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Things to Do in Amman: The Ultimate Guide to 2 Days in Amman

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6 months ago

Amman is one of the cities in the Middle East more frequented by Western travelers. I’ll admit, Daniel likes Amman more than I do (I prefer Beirut), but there are certain places and things to do in Amman that are definitely worth your time – and there’s plenty for two days in Amman.

We’ll take you through all of the best things to do in Amman with this ultimate guide. And make sure you read our travel tips for Jordan before you begin booking.

Mural of a man with a red kaffiyeh in Amman top things to do
Murals are dotted all over Amman – keep an eye out

Where to stay in Amman

Given how popular Amman (and Jordan generally) is for travelers, we recommend that you book your hotel for Amman in advance. Otherwise, you could find yourself in a rundown bed stay. Unfortunately, the quality of accommodation in Amman varies hugely.

Amman is no stranger to incredibly high-end hotels. You can find the Kempinski in the commercial Ash Shumaysani district, the St. Regis in luxury Al Swaifyeh, and, just across the road, the Four Seasons.

If you’re looking to experience the hustle and bustle of Amman in all of its fullness, stay around Rainbow Street. It’s also filled with great cafes, restaurants and bars to keep you entertained. Rainbow Street is the area that we think is the best area to stay in Amman. There’s even a great view of a lot of the city from this mountain.

Street in Amman with Yafa Coffee House in the background and a blue motorbike

If you want to be close to the action but not in the middle of it, stay in the more modern Jabal Al Lweibdeh. You’ll also get a great view of Amman in some places here (including La Locanda, a beautiful boutique hotel).

If you’re looking to brush shoulders with the 1% and expats of Amman, stay in Abdun. There are a lot of embassies in Abdun so expect higher prices, international food and high-end shopping and brands. You will need to get a short let through Vrbo if you want to stay right in Abdun.

View of Amman with a Jordanian flag in the foreground

If you want to splurge on your accommodation in Amman, stay in Umm Uthainah Al Sharqi. In our opinion, this area is a little bit soulless, but it can make for a nice retreat.

But regardless of where you stay, you should get a great view of the city. Amman is built on seven mountains so the city is full of gorgeous viewpoints. One of the best is on Rainbow Street because you can still hear the sound of the hustle and bustle.

Brown and red buildings in Amman city view
Amman itself is a beautiful hodgepodge of buildings

How to get around Amman (and not get swindled)

Car hire

Don’t hire a car for your time in Amman. Hiring a car is excellent for quite literally everywhere else in Jordan, but don’t bother with it in Amman.

The reason why you shouldn’t hire a car for Amman is that Amman is chaotic and the roads are completely lawless. It’s fun to look at it, but it’s not fun to be driving in it. Rely on taxis while you’re in Amman – save hiring a car for your day trips out of Amman or for other parts of the country.

Exterior of the Church of St George in Madaba
Amman is the perfect base for day trips to impressive sites like Madaba (pictured)

Taxis

This is where the local tips really count. Local taxis are notorious for broken meters. We even had one taxi meter stop part way during our taxi ride back to our hotel from The Warehouse Rooftop (which is a great place for a skyline view of all of Amman).

It’s important to say that not all taxi drivers are trying to scam you. The vast majority are honest and will use a meter. They will usually try to negotiate with you, but you can insist on the meter.

Local tip: It’s yellow taxis (not the white taxis) that operate a meter, so don’t be alarmed if you get into a white taxi and there isn’t a meter running.

Man in front of a camel in Wadi Rum
Camels are another form of transport in some parts of Jordan

If you are going to attempt to negotiate with a taxi driver in Jordan (give your Arabic a spin), you should know that a taxi from Amman to Petra is about US$150 – and that’s a three-hour drive! That means taxis between places in Amman are super cheap. There is one way to avoid all of this hassle, though.

Local tip: Careem (the Uber of the Middle East) is the app to download to get a taxi in Amman. It’s very easy to use, and incredibly cheap.

Blue car with artworks on it in Amman

The one time you don’t need to use Careem or Uber in Amman is when traveling from Amman’s airport, Queen Alia International Airport, to Jordan. It is a fixed price of about US$30. You’ll see the taxis just outside of the arrivals building on the left. It goes without saying, but don’t go with anyone who approaches you.

Local tip: As Jordan is a Muslim-majority country, Thursday afternoons and evenings tend to be extremely busy on the road because everyone is trying to get somewhere else. Avoid being on a road at that time.

