Amman, the capital city of Arabic country Jordan. Built on nineteen hills which serve great views. An excellent first destination to literally taste your first Arabic experiences. Where hipster cafes appear behind the conservative curtain, and where generations of food indulge your taste buds.
I spent a lot of time in Amman after I arrived in Jordan at the end of August. In a short period of time, Amman became one of my favorite cities. Not much because of Amman’s appearance or historical interest, but because of the many cafes and restaurants I visited. It’s a good way to get to know the people and culture of Amman and Jordan. In this article, I will talk about my favorite cafes and restaurants in Amman.
Downtown is located in a valley in Amman. It’s a crowded part of the city where it’s always a challenge to cross streets safely. Souvenir shops are on every side of the street where sellers try to lure you with a “Welcome” in one of their shops. Moreover, Downtown is the place where your first acquaintance with the Jordanian kitchen can start. Start with a fresh fruit juice, a piece of sesame bread or try the national sweet: kunefe which are sold on the street. Afterward, continue to one of the cafes and restaurants:
This is one of the most popular places to eat in Amman. Hashem restaurant is nationally known by its good falafel and hummus which they serve since 1952. Famous people and even members of the Jordanian royal family visited Hashem to try the food. Because Hashem is so well known, you often have to wait for a seat. By its appearance from the outside, you don’t expect that it’s a famous restaurant. Hashem is a basic restaurant built out of plastic chairs and tables in an alley. When you try the hummus and falafel, you will understand why Hashem is so famous. Bonus point: the food is cheap.
Al-Rasheed Court Café (Eco-tourism cafe).
Al Rasheed is a nice place to rest after walking on hills or for an after dinner tea. This cafe advertises itself from the outside as: Eco-tourism Cafe. A trick to get the tourists inside because I have no idea how this cafe is eco-friendly. The entrance is located in the alley next to the building where stairs lead you to the first floor. Tea with mint and very sweet ice-tea are served at Al-Rasheed, while you can enjoy a Nargileh (Shisha). The best place to sit is on the balcony where you can observe Amman’s street life, while the waiter replaces the coals of your Nargileh. Al-Rasheed Court Cafe is also suitable for backgammon lovers (like me :)). Not a disappointment even though it is not an eco-tourism cafe.
Abu Zagleh is my favorite restaurant of Amman. They have an expanded menu with Jordanian specialties: falafel, hummus, lebaneh, moutabel and more. Furthermore, they also have a fast food menu if you don’t fancy Jordanian food. The restaurant exists out of two floors, but the best seats are upstairs. The waiters were friendly and quick, and an English menu is available. Abu Zagleh is well known among the locals but not (yet) among tourists. A kind of: best-kept secret. Food is simple but delicious and cheap. You can also get food from Abu Zagleh as a takeaway.
Rainbow Street is a well-known street in Amman full of (trendy) cafes, restaurants, and shops. The first place where your hipster cafe journey can start. For years, Rainbow Street is a progressive street and home for the artistic community. Furthermore, a historical street where Jordanian King Talal bin Abdullah used to live. The Rainbow Street is reachable from the rainbow colored stairs decorated with umbrellas.
The Good Book Shop
The Good Book Shop is a book store and cafe in one. You first enter the book store part where you can buy Arabic and English books. When you walk further inside, you see places where you can sit and/or can study while drinking coffee. They have a garden behind the building with a small terrace. The young people who work at the cafe speak proper English and are welcoming. Likewise, friendly people to have a conversation with and learn more about Amman and Jordan. Also an important point: the coffee is delicious. The Good Bookshops is located in a side-street of the Rainbow Road.
Al Quds mean Jerusalem in Arabic. This is the oldest falafel sandwich seller in Amman and derives from 1966. Like Hashem in Downtown, Al Quds is a phenomenon in Amman. Inside the vendor, you can admire the pictures of the royal family when they visited Falafel Al Quds. It is always busy at Al Quds so it can take a while till you have a sandwich between your hands. But when your sandwich is ready to eat, I assure you will enjoy. It is, at least, one of the best falafel sandwiches I ever had. It is not possible to sit inside (it is too small for that). But on the other side of the road, benches are located where you can enjoy your sandwich.
