×

11 Top-Rated Things to Do in Amman

Written by Joni Sweet
Apr 30, 2020

Whether you're traveling to Jordan to explore the ruins of Petra or go glamping in Wadi Rum, don't overlook the charming city of Amman. The hilly capital of Jordan boasts countless attractions and places to visit that connect tourists with the local culture and get them excited for what else the country has to offer. It's an underrated destination worth at least a few days in your itinerary.

No matter what drove you to come to Jordan, you can get a taste of it in Amman. Looking to play amateur archaeologist? Visiting the Amman Citadel and the Roman Theater will feel like traveling back in time. Interested in getting immersed in Jordanian culture? Amman's many art galleries and museums have you covered, and the people-watching on Rainbow Street can't be beat.

Eager to discover Middle Eastern wellness? Before visiting the Dead Sea, book a treatment at one of Amman's celebrated spas. Plus, the city makes an easy jumping-off point for day trips to other attractions around Jordan.

For ideas on planning your trip to Jordan, check out our list of the top things to do in Amman.

1. Explore the Amman Citadel

The Temple of Hercules at the Amman Citadel

You don't have to go far to see amazing archeological ruins in Jordan's capital. Perched atop the highest hill in the city, the Amman Citadel is conveniently located downtown and offers incredible views of the destination.

But more than just a lookout point, the Citadel is home to historical attractions that date as far back as the Bronze Age. Take a look at the two massive pillars on a podium — those landmarks are what remain of the Temple of Hercules, an important Roman structure that once linked this area with the Forum. Nearby, you can see a large, smooth stone sculpture of three bent fingers. The humanizing fragment was once part of a colossal statue of Hercules, which experts believe may have stood more than 12 meters tall. It gives tourists a sense of how majestic the Citadel was during its heyday.

The Citadel is also home to another impressive collection of buildings that comprise the Umayyad Palace, situated just above the Temple of Hercules. While much of the complex was destroyed in an earthquake in the mid-8th century, a few sites have been restored for tourists. You can see a domed audience hall, whose shape nods to the Byzantine church that originally stood in that location, as well as the former governor's residence, Umayyad Cistern, and the Byzantine Basilica.

Take a peek inside the Jordan Archaeological Museum to learn more about these fascinating attractions and get up close to artifacts discovered around the Citadel, including some of the oldest-known large-scale human figures.

Address: K. Ali Ben Al-Hussein St. 146, Amman

2. Visit the Roman Theater

The Roman Theater in Amman

When it comes to things to do in Amman, swinging by the Roman Theater is high on the list — and for good reason. The antique attraction perfectly blends historic Jordanian heritage with the city's vibrant modern-day life.

A 20-minute walk from the Amman Citadel, the restored Roman Theater deepens tourists' understanding of what Amman may have been like when the city went by the name "Philadelphia," nearly 2,000 years ago. The architectural masterpiece features a set of steep, curving stairs that can seat up to 6,000 people. Interestingly, the amphitheater was built to face the north in order to offer some sun protection for its spectators. Get here early in the day for the best lighting for photos.

Today, the Roman Theater hosts some of Amman's most important cultural events, including summer concerts and plays. It's also home to two interesting museums: the Jordan Museum of Popular Traditions and the Jordan Folklore Museum, both of which have great costume collections on display.

Address: Taha Al-Hashemi St., Amman

3. Spend an Afternoon on Rainbow Street

Umbrellas above Rainbow Street, Amman

Rainbow Street is the place to see and be seen in Amman. The famous road, which can be found in the historic district of Jabal Amman, offers a relaxing space for pedestrians to escape Amman's chaotic traffic and explore a part of the capital by foot.

Rainbow Street is liveliest on Thursday nights, when Jordanians officially kick off their weekend, but there are still plenty of things to do on this tourist-friendly promenade on any afternoon of the week. Boost your energy with a cup of tea at one of the lovely cafés that line Rainbow Street, such as Turtle Green Tea Bar or Jara Cafe. Or, tuck into a delicious (and refreshingly cheap) lunch — Al Quds fries up perfectly crisp falafel on sesame seed buns. Save some room for frozen fruit popsicles at Mr. Lollies.

Then, hit up Rainbow Street's retailers and find some souvenirs to take home. You can watch artisans create handicrafts and shop for unique products at Souk Jara, a flea market that pops up on one of Rainbow's side streets some Friday nights.

Just a couple of blocks off Rainbow Street, the Wild Jordan Center sells locally made jewelry, trinkets, soaps, mugs, and other souvenirs. The ethically minded store uses profits to support craftspeople and conservation efforts around Jordan.

Round out your sightseeing adventure on Rainbow Street with a visit to one of the nearby local art galleries, such as Nabad Art Gallery or Jacaranda.

4. Check Out the Royal Automobile Museum

The Royal Automobile Museum | Ankur P / photo modified

Whether you're a die-hard car enthusiast or you have a passion for road trips, you'll find it easy to enjoy the Royal Automobile Museum in the northern suburbs of Amman. Established in 2003, the relatively young museum showcases former King of Jordan Hussein bin Talal's rare cavalcade of cars and other vehicles from around the world.

Highlights of the collection include a pristine 1952 Aston Martin, a bunch of vintage motorbikes in every color of the rainbow, a Porsche Carrera GT, a Bugatti Veyron, a World War I-era armored Rolls Royce, and an experimental motorcycle from 1885. Outside, the museum also displays the Mars rover from the 2015 film The Martian, which was filmed in Wadi Rum.

