What To Do In Amman In One Day : Citadels to Souks and Sunsets

Created by Colleen Sims * 19 January 2024

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One Day In Amman

Amman is the capital and largest city of Jordan, it’s home to the residence of the king and the seat of the Jordanian government.

Built amidst rolling the hills of the Ajlūn Mountains, it’s a city where ancient and modern merge and vibrant souks pulse with energy and are the sounds, smells and heart of the city.

Spending a day in Amman is like taking a whirlwind tour through time.  Of course, you can always stay longer in the city but if you only have one day in Amman then dive in with both feet and don’t forget your walking shoes!

*** In A Rush : Jump To Our One Day In Amman Itinerary ***

We planned a month-long stay in Jordan.  We thought it would be a warm winter destination. Well let me first tell you that it’s not warm in winter.  But don’t let that put you off visiting in February because it’s also quiet which was wonderful.

In the end the weather didn’t matter because it was the history and culture and majestic nature and the incredible warmth of the Jordanian people that won us over.

Jordan is an incredible destination at any time of year and Amman is the perfect place to start.

Bags of spice and grains.  You explore the souks of Amman during your one day in the city

Discover Amman’s Incredibly Rich History

Amman is both a modern and an ancient city.  It is believed to be one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, with settlements dating from the Stone Age, around 7000 BCE. And yet modern Jordan was only founded in 1921.

A recuring theme about the country’s history which just blew us away, was the biblical history with references to Ammonites, Kings David and Soloman and so much more :

  • Egypt’s King Ptolemy II renamed the city Philadelphia
  • Amman is littered with Roman grandeur : just walk around the towering Citadel and the incredible the amphitheatre to see traces of their time here
  • The city flourished under the Umayyads, leaving behind their ruined opulent palaces
  • Amman served as the heart of the Ottoman Empire in the Levant

There is so much history in Amman and you get to explore part of that landscape during your 24 hours in the city.

What Is Amman Famous For?

In many ways I think that Amman is often overlooked in favour of Jordan’s more famous icon destinations  Visitors head to Petra and the Dead Sea Resorts and often miss the splendour of the capital.

Make time for Amman in your Jordan itinerary, even if it’s just one day, and you’ll discover :

  • Historical Sites: From the Roman Amphitheatre to ancient civilisations of the Citadel with settlements dating from antiquity.
  • Vibrant Souks: The Souks are crazy.  Spices perfume the air, colourful fabrics drape across shop fronts, artisans shout above each other to attract attention and haggling is an expected ritual.
  • Foodie Paradise: Amman’s culinary scene is growing and it changed our opinion of middle eastern cuisine; it’s now a taste we actively seek.  Drop into any tiny downtown café and you’ll be served melt-in-your-mouth pastries and the oh so aromatic Jordanian coffee which converted Gerry from his beloved tea.
  • Modern Attractions: Amman is still evolving into a great destination.  Spend time at the contemporary art exhibition at Darat al Funun, stroll trendy Rainbow Street with its bohemian cafes and galleries or spend time (or stay) in the Wild Jordan Centre.

Amman offers a great introduction to Jordan.  If your flight lands in the city then make sure you allow at least one full day to explore.

ruins in the citadel, Amman's ancient city

How to Get to Amman

We flew to Queen Alia International Airport.  This is the main gateway to Amman but there is a second international airport in Aqaba.

From there we had pre-arranged for a taxi to take us into the city.  We did hire a car during our stay in Jordan but there was no way that we would consider driving in the Capital. 

However, that’s fine as Amman is a very walkable city and getting around was never a problem.

Top Tip :  With the exception of Amman, driving around Jordan was easy.  We were nervous at first but very soon relaxed and realised that we’d made a great choice.  There are many international branded car hire companies to pick from but we’d read about Monte Carlo Car Hire and booked with them.   Honestly, we could not have been happier with their service and we 100% recommend them.

Things to Know Before Visiting Amman

A few folks were bemused with our choice of Jordan as a destination but after a few days of reading our social media posts, I know that some of them were making their own arrangements to visit. 

Currency: Jordanian Dinar (JOD)

Language: Arabic although English is widely spoken

Visa

Most nationalities require a visa on arrival. We purchased the Jordan Pass in advance of leaving home and this saved us considerable time when we arrived and gave access to most of the countries historical sites.

