Thinking of visiting Jordan but not sure about Amman? Here’s what to do and see in Amman in 48 hours.
Many tourists choose to skip Amman, heading straight for the sites in the South instead but they really shouldn’t! The bustling capital of Jordan is captivating, packed with history and culture and well worth taking some time to visit. In Amman, you’ll find traditional souks, restaurants and Mosques jutting up against modern, a thriving art scene, cultural centres, LGBTQ+ bars and packed coffee houses. In Middle Eastern context, Amman is a liberal city, Rainbow Street in particular. It feels safe and welcoming, chaotic too, but inviting even more so because of the chaos.
Ideally, we would recommend two full days as the optimum time. This would be sufficient to see the main tourist attractions in Amman, but without over-staying your welcome. But, if you can only manage 24 hours, you could also get a good sense of Amman in that short time too. Here’s how to get to Amman, where to stay and what to do and see in Amman in 48 hours.
Oh, and don’t forget to pack your walking shoes! Amman is spread over 20 Jabals (Mountains), with numerous steep climbs to get your blood pumping!
How to get to Amman by car or taxi from the airport
First off, how to get to Amman from the airport. Amman airport (Queen Alia) is around 35 minutes away from downtown by car. If you’re coming from the UK, it’s likely you’ll land just after midnight which is a slightly awkward time. However, cabs are readily available outside the airport or can be booked in advance. We booked a ride with our hostel in advance, which we felt was easiest to avoid being ripped off at the airport. However, fellow travellers we met got cabs from the airport and paid the same amount as us. Expect to pay around 20 to 25 JOD to get into Downtown Amman from the airport. Most taxis will require cash payment. But Uber also works well in Jordan, so you could book in advance that way if need to pay by card.
If you hire a car, the best place to collect a hire car is probably from the Airport or from one of the large hotels in Amman. However, we wouldn’t recommend driving in the dark from the airport directly into Down-Town Amman. We chose to head straight to Amman and collect a car from the city centre a few days later, rather than circle back to the airport (we will talk more about that in a later post.)
How to get to Amman from the airport on public transport
There is a bus that goes from the Airport into the city. It runs every 30 minutes during the day and once an hour, on the hour through the night. It costs 3.30 JOD and you pay by cash on the bus. More information can be found on the Airport website, including details on the stops it makes into Amman. Be aware, when planning your bus ride, especially if it’s through the night, that it takes time to get through Amman airport. We landed at 00:35 and were not in our cab until around 02:00 by the time we had completed all of the arrival admin (visas, passport control, baggage collection).
Where to stay in Amman
If you ask a local in Amman for directions to the Citadel, or the best restaurants, or really just about anywhere – they will tell you to head “downtown.” With the exception of the Blue Mosque (King Abdullah I Mosque) and Rainbow Street (more on that below), the tourist attractions are all downtown, so it makes most sense to stay there. If you have only 48 hours in Amman, it’s best to be downtown and amongst the action.
For me, downtown is also the most interesting place to stay as you’re in amongst all of the local action. Downtown is where locals come to enjoy a meal, shop and socialise. On a Friday night, it’s party time downtown and you wouldn’t want to miss the spectacle of this.
Staying downtown on a budget: The Cabin Hostel
We stayed at The Cabin Hostel. The location is great, a 30 second walk to Hashem and close access to the souks downtown. The hostel has private rooms or bunks, and you’ll pay around 10 JOD for a bunk and 20 JOD for a private room per night. The staff are friendly and helpful, they sell SIM cards and organise tours and you can enjoy shisha on the roof for 3.50 JOD. The hostel is noisy as it’s super central to downtown and it’s perhaps not the cleanest place in the world, but it is still good value for money in our view.
If you want to spend a little more money and stay downtown, then The Castle Star Hotel is in a similar location and has excellent reviews.
What to do and see in Amman
Firstly, a quick word on the Jordan Pass. We would highly recommend buying this, many of the attractions and things to do and see in Amman in 48 hours, are included in the Jordan pass. The Jordan pass also includes your visa fee (normally 40 JOD.) If you’re planning to visit Petra, after Amman, then it’s definitely worth it (more on that in later posts.)
Here is the Lotus Eaters Travel summary of what to do and see in Amman in 48 hours. These are our tried and tested “must do” recommendations, which we have prioritised for anyone staying in the city for 24 to 48 hours. If you are in Amman for longer, there is so much more to see and do!
Best history and culture in Amman
If you have a short time in Amman and want to explore some history and culture, here’s what to see and do in Amman in 48 hours.
One: The Citadel
The Citadel has to be the top Amman attraction, particularly if you’re looking for history and culture in this capital city. Perched atop Jabal Al Qal’A in downtown Amman, the Citadel is easy to access. You can walk easily from any downtown hotels or hostels or jump in a cab (or Uber). If you do get a taxi to the Citadel, it should cost you around 2 JOD. You can book a guide, but we viewed the Citadel independently and were able to find our way around and learn about the main attractions without the need for a guide as there are a few informative signposts around. Entrance costs 3 JOD, but if you have a Jordan Travel Pass, you can use that here.
