I arrived in Jordan when it was pitch black outside so my favourite part of arriving at a new country now consisted of staring out of the window trying to see something. I always love getting a first glimpse of a new country through the windows of a taxi from the airport. But oh well, it was time to go to bed and get a good nights sleep!
The next day we would explore the beautiful Citadel in Amman and things got a little more eventful than we originally planned. Cause what started as a lovely stroll through this beautiful archeological site in the heart of Amman ended with us in the back of police car, surrounded by bullet proof vests, chasing through the narrow streets of Jordans’ capital.
I promise you, I’ll tell you exactly how all of that happened and how we ended up sharing a platter of Arabic sweets with the local tourist police in the evening.
The Complete Guide to Visiting the Amman Citadel
The city of Amman is on one side a concrete jungle with actual skyscrapers here and there but then there’s also the older more authentic side to Jordans’ capital. With sandstone coloured houses as far as the eye can see and a couple of mesmerising archeological sites.
The Citadel in Amman is one of these important tourist attractions and the highlight for many visitors. The site is located on top of the highest hill in Amman, Jebel Al Qala’a, and around 850 meters above sea level and part of the seven hills that originally made up Amman.
The Amman Citadel is a popular sight seeing place for many reasons but its two most striking features are the Temple of Hercules and the Ummayad Palace.
Planning your trip to Jordan
Jordan Travel Insurance
I highly recommend you to get a travel insurance before your trip cause the risks are never worth the costs. For instance I ended up spraining my ankle while hiking through Wadi Mujib but I could have easily broken it instead. Medical costs in foreign countries can quickly get pretty high so it’s best to be safe rather than sorry.
I personally love World Nomads, their prices are affordable, their coverage is great, and they also offer 24/7 on-call customer service!
How to reach Amman and the Citadel
Amman is usually the first stop on everyone’s itinerary when visiting Jordan due to the close proximity of the international airport, the Queen Alia International Airport. Flights from all over the world touch ground here and the airport is only 30 kilometres South from the capital.
There are several ways to reach Amman city from Queen Alia International Airport. You can opt for a private taxi which takes around 35-45 minutes and should be around 15JOD. Or if you want to drive yourself you can also pick up a rental car at the airport. If you’re not the most sure driver it might be a good idea to only pick up your car after your visit to Amman. Driving in the capital is pretty much without any traffic rules or lines and at times more than 5 cars were driving criss cross next to each other. We picked up our car on our second day cause we arrived after midnight but yeah, driving in Amman is not for the faint of heart.
Another option is to take a shuttle bus from the airport, they will drop you off in the city centre and leave every 30 minutes. The airport provides its very own bus services from 6.00 am until midnight each day. These buses run from the airport to the Tabarbour bus station in Amman every 30 minutes. The journey itself takes between 45 and 60 minutes depending on traffic and costs 5-6 JOD.
Once you’ve arrived to the capital you want to go to downtown Amman where you’ll find the Citadel perched on top of the highest hill. If you’re staying in the old city you can easily reach the archeological site on foot but do know that there are a lot of steps involved. If this seems to strenuous you can take a taxi from 1JOD from the city centre or drive up with your rental car cause there’s a large parking lot right next to the entrance.
When to visit Amman Citadel
The Amman Citadel is open from 8 am until 7 pm on Saturdays to Thursdays between April and September and until 4 pm between October and March.
The Citadel is only open from 10 am until 4 pm on Fridays throughout the year.
When it comes to the best time of year to visit not just Amman but entire Jordan I would advise you to pick either Spring or Autumn season. During the day the temperatures are nice and can go up until 30°C but it’s nice outside and the perfect weather to go exploring. I visited Jordan in the middle of August and I can tell you, it was bloody hot. Often I would have to catch my breath a little in the shade but then again there are way fewer tourists around so from that perspective the Summer is way calmer.
Where to stay in Amman
When it comes to hotels in Amman the city is an example of contrasts. On one hand there’s the luxurious 5 – star hotels with its enormous sky scrapers and then there’s the cheaper down town hotels perfect for backpackers. Unfortunately there’s no such thing here yet as a small boutique hotels but I’ve listed my favourites in both categories below.
- Four Seasons Hotel Amman – A palatial oasis in the burgeoning desert destination. The Four Seasons Amman boasts a view over Jordan’s capital from atop the highest of the white city’s seven hills.
- Amman Rotana – The first tower hotel in Amman at 189 meter high.
- The House Boutique Suites – At The House, each and every suite is a retreat that brings together the old and the new.
- Dali House – A spacious apartment close to the centre of Amman.
- Seventh-Star Hotel – A beautiful and spacious suite at a 3-star hotel offering a stunning view over the city at a very affordable price.
MAKE SURE TO CHECK OUT MY DETAILED REVIEW ABOUT THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL IN AMMAN, INCLUDING A LOT MORE PHOTOS.
Amman Citadel Visiting Guide
- Opening hours – From 8 am until 7 pm on Saturdays to Thursdays between April and September and until 4 pm between October and March. The Citadel is only open from 10 am until 4 pm on Fridays throughout the year.