There are three types of Jordan Pass depending on what you want to visit with cost from 70 to 80 JOD. The entry visa to Jordan is 40 JOD, so buying the Jordan Pass, which includes the Entry Visa represent excellent value.

Some sites like Moses tomb are privately owned and not included within the pass but this is the exception.

There is a special Jordan Pass entry system at Amman airport which gave us quick and easy entry.

Dress Code

Conservative attire is recommended, especially when visiting religious sites.  When exploring cities and towns I never covered my hair; only when entering religious sites was it expected.  

As with most conservative countries just ensure your clothing covers your shoulders and knees and avoid too much cleavage (do round neck tops rather than v-necks).  I dressed modestly, pretty much how I did in Morocco and India, and never experienced problems.

Safety

Amman is generally safe but be mindful of your belongings in crowded areas.  I would say across Jordan that there was never a moment when we felt unsafe.  Of course, it is sensible to always be mindful of bags and valuables just as you would at home.

2024 Edit : Jordan neighbours both Israel and Palestine (and Syria) and even in 2022 when we visited it was evident that the country welcomed large numbers of refugees.  What’s happening in the middle east today of course has an impact on the Hashemite Kingdom but on a daily basis very little, if anything has changed. 

On the ground Jordan is still considered a safe country to visit but check with your own government before making your plans. 

Non-Married Couples

Be aware that if you are not a married couple there maybe raised eyebrows about booking a double room.  Certainly, if you hold an Arab passport you might be expected to produce evidence that you are married before being given your room. 

This was never once an issue for us but we have read of others being denied ‘marital’ rooms.

Gerry wearing traditional Jordanian headwear in Amman

The Jordan Pass

Consider purchasing the Jordan Pass, granting free entry to major attractions, including the Citadel, Roman Amphitheatre, and Jordan Museum, making your visit more cost-effective.

We bought the most expensive plan as we were travelling extensively and it more than paid for itself and saved scrambling for cash at ticket booths.  The Jordan Pass was one of the best decisions we made. 

Also, arriving at Immigration you’re fast tracked through a special queue which sped up our entry.  But even without this, the pass saved us time and money on entrance fees to 90% of the historical sites in Jordan.

Is Amman a Walkable City?

Yes.  In part.  It’s a city of contrast and if you’re visiting Downtown, we felt it was very walkable.  But it’s a city of hills and whilst we walked from the Amphitheatre up to the Citadel and back again there were a lot of steps and some folks might prefer to take a taxi.

For those less keen on climbing the steps and hills or if time is short then there are very inexpensive taxis everywhere.  And just like anywhere else in the world, agree the fee before getting in.

Once Downtown, the souks and shopping areas are easily walkable.  We took a taxi to Rainbow Street one evening from our hotel; the cost was negligible but we walked back and enjoyed exploring Amman at night.

If you are staying in the more modern part of the city then you will be using taxis more.  

explore the souks during your one day in Amman.  They are busy and full of fruit and vegetables and all manner of household goods

Getting Around Amman

Just as in any city getting round is easy but the traffic is congested.  And Jordanians love to honk their horn! 

  • Taxis: Taxis are very affordable and readily available but negotiate fares beforehand.  We booked our airport taxi in advance and we only used a taxi that the hotel booked for us but mainly because we walked to most places.
  • Uber : Uber is not reliable in the city but Careem is the local version :
  • Buses: Public buses do cover a lot of the city although navigating routes can be a challenge.   If you want to use the buses check the timetables and double check as you get on that you’re heading in the right destination.  Maybe also ask about your journey at your hotel before setting off; ours provided a wealth of information.

Top Tip : If you’re planning on going beyond the city take a look at the JETT bus

How Long To Spend In Amman: Is One Day Enough?

We spent a month in Jordan and allowed three days in Amman.  Most folks often overlook Amman entirely so if you allow one day in Amman then at least you get to explore the delights of the city; and you can see a great deal in one day.

One day in Amman will allow you to experience the city’s highlights and get to see the city both during the day and at night.

I’d recommend allowing two nights.  We arrived in the afternoon and stayed close to our hotel on our first day; we’d left home at 3am so it was good to relax.

Is Amman Worth Visiting : Even If You Only Have One Day?

Absolutely! Yes!  Amman’s rich history, vibrant souks and friendly people makes it the perfect place for a quick visit.   And if you plan your day well, you can really see a great deal!

