Jordan’s Capital of Amman, on first impressions, is disorganised and a little chaotic. So Amman does have a slightly run down and scruffy look to it, this is partially to do with the fact that everything is dusty – even the newest buildings are covered in a fine layer of beige coloured dust.
The city stretches over hilly and rocky terrain, so streets zig-zag all over the place linked by steep staircases cutting off corners for pedestrians. It’s a far cry from the ‘civilized’ grid-like system in most modern cities, this twinned with the gradient means you’ll need a decent set of knees for this city. Think of it as an urban workout, your calf’s will know about it the next day.
Despite this, there are also a ton of things to do in Amman.
Amman – in a nutshell
Historically, Amman dates back to Neolithic times (8500 BC), since then the City has had different names. First, Rabbath AmmonIn (in the 13th Century BC) and then in (280BC) it was called Philadelphia, after Ptolemy II Philadelphus.
It boasts some pretty awesome Roman ruins including a Citadel and an Amphitheatre.
The City of Amman has now grown to spread over 19 hills! *refer back to my previous comment on ‘urban workout!’
It’s been ruled by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Egyptians and Romans.
It’s one of the most liberal cities in the Middle East.
Amman Itinerary (Starting off in one of the eateries or cafes along Rainbow Street)
Things to do in Amman: Rainbow Street
Before a full day of sightseeing, be sure to try out a traditional Jordanian breakfast in Amman.
As a tourist, one of the top things to do in Amman is to visit Rainbow Street. Deceptively named, the street is no more colourful than anywhere else in Amman, it’s still dust-coloured. Rainbow Street is where you’ll find tourists and locals alike, a whole mix of restaurants ranging from hole-in-the-wall style, sweet treats, cafes and hipster hangouts. Rainbow Street, on the whole, is relatively flat once you are on it. Have a Turkish Coffee or one of the delicious teas before heading down the hill into the old town.
Things to do in Amman: Old Town
The first part of the day is easy, meander your way down through the streets and steps to the Nymphonium. At my time of visiting this site was closed, but historically this is where the water back in Roman times came from. This is quite a small site with minimal information (there is just one board explaining the site) and plenty of litter to look at so it’s worth all of 5 minutes, and that’s pushing it, before moving on.
You’ll then pass The Mosque, again, this had the potential to look awesome, but it was all a bit tired looking. It’s a good way to see the bustle of locals going about their every day lives on the fairly open courtyard in front of the Mosque.
Of all the things to do in Amman, both the Nymphonium and Mosque certainly aren’t highlights, but they are en route. They are easily skippable so if you are pushed for time, cut to the chase and go directly to the Colosseum.
Things to do in Amman: The Colosseum
The Colosseum is half built into the hillside (so don’t expect the cylindrical one like in Rome!) this is certainly a semi-circle. A ticket is 2JD (approx £2) to go inside. This gives you access to the main Colosseum, the two museums and the little Colosseum. In all honesty, the museums were a bit naff and dated, but there are a few nice nuggets of information in there but certainly lack the quality of European museums.
Spend a bit of time at the Colosseum, climbing up and down the steps, at the top you’ll have a decent vantage point to photo the surrounding area – the Colosseum is situated in a natural bowl, so the view of Amman from the surrounding hillsides with the Citadel looking down makes for a good panoramic shot
From the main Colosseum, head over to the Little Colosseum, a fraction of the size but superbly renovated and much quieter than its bigger brother you’ve just visited. This one is certainly more tranquil to sit in the warm sun, before contemplating the hike up the hill to the next stop. You will be able to see your next target – the Citadel at the top of the hill looking down.
Things to do in Amman – The Citadel
Head across the courtyard opposite the main Colosseum and you will also be able to see the flight of stairs that leads up the hill and eventually to the road that takes you to the Citadel. If the walk is too much then grab a taxi, – it should cost no more than 1-2JD! While you are walking up, don’t forget to turn around and look back down on the Colosseum from above – another decent panoramic photo opportunity.
Entry to The Citadel is 3JD (approx £3) So, a word to the wise. If it’s a breezy day, you’ll need a jacket up here. It’s pretty exposed, and I’m a southern wimp so I was certainly grateful of my hoodie here. Being a Citadel, it’s going to be situated on the highest point in the City and when that glorious sunshine goes behind the clouds it certainly is nippy (literally!)
The site is do-able within a couple of hours. But take time to fully explore The Temple of Hercules, The Umayyad Palace and the Byzantine Church. There is also a little museum here too, which actually has some cool stuff inside (better than the ones at the Colosseum)
Things to do in Amman – Eat delicious Jordanian fare
When you are done at The Citadel, head back towards Rainbow Street to get a well deserved Turkish Coffee and a bite to eat. To walk from the Citadel to Rainbow Street is a mix of downhill and then uphill – it took me less than 30 minutes. Alternatively, if you don’t fancy the ‘Urban Gym’ then grab a taxi – again, no more than 2JD! I opted to walk.
Where to stay in Amman
A top place to stay in the historical part of Amman, which is a stone’s throw from Rainbow Street is Nomads Hotel and Hostel – quirky artwork, chilled vibe and rooftop view. This relatively new establishment boasts amazing hot showers, decent facilitates and top-notch staff. A dorm room costs around 11JD per night here. I initially booked just a single night, I ended up staying 4 nights in total here at the start and the end of my trip I loved it so much.