Tehran,capital of Iran
For better or for worse, Tehran (تهران) is the political, economic and cultural capital of Iran. Clogged with traffic and choked with smog, but visitors will find more on offer the closer they look. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
From ancient artefacts to modern art, Qurans to carpets, Tehran is home to the best of Iran’s museums and galleries. And though it doesn’t have the long, illustrious history of Isfahan or Shiraz, Tehran is where to discover more about Iran’s 20th century upheavals, from the tarnished grandeur of the Pahlavi palaces to the countless fading murals in praise of Khomeini and the Iraq War martyrs. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
But history also demands that life goes on. As Terran’s wealthy increasingly look west for cultural leads, ever-widening cultural divisions make walking the city streets a study in social distinctions.
Western brands stamp their mark on the wealthy north of the city with increasing swagger, while, in the south, the impressive, labyrinthine Bazaar-e Bozorg (Big Bazaar) continues to heave in and dish out vast quantities of gold, silver, spices, carpets, textiles and Chinese-made consumer goods of dubious quality.
Be sure though to take a Friday walk in Tehran’s northern suburbs, where paths leading into the mountains are trod by one and all. In Darakeh, the sense of relief is tangible as Tehranis kick off their shoes to cool hiked-out feet in the cold mountain stream. At Tochal the cable car takes skiers to pistes no more than 30 minutes away from the centre of town. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
This distinctively shaped arch is situated in the western part of Tehran near Mehrabat International Airport. The word Azadi means national independence and it was completed in 1971 for the celebrations given by Mohammad Reza Shah to commemorate 2,500 years of Iranian Kings.
The 3 floor, 45m high monument is constructed from large 25,000 granite blocks from Hamedan province. Almost 15,000 differently shaped blocks were used to create the unique shape of the Azadi Tower.
Though modern in style, the design incorporates both pre and post-Islamic architectural styles. The 21m high archway is representative of the pre-Islamic Sassanid period while it is also pointed to represent hands raised in prayer. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Four elevators and two staircases (286 stairs) take you to the top of the tower from where you can see extensive views of Tehran. In the basement is a museum divided into two rooms.
The first contains pottery and glassware from prehistoric through to Islamic Iran as well as bronze artefacts dating back to the 1st and 2nd centuries BC excavated from Lurestan. The second room contains photographs and models depicted traditional life from different parts of Iran.
Milad Tower (Borj-e Milad)
The Milad Tower is one of Tehran’s most iconic structures, and the most prominent feature of the city’s skyline. Completed in 2007, it stands at an impressive 435 metres, making it the sixth tallest tower in the world. Trips to the head of the tower are inexpensive and worth the effort on a clear day, for nowhere else can beat it for panoramic views of the city. If you want to push the boat out, the tower also boasts a fancy, revolving restaurant. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Tabi’at Bridge / Nature Bridge Tehran
A 270-meter three level bridge connecting two parks in Tehran, the Tabi’at Bridge is probably the most beautiful piece of urban architecture built since the Revolution.
Opened in 2014, the Tabi’at Bridge (also known as the Nature Bridge in Tehran) is a popular hang out for Iranian’s who come to enjoy a variety of dining options, views and relaxation areas. Even more incredibly- the Tabi’at Bridge was the brainchild of Iranian architecture student, Leila Araghian, who was only 26 at the time. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Winning design competitions all over the world – the Tabi’at Bridge should not be missed.
Tochal Telecabin Tehran
If the inevitable smog of Tehran gets a bit too much for you – why not head to the mountains with the Tochal Telecabin / Sky Lift! Located in the north of Tehran.Tehran tourism attractions are here.
You can make a 45 minutes trip straight up and then couples with a short scramble you can easily summit Mt Tochal (3933m). As you would expect, the views are out of this world – both of the mountains and back down over the chaos that is Tehran – and if you’re really feeling fit there is plenty of hiking opportunities at the different stations along the way! Super popular with local Tehranis during the weekend.
Skiing In Iran
Even though the majority of Iran is pretty much a desert, there is still some great skiing in Iran – and some of the cheapest skiing in the world! Tehran tourism attractions are here.
