The must-see places of Tehran no visitors should miss!

Si-e Tir Street

Unbeknownst to even many locals, a synagogue, church, and Zoroastrian fire temple sit together harmoniously on the cobblestone Si-e Tir street. Haim Synagogue hosted Polish Jewish refugees during the Second World War, and as this number increased, a second Ashkenazi synagogue was built adjacent to it. Holy Mary Church is across the street from Adrian Fire Temple whose flame was brought from the temple in Yazd. Be careful as you walk in this area as it gets more crowded the farther north you walk, and motorcycles are merciless, often creeping up behind you on the sidewalk!

Holy Mary Church on Si-e Tir Street | © Azadi68

Holy Mary Church on Si-e Tir Street | © Azadi68

Jomeh Bazaar

Every weekend, Parvaneh Mall’s multi-storey parking garage converts to a Friday bazaar and should be experienced even if you aren’t in the market for buying anything. The first few floors are a treasure trove of antiques with everything from home décor to vintage photos, records, and gramophones. As you ascend, you’ll find unique handmade products by local artists and art gallery paintings being sold at a fraction of the retail price. Go early to avoid the crowds and to have the most choice.

Jomhuri Avenue between Ferdowsi Ave. and Shirvani Alley

Deh Vanak

The peaceful Vanak Village sits just north of bustling Vanak Square. One of Tehran’s oldest neighbourhoods, this area was once known for its grand gardens, but the charm nowadays lies in its narrow alleys (some just 90 cm wide), wooden doors, and sun-dried walls. The Iranian Garden is modelled after the typical Persian gardens and is especially picturesque when it’s drowning in colourful tulips. Vanak Zurkhaneh, a gym of traditional Persian martial arts inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, and Saint Minas Armenian Apostolic Church are other sites to visit in this area.

Holy Mary Church on Si-e Tir Street | © Azadi68

Holy Mary Church on Si-e Tir Street | © Azadi68

ranian Garden, Saberi St., Tehran

Negarestan Garden

In the chaos of downtown Tehran, you may be surprised to find this oasis of serenity. Built as a summer retreat during the Qajar era, Negarestan Palace was later converted to Iran’s first modern university where the famed lexicographer Dehkhoda wrote the comprehensive Persian dictionary. This palace currently acts as a museum, housing some of painter Kamal ol-Molk’s masterpieces. The outdoor cafe in this lovely setting has, needless to say, become extremely popular with locals, and if you’re lucky, you may even get the table under the Hafezieh, a structure modelled after Hafez’s mausoleum in Shiraz.

The peaceful Negarestan Garden

The peaceful Negarestan Garden

Negarestan Garden, Tehran

Masoudieh Palace

One of the most beautiful historical buildings of the Qajar dynasty is Masoudieh Palace. Aside from its historical significance dating back to 1879, this palace allows visitors to fully experience its culture and history in the cosy cafe, with its traditional architecture and stained-glass windows and whose servers are local theatre actors. A walk around the gardens and fountains will complete the outing to this unforgettable palace.

The Qajar era Masoudieh Palace

The Qajar era Masoudieh Palace

Masoudieh Palace, Mellat St., Tehran

Zahir od-Dowleh Cemetery

North of Tajrish Square off Darband Street is the quiet Zahir od-Dowleh Cemetery where Iran’s most prominent artists and cultural figures have been laid to rest. Known as the cemetery of poets and musicians, among the most famous names here are musician Gholamhossein Darvish Khan, 19th century poet Iraj Mirza, and the 20th century poet best known for her feminist point of view, Forough Farrokhzad. The sound of chirping birds under the canopy of trees provide a serene setting where Iranians still come to pay their respects.

Zahir od-Dowleh Cemetery, Darband, Tehran

Moghadam Museum

This majestic house once belonged to the artist son of Tehran’s mayor during the Qajar dynasty. Along with a private and public wing, it has some the most exquisite tiles throughout the house. The museum displays some of Moghadam’s art and other objects he acquired during his travels. Enough can’t be said about the surrounding gardens as they completely remove visitors from the hubbub of the city centre and offer a tranquil respite.

