Jordan is the perfect introduction to people who are visiting the Middle East for the first time. It offers the perfect balance between the cultural and traditional aspects of this region with its modern side. Not only is it loaded with all modern luxuries, but it still retains its traditional Jordanian culture.
Most of the travellers from around the world visit Jordan for the marvels of Petra and the beautiful landscapes of Wadi Rum. Due to this, Amman is just considered to be a landing place and a starting point to start a Jordan vacation.
But not many people realize that Amman is filled with a large number of architectural and historical landmarks that are definitely worth a visit. The capital city of Amman deserved at least 3 days of your time.
These 2 days in Jordan will be filled with exploring well-loved historical sites, cafes, restaurants serving delicious Jordanian cuisine, panoramic views of the area and culture-filled hotspots. Without so much to see and do, you will be left wanting much more. This itinerary can also be reused as a weekend in Jordan itinerary.
With family and food as an integral part of the local culture, you will be overwhelmed with the hospitality you receive here, which will make you want to visit over and over again.
Let’s kick off our first day in the gorgeous town of Amman with exploring the city and all its marvels. We will explore both the historical sites of the city as well as its modern counterparts.
We will explore the Amman Citadel, Umayyad Palace Complex, Temple of Hercules and other archaeological marvels of the city. Not only this, but we will also visit the Rainbow Street depicting the modern part of the city and spend some time exploring this part of Amman as well.
Jordanian cuisine is also an essential part of the city’s culture and must not be missed.
What better way to start off your first day in Amman than sampling the local cuisine along with sipping on a delicious cup of gahweh (Arabic coffee) or Shai (tea). Luckily, the city of Amman is filled with numerous excellent cafes and breakfast places.
To fuel your body for your first day of exploring Amman, head over to the legendary Hashem Restaurant in Downtown Amman. This restaurant has been serving authentic cuisines from the region for over 60 years.
For the perfect start to the day, try their stuffed falafel with sumac and onions tucked within and topped with sesame seeds. You must also try their garlicky muttabal – a puree made from roasted Aubergine and their silky hummus accompanied by fresh Arabic bread.
In the morning of your Amman itinerary, get acquainted with a bit of Jordanian history in the old Downtown area. It’s not only Petra that holds the country’s architectural gems!
After breakfast, we’ll kick start our day of exploration from the Amman Nymphaneum. This is an ancient fountain excavated from the ruins of the city in the 90s. The restorations for the fountain continue even today.
Though at present there are just a few alcoves and columns to see here, it is quite evident how magnificent the fountain must have been during its prime years. It is believed to have been comprised of a pool measuring 600 square meters long and 3 meters deep.
Next, take a short walk for about 10 minutes to reach the Roman Theatre. This is a well-preserved theatre from the 2nd century AD. It has the capacity to seat about 6000 people.
Nested in the heart of Amman, the Roman Theatre looks really interesting. You can take your time to walk up and down the entire theatre, climbing the steep steps and clicking pictures in the different royal seats strategically placed all over.
One of the best amongst the historical sites of Amman, the Roman Theatre can be entered for a small fee of 2 JD. However, if you hold an Amman Pass, you can enter the site for free.
After exploring the Roman Theatre, get ready for a steep uphill walk for about 15 minutes to reach Amman Citadel.
Perched on top of a historically-important hill, the Citadel was occupied with different civilizations throughout its existence from Roman to Ummayad and Byzantine empires. Currently, it is home to some of the best archaeological wonders in the area.
At present, the top highlights are the Temple of Hercules and Ummayad Palace. Though only a few pillars from the original structure remain now, it is still a sight to behold.
Even if you are not a fan of history, the panoramic views that you will get from the top of the Citadel will make your visit completely worthwhile. Spare a minimum of 45 minutes to 1 hour for visiting the Citadel.
After exploring the Citadel, walk down a bit on the opposite side of the hill to reach Downtown Amman. After all this walking, you will have worked up quite an appetite. So now it is time to get some nourishment at Al Quds.
Al Quds is a famous restaurant in Amman offering traditional dishes such as Makloubeh (a traditional dish made with vegetables, rice and meat which is served upside down right before serving) and mansaf (a traditional dish made using yogurt, lamb and rice – the national dish of Jordan).