Amman has a fair amount of excellent street art, like this amazing elephant

What To See and Do In Amman

Before we start on our own itinerary let me tell you about some of the main must-see sites within the city. 

Whilst we will offer you our idea of the perfect 1-day itinerary, you might prefer something different so browse this list and if you feel like you’re missing out then mix it up a little.

Al Balad : Downtown Amman

Most people call this area Downtown but its official name is Al Balad.  We were advised to book a hotel in Downtown Amman and I’m really glad that we did.   Not only did it mean we were close to the action but it also kept us in the heart of the city.

You can lose yourself in the streets and souks of Downtown and the best way to explore is with a walking tour.  Roman and Ottoman architecture compete with tumbled down shops that spill onto narrow streets.

Sample local delicacies, haggle for souvenirs and soak in the authentic atmosphere that makes Amman special.  Do be prepared for noise and traffic and sights and smells too but we loved this part of the city and it’s well worth exploring!

The Citadel

The Citadel has archaeological remains that suggest human occupation since the Bronze Age (around 1600 BCE).  Ancient Amman’s popularity declined in the 7th Century but regardless it is still considered one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

It has a long history of occupation by great civilizations; the Kingdom of Ammon, the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids, the Romans (who named it Philadelphia) and the Byzantines. 

The Amman Citadel sits high above Downtown with fabulous views of the Amphitheatre.  Sat on a hill it overlooks both ancient and modern Amman.

Philadelphia as it was once called is a huge site and we allowed a few hours to fully explore but if you’re only here for a day, then head to the Roman ruins. 

We used our Jordon Pass to gain access to the Citadel; I cannot stress enough how fabulous this little pass is.

Top Tip : if you are planning to visit Jerash during your stay in Jordan and you are short of time then you could skip the Citadel, or at least only spend a short time here to catch the sunset views.  The Roman ruins are Jerash are stunning; although the Citadel at sunset is pretty impressive too.

Cooking Class

We fell in love with the food in Jordan.  So much so that we took a cooking class to ensure we could recreate the recipes at home.

The best cooking class, and the most established has to be Beit Sitti but the prices have risen so for one or two people it’s pricey. It’s not the cheapest but it was good and if you have an extra day in the city then this would be a good choice.

If you’re solo and looking for a less expensive cooking class try this highly rated option and if you simply want to taste the incredible food then take this Guru Walk; we loved our meal with Osama

Top Tip : Alcohol in Jordan is very expensive so if you are asked if you’d like wine with your meal say no, unless you have extremely deep pockets.

Our walking tour included a typical Jordanian lunch

Darat al Funun

Jordan is growing and its young and creative community is growing too.  Darat Al Funun is a contemporary art scene that showcases local and international artists, offering visitors a vibrant window into the region’s artistic side.

There’s also a café here if you’d like a tea or coffee

Habibah Sweets

Habibah Sweets are a bit of an institution in Amman.  

Everyone has to stop and try some of the gloriously sweet sticky nutty melt-in-the-mouth delicacies.  Lucky for me that there were even gluten free options too.

Hashem Restaurant Down Town

Hashem Restaurant isn’t the highest rated eatery in the city but it is extremely popular with locals and visitors alike and if you’re looking for lunch or dinner then it’s perfect. 

They say that Hashem’s is the oldest restaurant in Jordan.  I’m not sure if that’s true but it’s definitely a place with history and much loved by Ammanis. 

During our walking tour the guide told us this is the place to come to experience the real Jordan. And make sure you order their hummus too which is famous through town.  And the Jordanian coffee is excellent; strong but not bitter and with a hint of cardamom.

This isn’t a posh restaurant but it offers authentic Jordanian cuisine at a great price and if you only eat one meal downtown then you should go here.

Jordan Archaeological Museum

From prehistoric tools to Roman sculptures and Byzantine mosaics, wander through the displays of relics that paint a picture of Jordan’s past.

This is a small museum, housed within the Citadel.  Don’t expect the grandeur of large city museums but we did see references to these artifacts again and again as we travelled through Jordan.

Jordan Museum

Not to be confused with the Citadel Museum, the Jordan Museum is impressive.

It covers the history of Jordan from the earliest discoveries.  You can learn about the secrets of Petra and the Nabataeans, discover mosaics and the world famous Dead Sea Scrolls.  You can see ancient manuscripts and some of the oldest human sculptures ever found.

You need to allow a good hour to visit the Museum.

