Amman in one day: the perfect Amman itinerary
How to spend one day in Amman Jordan? This post gives you the perfect Amman itinerary and tells you exactly what to see in Amman in one day.
Amman is Jordan’s cosmopolitan capital. In a country where tourists flock to see its wealth of ancient archaeological wonders, Amman is a welcome change. Although it has history too, most of all, Amman offers a glimpse into modern Jordanian life, food and culture.
Amman is a city that is often overlooked by travellers that head straight to Petra or Wadi Rum, but it is definitely worth your time. In this post I will convince you why you should at least spend one day in Amman, if not more.
A history of Amman
Like everything in Jordan, Amman has a long history. Amman started out as the capital of the Ammonites in the 13th century BC. The city was then ruled by the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Umayyads, the Mamluks and the Ottomans. Despite its strategic location, Amman wasn’t always the most important city in the region.
Earthquakes destroyed Amman several times and during Ottoman rule it was As Salt that was the regional capital. By that time, Amman was almost abandoned, except for some farmers and Bedouin tribes.
It was only in the late 19th century that Amman started to grow in importance again as a home to several refugees. First hundreds of exiled Circassians arrived from the Northern Caucasus, later Palestinians, Iraqis and more recently Syrians.
Once Amman became the capital of independent Jordan in 1946, it really began to develop, sprawling over the hills and valleys to become the sixth largest city in the Arab world. A young city that keeps attracting expatriates from all over the world. It is therefore no surprise that Amman has lots to offer. Home to different ethnic groups it is varied and dynamic with trendy cafes, a great food scene and a buzzing nightlife.
Amman in one day
Now you might wonder whether it is even possible to see everything when you only have one day in Amman? Despite being such a large city, most of the city’s tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other. So, yes, it is very well possible to get a good sense of Amman in one day.
That said, if you have only one day in Amman, you will be limited to the city’s highlights that include some historic sights as well as the most delicious things to do in town. Amman with its multicultural culinary heritage is a great destination for food lovers and if there is one reason to stay longer than one day in Amman, it is the food.
There is no better way to start your Amman itinerary than with a filling breakfast of Manakeesh. Manakeesh is a kind of pizza that is very popular in Jordan. A crispy round and thin dough topped up with local ingredients that make this dish truly middle eastern.
My favourite was the manakeesh with a thyme spice mixture called zaatar and fresh olive oil. Other toppings include halloumi or eggs. You can find it in bakeries all over Amman.
The Roman theatre
After filling your stomach with manakeesh it is time to truly start your Amman itinerary at the Roman theatre. This landmark dates back to the 2nd century when it was built in honour of the Roman emperor Antonius Pius. Carved into the hillside it is a remarkable sight. Here you can burn your calories by climbing up all the stairs to the top for a wonderful view.
After the Roman theatre it is time for more ancient ruins at the Citadel. The Citadel hill is among the oldest parts of Amman and archeological findings go back to the Neolithic period. The different buildings reflect the great civilizations that once occupied it. Most notable are the Roman temple of Hercules, the Byzantine church and the Umayyad palace.
Entrance to the citadel also includes the small Jordan Archeological museum including some old pottery, coins and other findings. The most impressive item in the collection is the Ain Ghazal statue that is among the oldest statues made by humans.
To reach the citadel it is a 30 minute uphill walk through residential neighbourhoods. Although there are some nice views it isn’t a particularly scenic walk. Especially when it is warm you might want to consider taking a taxi instead and save your energy for the easier walk back to downtown for lunch at the legendary Hashem restaurant.
Falafel lunch at Hashem Restaurant
No visit to Amman is complete without a visit to Hashem restaurant. This restaurant is among the most popular restaurants in Amman and serves traditional Jordanian food to locals, tourists, diplomats and even members of the Jordanian royal family.
This place is always busy, but the long queues are worth the wait. There is no menu, but you can’t go wrong with falafel, hummus or fuul (fava beans). The mint tea is also great to finish your lunch with before exploring the rest of Amman.
After a morning of historic sights it is now time to see modern Amman at trendy rainbow street where the young and rich come to shop and eat. This street is full of boutique stores, hip cafes, upmarket restaurants and rooftop bars offering sweeping views over Amman. If it’s friday don’t miss the weekly Souk jara flea market.