Garden of Moghadam Museum

Garden of Moghadam Museum

Moghadam Museum, Emam Khomeyni St., Tehran

ASP Towers

Completed in the mid-70s, these residential towers once housed some well-known Iranian figures. Though the towers aren’t particular noteworthy themselves these days, the ground floor is littered with trendy cafes and restaurants and is therefore a popular hangout with the young Tehrani crowd. Homemade Iranian cooking at the cozy Mahtab Cafe and delicious Asian noodles and sushi at Wasabi are just some of the eateries all nestled within these towers. A stop at Aknoon Gallery is a must to check out the modern-meets-traditional Persian art, fashion, and jewellery.

ASP Towers, Tehran

Naser Khosrow Street

The oldest street in Tehran, Naser Khosrow has some of the most iconic landmarks. Delve into the past by first passing Darolfonoon School, Iran’s first modern school founded by Amir Kabir, a prime minister of Iran, in 1851. Further along, the gothic architecture of Saraye Roshan, one of the first commercial centres, is sure to stand out as unusual in Iran. The twin towers of Shams-ol-Emareh peek out from behind the buildings, and right across the street is Marvi Alley Bazaar with its plentiful shops, boutiques, and delicious street food.

Naser Khosrow, the oldest street in Tehran

Naser Khosrow, the oldest street in Tehran

Tamasha-gah Zaman

In the upscale Zafaraniyeh neighbourhood in northern Tehran, the Time Museum gives us a glimpse of how the most precious commodity has been measured throughout the years. Housed in a gorgeous 80-year-old manor, this museum holds an extensive collection of clocks, watches, and time measurement devices including hourglasses, sundials, and other ancient timekeepers from around the world. The outdoor cafe allows visitors to spend some extra time in the Persian garden admiring the architecture of the museum.

Time Museum

Time Museum

iran-esfahan-imam-detail-geoex

iran-esfahan-imam-detail-geoex

Everyone says you’ll be surprised by Iran (except for those who say, you’re nuts for going — and they’d probably be the most surprised of all). So I went in expecting to be surprised, but I still wasn’t prepared.

I was surprised by the red poppies bursting out all over the landscape, the snowcapped mountains where I’d expected desert, and the national commitment to mystical poetry and song. The most profound surprise of all was the genuine warmth of the people. From Tehran to Tabriz to the smallest village in the desert, people went out of their way to express appreciation at our visit. In Yazd, a restaurant owner went so far as to place an American flag on our table and blast “The Star-Spangled Banner” from the speakers, causing the other patrons to rise from their seats out of respect. Now, that’s surprising.

Below are a few of my favorite memories:

 

Our "Treasures of Persia" group examines the tomb of Nasser al-Din Shah at Golestan Palace in Tehran. The 19th-century Persian king was famous for his courtly visits to Europe, his large harem, and his assassination by a revolutionary in 1896.

Our “Treasures of Persia” group examines the tomb of Nasser al-Din Shah at Golestan Palace in Tehran. The 19th-century Persian king was famous for his courtly visits to Europe, his large harem, and his assassination by a revolutionary in 1896.

The palace was a pleasant surprise — an equivalent place in Europe would be overrun with tourists and selfie sticks. Instead, it was magnificently quiet; you could hear the babble in the fountains and the chattering of parrots overhead.

iran-jess-silber-geoex

iran-jess-silber-geoex

I had my picture taken by a young Iranian couple who were also strolling around Golestan, being tourists themselves. They were thrilled to see a group of Americans touring their capital.

iran-tehran-street-art-geoex

iran-tehran-street-art-geoex

One thing that surprised me about Iranian cities was the fun public art. I expected to see lots of sober portraits of the Supreme Leaders, Khomeini and Khamenei, and yes, I did see those. But I didn’t expect colorful murals and whimsical sculptures, and I saw lots of those, too. I think the picture above is actually an advertisement, but it’s a nice reminder of how Iranian cities can be joyful places, not just somber ones.

