Wedged in between Iraq, Syria, Israel and Palestine, you’d be forgiven for thinking twice before visiting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
In reality, however, Jordan is one of the friendliest and safest countries I’ve ever visited. I was blown away by the warmth and friendliness of the people, and the fun things to do in Amman, Jordan’s capital.
Like most people who visit Jordan, it was the rose-coloured city of Petra that drew me in, but Amman was where I stepped off the plane at the Queen Rania Airport. I was keen to learn more about what modern life is like in Jordan, so I scheduled in a couple of days in Amman.
I learned that Amman is a lively, bustling city that offers both old and new attractions. Amongst the many things to do in Amman, you’ll find amazing food, cultural attractions and historic sites.
Here are my favourites in case you are planning a trip to Amman and wondering what to do in Amman.
- Things to do in Amman, Jordan
- 1. Explore the Amman Citadel
- 2. Stop by a terrace café (or shisha bar) on Rainbow Street
- 3. Sample knafeh from Habibah
- 4. Shop at the Souk el-Barakah
- 5. Explore the Roman amphitheatre
- 6. King Abdullah Mosque
- 7. Day trip to the Madaba Map
- 8. Eat Jordanian food (with Jordanian coffee)
- 9. Day trip to Mount Nebo
- 10. Hang out in Jabal Al-Webdeh
Things to do in Amman, Jordan
1. Explore the Amman Citadel
Nowhere in Amman gives you a better representation of the city’s blend of old and new than at the Amman Citadel.
On top of a hill, against the backdrop of the modern and bustling capital, there is a huge ancient citadel. It’s considered one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the world, and parts of the Citadel are thought to be more than 2,000 years old, dating from Roman times.
Although the Romans added some of the most impressive structures, there is significant evidence that the Citadel is far older. In fact, tombs and other evidence dating back from the Neolithic age have been discovered. Therefore, historians believe that the Citadel has been inhabited for at least 3,500 years, and possibly much longer.
It is certainly one of the most impressive places to visit in Jordan.
2. Stop by a terrace café (or shisha bar) on Rainbow Street
Rainbow Street is one of the busiest and oldest streets in Amman, and one of the best to visit as a traveller. Along it, you’ll find many different restaurants, cafés and shops where you can stop and just soak in the atmosphere.
During the day, it’s lively, however, I personally think it becomes even more appealing once the sun goes down and it becomes filled with people socialising, eating and shopping.
Shisha is a popular past-time in Jordan, so there are several places where you can try it for yourself. If you’d prefer not to smoke shisha, or are just looking for something else to do, there are a lot of lovely cafés where you can spend a few hours enjoying something to eat and drink.
3. Sample knafeh from Habibah
The sweet store Habibah is so famous that it’s been known to cause traffic jams as people stop literally in the middle of the road to get something delicious. I can’t condone the bad driving, but I can certainly add my name to the list of those who highly recommend their delicious desserts and traditional sweet treats.
The most unmissable thing to try from Habibah (and in all of Amman, really!) is the delicious sweet known as knafeh. It’s a kind of sweet dough soaked in a delicious, sweet syrup and topped off with pistachio or other nuts on top. My mouth is watering just thinking about it, so definitely make sure you give it a try when you’re in the Amman centre!
4. Shop at the Souk el-Barakah
I find that shopping at a bustling souk is always a joy, and my experience in Amman was no different!
The shopping in the city is fabulous, with great boutiques as well as regular flea markets where you can buy all kinds of things. One particularly great one is Nour al Barakah, which supports people with disabilities and sells a range of beautiful items and is open on Saturdays.
For something that is open at all times, one of my favourite places to shop was at the Souk Baharia, which sells mainly haberdashery-type items.
Although you might not find your usual souvenirs there, it’s a great insight into everyday life in Jordan, and there are some gems to be found. I particularly loved the black kohl eyeliner I picked up from one of the stalls.
5. Explore the Roman amphitheatre
In the centre of Amman, there is a huge Roman amphitheatre that is so well-preserved, it looks as though it could still be in use today. In fact, the odd event is still held there, including open-air movies in the summer.