After lunch, walk next door to Habibah – a famous dessert place offering the best Kunafeh in the city. Kunafeh is a must-try when you visit Amman. It is a Palestinian dessert comprising of a pastry filled with local cheese, topped with shredded Kadaif noodles, orange blossom water and pistachios and soaked in syrup.
After lunch, spend some time exploring the streets and browsing the local souqs at Amman’s historic downtown. There are numerous souvenir shops, small eateries and different stores on the street. Take the city and take in its energy as you walk around on through this historic neighbourhood.
It is a great place to shop for some souvenirs for your friends and family back home. You can also get yourself some Arabian outfits, which is a speciality here.
From the Al Balad, there are stairs leading up to the Acropolis perched on the Citadel, which are used by locals even today to ascend to the temple complex easily.
Another architectural marvel worth visiting in Amman is King Abdullah I Mosque. Built during 1980s, this blue-domed structure was built by King Hussein as his grandfather’s memorial. It is the only mosque in Amman that is open to Non-Muslim visitors as well.
Covering a huge area of 1615 square meters, it can accommodate over 3000 worshippers at once. It is built in an octagonal shape and is renowned for the fact that it has no pillars inside. It houses a suspend chandelier comprising of 168 lanterns with the word Allah and Holy Quranic verse written on each of them.
Its huge red carpet made with ornamental textile helps direct the worshippers towards the Kiblah. All walls inside are paneled with marble oriels and wood, making the entire infrastructure a gorgeous piece of art.
There is a small museum housed inside the complex as well, containing personal photos and acquisitions of King Abdullah as well.
Next, we will move a short walk uphill to the modern side of Amman towards Rainbow Street. After visiting here, you will notice Amman quickly changing from tiny shops and chaotic alleyways to cobblestone streets with modern infrastructure.
Walk down Rainbow Street and explore the area. Stop and enter whatever store or eatery interests you for a quick snack or shopping spree.
Rainbow Street is littered with numerous trendy bars, fancy restaurants and chic stores from top brands from around the world. The street art here is also a sight to behold.
It is one of the most prosperous streets in the city and serves visitors from around the globe on a day to day basis. It is best to explore the street during the early evening and finish the day off with dinner and drinks at Rainbow Streets.
Beit Sitti is a restaurant in Amman with a unique offering for its visitors. It gives the patrons an opportunity to learn to cook some traditional Jordanian dishes.
Literally meaning ‘Grandma’s House’, the restaurant is operated by three sisters who launched this unique undertaking to keep the legacy of their grandmother alive by sharing her cooking techniques and recipes with the world. Once you sign up for a cook and dine session, you can learn to prepare various Arabic dishes inside a professional kitchen.
Once done, you can sit down and savour your own delicious creations. You can book cooking sessions for breakfast, lunch as well as dinner. However, try to go during dinner time as it will be a good way to have some fun time after a tiring day.
The entire experience costs about 30 JD plus tax. Make sure to book your session in advance as the restaurant opens only upon request.
At the end of the day, it is time to unwind with your favourite drinks at Cantaloupe Gastropub on Rainbow Street.
This bar has a chilled-out vibe, amazing views of the old town and hills around the city and great cocktails. It gives the feeling of an old European town with beautiful views of Citadel. The Temple of Hercules on top of the hill is illuminated and gives amazing views from the bar.
Not only do they serve great drinks but offer good quality food as well, including various grills, steak, fishes, shellfishes and chicken.
This is the perfect place to end your first day in Amman by soaking in the gorgeous views and taking your fatigue off.
Discover the areas outside Amman with a full-day exploration tour. You can see how different the modern town of Jerash is to the ancient city of Gerasa.
We will also learn about the important of Ajloun Castle during times of the Crusades as well as admire the gorgeous views from Mount Nebo.
Another important stop on this day is to explore the city of mosaics – Madaba where will we see the huge Madaba map made completely from mosaics.