It is best to start your exploration of Rainbow street at First circle. Amman isn’t particularly pedestrian friendly so I suggest taking a taxi. Otherwise it is a 15 minute uphill walk from Hashem restaurant to the start of Rainbow street at first circle. Once there you can stroll back towards downtown Amman.
Al Balad Downtown
Where rainbow street is quiet, neat and orderly, Al Balad downtown is lively and chaotic. Here you will find markets with fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, meat, clothes, electric appliances and the occasional souvenir.
This is the heart of the city where most locals come to shop and dine. With its narrow lanes, myriad of stores and concrete buildings it is not particularly beautiful, but its charm comes from the vibrant atmosphere and friendly salesmen. It also has some of the best places to eat, such as the already mentioned Hashem restaurant.
Downtown Amman is a bit rough around the edges and the buildings look like they could do with a makeover. Yet, it is hard to imagine Al Balad as a historic sight. The Odeon theatre is the only place that indicates that Al Balad is as old as the Citadel Hill.
Compared to rainbow streets the markets and restaurants are more affordable in Al Balad and therefore I suggest to do most of your shopping here.
Dinner at Al Quds
End your Amman itinerary with another not to miss culinary experience in the Jordanian capital. Most food in Jordan is not unique to Jordan. Dishes like manakeesh, falafel, hummus, ful medames and kebab are easy to find throughout the Middle East.
There is one dish that is unique to Jordan though and that is influenced by its nomadic Bedouin population. I am talking about Mansaf. A filling dinner that is made of lamb cooked in yoghurt with rice. Traditionally Bedouins used dried fermented goat yoghurt, called jameed, that had a strong sour and salty taste.
It is considered the national dish of Jordan, but it is not always on the average restaurant’s menu. Amman is therefore the best place to try it. I tried it in the Al Quds restaurant that is famous for its excellent mansaf and although I can not compare it, it was indeed very delicious.
Try Knafeh at Habiba Sweets
After my manakeesh breakfast, falafel lunch and mansaf dinner I hardly had any space left in my stomach. Still, there was one food experience that I still wanted to include in my Amman itinerary. Trying Knafeh at Habiba sweets.
Knafeh or Kunafah is a middle eastern pastry made of filo pastry in sugar syrup, layers of cheese and nuts. Habiba sweets is one of the oldest sweet shops in Amman and is supposed to have the best Knafeh in town. I thought it was very sweet, but I liked it and had it several more times on my Jordan trip. The winner was indeed Habiba sweets in Amman.
More than one day in Amman
If you have more than one day in Amman there are more than enough things to do and it makes a great base for a number of day trips. While most require your own transport, some are possible with public transport too such as the Roman ruins in Jerash, the mosaics in Madaba and the off the beaten path town of As Salt.
If you have your own transport you can also visit places like Umm Qais, the Ajloun castle, Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea.
Amman in One day logistics
Where to sleep
Amman has plenty of places to stay. If you are staying only one day in Amman I recommend to choose a centrally located option. Cliff hostel and the Jordan Tower hotel are long standing backpackers favourites. For slightly more comfort you also have the Zaman ya Zaman boutique hotel and the boutique hotel Amman.
All of these are within walking distance of the Roman theatre and Al Balad downtown for Amman’s best restaurants.
Where to eat
I already mentioned the top food experiences not to miss when you have only one day in Amman. Of all of these, make sure you don’t miss the legendary Hashem restaurant in Al Balad downtown area.
How to get around
Amman is built on more than 7 hills and therefore isn’t exactly a pedestrian friendly city. While it’s main attractions aren’t far apart from each other they do require climbing up long staircases. When your time is limited and your budget allows it, I suggest you sometimes use a taxi. In this Amman itinerary I mentioned exactly when a taxi would save you a sweaty climb up. You can use a taxi hailing app like careem or uber taxi.
When to visit Amman
Amman is known to be slightly cooler than the rest of the country. Winters are cold in Amman and snowfall is not uncommon. That said, summers are long and hot, making spring and autumn the best times to visit Amman.
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