- Entrance fee – 2 JOD and the ticket office is on the road leading up to the citadel’s entrance. If you’ve purchased the Jordan Pass from before the entrance to the Amman Citadel is included.
- Jordan Pass – Before departing for Jordan you should purchase the Jordan Pass online. There are several packages available but with all of them the tourist entry visa fees are included as are most tourist attractions. So for instance if you’ve purchased the Jordan Pass the entry to Jerash is free.
- Around the entrance you’ll find a lot of “self-proclaimed” guides and it’s best to ignore these. There are however also licensed guides who will make your visit to the Amman Citadel unforgettable. They charge around 15 JOD per hour but are definitely worth the investment!
- Wear flat shoes and comfortable clothing. You’ll be doing a lot of walking while exploring the ruins.
- If you’re visiting in the Summer months make sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and sunglasses with you to protect you from the sun.
- The total duration of your visit will be between 2 or 3 hours.
- Try to catch the sunset from the Citadel, it will leave you speechless.
What to wear while visiting Amman Citadel
The Highlights at Amman Citadel
As one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places, this historic site has been occupied by many great civilisations, including the Romans, Byzantine, Persians, and Greeks. The Citadel is surrounded by an impressive wall which also offers a stunning view over the sand coloured houses of downtown Amman.
History buffs could probably spend an entire day at this archeological site but the two main highlights are the Temple of Hercules and the Umayyad Palace.
The Temple of Hercules
The Temple of Hercules was built during the reign of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius and unfortunately very little remains of this wonderful building. Some even say that Citadel of Amman never got finished due to archeological evidence of missing columns and other evidence but the two remaining columns which can be spotted from anywhere in downtown Amman are a testament of how grandiose this place once was.
There is however certain doubt that the temple is actually dedicated to Hercules. When you look a little further you’ll see a huge stone hand, the only thing that remains of a 13 meters high statue. Some say it was a statue of Hercules, others say that the hand is too feminine which means the temple would have been dedicated to a female god.
I guess only time will tell.
The Umayyad Palace
The Umayyad Palace is a large palatial complex from the Umayyad period, located on the Citadel Hill of Amman, Jordan. It’s a striking historic building with a beautiful dome perched on top. And this is also the spot where our crazy adventure in Amman started. Remember I told you at the start that we ended up in the back of a police car?
Well get ready to find out how below!
A crazy adventure at the Citadel in Amman
We arrived in Amman after midnight and to be fair we didn’t have the best nights’ sleep either. But as soon as the sun was lighting up the sand coloured buildings of downtown Amman we headed outside and walked up to the Citadel of Amman. We didn’t just wanted to wander around the ruins without learning anything so we hired one of the official local guides.
Of course we had to take as many photos as possible and record as many videos as possible as well with our smart phone. After the Temple of Hercules it was time to visit the Umayyad Palace and our guide asked us to pose with one of the archeological artefacts.
After visiting the palace the tour came to an end and we went strolling around the Citadel wall and again took a ton of photos. It was around this time that my friend Kate wanted to record another video but her smart phone was nowhere to be found. After searching her bag 5 times without any result we slowly started to panic. We returned in our own footsteps but her phone was nowhere to be found. There weren’t that many other tourists so we still had our hopes up.
That’s when I realised we could try to find her phone’s location with the Fine my I-Phone app. I loaded the app and to our surprise it actually worked! But instead of seeing her phone laying somewhere we saw it was moving away. We started chasing it’s location but they had already left the archeological site and by the speed of the marker we realised they were in a car.
We found our guide and told him what had happened and he was incredibly kind and took us to the local tourist police at the entrance of the Citadel. We explained to them what happened and that time was running out cause by now I had only 4% battery left on my phone and neither of us had a portable charger on us. That’s when things got interesting!
The police told us to get into the back of their car and together we rushed through the narrow streets of downtown Amman. I tried reloading the phone’s location a couple of times and in the mean time both of us were swaying in the backseats of an undercover cop car surrounded by bullet proof vests. I have to say, I kinda felt like the female Liam Neeson at that point and neither I or Kate could believe what was actually happening nor the trouble these people went through to help us! Can you imagine you tell this story at a police station in Belgium? The only thing that would happen is that they file something which then takes another 4 months to process and you never see your phone again.
Well, that’s not the case in Jordan! But let’s get back to the story! I refreshed the phone’s location one last time and saw it going back into the direction of the Citadel. I told the cops what was going on and they raced back to the top of the hill. And there, when we got out of the car, a young guy came up to us and handed Kate her smart phone back. He told us he wanted to bring it to the police station downtown but they had told him to bring it back to the site where he found it.
Turns out she had left it on top of that archeological remain while our guide was taking photos of us. We still couldn’t believe our luck and were so grateful for everything. That evening we returned to the Citadel before closing time with two giant platters of Arabic sweets and cookies and shared them with the guys from the local Tourist Police. And to make things even better they didn’t just offer us tea but also the chance to visit the Citadel during sunset after closing time!
So that’s the story of how we visited the Citadel in Amman and ended up in the back of a police car :p.
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