The capital of Iran!
Tehran is the 32nd city to become the capital of Iran and the city considered the heartbeat of the country. With its nearly 13 million inhabitants, Tehran is a modern metropolis with a traditional side known for welcoming different cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities into its loving arms.
The city, which bustles with life during the day and peacefully calm at night, is the center of cultural, educational, economical, political and social activities and a place home to countless historical mosques, churches, synagogues and Zoroastrian fire temples.
Tehran is surrounded by mountains, making it a popular destination for skiers in the Middle East who flock to the six marvelous ski resorts – Shemshak, Dizin, Darbandsar, Tochal, Ab Ali, and Khor -in and around the city to enjoy the fresh, untouched powder. The dry, light snow of these resorts has become an addiction for many skiers.
Tehran may be the city of high-rise buildings, chic restaurants, gardens, graffiti art and lights that shine brightly in the dark of the night but it’s the warmth and hospitality of its inhabitants and the diversity of its lifestyle that forever captures the hearts of visitors.
Tehran, as one of the main tourist locations in Iran, has a wealth of cultural attractions. It is home to royal complexes built during the two last monarchical periods of the country, including the Golestan, Sa’dabad and Niavaran complexes.
There are several historic, artistic and scientific museums in Tehran, such as the National Museum, Malek Museum, Ferdows Garden, Glassware and Ceramics Museum, Museum of the Qasr Prison, the Carpet Museum, Museum of Glass Painting (vitrai art) and the Safir Office Machines Museum. There is also the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in which works of famous artists such as Van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol are featured.
Tehran is also home to the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, claimed to be the largest jewel collection in the world. The collection comprises a set of crowns and thrones, some 30 tiaras, numerous aigrettes, jewel-studded swords and shields, a vast amount of precious loose gems, as well as the largest collections of emeralds, rubies, and diamonds in the world. It also includes other items collected by the Shahs of Iran. The imperial crown jewels are on display at the Central Bank of Iran.
There are so many delicious foods we would like to kindly suggest you, a few of which are mentioned below:
- Kebab- Meat or chicken cooked over a flame, served with grilled tomato and rice.
- Qormeh Sabzi- A stew with lamb or veal with parsley and other herbs, beans, and dried lemons, served with rice.
- Dizi- A thick soup with lamb, legumes, potatoes, and tomatoes served in a special container.
Sa’d Abad Museum Complex
Sprawling across the foothills of Darband, this estate was a summer home to royals since the Qajar dynasty, although it was the Pahlavis who expanded it to the site you see today. Covering 110 hectares and comprising 18 separate buildings, it will take you a good three hours to see everything. For a glimpse into the luxurious life of the shahs, don’t miss the extravagant 54-room White Palace, built in the 1930s. The more classical-looking Green Palace dates from the end of the Qajar era
Other highlights include the eclectic Nations Art Museum, found in the basement of the White Palace, and the well-curated Fine Art Museum. And for those whose tastes run to particular subjects, there are exhibitions covering royal vehicles, military paraphernalia, royal costumes and even royal tableware. The museum-complex grounds are also a pleasant place for strolling.
All tickets must be bought at either the front gate near Tajrish or at the northern entrance from Darband; entering from the north makes sense if you’ve previously spent the morning and had lunch in Darband.
Ask at either ticket office for the useful English map. There’s a minibus (IR10,000) that shuttles regularly from the front gate, pausing at the White Palace on the way up to the Green Palace, then back again.
For refreshments, there are two pleasant but unexceptional cafes inside the grounds.
Niyavaran Cultural-Historic Complex
In the Alborz foothills is the palace where Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family spent most of the last 10 years of royal rule. It’s set in 5 hectares of landscaped gardens and has six separate museums, the best of which is the elegant 1960s Niyavaran Palace, with its clean lines, opulent interior, and sublime carpets. Tickets must be bought before entering the main gate. There’s also a pleasant cafe with outdoor seating.
Apart from the Niyavaran Palace, you can also explore the Sahebgharanieh Palace, where the Shah kept his office; the Ahmad Shahi Pavilion, Reza Pahlavi’s residence when he was crown prince; and the Automobile Museum, which houses a small collection of stately vehicles. Note that at the time of writing, the Sahebgharianieh Palace was closed for renovations.
Farah Diba’s tasteful touch is also evident in a number of the museums, including the art-filled Jahan-Nama Museum & Gallery, and the Imperial Library Museum, once her exclusive domain.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMOCA)
In a striking concrete modernist building on the western side of Park-e Laleh, this museum’s impressive collection boasts works by Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Miró, Dalí, Bacon, Pollock, Monet, Munch, Moore, and Warhol, among many others. Unfortunately, they are not always on display but do not be put off, as there are still some interesting exhibitions and events to see here, including films and performance art.
The architecture itself is impressive, as are the surrounding sculptures. A swirling walkway leads down to the darkly reflecting oil pool Matter & Mind by Noriyuki Haraguchi and off to the nine major galleries.
Just south of the Iranian majlis (parliament), this Islamic college is arguably the most noteworthy example of Persian architecture of the Qajar period, as well as one of the largest. Built between 1878 and 1890, it is famed for its multiple minarets, high domes, and iwans, and poetry inscribed in several ancient scripts on the beautiful tiling. It is closed to the general public.
Male guests are only allowed to get inside. A ban on photography both outside and inside the complex is vigorously enforced.
It’s easy to see why this multilevel, sculptural pedestrian bridge, designed by Iranian architect Leila Araghian, has won awards and been a huge hit with locals. The 270m long walkway connecting Park-e Taleghani and Park-e Abo-Atash over the busy Modarres Expwy is a fun space to relax and, in good weather, it provides superb views of the north Tehran skyline against the Alborz Mountains.
