Amman: Key Insights, Activities, Access, and Valuable Tips

Amman stands as the capital and primary metropolis of Jordan, boasting a populace of over 4 million residents. Beyond its size, the city pulsates with a unique blend of social and cultural energy. For this very reason, our tours often earmark time specifically for its exploration. Here, we provide insights on:

  • What to see in Amman: Discover its main attractions.
  • Activities: Dive into things you can do.
  • Access: Learn the best ways to get there.
  • Other Tips: Gather essential information for your trip to this vibrant city.

Table of Contents

Where is Amman Located and What's its Climate Like?

Amman is nestled in the northwestern region of Jordan, situated amidst a rugged and hilly terrain. It’s roughly 50 km from the border with Israel (to the west) and about 120 km from the Syrian border (to the north).

Its climate, similar to many other parts of Jordan, is distinguished by significant temperature fluctuations between winter and summer. Winter days can become particularly cold, with the possibility of snowfalls. In contrast, summer can usher in stifling heat, with temperatures often soaring well beyond 30ºC.

Such climatic conditions in Amman, and in other Jordanian cities, are influenced by their geographical setting: the city is perched on a plateau, and in many areas, the altitude surpasses approximately 800 meters above sea level. Undoubtedly, the spring months (April, May) and the autumn months (October, November) present the most favorable climatic conditions for visiting. However, Amman welcomes tourists all year round, only slowing its daily pace during the month of Ramadan.

How to get to Amman

A Brief History

Walking through the streets of Amman, where 20th-century buildings in cream and gray shades dominate (the latter due to a lack of maintenance), a traveler might assume they are in a newly established city, devoid of historic monuments. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth: there’s a wealth to see in Amman, much of it ancient.

It’s known that this territory was inhabited during Neolithic times, as evidenced by the Ain Ghazal site on the city’s outskirts. This settlement has yielded remarkable stone and plaster statuettes, dating back to around 8,500 B.C.—a whopping 4,000 years before the Egyptian pyramids!

In subsequent millennia, this territory was part of what was known as Canaan and the Ammonite kingdom. It engaged in trade with prominent civilizations of its time, like the Egyptian and Mycenaean.

The area of the current Citadel, on the Jebel al-Qala’a hill, is the city’s oldest continuously inhabited section: since approximately 1800 B.C, known by the name Rabat or Rabat Ammon. In fact, it’s mentioned in the Old Testament and was besieged by King David.

It was later conquered by successive invading empires, such as the Assyrians and Persians. During the Ptolemaic dynasty, Egypt also extended its reach to present-day Amman. Pharaoh Ptolemy Philadelphus rebuilt and renamed it Philadelphia in the 3rd century B.C.

The Romans then brought it under their rule, incorporating it into the Decapolis (a network of 10 Roman cities on the empire’s eastern frontier, which also included Gerasa, now Jerash). Amman saw a period of splendor, evident today in the magnificent remnants of the Roman Theater and other grand structures. But with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, its significance waned, becoming somewhat overshadowed in the Byzantine era.

From the mid-7th century, following Muslim conquest, Amman experienced a resurgence for several centuries, under both the Umayyads and Abbasids. This was largely due to its location on a regional caravan route connecting Damascus with Mecca. However, this revival was notably hindered during the Crusades when Karak, from the 10th century onwards, took on the region’s central role, coupled with various natural disasters.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Amman regained its geopolitical significance: the construction of the Hejaz Railway by the Ottoman Empire, linking Damascus and Medina, put the city back on the map. However, this project waned due to the Arab Revolt in 1916.

Nevertheless, the 20th century firmly positioned Amman as a capital: whether under British protectorate or as an independent kingdom from 1946, monarchs of the Hashemite dynasty chose it as the seat of their court and government, a role it retains to this day.

Sights to see in Amman

What to See in Amman

Amman’s most intriguing sites are scattered across its various hills, known as “jebel.” In ancient times, the city spanned seven hills, but now it covers over a dozen. Each one largely represents a neighborhood with its own unique vibe. Particularly notable for their historical and monumental significance are Jebel Amman and Jebel al-Qala’a, which form the oldest core of Amman.