While global warming seems to be shortening the season for skiing in Iran, you can get some pretty good powder for skiing in Tehran from January..The Tochal Ski resort is located at the end of the above cable car and makes a great day-trip but if you are really serious you are going to want to head to the nearby Dizin Ski Resort or Shemshak Ski Resort from Tehran. Not what you were expecting to do in Iran right!
National Jewels Museum
Located in the basement of the National Bank of Iran on Ferdosi Avenue, in front of the embassies of Germany and Turkey, this is one of the best known museums in Iran. On display is an impressive collection of some of the most famous and spectacular jewels in the world including many priceless pieces. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Many pieces have disappeared over the years but the remaining collection of gemstones, jewellery, royal emblems, ornamental guns and jewel-encrusted furniture is still impressive. The majority of the items on display were given to Safavid kings as gifts but many pieces taken by Nader Shah on his conquest of India are also exhibited. These include the Darya-e Nur diamond, The Peacock Throne and the Jeweled Globe. Other pieces include the crowns of the Qajar and Pahlavi Kings.
The National Museum of Iran (Museum of Ancient Iran)
Opened in 1937, the National Museum was Iran’s very first museum. To this day it houses Irans foremost collection of archaeological and cultural treasures. The main entrance is on Tir Street but it can also be entered from Shahid ra Jai Street. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
The museum was designed (and until 1960, also curated) by the French archaeologist and architect Andre Godard. The two-floor building was built to resemble the palace of Ardeshir I in Firuzabad and the red brick entranceway and dome are reminiscent of the Sassanid and Arsakid styles.
The main building houses a collection of artefacts from prehistoric Iran to the end of the Sassanian period, including pottery dating from before 1000BC, Elamite artefacts discovered at Susa and Chogha Zambil and a wealth of Achaemenid period decorations from Persepolis. A copy of the stela carved with Hammurabi’s Laws serves as a reminder that the original, now in the Louvre, was discovered in Iran. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
An extension built in 1997 houses treasures from the early years of the Islamic era to the present. At the heart of the collection are handwritten copies of the Holy Quran displayed in an atmosphere of quiet reverence and spirituality along with other complementary elements of a mosque, such as an altar prayer chamber.
Other handwritten books include the poetic works of Ferdowsi, Nezami Sadi and Hafez. The uppers floors of the building chart the flourishing of Iranian art in fields such as pottery, glassware, miniature painting, carpets, metal engravings and calligraphy. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Located on Khordad Square, the Golestan Palace (“Palace of Flowers”) is a collection of buildings set in a walled park veined with canals rushing down from the Tochal mountains. It stands on the site of the historic Arg (citadel) of Tehran which was originally built in the time of Shah Abbas (r. 1588-1629) of the Safavid dynasty. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
The Arg became the official royal residence when Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar moved the capital of Iran to Tehran and further palace buildings were constructed during the reign of Karim Khan Zand (r. 1750-1779). Buildings commissioned by Naser Al-din Shah (r. 1848-1896), such as the Shams-ol-Emaneh (“Edifice of the Sun”) and the Emarat-e Badgir (“Building of the Wind Towers”) show traces of a European architectural style that the modernising king was influenced by on his travels.
The splendour of the interiors of many of the buildings evokes a time when foreign dignitaries were invited to the Qajar court and compared its artistry to the royal buildings of Europe. Both the Eyvan-e Takht-e Marmar (“Terrace of the Marble Throne”) and the Talar-e Aineh (“Hall of Mirrors”) are famous for the spectacular mirror work that covers their walls.
Elsewhere can be seen fine examples of Iranian stained glass, mosaic tiles and painting. Several buildings house collections of paintings and gifts given to Qajar kings by European dignitaries as well as paintings by Iranian masters. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Though not all of the buildings are open to the public, the park itself is an oasis of calm in the heart of the city.
Sa’d Abad Museum Complex
A sprawling 300 hectare complex built by the Qajar and Pahlavi monarchs in a similar pattern to the oil-rich rulers of Saudi and the Gulf States today… Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Now open to the public the Sa’dabad Complex, while expensive by Iranian standards, is a beautiful place to wander and admire the natural forest, qanats and buildings. Each museum is individually chargeable and in our opinion – not at all worth it, except for the famous Green House (with its hall of mirrors) which is currently under-renovation. There is also a collection of royal cars if you have a passion for vintage sports cars but you can see them in only a few minutes. Look out for the President of Iran who has taken up residence in a private section of the Sa’dabad Complex.
