A huge, exhausting, exhilarating and surprising place, Tehran is the bustling and vibrant capital of Iran. More so than most places it is best explored, if possible, in the company of a local. Iranian’s are the most generous and welcoming people I’ve ever met, and the only people I’d trust (to a degree) to navigate the endless motorways and traffic that are a key part of life in Tehran.

In my four days there I managed to mix the historic with the modern, the city and the mountains, a combination I’d recommend. It is easier to just explore the museums and palaces of the city, but you’ll be missing out on what Tehran can offer.

For example Tehran is better known for it’s gridlocked and polluting traffic (not as bad as expected tbh) than it’s beautiful parks. There has been a real civic push in recent years, with greenery found everywhere. A highlight is the relatively new Tabiat (Nature) Bridge, a wonderful pedestrian, restaurant, and flower filled space, popular day and night.

The bridge connects the hillside Ab-o-Atash (Water and Fire) Park, and the more urban Norouz (New Year) Park.

In the heart of the city are the flower filled Shahr and Lahel Parks. April is the best time to visit to catch everything in full bloom, and for the best weather.

The Alborz mountains form a wonderful backdrop to the city, and offer plenty of opportunities to escape toward cooler and cleaner air (winter is the worst time for pollution). Bam-e Tehran (Roof of Tehran) is the most famous spot for panoramic views of this sprawling city.

Jamshideh Park is another lovely spot, heaving at the weekends (Thursday / Friday in Iran) but much quieter during the week.

Darband is a restaurant and food stall lined path up the mountainside, with the constant presence of flowing water.

Back in town the Iman Khomeni Mosque by the Grand Bazaar was by no means the most impressive or beautiful mosque I visited in Iran, but it was the first and a taster of what was to come.

Imam Khomeni’s shrine on the outskirts of the city was a complete contrast, an epically large modern mosque, that has been under construction for 28 years. It’s the size of a major airport terminal. More to come on this one.

I only spent a short time in the Grand Bazaar, I’m not a big shopper, but did like the roof.

Bagh-e Melli (The National Garden) is home to some impressive civic and museum buildings, including the National Museum of Iran.

The National Museum of Iran is split into the Museum of Ancient Iran and Museum of the (post-) Islamic Era buildings. The former was heaving with tour groups, while the later was nearly completely empty. I preferred the later…

The Museum of Ancient Iran does have some impressive pieces from Persepolis, but the best can be found overseas in British, French, German and American museums. I enjoyed more the geometrically complex and fascinating Persian pieces.

The Carpet Museum was another example of craftsmanship and artistry in Iran, with a huge variety of carpets from the past couple of centuries, housed in an attractive 70s concrete modernist building.

The Tehran City Theater looked pretty cool from the outside.

I’ll cover Golestan Palace and the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in separate posts, but here’s a taster of these fabulous places.

Finally only a couple of hours drive from Tehran is the mighty 5,610m Mt Damavand, the second highest peak in Asia (after Mt Everest).

The drive there offers impressive views of the neighbour mountains and valleys, along with some nice spots like Polour and Abali for something to eat and drink.

Author: jontycrane

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