Here’s a list of places to see in Amman, located not only in Jebel Amman but also in other city neighborhoods. To cover all, you’d need more than a day, especially if you plan to visit any of its museums.

  • Citadel and Historical Ruins: Situated on Jebel al-Qala’a hill. Occupied since the Bronze Age, it retains a vast wall, reconstructed in each historical period of the city. The panoramic views from this location are stunning, especially at sunset. This area includes several key attractions:

    • Temple of Hercules: Built during the time of Marcus Aurelius.
    • Umayyad Palace: Constructed by the Umayyads in the 8th century.
    • Archaeological Museum.
    • Remnants of a Byzantine basilica.
  • Roman Theater: Roman Amman, known as Philadelphia, was a significant city where culture played a pivotal role. This magnificent theater, with a capacity of around 6,000 people, stands testament to this. Built in the 2nd century AD, during Emperor Antoninus Pius’ reign, it boasts incredible acoustics, which are still evident today as performances and concerts continue to be held.

  • Other Roman Remains: The Roman Theater isn’t the only relic from Amman’s golden era. Other archaeological remains bear witness to this illustrious past:

    • Roman Forum: One of Philadelphia’s grand public squares.
    • Nymphaeum: A public fountain dedicated to nymphs.
    • Odeon: A small venue for musical performances.
  • Al-Husseini Mosque: Built in 1924 on the site of another historical mosque from 640 AD.

  • King Abdullah Mosque: Completed in 1989 in honor of the king who also championed the construction of the Al-Husseini Mosque. Noteworthy for its striking blue dome and its vast capacity—over 7,000 people.

  • Rainbow Street: One of the city’s liveliest streets, renowned for its cafes and restaurants.

  • Hejaz Railway: A station with historic, decommissioned trains and a quaint museum. It exudes a sense of decay and nostalgia, transporting visitors to the early 20th century.

Amman Museum

Top Museums to Visit in Amman

Amman is undoubtedly Jordan’s most intriguing city from a museological and artistic perspective. It boasts a variety of exhibition centers showcasing both modern creators and ancient treasures, in addition to several archaeological museums with invaluable artifacts. Here’s a list of museums to visit in Amman if you have the time:

  • Jordan Museum: An archaeological and historical museum established in 2014, showcasing an exceptional collection highlighted by the Ain Ghazal figurines from 8,500 B.C. It’s a must-visit for those looking to dive deeper into Petra’s history and the Nabateans.

  • Archaeological Museum: Located within the Citadel. Although the facilities could use an update, the exhibited items provide a deep insight into Amman’s history and prehistory.

  • Folklore Museum: Modest but insightful for understanding old ways of life, like the nomadic customs of the Bedouins or traditional Circassian clothing.

  • Museum of Popular Traditions: Another ethnographic museum not only displaying ancient costumes but also jewelry and mosaics from other Jordanian cities, such as Jerash and Madaba.

  • Automobile Museum: A surprising exhibition of King Hussein’s personal collection of classic cars and motorcycles, with over fifty vehicles, some dating back to the early 20th century.

  • Darat Al Funun: One of the best contemporary art museums in the Middle East. An essential visit in Amman for art enthusiasts.

  • Jordan’s National Gallery of Fine Arts: Another key gallery for immersing oneself in the country’s contemporary art, highlighting painting, sculpture, and pottery.

  • Islamic Museum: Located inside the King Abdullah Mosque, it showcases personal items of the said king and other Muslim-themed artistic objects.

Sites to See in the Surroundings

If you have ample time during your trip and can dedicate more than a day to the city, you’ll also find compelling sites to visit in the outskirts of Amman. Here’s a short list of suggestions:

  • Qsar al Abad: A historical structure, likely from the Hellenistic period, located about 17 km from Amman, in the Wadi as-Ser valley.

  • Wadi as-Ser: A fertile valley starkly contrasting with Amman’s arid plateau. A few kilometers from this location, remnants of a Roman aqueduct can be found.

  • Cave of the Seven Sleepers (Kahf ar-Raqim): A cave where, according to Christian tradition, seven children took refuge to escape religious persecution during Emperor Trajan’s time. Here, they miraculously slept for over three centuries.