Museum of the Qasr Prison
Newly opened, the Museum of the Qasr Prison in Tehran is a dark look into the Pahlavi-era prison complex, renown for psychological and physical torture. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Former prisoners still guide here somedays and will share memories of their torture including broken teeth and amputated limbs. The former Qasr Prison gardens have been turned into a beautiful park, and while the main historic prison building may be the focus (with stunning brickwork none the less) don’t miss the much darker and newer concrete building at the back of the complex where recordings still play the screams of torture.
Here you get an intensely real look into what life was like in this prison just before and during the revolution here, but it is not for the faint-of-heart. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Museum of the Islamic Era
Next door to the above Museum of Ancient Iran and far better, the Museum of the Islamic Era is one of the top museums in Tehran. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Recently reopened after a nine year renovation this three story building displays over 1500 items and relics from the early Islamic period as well as Seljuk, Ilkhanid, Teymurid, Safavid, and Qajar eras. Beautifully done, you won’t want to rush through as you take in all the details of the ancient rugs, painting, plates, pots and more .
There is also a temporary exhibition space on the ground floor changing every six month.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (TMoCA)
While Iran might not be a world-leader in contemporary art today you should still make a visit to the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art to see the stunning collection of 19th and 20th century’s world-class European and American pieces. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Opened by Empress Farah Pahlavi in 1977 – just two years before the Revolution – TMoCA is said to hold the most valuable collections of modern Western masterpieces outside Europe and North America, although most were hidden away until recently when they have again been put on display.
Islamic Revolution & Holy Defense Museum
An outsized experiment in glorification with more than a hint of propaganda, the Iran Holy Defense Museum is easily one of the things to do in Tehran. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Focussing on the bloody Iran-Iraq war which left over a million lives lost, there are over seven halls here going into minute details of every imaginable aspect of the conflict – though mostly through displays, walk-through models, visual effects and more. This is a very high-tech museum – if a little surreal – after which you might have a better idea of this harrowing episode in modern Iranian history. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
The bridge of the martyrs here is especially fascinating -and there are the huge tanks, rockets and planes outside.
Carpet Museum – Laleh Park
Not far from the Museum of Contemporary Art and also adjacent to Laleh Park, the Carpet Museum of Iran is one of the most rewarding to visit of Tehran’s many museums. Most of the more than 100 carpets on display are from the 19th or 20th centuries but there are a handful of older specimens from as far back as the 16th century. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Photography is permitted though use of flash is not. Hunting and wildlife scenes show off the carpet makers art to the greatest extent.
Corner of Fatemi Street and Kargar Avenue; Admission fee
Cinema Museum of Iran
Located in the north of Tehran is a stunning Qajar-era mansion complex with historic garden, the Cinema Museum of Iran is a curious mix of equipment, posters and photos from the Iranian movie industry dating back over the last century – and all in English! Tehran tourism attractions are here.
There is even beautiful working cinema with ornate moulding showing new and classic Iranian films – though without subtitles, but still intriguing. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Imamzadeh Saleh / Tajrish Mosque
Visit the beautiful Tajrish Mosque officially known as the Imamzadeh Saleh to see the entombed remains of Saleh, a son of the Twelver Shia Imam, Musa al-Kadhim.
One of the most popular shrines in Tehran, the interior is particular spectacular and was our favourite mosque in Tehran. Make sure not to visit during prayer as it is far too busy and you are likely not to be let in – but during other times we found foreigners were welcomed and someone is likely to take an interest in you and offer you a tour! Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Saint Sarkis Cathedral
The largest church in Tehran, the Saint Sarkis Cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic varsity was completed in 1970. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
While a Cathedral might not be top of your list of things to do in Tehran, you should not miss the opportunity to see Christian life play out in the Islamic Republic – complete with imposing giant walls, barbed wire and strict security, though as a foreigner you will be welcomed in. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Forbidden from practising their faith in public, the spires of the church are barely visible outside the compound the surrounding area is intensely covered in pro-Islam murals and billboards.