Address: Al Hussein Public Parks, Amman

5. Learn about History at the Jordan Museum

Jordan Museum Archaeology display | Jean-Pierre Dalbéra / photo modified

No trip to Amman is complete without a thorough look at the Jordan Museum's illuminating exhibitions. The collection at this world-class institution, located in a modern building next to City Hall, brings Jordanian culture and history to life, starting with the country's earliest known inhabitants.

The museum tells the story of Jordan through three permanent galleries. The Traditional Life Gallery explores urban, rural, and Bedouin lifestyles through displays of residences and traditional costumes.

The Modern Jordan Wing traces the history of the country from the Great Arab Renaissance through the founding of the kingdom all the way to the present-day nation.

The Jordan Museum's largest display — the Archaeological and Historical Gallery — showcases an incredible array of important artifacts and scale models of ancient sites, like the Ayla Gate. Some of the most impressive items on display include 1.5-million-year-old animal bones and the Copper Scroll from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nowhere else in Amman gives tourists such an accessible, detailed glimpse at the heritage of Jordan.

Address: Ali Ben Abi Taleb Street, Amman

Official site: https://www.jordanmuseum.jo/en

6. See Amman's Other Ancient Attractions

The Odeon in Amman

The Amman Citadel and the Roman Theater aren't the only ancient attractions in Jordan's bustling capital. Continue your journey back through time by visiting some of the other archaeological gems scattered around Amman.

Just outside the Roman Theater, tourists can see the few columns that remain of what was once one of Imperial Rome's largest public plazas, the Forum. These towering structures date back to the 2nd century and set the mood for tourists entering the theater. To the east, tourists can see a smaller version of the Roman Theater, known as the Odeon. It seats about 500 spectators and now serves as a seasonal venue for live music and other events in Amman.

Another archaeological site worth a visit is the nearby Nymphaeum, a partially excavated public fountain that dates back to the 2nd century. It'll take some imagination to envision the elaborate mosaics, stone carvings, and the massive swimming pool that once filled this space.

7. Taste Amman's Best Falafel

Falafel and hummus at a restaurant in Amman

Where to find the best falafel in Amman is a hotly contested debate. There are tons of local restaurants that churn out piles of the famous chickpea fritters, and you can easily eat your way through the city trying to find your favorite falafel joint.

Locals and tourists alike love the falafel at Hashem. The decades-old restaurant in downtown Amman is perpetually busy, with enough guests to stay open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Fresh mint, tomato, and onion accompany platters of the chickpea balls, which are best served with puffy pita bread and hummus doused with olive oil. Wash it down with a cup of refreshing mint tea.

But Hashem is just the beginning of the options when it comes to falafel restaurants in Amman. Other spots to put on your list of places to eat falafel in Amman include Al Quds on Rainbow Street, Abu Jbara in Madina Munawaraå, or Al Kalha's airport location for your last meal in Jordan.

8. See Local Art at the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts

If you want to see what Middle Eastern art is all about, head to the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. The small but mighty museum showcases works from around the world, with particular attention to Jordan and its surrounding region. The permanent collection contains more than 2,800 works, including paintings, multimedia creations, photography, weaving, and sculptures, and represent artists from more than 60 countries.

In addition to beautiful displays of art, the beloved museum also hosts a range of events, including lectures, seminars, and workshops that teach visitors how to create their own masterpieces using techniques from featured artists. Ask your hotel or call the museum to see what's on the calendar during your visit.

Address: Hosni Fareez Street, Amman

Official site: http://www.nationalgallery.org/

9. Relax at Amman's Spas

Dead Sea salt spa crystals

While the Dead Sea is the preeminent region for relaxing in Jordan, Amman holds its own on the wellness travel scene with a number of excellent spas. In fact, the city's hammams still maintain bathing traditions that are hundreds of years old. Many of the facilities feature Middle Eastern-style saunas, steam rooms, communal baths, and private treatment rooms, along with pleasant spaces to wind down.

Suggested spas in Amman include the Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Amman, Gaia's Cocoon Spa, Marrakech Hammam, and Al-Pasha Turkish Bath. No matter where you go, you'll emerge feeling restored and ready for another day of sightseeing.

10. Get Wowed by Qasr al-Abd

Qasr al-Abd

About 20 kilometers west of Amman stands one of the few examples of Hellenistic architecture in the country, Qasr al-Abd. The desert palace, which was built from some of the largest blocks in the Middle East, features two stories that survived a massive earthquake in the year 362. While the landmark is no longer as opulent as it once was, you can still see carved lions on the roof and the sculpted big cats that once served as fountains.

11. Take Day Trips around Jordan

Columns and ruins in Jerash, Jordan

One of the best parts of visiting Amman is not only seeing what the city itself has to offer, but venturing outside of the borders of the capital. It makes a great base for taking day trips to some of the other wondrous places to visit in Jordan.

You can reach the Dead Sea attractions in around 90 minutes by car from Amman. Get a dose of nature therapy at the nearby Mujib Biosphere Reserve. Explore the well-preserved Roman ruins in Jerash, about 50 kilometers north of Amman. See the famous cross at Mount Nebo and the ancient mosaics in Madaba. And while just one afternoon in Petra might not be enough to see everything, a visit to that famous attraction is indeed doable as a day trip from Amman for time-pressed, yet ambitious tourists.

Discover destinations, find outdoor adventures, follow the journeys of our travel writers around the world, and be inspired.