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Top 8 attractions and things to do in Amman

With fine examples of Roman history, delicious local foods, a wonderful contemporary art scene and lots of funky shops, Amman is a great destination for a long weekend. Here’s our selection of the best things to do in Amman so you don’t waste a minute.

1. Visit an art gallery

There’s a few art galleries in Amman, the largest one being the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts. The country has a long and rich history of art and this gallery is a wonderful insight into that. Its permanent collection has almost 3,000 pieces in it, including weaving, sculpture, paintings, graphic arts and ceramics. Featured artists include the late Jordanian-Turkish artist Princess Fahrelnissa Zeid, whose works have sold for more than US$2m dollars in auction, and Iranian-French painter Ghasem Hajizadeh, who was exiled from Iran in 1979 and now lives in Paris. You can see the full list of artists here. Other popular contemporary art galleries in Amman include Dar Al Anda Art Gallery and Nabad Gallery.

Opening hours: Open every day except Tuesdays and Fridays. Opening hours are 9am through 7pm in the summer and 9am through 5pm in winter. The gallery closes on public holidays and is open 9am through 2pm during Ramadan.

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2. Take an Arabic cooking class

Beit Sitti was set up by three enthusiastic Amman sisters – Maria, Dina and Tania – who run their classes in their late Grandmother’s house (the same house they themselves learnt to cook). If you sign up for one of these popular classes you’ll likely find yourself working alongside young Jordanians who want to keep the traditional cooking methods alive, as well as other tourists. Beit Sitti also has social enterprise element by offering local women the chance to teach the classes. The produce is bought fresh from the local market and the women ask that you book in advance to make sure they can plan menus using the freshest seasonal produce. Certainly one of the best things to do in Amman!

Contact: Email info@beitsitti.com or on the phone numbers listed on the website here. There’s also a handy “how to explain the location to your taxi driver” explanation on the website!

3. Step back in time at the Amman Citadel

A day trip to the the Amman Citadel is a fantastic thing to do in Amman if you like your history; the site has been occupied since the Bronze Age and evidence suggests it was a fortress and political site for centuries. It’s situated on Jebel Al-Qala’a, the highest point in Amman (850m above sea level), giving you impressive views of the city. The main points of interest are the Umayyad Palace, Roman Temple of Hercules (of which remains only two very tall pillars), the Byzantine Basilica and the Jordan Archaeological Museum (entrance is included in the Amman Citadel ticket price). There’s not a whole lot of shade so if you’re visiting on a hot day or in the middle of the day, take plenty of water and a hat. Consider taking a guide from the Citadel ticket office which is on the main road leading to the entrance. The fully-licensed guides – who speak virtually every language – cost around JD15 (Dh78) an hour and really know their stuff.

Opening hours: From 8am through 4pm in winter (November through April) and 8am through 6.30pm in summer. It’s open during Ramadan between 8am and 3.30pm, and between 8am and 5.30pm in April and May.

Amman Citadel dates back to the Bronze Age and was a very important political site for thousands of years

 

4. Shop on Rainbow Street Amman

If hip boutiques and ice cream are your thing, head to Rainbow Street; it’s where the cool kids hang out! It has lots of stores selling Jordanian crafts, jewelry, rugs, ceramics and other types of handicrafts, and very little is tourist tat. The Jordan River Foundation, a non-profit that champions women and children, has its stylish and well-stocked showroom on Rainbow Street selling beautiful embroideries, rugs made using traditional Bedouin weaving techniques, and lots of other items that arrive at the showroom via projects which create job opportunities for local women. Once you’ve bought everything you can carry, take a seat outside one of the many ice-cream shops and marvel at the Street’s wonderful architecture and watch the world go by.

5. Roman Theater Amman

Again, if you like your history, the Roman Theater in Amman is a must-see attraction. It dates back, obviously, to the Roman era and you can almost feel how the atmosphere would’ve been thousands of years ago when Romans gathered to watch all manner of entertainment here. It’s cut into the side of a hill in Amman and seats a massive 6,000 spectators. The seating is split into different sections; front-row seats for the Roman rulers, a middle section for the Roman military, and the upper levels for the general public. It’s believed the theater was built during the rule of Antoninus Pius (138-161). The theater has undergone restoration and not all of it has been as sympathetic as some would’ve liked; the full restoration which started in 1957 used new materials so the theater in its current state isn’t truly accurate, but it’s very impressive nonetheless.

Opening hours: From 8am through 4pm in winter (November through April) and 8am through 6.30pm in summer. It’s open during Ramadan between 8am and 3.30pm, and between 8am and 5.30pm in April and May.

6. Sample some famous sweets

“It’s where the locals go” is a popular phrase in travel blogs but not always strictly true. But in the case of Habibah Sweets on Al Hazzar Street, it’s completely accurate! It’s one of Downtown Amman’s oldest sweet shops and as such has completely perfected the art of dessert making. The most popular dish is the Kunafa (also spelled Knafeh, Konafe, Knafe and a myriad other ways), a Middle Eastern sweet made from cheese pastry dripping in a sugar-based syrup. It’s a small shop and there’s usually a queue down the street but fear not, it moves quickly and the wait is very much worth it.

Address: There’s a few branches around Amman but the most popular is next to the Al Bank Al Arabi on Al Hazzar Street in Downtown Amman, which opened in 1951. If you can’t find it, ask anyone around you for directions.

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7. Visit the Royal Automobile Museum

Amman’s Royal Automobile Museum was the brainchild of His Majesty King Abdulla II who wanted it as a tribute to his late father, King Hussein. According to the museum’s exhibitions, the country was in the center of the East-West caravan routes so often picked up luxury Rolls Royce vehicles (which were then transformed into army troop carriers) and other vehicles that slowly replaced camels and horses as the main modes of transport. The collection is certainly eclectic and bound to be popular with car enthusiasts, with everything from a very early 1915 Rolls Royce to a 1961 Lincoln, as well as a 1983 bulletproof Mercedes-Benz which was used by King Hussein as his everyday car for many years.

Address and opening hours: King Hussein Park, Amman, 11953, Jordan. Open every day apart from Tuesdays from 10am through 7pm. Closed on the first day of Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha, and New Year’s Day.

8. Explore the souks in Downtown Amman (Al Balad)

If you want to eat at one of the best restaurants in Amman you need not splash out at a luxury Amman hotel. No, the restaurant that’s considered by far the best eatery in Amman is Hashem Restaurant on King Faisal Street, which is famous for its hummus and falafel but everything on the menu tastes good. With no reservations allowed and open 24-hours a day, it’s safe to say it’s popular. Once you’ve eaten, take some time to wander around the streets in Al Balad and take in the scent of the spice shops or buy a sugarcane juice for a hit of energy. There are plenty of food shops, clothes shops and trinket shops, all of them popular with the locals; it’s not a tourist trap. The atmosphere is fun and friendly but it can get very busy on a Friday afternoon after prayers.

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*Published November 2018. Prices correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change and/or availability.

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