Rainbow Street

We visited a few times.  It’s a little touristy but nonetheless it should be part of your visit and if you only go once then go at night.

Rainbow Street is the bohemian heart of Amman and it’s here that young locals and visitors alike rub shoulders. Vibrant murals adorn the walls and trendy cafes and bars beckon with aromatic coffee and (expensive) wines and beers. 

It’s a good place to visit and there are some good restaurants too.

Roman Amphitheatre

Every visit to Amman must include a visit to the Roman Amphitheatre.

The Amphitheatre is built into the hillside opposite the Citadel. A Greek inscription on one of the pillars indicates that it was built in honour of emperor Pius in 138 AD.

This enormous structure seats up to 6000 people and is still used for concerts and events and it’s oriented north to keep the sun off the spectators.

It’s huge!  You can climb to the top.  It’s a long way up and Gerry had a little wobble as we climbed higher; If heights aren’t your thing then maybe don’t go all the way to the top.  But contradicting myself do try to climb to the top!  The views are incredible.

Just as we planned to leave it started raining.  Everyone quickly left but we stayed and we were alone.  We slowly made our way down the giant steps and I decided that I had to test the acoustics and belted out a little Adele.  Clever Romans; the acoustics are amazing. But we weren’t alone and  a guard gave me a little round of applause as we left.

Roman Amphitheatre in Amman

Souks

There are several souks in the city and honestly the best way to visit them during a short stay is on a walking tour (and yes I know I’m repeating myself!)

Not only will a guide lead you through the narrow streets without getting lost, he’ll take you to the best stalls, you get a chance to taste and sample and discover a treasure trove of spices, fabrics, antiques and everyday essentials.

The souks are a challenge on the senses but you can’t go home without visiting.

Walking Tour Of Amman

Guess What? Whenever we land in a new city we take a walking tour. 

Guruwalk is our favourite but I’ll also check out Viator and GetMyGuide to make sure we choose the highest rated walks.

We ended up taking a few walks in Amman but if you only have one day then book Mujalie.  Don’t even look elsewhere because he offers one of the best GuruWalks that we’ve taken.  Just book it.

Wild Jordan Centre

This is more a place for accommodation or food but it’s worth visiting if you have spare time OR if you’re looking for a great place to stay in the city.

I discovered Wild Jordan early on in my Jordan planning.  They offer great experiences across the country and they led me to discover the Jordan Pass. 

Go there to eat and meet other travellers and to learn about local eco-tourism company.

What To Do In Amman In One Day : Our 1-Day Amman Itinerary

So armed with all of the above places of interest here are our suggestions for how to spend a day in Amman. 

Top Tip : Choose accommodation in Downtown.  It’s true that the 5* hotels are in the modern area of the city but we loved staying Downtown.  Get up early and have breakfast on the roof. 

Breakfast in Amman

We ate at our hotel and enjoyed breakfast of eggs and hummus and fruit and nuts and bread and cakes and copious amounts of tea or coffee.   As we travelled beyond Amman we stayed in a mix of accommodation but these staples were very often available.

If your hotel doesn’t offer breakfast then head to Jafra for some typical Jordanian Fayre

Morning GuruWalk Walking Tour

Take this tour. I don’t wish to labour the point but seriously Mujalie will show you so much of Downtown Amman, it’s THE perfect way to explore.  Trust us.  This is the best introduction to Amman.  See the Souks and the Amphitheatre and so much more.

The tour doesn’t start until 10am which also means that you can enjoy a leisurely breakfast and people watch before meeting Mujalie. 

It was just the two of us for our walk.  We talked about Jordan, Amman, and the Middle East. We talked about religion and young people and COVID. We talked about history and culture and all the while we walked. We learned so much from this young man that we didn’t want the tour to end.

We visited markets and souks, discovered the tiny streets that make up the different shopping areas. We drank coffee with locals and bought bags of spices and saffron and fat juicy dates and had change from just a few JODs. We ate pastries and sweets and tasted olives and pistachios and green chick peas and it seemed as though everyone knew our Mujalie and Mujalie knew everyone and we heard a 1000 times “welcome to Jordan”

This was a beautiful, wonderful morning.

HISTORY CULTURE FOOD | FREE WALKING TOUR

We LOVED this tour! It’s the perfect introduction to Amman!