Jomeh Bazaar (Friday Market)
Tehran’s Jomeh Bazaar (Friday Market) has a huge variety of bric-a-brac on display. The Friday Market is held on three floors of a multi-storey car park in central Tehran, on the east side of Joumbouri Avenue. The flea market is open every Friday from around 9am to 4pm. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Other tourist attractions in Tehran
Park e Shahr / Tehran City Park
A sprawling park in central Tehran near to all the major museums in the district. Take a wander through and admire the bizarre bird park, aquarium and library. The Tehran Peace Museum is also located here with strange opening hours – take a peak in if it actually is open. You can also find plenty of cats roaming round and can join in a game of ping-pong with the locals who gather here to relax and unwind. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
The Park-e Shahr is probably the only place big enough to really escape the constant traffic and honking in Central Tehran! Tehran tourism attractions are here.
A hot bed of liberalism in Iran, since the removal of sanctions a café culture has exploded across Tehran as many more wealthy Iranians got a taste of Western culture and cosmopolitanism.
With some pretty decent views, coffee shops in Tehran are also a great place to meet young Iranians, engage in open discussion or just to watch the unique culture that takes place here. A few years ago many were raided as women were known not to wear hijabs inside, but the authorities seem to be looking the other way again – but the morality police crackdown of 2013 makes for an interesting read. Lamiz Coffee is basically the Starbucks of Tehran with multiple locations (yet annoyingly no WiFi) but you should also stop by the historic Gol Rezaieh Café or the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art Café. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
To be honest, so many have opened up over the past year its hard to keep track of the best – so just ask your hostel in Tehran for their recommendation nearby, or better yet just stop someone young and trendy on the streets! Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Tehran Street Food
While all over Tehran you will find plenty of traditional street food – and you should try as much as you can (check here for Iranian street food to watch out for) – we are specifically talking about the street food of 30th Tir Steet outside the National Museum of Iran. Trendy and oh-so-cool, swing by here in the afternoon or evening for a lively atmosphere, intriguing food trucks + carts and some nice outdoor seating. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
You will surely be joined quickly by locals who will be quick to recommend their favourite spots, to help you with an translation and let you know all their favourite things to do in Tehran!
Tehran Shopping Malls
Visit to the Tehran Shopping Malls is not just about shopping!. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
With giant food courts, arcades and plenty of Iranian / independent stores, they are a socializing space for Tehran rising middle-and-upper class and a great place to meet young, educated Iranians. Of course the Tehran Shopping Malls are also mega-monstrosities and interesting to wander around for a bit, the best are the Palladium shopping center (with the largest toy store in the Middle East), the Arg Commercial Complex (with its luxury stores and beautiful outdoor interactive facade)and the Sam Commercial Complex. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Tehran Metro Art
Constantly expanding, the Tehran Metro is the lifeline of Tehran and carries over 3 million passengers a day while the streets above are in near-constant grid-lock.
Cheap and easy-to-use, there is also a bonus for tourists – if you pay attention, the Tehran Metro is the best place to see propaganda in Iran! Constantly changing, pay special attention on the platforms or the long entrance corridors to see cartoons and artwork depicting everything from the morals taught in the Quran and daily life in Iran to rather harsh and graphic anti-US and anti-Israel pieces.
While these Tehran metro cartoons make a great picture to share with friends back home, be discrete when taking photos and remember that the views expressed are directly from a government department and by-and-large not reflective of Iranian society at large (or at least many of the more liberal Tehranis)… Tehran tourism attractions are here.
While each time crossing the road might be a near-death experience, there is no better way to get to experience the social fabric and stumble upon hidden gems in Tehran than to simply wander.
Instead of taking a taxi or heading a few stops on the Tehran Metro why not get your walk on and see what you come across! Small parks, street food, intriguing shops and hidden bazaars, there really is no telling! Expect a great many people to stop you and thank you for visiting Iran and to question your experiences so far. Tehran tourism attractions are here.
Besides, if you ever are really lost these people are great to help you find the nearest Metro, coffee-shop, museum or restaurant!. Tehran tourism attractions are here.