Jabal Al-Weibdeh (Paris Circle)
It demands some walking time to reach Al-Weibdeh (especially when you have to come from Rainbow Street). The adventure in Jabal Al-Weibdeh starts at ‘Paris Circle’ which can be recognized by the globe-form statue. This neighborhood is not well-known among tourists and feels more relaxed. The atmosphere feels different because it’s mostly inhabited by Jordanian Christians and foreign expats. On Sunday, you can hear the church bells ring. Jabal Al-Weidbeh is my favorite neighborhood of Amman because it feels more open-minded, and has some awesome cafes.
This is my favorite cafe of Amman. Named after the philosopher and poet Rumi (Mevlana). Rumi Cafe is specialized in tea, but the coffee is delicious as well. They also serve cake; I would especially recommend the brownie. Rumi Cafe is attractively designed in Arabic style but modern. You can sit inside and outside where the air conditioning howls during the hot summer days. Jordanian and international students mostly visit Rumi Cafe. You can study at Rumi’s and use the wifi, but also sit and chat with your friends. I sat at Rumi Cafe often alone or with people I met there. I once improved my photography skills at Rumi’s with the help of a photographer and filmmaker from Lebanon.
Art Gallery and Tea bar (Fann Wa Chai)
Art Gallery and Teabar is my second favorite cafe in Al-Weibdeh. It appealed to me because of the old movie posters, books, and art. This cafe serves different kinds of tea and coffee. Art Gallery and Tea bar has kind of the same atmosphere as Rumi cafe. A place where I could sit alone in peace without being stared at all the time. And where I can have a normal conversation with a Jordanian man without romantical intentions included. My favorite spot to sit is on the balcony bordering the street. Especially at night, I enjoyed going here to drink tea while observing the night people.
Cafe de Paris
Cafe de Paris is a cafe at noon and a bar at night. This cafe and bar is located next to the Paris Circle. I visited Cafe de Paris only once with friends I met in Amman at night. Cafe de Paris is the only place in Amman where I partied and drank alcohol. The bar had a good atmosphere, and they played good music on the dance floor. Thursday night is the best day to come to celebrate the Jordanian weekend. The beer is fine, but unfortunately, alcohol is quite expensive in Jordan.
Hostels in Amman
When you spend a couple of days in Amman to discover all the cafes and restaurants, you need of course a place to sleep. My favorite hostel in Amman is Sydney Hotel. It is a convenient hostel because it is closely located to Downtown and Rainbow street. I found the staff to be friendly. They always gave me a discount, and they helped me with extending my visa :). The disadvantage is that not much light from the outside is coming through the hostel. The dormitories are okay and clean. But I liked the private rooms more (and sometimes it is okay to sleep in a private room as a backpacker). Breakfast is available for a small price.
Transportation in Amman
The public transport service in Amman and Jordan is far from being good. The cheapest option to travel within the city is by bus or shared taxis. How public transport is working in Amman is for me a mystery, but your hotel can you help you with this case. Nevertheless, I found a map of the public transport network in Jordan. The quickest and fastest option to travel is by private taxi.
A couple of years ago, the government came up with the plan to name the streets in Amman. Many people like taxi drivers don’t know these street names, so you need to indicate your place of destination by a roundabout or buildings nearby. Let your hostel or hotel write the address down for you when you are planning to go by taxi somewhere. Before Jordan, I was in Iran where I hated taxis. I liked the taxis in Amman more because they all have taximeters. If you get in a taxi and he doesn’t want to turn on the meter, ask him to turn it on or look for another taxi.
There are two main bus terminals in Amman. The northern bus station: Tabartour, and the southern bus terminal: Mojamah Janobi. The bus system is very simple. All buses to destinations south of Amman are leaving from the southern bus terminal and all destinations north from the northern bus terminal. From Tabartour (north) there is a bus leaving to Queen Alia Airport. All buses leave when it is full. Keep in mind that there is almost no public transport available on Friday. When you have enough money, I recommend hiring a car in Jordan. It is much quicker and more convenient to discover the country.
What is more to do in Amman?
Besides mingle yourself between falafel and coffee, there are more things to do in Amman. Visit the Citadel and the Temple of Hercules which are located on the highest mountain of Amman. On this mountain, there is also a museum where you can learn more about the history of Amman. From the mountain, you have a great view of the city. Furthermore, you can visit the Roman theatre in Downtown Amman.
When you have time, go for a day trip to the old Roman city Jerash. Jerash is one of the most well preserved Roman cities. Take a bus to Jerash from Tabartour bus terminal.
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