1. Visit the Citadel and Roman Amphitheater
The Citadel has been occupied for at least 9,000 years by a series of different civilizations, and the site is covered in ancient artifacts from Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic settlements. For a small fee of 15JD (roughly equal to 15GBP or 24US Dollars), you can hire a guide at the entrance. Don’t be afraid to haggle about price or refuse service from guides who seem questionable. Ask a lot of questions, and choose a guide who is experienced and willing to give you at least a full hour.
Just down the road from the Citadel is the Roman Amphitheater. You can enter the site for 2JD, and you don’t need a guide. The theater has amazing acoustics. Press your ear to one end of the wall at the base of the theater, and have a friend press theirs to the other end. Your voices will carry through the wall in a strange echo effect, sort of like an ancient game of telephone. Make the effort to climb to the top row of seats in the theatre and you’ll discover one of the best views in town.
Getting to the Citadel: Take a taxi. Your driver will offer to wait (for a fee), but it really isn’t necessary. Taxis regularly cruise through the parking lot looking for fares, and it’s a lot more fun to explore the site if you aren’t on a schedule.
Getting to the Roman Theater: We walked from the Citadel to the theater, but you will definitely need a good map (or GPS) to help you find your way through the winding streets of Amman. The easier (and less interesting) option is a taxi.
2. Eat at Falafel Al-Quds
This Rainbow Street falafel stand has been frying up delicious sandwiches for 40 years. For 2JD, you get a falafel sandwich with spicy sauce and vegetables. They’re small but tasty. If you ask nicely (and they aren’t busy), you can forgo the bread and buy a serving of plain falafel balls to snack on. It’s a takeaway place, but there are benches outside where you can enjoy your sandwich and some great people watching.
Getting to Falafel Al-Quds: Rainbow Street is about a 20 minute walk from downtown Amman, but you’ll definitely need a map or GPS and a good sense of direction to find your way. Taxis are cheap and easy, and drivers will all understand if you ask for Rainbow Street.
Falafel Al Quds-Jabbal Amman, First Circle, Rainbow Street
3. Drink Arak in a Rainbow Street Cafe
Arak is a colorless, unsweetened, anise-flavored Arabic liquor that really packs a punch at 50% alcohol by volume. It is served in a shot glass with a glass of ice and a bottle of water. When the ingredients are mixed together (ice first, then 1/3 Arak to 2/3 water) they react to form a cloudy white beverage best consumed with a mezze plate or garlicky snack. While alcohol isn’t forbidden in Jordan, few places have it on the menu. Luckily, the youthful and westernized Rainbow Street neighborhood has a few cafes that serve alcohol.
Getting there: As listed above, Rainbow Street is a 20 minute walk from downtown Amman or an easy taxi ride.
Where to drink Arak: Books@Cafe has a friendly, western style cafe upstairs, and an English bookstore downstairs. The cafe has outdoor seating with spectacular views of the city.
Omar Al Khattab Street #12 First Circle, Jabal Amman
4. Wander through the covered market in Downtown Amman
The traditional fruit market in Downtown Amman is a treat for the senses. Fresh, colorful produce is piled on tables at eye level; each mountain of fruit is topped with a freshly sliced piece to tempt potential customers. Baskets full of exotic spices line the streets, and the scents fill the air and make your mouth water. Vendors literally sing for their customers, listing off the best deals of the day in melodious chants that echo through the market. Don’t be afraid to chat up the vendors, who are more than happy to practice their English.
Getting to the market: The market is just around the corner from the Roman theater, so it’s easy to take a taxi to one or the other and walk.