There’s a decent food court at one end and an OK restaurant at the other, as well as plenty of places to sit and socialize, making it a highly popular place to hang out in the evenings.
The glories and excesses of the Qajar rulers are played out across this complex of grand buildings decorated with beautifully painted tiles and set around an elegant garden that’s worth visiting in its own right. There are separate tickets for nine different sections, which you need to buy at the gate: the ones worth paying extra for are the Main Halls, which includes the spectacular Mirror Hall, and the Negar Khaneh (Iranian Painting Gallery).
Although there was a Safavid-era citadel on this site, it was Nasser al-Din Shah (r 1848–96), impressed by what he’d seen of European palaces, who created the ‘Palace of Flowers’ you see today. Originally it was much bigger, with inner and outer sections to encompass offices, ministries and private living quarters, but several surrounding buildings were pulled down under the Pahlavis.
Heading in a clockwise direction around the courtyard from the ticket office, along reflecting pool to leads to the Takht-e Marmar (Marble Throne Verandah), a mirrored, open-fronted audience hall dominated by a magnificent throne. Made in the early 1800s for Fath Ali Shah (r 1797–1834), the throne is constructed from alabaster mined in Yazd and supported by carved human figures. This hall was used on ceremonial occasions, including the Napoleon-style self-coronation of Reza Shah in 1925.
Khalvate-e Karim Khani
On the corner of the same building is the gorgeous Khalvate-e Karim Khani (Karim Khan Nook), all that remains of a 1759 structure that served as the Tehran residence of Karim Khan Zand (r 1751–79). But it was Nasser al-Din Shah who enjoyed this elevated terrace most, smoking qalyan (water pipe) and perhaps contemplating his next asset sale as qanat(underground channel) water bubbled out of the marble fountain nearby. His marble tombstone now stands on the terrace.
Next is the Negar Khaneh (Iranian Painting Gallery), which displays a fine collection of Qajar-era art. Especially interesting are the portraits of the shahs wearing the jewels and crowns you can see in the National Jewels Museum, and pictures of everyday life in 19th-century Iran.
The next set of rooms comprises the Royal Museum (also called the Special Museum), a fascinating treasure trove of decorative art pieces and objects amassed by the shahs.
The palace’s highlight is the Main Halls, including the dazzling Talar-e Ayaheh (Mirror Hall). Built between 1874 and 1877 the Peacock Throne was housed here before it was moved to the National Jewels Museum. It was used for the coronation of Mohammad Reza Shah in 1967 (25 years after he came to power) and royal weddings. Today it and two adjoining halls house gifts, including a set of green malachite table decorations from Russia and fine porcelain from France, Germany, and the UK.
Further east is the Howze Khaneh (Pool Room), named for the small pool and fountain in its center. It houses a collection of paintings and sculptures of 19th-century European royalty given to their Qajar counterparts by the same European monarchs.
Next door is the aptly named Talar-e Berelian (Brilliant Hall), where the use of mirrored glass on all surfaces and twinkling chandeliers reaches its apogee.
At the east end of the garden, the imposing Shams-Al Emarat (Edifice of the Sun) blends European and Persian architectural traditions. Born of Nasser al-Din Shah’s desire to have a palace that afforded him a panoramic view of the city, it was designed by master architect Moayer al-Mamalek and built between 1865 and 1867. The only part of the building’s ground floor is open for view, showcasing yet another sequence of mirrored and tiled rooms.
Next door stands four soaring badgirs (wind towers; used to catch breezes and funnel them down into a building to cool it), rising above the restored Emarat-e Badgir, first erected in the reign of Fath Ali Shah. The interior has typically ostentatious mirror work and is worth a quick look.
In the basement, the Aks Khaneh (Historic Photograph Gallery) exhibits a fascinating collection of historic photographs; one picture shows the inside of a Zoroastrian tower of silence, with bodies in varying states of decay.
Next up, the small Talar-e Almas (Diamond Hall) offers more blinged-to-the-max decoration. The more subdued teahouse and restaurant underneath might well be more appealing.
Finally, back near the entrance, the Abyaz Palace houses the Ethnographical Museum featuring a range of mannequins in traditional ethnic costumes.
Azadi Tower (Borj-e Azadi)
The inverted-Y-shaped Azadi Tower, built in 1971 to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the first Persian empire, is one of Tehran’s visual icons. Designed by Hossein Amanat, it ingeniously combines modern architecture with traditional Iranian influences, most notably the iwan-style of the arch, which is clad in 8000 pieces of white marble. It’s worth going inside to see the complex structural engineering that forms the bones of the design and for the view from the gallery at the top.
You can reach the top by stairs or lift. At the base are galleries with changing exhibitions and a cafe.
The bazaar’s covered stores line more than 10km of lanes and there are several entrances, but you get a great view down a central artery by using the main entrance facing the square Sabzeh Medyan. The warren of people and goods is a city within a city and includes banks, a church, a fire station and several mosques, most notably the impressive Imam Khomeini Mosque, and the ornately decorated Imamzadeh Zeid, a shrine to a descendant of the prophet.
Most lanes specialize in a particular commodity.
One of Tehran’s most attractive shrines, Imamzadeh Saleh provides a photogenic focus to Tajrish Sq with its twin minarets and dome covered in beautifully patterned turquoise tiles: it looks especially stunning towards sunset.
The Glass & Ceramics Museum is, like many of its exhibits, small but perfectly formed. The galleries walk you chronologically through the ages, with detailed, lucid explanations in English that chart the history of the country and the region through the lovingly displayed glass and ceramics that remain. The late Qajar-era building’s graceful wooden staircase and classical stucco mouldings are particularly delightful, and there are many delicate carvings and decorative flourishes.
Built as a private residence for a prominent Persian family, the building once housed the Egyptian embassy.