The Citadel is fascinating as you can walk around and observe how it has evolved over time, with Greek, Persian and Roman influences throughout. Highlights include the Roman Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace.
Two: The Roman Theatre
The Roman Theatre in Amman is another site that is included in the Jordan Pass, but it only costs around 1 JOD to enter if you choose to pay separately. The Theatre site can be found easily on Google Maps, but, as with all the main sites, it is downtown. We visited here directly after exploring the Citadel and found this to be an easy walk of around 20 minutes.
Personally, I loved this site. As far as Roman Theatres go, this is one of the most intact and accessible. You can climb right to the top and sit for hours just enjoying the peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of Amman and imagining what life would have been like in this theatre a long time ago! I wanted to sit here for hours!
Your ticket price includes entry into the two exhibitions inside the theatre grounds, they are both interesting and take around 10 minutes to visit.
Three: Underground Amman Street Art Tour
We were fortunate enough to find Amman Underground Tours during our stay in Amman. We joined one of the 2-hour walking tours, which takes you on a guided walk up town and downtown Amman to visit the best Street Art in Amman. The guide is a graffiti artist who has grown up in Amman and is able to provide a truly unique insight into the city. The Street Art scene in Amman is huge, it even hosts an annual street art competition which attracts competitors from around the world (the Blue Boy above is part of the 2022 competition, an entry by a German artist).
Contact the tour company through the website to book. The tour cost is donation based, but it’s recommended to give at least 10 to 15 JOD to your tour guide (it’s well worth the money!) You could also take yourself on a Street Art tour, just look around everywhere you go and you’ll see fantastic pieces, but we think it’s much better to join the tour and learn from locals.
Best areas to explore in Amman
If you’re someone who likes to explore different areas in a city and really get to the heart of it, then this is what we would recommend that you do and see in Amman in 48 hours.
One: Go Downtown
Downtown Amman is the old commercial part of Amman. It is where everything is happening! Here you’ll find the best tourist attractions – the Citadel, the theatre and of course the souks. But if you get off the main streets, you’ll find street art, bohemian coffee houses and restaurants and lots of other surprises. On a Friday night, locals come downtown to party. During the day, you’ll find groups of young people hanging out in the brightly coloured juice bars. There is something for everyone downtown. Follow your nose and you’re sure to end up somewhere good.
Two: Go Up Town
For a night out, head to Rainbow Street in Amman’s up town district. We had heard lots about this street before we visited and quite frankly, it was not what we expected. It offers a stark contrast to the madness of downtown. A wide, long street, tree lined and almost with an American feel, it is hard to believe you are so close to the beeping horns and colourful quirkiness of downtown. Rainbow Street feels……expensive. And it is, quite pricey.
There are, however, quite obvious reasons as to why tourists and locals visit Rainbow Street. Rainbow Street (and the street’s adjoining it) are the only places (outside of large hotels) that you can purchase alcohol in Amman. Our top tip if you want to enjoy drinks on this street for a reasonable price, is to arrive before 20:00 and enjoy one of the happy hours whilst you take in the sunset overlooking Amman city.
Even if you’re not planning to drink alcohol, we still think Rainbow Street is worth exploring. You can enjoy some of the best Falafel in Amman (more on that below), smoke some Shisha or just take in the more well-dressed and leafy side of Amman. On a Friday night, you’ll also see the street liven up with locals coming out to smoke or parade their cars down the street.
For more information on drinking alcohol in Amman, our article here provides a comprehensive guide.
Three: Souk Al- Sukar
In downtown Amman, this is one of the biggest Souks you can find. Rather than being concentrated on one street, it is actually spread out over numerous streets, so you can walk in and out without sometimes realising you’re in a Souk. Visit here for your fresh fruit, juices and just out of the oven bread. Stretches of the Souk also offer handmade crafted clothing, accessories and jewellery. Unlike in Souks elsewhere in the Middle East, such as Marrakesh, you won’t be hassled constantly to come and buy things. Souk Al-Sukar is a daily market, which is actually frequented by locals so you can feel relatively at ease whilst you peruse the various melons and sniff the spices!
Best Fast Food in Amman
There are lots of places that you can sit and enjoy dinner in Amman, but if you want a quick bite for breakfast, lunch or dinner, here are our top three places for the best fast food in Amman.
