to drive one way.


Jerash

An ancient Roman city is known for its well-preserved ruins, including the Hippodrome, the Forum, the Temple of Artemis, and the South Theater. Jerash is one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the Near East.

Jerash is approximately 48 kilometers (30 miles) north of Amman. Depending on traffic, it takes about an hour to drive one way. 


Baptism Site

Also known as Bethany Beyond the Jordan, the Baptism Site is located in Jordan Valley near the Dead Sea. Considered one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites in the World, it is believed to be the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

The baptism site is approximately 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Amman. Depending on traffic, it takes about an hour and fifteen-minute drive one way. 

Hammam

Enjoy A Hammam

Hammams (or Turkish baths) are common in most major cities in the Middle East and North Africa. However, since Amman is a relatively recent city, there are only two. To enjoy an elegant steaming and spa-like experience, head to Al Pasha (traditional style) or Alf Layla Wa Layla (sleek and modern).

Al-Rainbow Street

Visit Rainbow Street

Also known as Al-Rainbow Street, a popular street to visit in Amman. Known for its vibrant atmosphere, unique architecture, and diverse range of shops, cafes, and restaurants. Rainbow street is also known for its nightlife and entertainment, with many bars and clubs staying open late.

Where To Stay

There are lodging options in Amman, Jordan, for everyone's preference. Hostels like the Carob Hostel and Nomads Hostel are highly rated and ideally located, and some hostels even often have private rooms! There aren't many mid-range hotels, but there are plenty of luxury hotels, such as Fairmont Amman, and Four Seasons Hotel. There are many great AirBnB's, however, such as the Weibdeh Heights Apartment and Jabal al Weibdeh.

Where Is Amman Located?

Amman is the capital city of Jordan, a newly created state bordered by the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Amman is located in the western area of Jordan and is situated over the ancient cities of the Ammonites and Roman Philadelphia. It's a hilly city, originally spanning seven hills but now stretching out over nineteen and covering over 270 square miles!

How To Get To Amman, Jordan

You'll get into Amman, Jordan, through the Queen Alia International Airport. This is the largest airport in all of Jordan and is located about 20 miles from downtown Amman. Hail a taxi or use the bus service to get to Amman from the airport.

Transportation Within Amman

Amman, Jordan, is organized into neighborhoods called "circles." As one of the most modern cities in the Middle East, it was built with modern transportation methods in mind. The streets are wide enough for driving - but the traffic is awful and chaotic, so it's best not to drive yourself. It's better to use an Uber or a taxi to get around Amman and, better yet, only to use transportation to get to a specific area and then explore that area on foot.


Two types of taxis operate in Amman. Service taxis stay inside city limits, and private taxis can take you to locations outside of city limits.

Golden Tips

You Can Get Around With English

In some tourist destinations, English is widely spoken. In Amman, Jordan, most people are going to speak primarily Arabic. While many Amman locals have a basic knowledge of English, you should learn common Arabic phrases and perhaps have a translating app on your phone handy.

Getting A Taxi Tip

When using a taxi service, expect to haggle. The taxi driver will give you a rate and expect you to try to negotiate a lower rate. Of course, you don't have to, but you can save a lot of money by haggling, and the taxi drivers expect you will. However, if you don't want to deal with a taxi driver, local ride-hailing apps like Uber and Careem.

Save Money And Get Jordan Pass

Pay for a Jordan Pass if you plan to explore multiple tourist locations. It will give you access to over 40 attractions. If you stay for a minimum of 3 nights, the pass will waive all of your tourist visa fees.

Dress Appropriately

Amman is a modern city, but if you plan on heading to downtown Amman or the religious sites, it's expected that women and men dress conservatively at these locations.

For women, avoid tights or revealing clothing. Avoid wearing shorts or a tank top. Best to cover the arms and legs. For men, avoid shorts or revealing clothing.

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