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 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.
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.
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.