Kick off the second day in Amman with a hearty breakfast at Aby Jbara. It is a middle-eastern restaurant with a casual vibe. With both indoor and outdoor seating, it offers fantastic breakfast food at an affordable price.
The restaurant is quite popular with the locals, and the ambience is inviting and clean. The service is also quite amazing as the dishes usually appear instantly after ordering.
Make sure to try their fateh – a mixture of chickpeas and bread covered with olive oil and pine nuts. You can also try the moutabel and foul, which are perfect for breakfast.
If you are in the mood for some meat, you can go for some hummus with shwarma. Whatever you order, make sure to order their famous tea with mint to go with your breakfast. Not only is it refreshing, but it tastes excellent as well.
Learn about the history and grandeur of Jordan’s Hashemite Kingdom from the 1920s by visiting the Royal Automobile Museum. The collection of cars owned by late King Hussein displayed here will amaze all automobile enthusiasts.
The exhibits show the progress of automobiles from the time the kingdom first developed to the time of Arab uprising during World War I. The museum is home to about 50 motorcycles and 60 cars belonging to the Royal family of Jordan.
You can view a wide range of limited edition vintage cars from Mercedes Benz, Phantom, Cadillac, Lincolns, Aston Martins and many more. There are some impressive vintage motorcycles on display as well.
There is a special section dedicated to a Mercedes Benz 600 L.W.B. Pullman from 1975. This was the last car that king Abdullah rode after his return from Mayo Clinic in 1999. The car was never driven after his death out of respect.
After Petra, the ancient city of Jerash houses one of the most popular and well-preserved ruins in the world. The city boasts of an unending chain of human occupancy dating over 6500 years.
Located on a plain region surrounded by fertile farmland and hills. The city was conquered in 63 BC by General Pompey due to which it came under Roman Rule. Even today, it is considered to be one amongst the 10 greatest Roman cities of Decapolis League.
Jerash can easily be reached from Amman with a 45-minute drive. There are several things to see in Jerash such as the Forum, Hadrian’s Arch and Hippodrome. The forum is an oval-shaped plaza surrounded by 56 iconic columns, giving the entire plaza an impressive look. The Hadrian’s Arch, constructed to honour Emperor Hadrian, served as the southern gate of the city.
On the other hand, Hippodrome served as a sports field in ancient times and is enormous enough to hold 15000 people. Even now, it hosts mock chariot races and gladiator fights every week.
Located 73 km north of the city of Amman, Ajloun castle is another important place to explore in Jordan. This is the place where Hadrian built an arch for himself outside the town to stay there during the winter of 129 – 30 AD.
You can explore the village and visit the castle of Ajloun. Not only is the site historically significant, but the scenery from the top of the hill looks out into the Jordan Valley and is gorgeous as well.
The castle is a great marvel of the Arab military architecture and a famous historical and ecological attraction in the Middle East. The fort was built by one general from the Saladin’s army in the year 1184. It was built to keep a control over Ajloun’s iron mines.
Its strategic locations helped it to dominate three major trade routes between Syria and Jordan. Thus, it served as a vital link for the defence strategy again Crusaders who spent many years trying to capture the nearby areas.
The route leading to Ajloun from Jerash is also extremely picturesque which olive groves and pine forests all around. You will also see gorgeous waterfalls, villages and forts along the way in the Jordan Valley.
Take a step back into time gone-by by visiting As-Salt a historical town located at a distance of 30 minutes from Amman. During the Ottoman rule, As-Salt was the capital city of Jordan and thrived due to its trade networks.
The city has a significant and rich history as it was the primary trading point from the east and the west. Not only this, but it is also an important settlement in the region due to its proximity to the Jordan Valley and the eastern desert.
You can visit As-Salt today to get an in-depth look at the history and culture of the region. One of the most popular activities that must indulge when visiting this city is the traditional Hammam. Hammam is a traditional Turkish bath that you must try when you are here. You can also find numerous local stores, bakeries and perfumeries in this town.
It is a great place to buy handmade gifts and products. Spend some time exploring the streets and admiring the unique architecture. You can also visit Al Ein Plaza, which is the primary hub of activity in the city. Listen to local men playing Manqala, interact with the locals and take in the traditional culture.