On Iran's rural border with Azerbaijan, set within a canyon and reachable only by a steep walk, the centuries-old St. Stephanos Church feels like it's in a different world from cosmopolitan Tehran.

On Iran’s rural border with Azerbaijan, set within a canyon and reachable only by a steep walk, the centuries-old St. Stephanos Church feels like it’s in a different world from cosmopolitan Tehran.

 

Iran’s Islamic architecture is dazzling, no surprise there. But there are other religions in Iran, and exploring sites sacred to Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism was a surprise highlight. Saint Stephanos Church is a long drive from the closest major city; perched just across the border with Azerbaijan, it holds court in a canyon of red rock that feels like one of the archives of time.

The Iranians that we met on the "Treasures of Persia" trip were always eager to have their picture taken with us. Same goes for this group of guys who ran into us at St. Stephanos Church.

The Iranians that we met on the “Treasures of Persia” trip were always eager to have their picture taken with us. Same goes for this group of guys who ran into us at St. Stephanos Church.

We visited Saint Stephanos on a weekend, and it was busy. At each corner and courtyard of the church complex, we were approached by people who wanted to welcome us and chat with us — or take their photo with us. Kathie is pictured here with a group of gentlemen who wanted to immortalize the visit.

A spring fills this volcanic crater at Takht-e Suleiman, Iran - it's easy to see why it was considered a sacred site to different civilizations throughout Iranian history.

A spring fills this volcanic crater at Takht-e Suleiman, Iran – it’s easy to see why it was considered a sacred site to different civilizations throughout Iranian history.

At first I was a bit skeptical as we walked up to Takht-e Suleiman, a windy mountaintop UNESCO World Heritage Site. We’d driven hours through mountain landscapes to get there, and as you approach, you can’t see much except the crumbs of ruins. But the opaque, blue-green pool in the center of the site, formed in a volcanic crater, brought into focus how magnificent and spiritual it was. “One of the most sacred places in Iran,” our trip leader, Sylvie, said, and it was pretty easy to see why.

 

A group gathers around the National Guide at Takht-e Suleiman, a remote, ancient ruin and sacred site in northern Iran.

A group gathers around the National Guide at Takht-e Suleiman, a remote, ancient ruin and sacred site in northern Iran.

As with so many other places in northern Iran, we pretty much had the whole site of Takht-e Suleiman — all of its chambers, tunnels and temples — to ourselves to ponder and explore. Here, our national guide, Peyman, is explaining the Zoroastrian fire temple that once burned here.

The atmospheric ruins of Takht-e Suleiman, a sacred site in rural Iran.

The atmospheric ruins of Takht-e Suleiman, a sacred site in rural Iran.

There was just one other group of tourists visiting the ruins at Takht-e Suleiman that day, an older couple strolling with a young man. The woman asked me to take a photo with her. After the young man had taken the picture, the woman squeezed both of my hands in hers and kissed both of my cheeks. I don’t think anyone has ever been so happy to take a picture with me in any other country I’ve visited.

Military service is compulsory for young men in Iran. These two soldiers serve their time as guards at the crumbling Anahita temple, a pre-Islamic ruin in the town of Kangavar.

Military service is compulsory for young men in Iran. These two soldiers serve their time as guards at the crumbling Anahita temple, a pre-Islamic ruin in the town of Kangavar.

Military service is compulsory for most young men in Iran. These two soldiers serve their time as guards at the crumbling Anahita temple, a pre-Islamic ruin in the town of Kangavar, dedicated to the Zoroastrian goddess of water.

An Iranian woman in Kangavar offers warm bread to a traveler and GeoEx Trip Leader Sylvie Franquet.

