Amman, with its sprawling hills, beautiful architecture and colorful streets, is often overshadowed by more famous Jordanian destinations like Petra, the Dead Sea and Wadi Rum. From food and shopping enthusiasts to architecture and history buffs, the city has something to offer every type of traveler.
Below are 10 must-do things in Amman to truly experience the essence of the city.
Cut into the side of a hill, the Roman Theater is one of Amman’s crowning jewels. The theater can seat up to 6,000 people and was built during the reign of Antonius Pius (A.D. 138 – 161), who was known for his love for philosophy, science and the arts.
Superb lighting, acoustics that allow you to hear clearly even from the farthest seats in the theater, a panoramic view from the top level — they all add up to create a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Today, the theater regularly hosts concerts and other events during the summer months. The experience and ambience of the place will completely spoil you for other venues.
The Citadel has a long history of occupation by different empires, beginning in the Bronze Age and continuing through the Umayyad period. Situated on the highest hill of Amman, the site is surrounded by a 5,577-foot wall and is home to many historical sites, including the Temple of Hercules, the Umayyad Palace and the Byzantine Church.
Temple of Hercules
One of the three most popular structures in Amman Citadel, the Temple of Hercules deserves a mention of its own. The temple once housed the statue of Hercules, which historians believe toppled and broke in one of the many earthquakes in the region. The only thing left is the Hand of Hercules (three fingers and an elbow, to be fair) that now sits on the ground. Even with just three fingers, the hand of Hercules is a sight to behold.
The Al Shamasi (Umbrella) Street is one of Amman’s many Instagram-worthy locations. It’s shaded, it’s colorful and it’s topped with hundreds of umbrellas. It started out as an art installation but has now become a city landmark.
Here’s the most interesting part: Like many streets in Amman, the Umbrella Street is actually a passage of stairs. Lined with colorful potted plants, restaurants and shops, the street is a treat to climb. Once you’re wandering along Umbrella Street, there’s so much to see that you won’t even notice the many steps you’re ascending.
Bakdash — Amman’s Legendary Syrian Ice-Cream Parlor
Syrian ice cream in Jordan? Think of it as Syria’s gift to the city, and make sure you try it. Made from mastic and sahlep and pounded into creamy, stretchy perfection, the ice cream is then covered in crushed pistachios before its rolled, cut and served. A sweet treat from Bakdash is the perfect way to cool off on a hot summer Amman afternoon.
While this patisserie serves many sweets, it all started with the shop’s Kunafa. Ask any Jordanian, and they’ll tell you that the Kunafa — a traditional cheese pastry soaked in sugar syrup — is a must-try dessert in Amman, and Habibah’s version is the one to try.
Interested in both history and religion? Then Mount Nebo is the place to go. While the drive here is short, there is a lot to see. Mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the promised land, the mountain offers a clear view of River Jordan, Jericho, the Dead Sea, Bethlehem and the hills of Jerusalem. You’ll see exactly what Moses saw when he reached Mount Nebo with his followers.
It is said that Moses lived his last years on this mountain and is buried in the area, though no proof has been found. Mount Nebo has long been a pilgrimage site. It also has remains of a church and an ancient monastery with Byzantine mosaics that are still in pristine condition.
To visit Mount Nebo, book a trip with your hotel or tour guide.
Royal Automobile Museum
If you’re a car or a motorbike enthusiast, you can’t miss the Royal Automobile Museum. With more than 70 classic cars and motorcycles from the personal collection of the King of Jordan, the museum is a homage to King Abdullah’s late father, King Hussein, who was a car lover.
Not only will you see the coolest collection you’ve ever laid eyes on, but you’ll also feel the passion King Hussein had for cars and chart his life through the cars he drove.
Souks are traditional marketplaces with shops that sell country and culture-specific merchandise. Situated next to Amman’s famous Rainbow Street, Souk Jara is the place tourists and locals alike go to spend a lazy Friday and shop their hearts out. Advice from the locals: The food court’s expensive. You’d be better off eating someplace else.
King Abdullah Mosque
Any trip to a Middle Eastern country is incomplete without a visit to a mosque. The King Abdullah mosque can accommodate more than 10,000 worshipers and is a sight to behold. With its 114-foot-wide blue dome and blue mosaic tiles, the mosque is a must visit to experience a slice of daily life in Amman.
It also houses the Islamic Museum and has separate areas for male and female worshipers. When entering the mosque, don’t forget to remove your shoes. Women are asked to wear the traditional abaya (available for free from the souvenir shop at the entrance) and cover their heads. If you’re not a fan of crowds, then avoid going during prayer times.