Fence painted with book spines in Amman
The streets of Amman are covered in art

It’s not so hard to get a taxi at peak hour, but you’ll be locked in traffic for a while if you’re in downtown Amman. Also, in Jordan, unlike in the West, it’s customary to sit in the front seat next to the driver. As you might expect, this is only appropriate for male passengers.

What to do in Amman

1. Check out the amazing street art

You might be surprised to know that Amman is covered in street art, especially in the Rainbow Street neighborhood. Even staircases have become canvases for street artists.

One of the best things you can do in Amman is to spend some time walking around the Rainbow Street neighborhood and surrounds. The walls are covered in beautiful art and murals which itself is a great way to spend a couple of hours. A good tour should take you by a few of the best murals.

Mural of a boy building a tower in Amman
Murals like these abound in Amman

2. Amman Citadel

This is one site everyone will say you can’t miss in Amman. Unfortunately, a lot of Amman Citadel is actually ruins, and it pales in comparison to other citadels in the Middle East (like the Aleppo Citadel), so it’s not right at the top of our list. But it seems remiss of us to not suggest that you visit it. At the very least, you’ll get sweeping views of Amman from the Citadel.

There is evidence that these Roman ruins date back some 12,000 years, and you’ll see that in the layers of history (from the Assyrians before common era to the Umayyads in the common era). That’s pretty interesting stuff.

Roman ruins in Amman with view of the city in the background
Roman ruins in Amman

Here’s a fun fact: Amman was known as Philadelphia during the Roman period.

3. Roman Theater

The Roman Theater in Amman is better preserved than the Amman Citadel, but it’s unlikely that you’re going to be particularly moved if you’ve been to frankly anywhere in Italy or the Baalbek ruins in Lebanon. It’s a nice place to visit for a moment, but your time might be better allocated to enjoying the shopping in the souqs of Amman.

Viww of the Roman theater in Amman
The Roman Theater in Amman

Local tip: If do you visit the Roman Theater in Amman, you should go at night when it’s lit up. It’s difficult to really enjoy it during the heat of the day, but at night it feels quite solemn.

4. Duke’s Diwan

Make sure to visit the Duke’s Diwan. It’s an old mansion in the Al Balad area with of its heritage preserved. It was once a post office, then a government ministry building, and then a hotel. Knowing this, you’ll notice the layers of this history in the design and décor. It’s now a gathering place for artists and the intelligentsia.

Sofa at the Duke's Diwan
Duke’s Diwan operates an open-door policy

5. Nightlife

Most of Amman’s nightlife is concentrated around Rainbow Street. You won’t really find locals here though.

There is also quite a bit of nightlife around the Abdun area. We would also recommend the Warehouse Rooftop for some fun.

Admittedly, though, Jordan is not quite known for its nightlife or party scene. You’ll want to go to Beirut for that.

6. Shopping in the souqs

It’s time to put that Arabic phrasebook to good use. Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price of basically anything and everything that is a street stall in the markets.

Also, it’s totally fine to purchase a keffiyeh (patterned headscarf). A bit of history for you on this one: the keffiyeh became the symbol of the Arab Revolt in the 1930s that gave birth to much of the modern Middle East.

Fruit market in Jordan with lemons and limes

If you plan on buying one to take home, it’ll be a much nicer memory if you buy it from a local manufacturer. You’ll spot them around the souqs.

Fill your bags with zaatar (my all-time favorite Middle Eastern spice – my mum used to put in basically everything when I was growing up), sumac, cheeses etc. And Jordanians are only too happy to give you a sample of their food. You also can’t miss out on Jordan’s amazing sweets.

knafeh in jordan
You can’t go to Jordan and not try knafeh – it’s a national favorite

Local tip: You’ll get much cheaper Dead Sea products in Amman than you will in the shops around the Dead Sea.

7. Hammam

This is probably a better choice for the end of a trip to Jordan rather than the start. You might know hammam (it just means shower in Arabic) as a Turkish bath.

You can find these in hotels and boutiques around the city. It’s a nice way to unwind for a few hours with a massage and a deep clean.

If you’ve seen all there is to see in Amman but would like to stay stationed in the city, Amman is a great base for day trips to some of Jordan’s most fantastic places.

Street in As-Salt with hanging lanterns
As-Salt is one of the best day trips from Amman

Where to eat – the best restaurants, cafes and street food in Amman

Lunch and snacks

Make sure to stop at Rumi Café for lunch. This is right in the middle of Webdah, one of Amman’s hippest neighborhoods, and is a favorite of NGO workers (you’ll see them there working away on their laptops). This is also a great spot for digital nomads in Amman.

