Amman, the vibrant capital city of Jordan, often gets overshadowed by the country’s more popular tourist destinations. Visitors often bypass the city, heading straight to Petra and Wadi Rum. However, during my trip in September 2023, I spent a couple of days exploring the capital and was so glad I did.

A star in its own right, Amman should not be overlooked. From its delectable cuisine and shopping experiences to its beautiful mosques and mesmerizing historical sites, exploring Amman is a unique adventure that should undoubtedly be a part of your journey through Jordan. Here are some of the top experiences in the dynamic city that make it well worth the visit.

Ancient Ruins

Amman’s rich history is on display at notable archaeological sites, such as the Amman Citadel and the Roman Theatre. Situated on the highest hill in Amman, the Citadel offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city and houses ancient ruins dating back to the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods. Marvel at the well-preserved Hercules Temple and explore the fascinating archaeological museum within the grounds. 

Just a short walk away, you’ll find the Roman Theatre, a remarkable amphitheater that once hosted gladiatorial contests and theatrical performances. Take a moment to immerse yourself in history as you wander through these incredible landmarks.

Culinary Delights

One cannot truly explore Amman without indulging in its rich and diverse culinary scene. Jordanian cuisine is a magical fusion of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors. Don’t miss the opportunity to savor mouthwatering dishes like mansaf–a traditional Jordanian dish consisting of rice, lamb and a fermented yogurt sauce, falafel–a vegetarian delight made of ground chickpeas or fava beans, or hummus–the iconic mashed chickpea dip.

While these foods are widely available throughout the country, I must say that the best falafel and hummus during my time in Jordan was at Hashem in downtown Amman. The restaurant is largely regarded as one of the best in the nation. It is also one of the oldest eateries in Amman, renowned for its simple yet flavorful traditional food.

Mesmerizing Mosques

Amman is home to many beautiful mosques that showcase the city’s rich Islamic heritage. The King Abdullah Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, is a standout attraction. Its stunning blue dome and intricate mosaics make it a sight to behold. The mosque offers tours and provides robes for visitors to wear if needed. There is also a small museum next to it that contains ancient coins, pottery and other artifacts.

The Abu Darwish Mosque and the King Hussein Mosque are also noteworthy for their elegant designs and serene atmospheres. Immerse yourself in the spiritual ambiance of these architectural wonders and gain insight into the religious fabric of the city.

Retail Therapy

Amman’s bustling traditional markets and modern shopping malls offer a paradise for shopaholics. Start your shopping spree at the lively Souk Jara, a famous open-air market where local artisans and craftsmen showcase their unique products. From handmade ceramics to traditional clothing and beautiful souvenirs, you’ll find a treasure trove of authentic Jordanian goods. 

For a more modern shopping experience, head to upscale malls like the Abdali Mall and Taj Lifestyle Center, where designer brands and international fashion stores await. You’ll also find streets lined with shops selling clothing, souvenirs and more in the streets surrounding the King Hussein Mosque.

Day Trips

Amman makes for an excellent base to embark on day trips to nearby attractions. Just a short drive away, you’ll find Jerash, one of the best-preserved Roman cities in the world. Explore its well-preserved ruins, including magnificent colonnaded streets, temples and theaters. Another must-visit destination is the Dead Sea, famous for its high salt content, allowing you to effortlessly float on its surface. Enjoy a mud mask and reap the benefits of the mineral-rich mud known for its therapeutic properties.

Individuals interested in important religious sites can also visit nearby Mount Nebo–where Moses looked out over the Promised Land, the Cave of the Seven Sleepers–which has significance in both the Islamic and Christian faiths, and the baptismal site of Jesus Christ.