An Iranian woman in Kangavar offers warm bread to a traveler and GeoEx Trip Leader Sylvie Franquet.

An Iranian woman in Kangavar offered warm bread to some members of our group. At first we declined, trying to adhere to the Iranian custom of taarof, which governs etiquette, but as you can see, eventually the aroma of warm bread overcame us.

Lions, gryphons, and bulls are represented in the capitals of columns and other ruins at Persepolis.

Lions, gryphons, and bulls are represented in the capitals of columns and other ruins at Persepolis.

Persepolis! Ancient cities haven’t always been my thing — in the Roman Forum I was preoccupied by the scrawny cats begging between the columns — but this site is magnificent from the very first approach. The city was a ceremonial capital for the Achaemenid kings, built on these tremendous stones that heave it toward the sky like an altar, and decorated with astonishing carvings and reliefs. It was more recently famous for being the site of the last Shah’s final big party in 1971, which lavishly celebrated 2,500 years of Persian civilization and provoked the outrage of then-exiled Khomeini.

This third-century relief at Naqsh-e Rustam, just a few miles from Persepolis, depicts the beginning of an empire: Ardashir, the first Sassanid king, is receiving a ring of kingship from the Zoroastrian deity Ahuramazda. The empire only ended four centuries later with the arrival of Islam in Iran.

This third-century relief at Naqsh-e Rustam, just a few miles from Persepolis, depicts the beginning of an empire: Ardashir, the first Sassanid king, is receiving a ring of kingship from the Zoroastrian deity Ahuramazda. The empire only ended four centuries later with the arrival of Islam in Iran.

The highway from Shiraz to Yazd follows historical trade routes, passing the same desert mountains as the camel caravans of previous centuries.

The highway from Shiraz to Yazd follows historical trade routes, passing the same desert mountains as the camel caravans of previous centuries.

The highway from Shiraz to Yazd follows historic trade routes, passing the same desert mountains as the camel caravans of previous centuries.

This man has greeted travelers to the Towers in Silence, a Zoroastrian ruin on the outskirts of Yazd, for years - maybe decades. "Over the years I've come here, he's gone through three different donkeys," the guide explained, "but it's always the same man."

This man has greeted travelers to the Towers in Silence, a Zoroastrian ruin on the outskirts of Yazd, for years – maybe decades. “Over the years I’ve come here, he’s gone through three different donkeys,” the guide explained, “but it’s always the same man.”

I’m posing here with a gentleman who has greeted travelers to the Towers in Silence, a Zoroastrian ruin on the outskirts of Yazd, for years — maybe decades. “Over the years I’ve come here, he’s gone through three different donkeys,” our guide explained, “but it’s always the same man.”

iran-tile-work-yazd-geoex

iran-tile-work-yazd-geoex

Kathie admires the tile work and calligraphy at the Friday Mosque in Yazd.

Only 20 columns support the ceiling of the Chehel Sotun, or Forty Column Palace. The other 20 are created by the reflection in the pool at the entrance to the palace.

Only 20 columns support the ceiling of the Chehel Sotun, or Forty Column Palace. The other 20 are created by the reflection in the pool at the entrance to the palace.

Only 20 columns support the ceiling of the Forty-Column Palace. The other 20 are created by the reflection in the pool at the entrance to the palace.

Esfahan's Forty-Column Palace has an impressive variety of mustaches depicted in the artwork on its walls. On the day we visited, they honored their mustache heritage with a make-your-own-Persian-'stache station.

Esfahan’s Forty-Column Palace has an impressive variety of mustaches depicted in the artwork on its walls. On the day we visited, they honored their mustache heritage with a make-your-own-Persian-‘stache station.

The Forty-Column Palace might have only had 20 columns. What it had in excess was mustaches depicted in its artwork and frescoes — an impressive variety. On the day our group visited, the palace happened to have a temporary exhibit dedicated to this mustache heritage, including a “make your own historical Persian mustache” station that we took full advantage of.

