The Ultimate Travel Guide to Amman, Jordan
Table of Contents
Amman, the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is the 5th most visited city in the Arab world. Originally built on seven hills, it has spread out enormously over now 19 hills, crossed by 3 deep wadis.
Amman’s attraction lies in the striking contrast between ancient culture and modern development. Considered one of the most liberal and westernized cities of the Arab World, Amman has by now grown to a population of nearly 4 million inhabitants of a great variety of origins.
Whilst East Amman is the location of ancient sites, comprising Jabal Amman with its famous souks and Rainbow street, West Amman is the economic center with the Jordan Gate Towers in the Zahran district and several 5star hotels as well as shopping malls and modern apartment blocks.
Whilst during the day you will enjoy exploring the many fascinating sights, old and new, in Amman, you can relax at night in a vast variety of bars and nightclubs. The liberal approach allows for alcohol to be sold in hotels, bars, and restaurants as well as in supermarkets. Just don’t ever drink openly in the street. Nightclubs have a’ couples only’ admission policy.
Locals are a friendly breed, many are speaking English or French and they generally love to talk to visitors. Don’t criticize anything, avoid talking about politics, religion or the King and you’ll feel very comfortable indeed.
If you have the time and inclination to visit more of Jordan, Amman is an ideal starting point for excursion to Petra, Wadi Rum and Amman Beach for an unforgettable Dead Sea experience, mud baths included.
Make sure you have your visa in place before traveling to Jordan. For some nationalities a visa is provided upon arrival but not for all.
In this Amman Travel Guide blog, we listed helpful DIY Amman travel tips and advice on how to get there, get around, itinerary, restaurants, best hotels, tour packages and more.
Best time to visit
Amman’s location between mountains and wadis makes for a climate with several extremes
Summers can be very hot whereas snowfall and frost are not uncommon in winter.
The best time to visit is really only one month: from April to May. Spring in Amman is mild and dry.
How to get there
Amman has two airports, the Queen Alia International Airport, the seat of the national carrier and serving many airlines. A smaller, second airport serves flights from nearby destinations like Beirut and other Middle Eastern countries.
Buses are available to take you from the airport to your final destination in Amman, but the best choice are taxis. They are not expensive but you are well advised to agree on a price in advance.
Amman’s railway and bus system is quite advanced, but major improvements like fast buses are still in the planning stage.
Great parts of the Old Town are easily explored on foot, Amman has even one pedestrian-only street, but otherwise, taxis are always your best choice.
I found a taxi driver at the airport and liked his behavior so much, that I hired him for all my trips, including one to Petra and the Dead Sea. For a full day, he charged $120 which I found very reasonable.
Places to stay
The millions of visitors which descend into Amman every year need accommodation and Amman has plenty of hotels for every budget.
Crown Plaza Hotel
My choice for my stay in Amman was the Crown Plaza Hotel in King Faysal Ben Abdul Aziz Str. Just 7km away from the Roman Theatre in the residential area of Amman.
The 5star hotel offers all luxury and amenities of its category plus a spa, sauna and tennis court. The location is ideal for exploring the old as well as the new part of Amman and you have fabulous views of the Citadel and downtown.
Boutique Hotel Amman
If you wish to stay right in the heart of Downtown Amman, the Boutique Hotel Amman in Prince Mohamed Street is for you.
It’s much simpler and cheaper, but comfortable enough, rooms have AC and tiled floors and a continental breakfast and afternoon refreshments are included. WiFi throughout the hotel, but the best feature is the location: Roman Theatre and Rainbow Street are within minutes on foot.
Seven Roses Hotel
If you prefer luxury at very reasonable prices, opt for the Seven Roses Hotel in Saleh Al-Smedi Street in Amman’s business district.
The 4star hotel offers all modern amenities including 3 restaurants and is just minutes away from the Cozmo Shopping Mall. Very ample modern rooms and bathrooms with plenty of ‘goodies’.
Best places to eat
Amman’s cuisine has come a long way from shawarma and falafel stands. It’s a fusion of all the best from the neighboring countries as well as Asian and Italian food if so desired.
Fakhreldin Restaurant in Taha Hussein Street is the in place to eat where Amman’s well-heeled love to go.
Lebanese cuisine of the finest in what was originally an elegant townhouse and now pampers its guest with open-air dining. Sit down meals with up to seven courses if you are hungry enough.
Fans of meat, BBQ and the juiciest burgers must visit Brisket Restaurant in Abdullah bin Masoud Street.
The meat is just incredible and the service leaves nothing to be desired.
If you fancy, simple, authentic and the best falafel in town, it’s one of Jordan’s oldest and most beloved restaurants for you Hashim in al-Amir Mohamed Street. Tables are pushed together if need be and your Jordanian food treat can begin.
In addition, there is the spicy street food, sold by vendors from their trays and the colorful coffee men.
Language, currency etc.
The official language in Jordan is Arabic, but never fear, English and French are widely spoken.
Currency is the Jordanian Dinar. Have plenty of cash in small notes for tips, taxis, and purchases in the souks. Otherwise, all major credit cards are accepted.
Wifi is widely available in all hotels and many restaurants but not everywhere in the city.
Things to do and see
Get used to the fact that many addresses are referred to as 1st through to 7th circle which has to do with the ring roads and the original seven hills. That’s where taxis come in handy.
Amman’s history reaches back over 7000 years and includes occupation by Alexander the Great, the Romans, the Ottomans and many more all of which have left their traces and monuments.
Right in the outskirts of Amman lies the site of Ain Ghazal, the oldest remains of a settlement in the Middle East, dating back to 7250BC. Like many other monuments in Jordan, including Petra, is was discovered by chance and is most famous for the oldest known sculptures of people painted white and terracotta.
Lovers of ancient history will head up to Jebel al Qala’a, Amman’s highest hill. In the complex known as the Citadel, you will find the stunning Temple of Hercules, Umayyad Palace and, further down the hill, the Roman theatre. Thousands of years of history in one place.
For more history visit Amman’s largest museum, the Jordan Museum.
Of course, you are eager to explore the market scene of Amman and the best place to do so is the Souk al Bukharia and the festival cum flee market scene of Souk Jara (in the summer).
Round out your sightseeing with a visit to the King Hussein Mosque and to a unique monument: the 10 arches of the Ottoman Railway.
Everybody talks about Rainbow Street in the Jabal district of Amman. Have a stroll down the street and look at rooftop restaurants, bars, shops and companies as well as al-Mufti House, a witness to modern Jordanian history.
As mentioned before, Amman’s nightlife is a lively one. For a night out, head to Abdoun Circle or Sweifieh, listen to music from traditional singers to the latest local rock bands.
For excursions further away from Amman, consider not only Petra and the Dead Sea but also Mount Nebo where Moses got the first glimpse of the Holy Land and..died.
There are plenty of guided tours available, but, as mentioned before, I found going around by hired car and driver the best and not even very expensive.
Best places to shop
It’s a great pleasure to wander through the souks and the small side streets of Downtown Amman where you can discover many a treasure in tiny, dimly lit shops.
If you prefer shopping malls, there is no shortage of those in Amman either. Choose from Mecca Mall, City Mall or Avenue Mall or head for Wakalat Street, Aman’s first pedestrian-only street famous for designer labels.
Happy shopping, eating, and sightseeing in Amman, one of the liveliest cities of the Middle East.