As Jordan's capital and cultural centre, Amman is a mix of modern-day vibrancy and ancient archaeological sites. From narrow staircases on its steep hills, you can hear the sounds of this cosmopolitan city all day long – sonorous calls to prayer, beeping car horns and stereos playing Arabic pop. Sip mint tea from a street stall or from the balcony of a shisha café. Amman is also a launchpad for further travels in Jordan such as historical Petra, the Wadi Rum desert and the Dead Sea.
Hostels in Amman are clustered in the city's downtown area. You can stay in cosy accommodation opposite the Roman Amphitheatre, a traditional property with a quiet garden or an old Arab school. Make the most of hilltop views by choosing somewhere with a roof terrace for relaxing and watching the world go by. Some Amman hostels give out free tea at sunset and many can help make your trip run smoothly by arranging tours around Jordan and airport pickup.
Neighbourhoods in Amman are generally split into two types: Jabal (hills) and Wadi (valleys). The city's old town, Al-Balad dates back to the Neolithic period and includes the art district of Jabal al-Weibdeh. Head to Jabal Amman for souks and the arty Rainbow Street. While the city's cultural and historical sights are concentrated on its eastern side, western Wadi as-Seir is also worth a visit. It's known for the glamorous district of Sweifieh, with nightclubs, music studios and fashion boutiques.
There's lots to see and do in Amman. Jordan Archaeological Museum has neolithic relics, including some of the world's oldest statues. Architectural sights include the 6,000-seat Roman Amphitheatre, which was built in the 2nd century, and the blue-domed King Abdullah I Mosque. Jabal al-Qala'a hill, known as the Citadel, has Greek and Roman ruins such as the Temple of Hercules and the 8th-century Umayyad Palace. You can also shop for jewellery at the glittering Gold Souk.
Amman is 30km north of Queen Alia International Airport. You can take an airport express bus (45 minutes depending on traffic) or fixed-fare taxi into the centre. Amman is a hub for transport, with roads leading out to Jerusalem, the northwest and Aqaba in the south, and plenty of bus connections to other cities. Walking is best kept to the pedestrian-friendly downtown area, with buses and coasters (mini-buses) going to other parts of the city.