After exploring the town of As-Salt and enjoying the Turkish bath, we will sit down for lunch at El Housh Café. This place is not an ordinary restaurant but a hotspot for cross-cultural exchange of art, poetry, culinary delights, tradition and music.
Housed within an old home built in 1829 by Tuaimeh Daoud, it is located in the history-rich neighbourhood called Beli. The café has an art-gallery like vibe. When you walk in, you will be greeted with welcoming music, simplicity in the menu and cozy seating. It also has outdoor seating in a garden, which will boost your mood and take the tiredness away.
The café serves local Middle Eastern as well as American and Italian cuisines. So choose the dishes depending on your mood and preference. Make sure to try the delicious coffee or the Lindt hot chocolate with your meal.
After lunch, we will head to Madaba – a town located 30 km from the city of Amman. Often referred to as ‘the City of Mosaics’, it is considered to be an important place in the Holy Land.
The city is most renowned for its amazing Umayyad and Byzantine mosaics. Madaba houses the world-famous Mosaic Map of the Holy Land and Jerusalem from the 6th century. It is made using 2 million pieces of brightly coloured stones and depicts towns, villages, valleys and hills up to the Nile Delta.
The Madaba map covers the floor of St. George Church in Madaba. This is a Greek Orthodox Church located a bit away from the city centre. Built in the year 1896, it was originally 15.6 x 6 meters in area. However, only a quarter of the original map has been preserved.
Other notable mosaic masterpieces you can see are in Apostles, Archaeological Museum and Church of the Virgin. These mosaics depict plants, flowers, fish, birds, exotic beasts, animals and scenes from day to day life such as fishing, hunting and farming as well as scenes from mythology.
Almost the entire city is covered with mosaics from the 5th to 7th centuries throughout its homes and churches.
Mount Nebo is a place of religious importance for the Christian community. It was from Mount Nebo’s promontory that Moses is believed to have viewed the forbidden Holy Land of Canaan which he wouldn’t enter in his lifetime.
Mount Nebo overlooks the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea, Jericho and the hills of Jerusalem. After his death, Moses was buried in Moab. Due to this, it became an important place of pilgrimage for the early Christians belonging to Jerusalem. There is a small church as well built to commemorate Moses’ life in the 4th century.
In recent years, the church has been transformed into a huge basilica containing amazing views of Byzantine mosaics. The Serpentine Cross standing outside symbolizes the bronze serpent that was brought by Moses into the desert as well as the cross on which Jesus was crucified.
After exploring Mount Nebo, you can head back to Amman to explore another great museum and then end the day with a lovely dinner. Visit the Jordan Archeological Museum to view the collection of artefacts dating back to the Palaeolithic Period.
Four exhibits are particularly important in the museum – two wax figures found in 1983 at Ain Ghazzal and the collection of Dead Sea Scrolls.
There are alcoves containing four anthropomorphic coffins as well, which were discovered in Raghadan Palace grounds, depicting rare examples of how burials were practised during the 13th century.
Fakhreldin is a quaint restaurant in Amman serving Lebanese cuisine in a cosy but elegant setting. As soon as you enter, you will feel like you stepped inside someone’s home. This is because it was previously a house built during the mid-20th century by Jordan’s Prime Minister of the time. It was in the year 1997 that it was transformed into a restaurant.
The restaurant serves a number of delicious and innovative dishes which are sure to delight your taste buds. Try their Mezze appetizer to start off the meal. This is a platter comprising on several small dishes that come together you make a delicious dish. The taste will remind of somewhat of Spanish tapas.
A popular dish made which chicken liver and molasses is one of their most popular and is a must-try. Also, make sure to try their mixed grill as the main course along with the delicious creamy Hummus.
There is so much to see and do in and around Amman that you would surely be left wanting more. Your 2 days in Amman will not feel like enough once you are done.
But worry not; your Jordan vacation is just starting. You will have a lot more to explore in other parts of the country.
So enjoy your vacation as you leave Amman behind with fond memories of beauty and hospitality of the city.
This article was edited by Loredana Elena and was first published on May 17, 2020 15:09 UTC.
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