Pistachio cakes in glass containers in Rumi Cafe one of the best cafes in Amman
The pistachio cakes at Rumi Café are a delight

Mijana just off Rainbow Street is also great (this is also the street where you can see a rainbow of upside-down straw baskets – they decided to take Rainbow literally). The outdoor area is a little oasis. It’s definitely on the pricier side though.

Colored baskets on Rainbow Street in Amman
Mijana can be found right in the thick of it, on Rainbow Street

There is one place we can’t not mention because it made such an impact on us. Fatatri on Rainbow Street makes delicious, stuffed pizza-like food called fateer. The nutella is a sensation, but the savory options (like chicken fajita) are also great.

Nutella feteer from Fatatri in Amman
The nutella feteer from Fatatri is a dream

You might know that one of our favorite things to do in a new country or region is to go on a food crawl. But we get more specific: we pick a typical food in that place, and we go to many different places to try their version to find the best of its kind.

In Jordan, we did this with knafeh (a Levantine custard or sweet cheese dessert), and we’re proud to say that the best is in Abdun at Papa Kanafa. You can get so many different toppings on your knafeh which is incredibly difficult to find anywhere else.

Three flavors of knafeh in a yellow and red box
Different flavors of knafeh in Abdun at Papa Kanafa

Dinner

For dinner, you have so many amazing restaurants to choose from in Amman, but we recommend Jafra Restaurant & Café. Make sure you get yourself a seat on the balcony so you fully take in the chaos on the street below.

Spread of traditional Jordanian food
The food at Jafra is the perfect taste of Jordan

They often have live music here just to add to the ambience. In particular, their fatteh betanjen (eggplant) is done with all of the right spices and yoghurt so it’s our choice on the menu.

For the uninitiated, fatteh is a southern Levant dish that is made of fried or roasted bread that is crushed over a bed of chickpeas and pine nuts and then covered with yoghurt. It’s mostly vegetarian but you can always get it with meat.

Traditional Food of Jordan
Jordan is filled with amazing food like saj

For dessert, weirdly, we enjoyed the olive oil cake. I generally have an aversion to olive oil cake (it’s in the same category as lemon: it’s not for dessert) but the olive oil cake did invite a few more spoonfuls. We think you’ll like this one a lot.

Mezze in a restaurant in Jordan
Expect great food in Jordan

If you want to splurge for dinner one night in Amman, the absolute best restaurant in Amman is Fakhreldin. We’ll admit that this is Lebanese food, but Jordanian and Lebanese food are very similar (it’s from the same family as Levantine food).

You’ll notice their menu is super extensive, so let us give you the must-try dishes on the menu. From the cold mezze, start with the mouhamara (walnut and red pepper spread). They’ll bring you warm bread for this.

Maqloube with chicken
Maqloube is a dish you must try in Jordan

If you love cheese, order the raqaeq bil jibneh to pair with the foul modammes. We would suggest you get more of the starters than the main dishes because the starters are so much more exciting.

One restaurant to avoid in Amman

If you’ve looked at any tourist guide for Amman, you’ll have seen the famous and apparently incredibly tasty AlQuds Falafel (Al-Quds is the Arabic word for the old city of Jerusalem). You can’t miss it when you get there because there’s always a queue and, tellingly, everyone is speaking a language other than Arabic.

Falafel with hummous and baba ghanouk

I hear you asking, where can I get the best falafel in Amman, then?

We didn’t particularly enjoy AlQuds falafel and would recommend Abu Jbara for a fantastic, local falafel experience. It’s about a ten-minute drive from Rainbow Street where you’ll likely be staying, but it’s a local institution. And it’s a chance to see another area that tourists don’t often go to.

Abu Jbara is also much cheaper too because they’re not spending money attracting tourists. And don’t worry if you can’t speak Arabic: if you can say falafel in English, you can speak enough Arabic to order your falafel.

Travel tip: Go for breakfast or a snack during the day, but if you go for breakfast, get the breakfast falafel for a new experience.

And the best ice cream in Amman goes to…

No list of ours would be complete without naming the best ice cream. The award to the best ice cream in Amman goes to Gerard Ice Cream. You can find a branch on Rainbow Street.

If that doesn’t pique your interest, pretty much all supermarkets in Jordan stock quite interesting flavors that are typical to the Middle East. You can usually find a pistachio cornetto or, my favorite, knafeh-flavored ice cream.

Tub of knafeh flavored ice cream and pistachio cornetto

Of course, Jordan is so much more than Amman, and you’d be doing yourself a disservice by staying only in Amman. Make sure you take the time to explore the beautiful country that Jordan is.


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