Stop For Lunch At Hashem Restaurant

You could go here for dinner (and breakfast too) but it makes for a great lunch stop.  You can walk to Hashem’s at the end of your walking tour. Tell Mujalie where you’re heading and he’ll send you off in the right direction.

Whatever you order at least try the hummus. We order Arabic Salad, a wonderful aubergine dish of Mutabal, we loved Maqluba, made with rice, vegetables and chicken and the coffee was pretty good too!

Three Afternoon Visits for Your Day In Amman

Having had a good introduction to downtown with souks and shopping, your afternoon is about culture and history.

1: Visit The Jordan Museum

Whilst you could walk as it’s only a couple of kilometres, it’s best to take a taxi to save time.

The Jordan Museum will introduce you to millennia of Jordan’s history.  It’s not a ‘dry’ visit.  There are lots of exhibits and interactive displays and whilst you could spend longer, allow yourself around and hour here before moving on.   

2. Visit Darat al Funan

Take a taxi to Darat Al Funun

This is a really interesting space and worthy of a visit.  It’s also a good stop for coffee too if you’re thirsty.  We like that it gave us an insight into contemporary Amman.  Spend an hour here but you may choose to stay longer.  It’s a wonderful little spot.

3. Visit the Citadel (arrive in time for Sunset)

You really should visit the Citadel, even if it’s a short visit.

Take a taxi up and avoid the steps and the climb.  As you enter, from the ticket booth head towards the Temple of Hercules and after exploring this keep walking.  There is small museum here if you have time but beyond, you can catch an amazing sunset over the city.

We spent a few hours exploring the site but even if you just arrive for sunset it will be worth it.

sunset at the citadel in Amman

Amman At Night : Things To Do After Sunset

There are two places that really come alive at night.  The first is Rainbow Street. Whilst you can visit during the day we felt that the area really comes alive at night.

There are plenty of bars and cafes to choose from.  Wander up and down the street and drop in one that grabs your fancy.  For dinner we recommend either :

Fatari :  You really wont regret the choice for dinner

Surfra : Glorious restaurant and a beautiful setting  :

Fancy Some Late Night Shopping?

We felt safe walking back to our hotel from Rainbow street, and we walked back via the souks and shops which were alive and buzzing.  Haggle for souvenirs or just people watch and say hello to the locals (expect a lot of folks to stop and chat!)

Before heading to bed maybe stop at a café for one last cup of tea before bed.

Rainbow Street sign in Amman

Where to Stay in Amman

There’s a wealth of accommodation in Amman to suit all budgets and styles.  If you’re looking for modern 5* hotels you won’t find them Downtown but if you’re happy to go with wonderful, clean comfortable accommodation there is lots to choose from :

Here are our recommendations:

  • Comfort Downtown Hotel | The  Lemon Tree Residence : This is the perfect place to stay, relax and enjoy all the Downtown has to offer
  • Budget Pick | The Carob Hostel : offers dorms and Private Rooms.  It’s so highly rated and perfect for solo travellers wishing to meet others. 
  • Aparthotel : Wild Jordan centre : If we return to Amman I’d be tempted to stay here.  The apartments are pretty swish and there are on site restaurants too.  It’s a great place to base yourself for a few days if you plan to take day trips out of Amman.

We didn’t stay in the area outside of Downtown so we can only go by the reviews.  But we did the homework for you and these two hotels offer the best value, for the highest reviews and quality.

What To Do In Amman in one day : And Is It Worth It?

The Short answer is there is loads to see and do in one day in Amman and yes it’s absolutely worth it!

Even if you’re not keen to follow our itinerary, Amman is still a great place to launch a vacation in the Hashemite Kingdom.  Stay one or two nights here before moving on. You won’t regret it.

Philadelphia was the ancient name for the Amman Citadel

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance

Whenever you travel overseas it’s imperative to travel with a good travel and medical insurance policy.  None of us expect anything bad to happen, but in the event of an incident, you want to be sure that your insurance will be there for you.

I’ve had the mis-fortune to end up in hospital in Peru, Indonesia, Portugal and Ireland; every time my insurance took care of everything. I would never leave home without full and comprehensive insurance.

Globelink : We have used and recommended Globelink for years and we’ve not heard of any issues. They are a great choice for European and UK Residents.

TrueTraveller : We have this policy now for an extended global trip and we are very happy with the cover, especially considering our ages and pre-existing conditions

Safety Wing : Many of my travelling buddies from the USA have recommended this company to me, although we’ve not used them personally.

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