What to Do in Amman

What to Do in Amman

Amman is one of the liveliest cities in Jordan, offering a broader range of entertainment options than other parts of the country. Recently, parties and cultural events have been organized in prominent locations, such as the Roman Theatre and the Odeon. Hence, it’s recommended to check with the tourism office for more details (see below). Probably the most significant music festival is the Amman Jazz Festival, featuring both local and international groups and artists.

When it comes to shopping, Amman stands out:

  • It is home to the main souks or markets in the country. Noteworthy mentions include the hardware souk (metal objects), the Jara souk, and the gold souk (or El-Sagha).
  • The city boasts numerous antique shops and craft stores, some of which source their items from local cooperatives.
  • For more modern and international shopping experiences, the City Mall in Amman is the place to go.

Lastly, gastronomy is another highlight of Amman:

  • The city offers an extensive variety of restaurants catering to every taste and budget.
  • There are also cooking courses designed for travelers, introducing them to Jordanian flavors and culinary techniques.

Our team can provide recommendations on where to eat in Amman, what to see, and where to partake in these activities.

How to Get to Amman

Amman serves as the main gateway to the country. It is home to Jordan’s primary international airport, the Queen Alia International Airport. On our “How to Get to Jordan” page, you can find a comprehensive list of destinations directly connected to this airport. Additionally, there is a direct flight from Aqaba, Jordan’s other operational airport, to Amman.

If you’re considering arriving in Amman by land, your options are:

  • Road Travel: This means either driving a car or taking a bus since the railway service in the country is very limited. The only available train line comes from Damascus, which is currently not a viable option.

  • Bus Services: Amman has robust road connectivity with the rest of the country. The leading bus company, JETT, has its hub in the capital and connects the city to major tourist destinations like Aqaba, Petra, the Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum with scheduled departures almost every day. The two main stations in their network are Abdali and the 7th Circle. Additionally, JETT offers long-distance routes to/from Cairo and Saudi cities like Jeddah, Riyadh, and Dammam.

However, if you’re looking for comfort and flexibility:

  • Private Vehicle: This remains the most convenient and independent option. Whether you choose a chauffeur-driven vehicle or a rental car to drive yourself, here are some approximate distances and travel times to key destinations:
    • Jerash: 50 km, 45 minutes
    • Petra: 230 km, 3 hours
    • Dead Sea: 60 km, 1 hour
    • Madaba: 30 km, 40 minutes
    • Border with Israel: 50 km, 50 minutes
    • Jerusalem: 90 km, 1 hour and 45 minutes (though border crossing might add delays)
    • Wadi Rum: 315 km, 3 hours and 45 minutes
    • Aqaba: 330 km, 4 hours

Always remember to account for any potential delays, especially when crossing borders.

how to get around in Amman

How to Get from the Airport to Downtown

A vital concern for every traveler is how to transit from the airport to the city center. The most convenient method is to book a private transfer with a chauffeur, who will wait for you at the airport exit. The journey to the center typically takes around 30 minutes, barring any traffic congestion.

If you’d prefer to navigate this journey independently, here are your options:

  • Private Taxi: These are the yellow-colored ones.
  • Shared Taxi: White in color. These are cheaper but usually operate on predefined routes.
  • App-Based Taxis: Options include Careem and Uber.
  • Airport Shuttle Bus: The Sariyah Express. This service connects to the Tabarbour bus station.

Useful Addresses

In Amman, you’ll find the country’s primary administrative institutions. Several of these entities offer services to citizens and travelers. Specifically, you might want to note:

  • Tourist Information: Located at Al Mutanabi st, Jebel Amman. Situated on the ground floor of the Ministry of Tourism. It’s an excellent spot to gather up-to-date information on what to see and do in Amman. Additionally, they can provide insights into the city’s cultural calendar.
  • Tourist Police: Located at Al Mutanabi st, Jebel Amman. This is a division of the local police dedicated to assisting tourists, including offering services in multiple languages. They are also situated on the ground floor of the Ministry of Tourism.
  • Embassies and Consular Offices: Being the capital of Jordan, all countries with a diplomatic mission in Jordan have their embassy located in Amman. You can refer to our page on Jordan’s embassies and consulates for a comprehensive list.

Plan your trip to Amman

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