The amphitheatre was built by the Romans to house up to 70,000 people, so it is absolutely huge! It is also remarkably well-preserved, having survived a number of earthquakes over the last 2,000 years.
As well as walking around the amphitheatre and dreaming of what it must have been to sit amongst a crowd there thousands of years ago, there is also a small museum to visit. It is definitely a must-see in Amman.
6. King Abdullah Mosque
Being a predominantly Muslim country, Jordan’s capital of Amman has many beautiful Mosques. However, the King Abdullah Mosque is the only one that is open to non-Muslim visitors. Although it looks quite old, it’s actually fairly modern, having been completed in 1989. However, it is still well worth a visit to get more of a feel for the culture and significance of faith in Jordan.
To visit, you should dress modestly and ladies should cover their hair; you can rent scarves and abayas from just outside the mosque if you forget or don’t have them.
If you don’t fancy going inside the Mosque, there are others that are equally beautiful and significant to see. In particular, the King Hussein Mosque (not to be confused with the Grand Hussein Mosque) is one of the oldest in Jordan, and very spectacular also.
7. Day trip to the Madaba Map
Under an hour from Amman lies the modest town of Madaba, which in itself is a nice place to visit and escape the frenetic pace of Amman. However, hidden within Saint George’s Church is an amazing sight – the Madaba Map, a mosaic map of the Holy Lands that dates from the sixth century. There were originally more than 2 million individual tiles that made up the map, although parts of it have been damaged over the last 1400 years.
It’s amazing to see the map and to consider how long it has laid on the floor of the church in this relatively unassuming Jordanian town. It is considered the oldest complete map of the Holy Lands on earth, and it is still easy to pick out many well-known landmarks such as Jerusalem. As a lover of history and culture, it was an amazing sight, and so easy to get to from Amman.
8. Eat Jordanian food (with Jordanian coffee)
I knew I was going to like Jordan when, on my way from the airport, my taxi driver asked if I’d like to get some Jordanian coffee from the “drive through” on the way to Amman.
Always keen for some caffeine, I agreed and we pulled over for some delicious, thick, flavoursome coffee. From that moment on, I never went more than a few hours without swapping some Dirhams for some delicious coffee.
Of course, the best accompaniment to a tasty Jordanian coffee is tasty Jordanian food, so make sure to try plenty of that in Amman!
The rice dish Mansaf, in particular, is popular all over Jordan, while Amman is home to arguably the country’s best hummus restaurant – Hashem.
9. Day trip to Mount Nebo
Amman is less than an hour from Mount Nebo, one of the most significant religious sites in Jordan, and the Middle East. It is where Moses is said to have lived out the last of his days, overlooking the Holy Lands and possibly where he was buried.
Whatever your own faith and beliefs, it is fascinating to visit a site that has been such a significant place in history, and also the view is very beautiful.
This site also shows the level of interfaith understanding in Jordan; it is a place that is treated with great respect from local people as well as the Government. I really enjoyed visiting this place, and it’s an easy addition to your itinerary if you are visiting the Madaba Map.
10. Hang out in Jabal Al-Webdeh
There’s one more place to visit in Amman that I think is a definite Jordan must-do! That’s the trendy neighbourhood of Jabal Al-Webdeh, which has been popular amongst students, creatives and academics for centuries. The neighbourhood has a great atmosphere, with lots of cute cafés and bookstores to enjoy.
One particularly famous hangout in Jabal Al-Webdeh is “Cafe Rumi”, and you’ll often find it packed with stylish young students and thinkers. While there, you might well get invited into a conversation by the other customers, which is a fun way to learn more about Jordan and perhaps make some new friends. Be sure not to miss it while you’re in Jordan!
So, there you have it – some of my favourite things to do in Amman. Whether you stay in the centre of Amman or head out on some day trips, you’re bound to have an amazing time in Jordan’s capital.
Georgie Mack is an Australian travel blogger currently living in England. She loves travel that’s good for your wallet and good for the earth. You can follow her adventures in travelling and wine drinking at Journey with Georgie or on Instagram at @journeywithgeorgie.