As part of my November 2018 trip to Jordan (which was mainly about hiking part of the Jordan Trail), I spent some time in Amman. Here are the best tips for Amman – according to me.
Why you’ll love Amman
Amman is a quite special city, it is one of the oldest, continuously populated areas of the world – since about 7000 BC. On the other hand, Amman only really blossomed into the lively capital it is now in the 20th century. This makes it the best of many worlds – a great city to explore Arabic culture, a great base for trips to Petra, Wadi Rum and other places and a convenient capital of Jordan.
My best omakase experience in Amman
The Japanese habit of omakase (お任せ) when you’re ordering at a restaurant pretty much means, “I’ll leave it up to you”, inviting the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes. I try to do it in every city I visit, and apply the idea behind to everything between how I pick my runs, how I pick my food, how I plan activities with my kids, how I explore cities and how I travel in general. So, I tried this in Amman as well.
My best omakase experience in Amman was at Hashem, the most well known of all local food restaurants in the city (falafel heaven) – that has been open since 1952. Pretty much every famous person that has ever been to Amman visited the restaurant – which means there is stiff competition for tables, many of which overflow into the alleyway. I just let the waiter choose my food and had the most amazing falafel and hummus ever.
The best hotel tips for Amman – according to me
I stayed in the Intercontinental Amman, which is a great base to explore the city.
The best things to do in Amman – according to me
- The area known as the Citadel sits on the highest hill in Amman, Jebel Al Qala’a (about 850m above sea level) and might vaguely remind you of Athens‘ Acropolis area. It is the site of ancient Rabbath-Ammon which had been occupied since the Bronze Age. Rabbath-Ammon is surrounded by a 1700m-long wall, which was rebuilt many times during the Bronze and Iron Ages, as well as the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. There is obviously plenty to see, but the Citadel’s most striking sights are the Temple of Hercules and the Ummayad Palace.
- The Lweibdeh area is one of Amman’s oldest neighborhoods and has recently transformed into a lively scene with cafes, shops and startups popping up. Great for a stroll during the day or tov isit in the evenings.
- The magnificently restored Roman Theatre is the most obvious and impressive remnant of Roman Philadelphia and is the highlight of Amman for most foreign visitors. The theatre itself is cut into the northern side of a hill and has a seating capacity of 6000. The best time for photographs is the morning, when the light is soft – although the views from the top tiers just before sunset are also superb.
- Rainbow street is one of the oldest areas in Amman, and if you wander the backstreets, there are still many fine old stone villas to see. Ammanis come here every evening to promenade and to visit the many great cafes and restaurants – to see and be seen. There are plenty of shops if you come in the daytime (the area is good for souvenirs), but either way it’s best explored by foot as the narrow one-way street easily clogs with traffic any time of day or night.
The best restaurants in Amman – according to me
- Hashem, located in downtown Amman, is just falafel heaven. Be sure to drop by at least once. Aim for an early lunch or supper if you want to avoid queues. Definitely one of my best tips for Amman.
The best bars in Amman – according to me
Amman has plenty of amazing rooftop bars, so try to at least to visit one during your stay in Amman. Some of my favorites:
- District is a really nice rooftop bar / cocktail bar right in the city center. Catch the sunset over the old city while sipping a happy hour cocktail (50% off from 5pm to 8pm) on District’s rooftop terrace. The casual chic vibe, industrial-modern design, year-round outdoor seating, creative cocktails and well-dressed crowd make this one of Amman’s most popular spots to see and be seen.
- Ghoroub is a cocktail bar located on the 13th floor of the Landmark Hotel. From Amman’s longest bar, take in panoramic views of the sparkling city while sipping a craft cocktail.
The best coffee bars in Amman – according to me
- Jungle Fever is the cafe on the top floor of the National Gallery of Fine Arts and has an outdoor terrace, perfect for views of the park below.
- Rumi has some great coffees and teas (in the Lweibdeh area).
- Books@café has pretty serious retro floral walls in psychedelic colors (the ’70s called to get their wallpaper back). This is typical modern Jordanian coffeehouse chic, and the tasty global food is far less interesting than the hip young Jordanians lounging on sofas in corners or typing furiously on their laptops.
The best things to do in preparation for a hike – according to me
- Sending your gear by DHL. If you want to send part of your gear to the end of the Jordan Trail, consider sending it via DHL. There are several DHL stores (at least three) in different parts of Amman.
- Buying a gas canister can be done at ACE in Mecca Mall.
- Buying a local SIM card can be done at the Orange stand in the arrival hall at the airport.