What to do in Amman, Jordan for a 2 day itinerary? It’s tough to squeeze in all this ancient city has to offer, but I’ll try.
Amman is a teeming city of 4 million and the capital of Jordan. Some travelers use Amman merely as a transfer point on the way to the archaeological marvels of Petra and Jerash. Big mistake! Amman rates a long leisurely visit. It needs to be savored.
One of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities on earth, Amman reveals itself slowly peeling back the layers of history going back to the Neolithic period.
Amman has soul. You see it in the graceful architecture of it mosques, temples and churches. You hear it in the melodic chants of the call to prayer. You taste it in the nutty, honey desserts sold throughout the city, and you feel it in the smiles and hospitality of the people.
THE NEW JORDAN MUSEUM
To get a good understanding of Jordanian history and culture, start your day at the new Jordan Museum. This beautifully curated museum in downtown Amman offers multimedia exhibits presenting Jordanian culture in an engaging way. Artifacts, including the Dead Sea Scrolls, date from pre-history to the modern age. A visit to the Jordan Museum will give you a good understanding of Jordanian culture so you can better appreciate Jordan’s archaeological treasures.
SAVOR THE STREETS OF AMMAN, JORDAN
Next head to the Roman Amphitheater but go there on foot either via King Talal Street or Queaish Street. Both will take you to the Amphitheater. The walk takes some time, about one to two hours depending on how long you linger, but it will take you through some of the more interesting parts of Amman where the locals shop and eat.
You won’t see many tourists on this route. What you will see are large bustling markets, ancient winding streets, mosques and little alleys that end in restaurants serving steaming slabs of lamb and fresh baked bread.
THE ROMAN AMPHITHEATER
The Roman Amphitheater in Amman is a well-preserved structure that can seat 6,000 people. It dates from the 2nd Century CE when the city was known as Philadelphia. Guides will accost you offering their services as soon as you enter. The going rate for a guide is about 10JD. Ordinarily I recommend you hire a guide, but it’s not worth it in this case.
The theater is impressive with amazing acoustics – you can hear a whisper all the way on the other side of the theater. There are two small folk museums on either side of the theater which are not well maintained and forgettable.
DOWNTOWN AMMAN, JORDAN
To continue with your heavy dose of authentic Amman, head to the heart of downtown Amman via Hashem Al-Amir Mohammad Street.
Here in this busy section of the city you will find the amazing gold souk (market) where gold is sold by its weight. The shop windows blaze with shimmering gold jewelry. Even if you don’t buy anything, it is an interesting sight.
You should be hungry by now but even if you aren’t, have a meal at Hashem Restaurant. This is an open air restaurant on a busy street. They only serve appetizers or “mezze” a selection of Middle Eastern specialties like hummus, babaganoush (an eggplant and spices spread) and tabbouleh ( a combination of cracked wheat, vegetables and spices) in large platters. All this is served with freshly baked bread that is still hot when served. The bill will come to about 8JD rendering this meal one of life’s best bargains.
Leave room for dessert. A few doors down the street is Habibah Sweets, a local institution since 1947 serving kunafah, a traditional gooey, sweet, dessert masterpiece. Seriously, you’ve got to try this.
Besides the Roman Amphitheater, the Citadel of Amman is the other must-see attraction in your two-day itinerary in Amman.
The Amman Citadel is an archaeological site situated atop one of Amman’s seven hills in the downtown area. The site is considered to be among the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places with ruins from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad (a Muslim dynasty from the 8th to 11th Centuries) periods.
There is a little Archaeological Museum at the Citadel which explains the history of the area and displays artifacts dating from the Neolithic period. The major ruins at the site are a Byzantine church and the Temple of Hercules.
Despite this wealth of archaeological richness, the big draw at The Citadel of Amman is the view of the city. If you can experience this view during the soulful chants of the call to prayer, the moment is magical.
KING ABDULLAH MOSQUE
To appreciate yet another aspect of Amman, head to the King Abdullah Mosque. This blue-domed landmark was built in 1989 and can house up to 7000 worshipers. The exquisitely decorated mosque is the only one in Amman that welcomes non-Muslim visitors.
The inside of the mosque is very beautiful with symmetrical designs and large open spaces for prayer. It is worth visiting to appreciate the artistry.
If you are a non-Muslim female and wish to visit the mosque, you’ll need to dress in a dark, all covering cloak known as a burqa. This can be borrowed from the on-site gift shop.
END YOUR 2 DAY AMMAN ITINERARY IN RAINBOW STREET
Having completed your Amman archeological and cultural sightseeing in the morning, it’s time to experience the chic side of the city. Head to Rainbow street.
Rainbow Street is in a trendy part of town high in the Amman hills. It is a wonderful neighborhood to wander and explore the quirky little shops and boutiques. As this street is so high on Amman’s hills, there are several lookout points that offer breathtaking views of the city below, especially of the Citadel.
This street is also a great option for lunch or dinner. If you want to sample a wide variety of local cuisines, take a self-guided food tour and enjoy the local foods; shawarma, waffles, curries, kebabs and sugar cane juice. One specialty you cannot miss are the smoothies found throughout the city. These are made with the freshest fruits and vegetables right in front of you; unusual concoctions involving pomegranates, pineapples, avocados, papaya, guava and kiwi that combine to be delicious and refreshing. Just point to what you want.
If you are in the mood to experience a more formal meal, head to Sufra Jordan, on Rainbow Street, specializing in traditional Jordanian food.
Another interesting location is Wild Jordan Center around the corner and down the street from Sufra. This organization offers tours of the country and provides information on the activities of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN). They also have a really cool gift shop selling organic products like soaps, toiletries, artworks and bags. They really have beautiful things and if you are looking for unique Jordanian souvenirs rather than mass produced trinkets, this place is for you.
ROOFTOP VIEWS OF AMMAN, JORDAN ON YOUR 2 DAY ITINERARY
Wild Jordan Center also has a cozy café offering an organic menu. The views of the city from this angle are just amazing.
One more exceptional location of Rainbow Street is Cantaloupe Gastro Pub, on the corner of #10 Rainbow Street. This is an elegantly appointed restaurant and bar with surprisingly reasonable prices. It looks and feels like the kind of place that would become your go-to favorite bar if you lived in Amman.
I had read that Cantaloupe Gastro Pub had a nice rooftop bar with spectacular views. I love rooftop bars and wanted to catch the sunset there but I arrived off hours and the rooftop was closed! Not only did the waiter let me in anyway, he prepared a little space for me where I could see the sunset. He then made me a meal, served me a drink, put a heat lamp close to me because it was a little chilly and put the nicest music on the loudspeaker. All this even through the place wasn’t even open yet!
The waiter could have said “Sorry, we’re closed,” which is what I expected. Instead he created a perfect environment for a total stranger, and a pretty shabby stranger at that, as I had been on the road for some time. I wish I had gotten the waiter’s name so I could tell his boss about his exceptional customer service.
Do you have a favorite travel moment?