One: Hashem Falafel
Hashem Falafel is an absolute institution in Amman. It is the most famous restaurant, so famous that it’s classed as a “landmark” on booking.com. This restaurant is open 24 hours a day, every day! That’s a lot of falafel. It’s a sprawling site, with tables inside, outside and upstairs. It offers a simple menu, falafel, bread and various dips. You just have to walk in, find a seat and they will come and serve you. The biggest challenge is finding a seat, this place does a brisk trade, even in the wee hours. Hover for a while, keep your eyes peeled and you’ll find a table pretty quickly! After you’ve eaten, you take the bill and pay at the small booth (cash only.)
Two: Chicken Shawarma at Omer and Iskandar
Chicken Shawarma is a Middle Eastern classic and we loved the Shawarma served at Omer and Iskander. This place is not far from Hashem and the other sites of downtown Amman and well worth a quick stop at lunch. It’s a takeaway restaurant but you can order and sit in the brightly lit alleyway and the food will be brought out to you when it’s ready. Choose from a wrap or a meal, a meal will cost around 3 JOD. The Shawarma is delicately seasoned and an absolute taste sensation.
Three: A Falafel Place on Rainbow Street that is NOT Al Quds but we don’t know the name of it!
In Amman, Hashem and Al Quds Falafel (in Rainbow Street) are the two most famous. However, we discovered another place and quickly decided that we preferred it to the others. We visited twice, and to our shame, cannot find the restaurant on Google Maps, but we know that it is roughly here, towards the Embassy end of Rainbow Street. You’ll know you’re there because the staff hand out free samples outside to entice you in!
Don’t get us wrong, Hashem is totally worth a visit for the frivolity and vibe. But based on taste alone, we love this one. Here you can watch the chef (chief Falafel maker) barnstorming as he makes Falafel faster than you can say “chickpea.” He has a “special” falafel mix, that is part pomegranate and part something else totally magical. You can choose spicey or normal, both are delicious and will cost you about 2 JOD.
Best cafes in Amman
Amman is full of places you can grab Turkish coffee or tea. If you’re downtown, there are so many cafes on terraces that are all quite similar. But for something a little different, we recommend these three cafes in Amman.
One: Wild Jordan Center
The Wild Jordan Center is somewhat of an Amman institution. It’s a large building, with epic views over the city, which has workspaces and cafes inside. It was set up by the Royal Society for Conservation of Nature in Jordan and profits are raised to support rural communities. You can buy local crafts, lunch, or just enjoy a coffee. It is modern, air-conditioned and smoke free (a rarity in Amman.)
Two: Jadal Knowledge and Culture Centre
Jadal Knowledge and Cultural Centre offers rest bite in the heart of Downtown Amman. The quite anonymous looking blue doors open out to a terrace courtyard filled with a hubbub of conversation, art and culture. The unique twist in this cafe is that you don’t pay for drinks, you pay for the amount of time you spend (a few JOD per hour). But you can enjoy hot and cold drinks (non-alcoholic) whilst you visit.
Three: Yafa Cafe
Set on a quiet road on the edge of downtown Amman, is Yafa Cafe. Yafe Cafe has traditional Jordanian inspiration but with an eclectic and modern twist. Yafa Cafe also offers Gluten Free food.
Best city views in Amman
Amman is a city set amongst mountains, therefore there are many different ways to see the city. During out stay, we definitely found our favourite and best city views in Amman.
One: From the Citadel
The Citadel is set atop a hill and has 360 degree views from the top all around Amman. From here, you can see the Roman Theatre to one side, downtown to another and even see the giant (200m tall) Jordanian Flag. This would be a great spot to enjoy a cold juice whilst taking in the sites.
Two: Sunset viewing spot on Jabal Al Weibdeh
We came across this viewing spot purely by chance and we were thrilled to have found it. It is on Jabal (mountain) Al Weibdeh, but the best way to find it is to follow these Google Maps coordinates. Why is this so special? Not only do you get to see the sun setting over Amman, but it’s also a popular spot with the locals who bring out chairs to sit and enjoy the sun. In a city full of noise and vibrancy, sometimes too much, this spot offers absolute solace. Hands down, the best place to sit, meditate or just peacefully gaze into the distance.
Three: Roof Top Terrace at Bar C.LING
C.LING bar, just off Rainbow Street has a huge outdoor terrace and an indoor option too. Many bars in Rainbow Street claim to have the best views of Amman, and in truth, there may be little difference between them. But we loved C.LING as the terrace was spacious, the service was good and the prices (at least at Happy Hour) are reasonable. You can see the Citadel and Temple of Hercules as well as sprawling downtown city views, directly from the comfort of the tropical themed roof terrace, with a Pomegranate cocktail in your hand.
Would you like to read more about Jordan?
- Walking the Jordan Trail – read here
- Where to stay in Wadi Rum – read here
- Can I drink alcohol in Jordan – read here
- What should women wear in Jordan – read here
- Is Aqaba worth visiting – read here
- Swimming in the Dead Sea for free – read here
- Is Jordan a good Stag or Bucks destination? – read here
- An idiot abroad visiting Petra – read here