The exterior of the Imam Mosque - known as the Shah Mosque before the 1979 Islamic Revolution - features master calligraphy and tile-work. Here, it is covered in ornamental red bulbs to honor the birthday of the Hidden Imam, a Messianic leader believed by some Shia to be living in secrecy among the people.

The exterior of the Imam Mosque – known as the Shah Mosque before the 1979 Islamic Revolution – features master calligraphy and tile-work. Here, it is covered in ornamental red bulbs to honor the birthday of the Hidden Imam, a Messianic leader believed by some Shia to be living in secrecy among the people.

The exterior of the Imam Mosque, in Esfahan, is covered in ornamental red bulbs to honor the birthday of the Hidden Imam, a Messianic leader believed by some Shia to be living in secrecy among the people.

Esfahan's Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was built in the 17th century as a private mosque for the women of the Shah's family. The pious women were invisible while at prayer thanks to a long, curving hallway that twists away from the entrance doors.

Esfahan’s Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was built in the 17th century as a private mosque for the women of the Shah’s family. The pious women were invisible while at prayer thanks to a long, curving hallway that twists away from the entrance doors.

Lots of people have written about the beauty of the Sheikh Lotfallah Mosque in Esfahan. I am happy to confirm that they were all correct. It’s a masterpiece. The mosque was built in the 17th century as a private mosque for the women of the Shah’s family. The pious women were invisible while at prayer thanks to a long, curving hallway that twists away from the entrance doors.

Abyaneh, a rural village in the Karkas mountains north of Esfahan, is beloved for its red-brick historical houses and its dried fruit.

Abyaneh, a rural village in the Karkas mountains north of Esfahan, is beloved for its red-brick historical houses and its dried fruit.

As our trip wound to a close, we stopped in the village of Abyaneh, in the Karkas Mountains north of Esfahan. It’s beloved for its historic red-brick houses and its fruit leather (it tastes better than it sounds).

 

 

During Mehrabad’s status as Tehran’s international airport, it was Azadi Tower, the sentry to the capital city, that welcomed all visitors. A silent witness to Iran’s major historical events, this tower remains Tehran’s most iconic landmark. Read on to learn a brief history of the Azadi Tower.

In 1966, 24-year-old architecture student Hossein Amanat won a competition to design a building paying tribute to the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. The monument, formerly known as the Shahyad Tower, was completed in 1971. Combining elements of both pre- and post-Islamic architecture, the 165ft (50-meter) tall skeleton is clad in 8,000 blocks of white marble from Esfahan that are cut into various geometric patterns. It marks the west entrance to the capital city and stands on a 540,000sq ft (50,000sq meter) cultural complex known as Azadi Square, which integrates principles of the traditional Persian Garden through its immaculately landscaped lawn, pristine flowerbeds, and streaming fountains. All of these elements make Azadi Tower, or Freedom Tower as it’s also known, a favorite spot for foreign tourists eager to Instagram their arrival in Tehran.

Azadi Tower

Azadi Tower

Historically, political demonstrations have taken place against the backdrop of Azadi Tower, a solemn onlooker. These days, however, one of the only politically inspired events to take place at this site is the annual celebration of the 22nd of Bahman (February 10th), which commemorates the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. On this day, Iranians march from all parts of Tehran, eventually convening at this square.

Azadi Square

Azadi Square

Azadi Square

Visitors who fly domestically will catch a bird’s-eye view of this gatekeeper before landing at Tehran Mehrabad International Airport and being swept up by the maelstrom of traffic around the massive square. By taking the stairs or elevator to the top, you can behold buzzing, modern-day Tehran. The crypt museum, on the other hand, displays various ancient cuneiform tablets, ceramics, and pottery, as well as a replica of the Cyrus Cylinder (the original of which is housed in the British Museum). It is also a concert venue during the Fajr  International Music Festival, held every year. In 2015, Tehranis flocked to see German artist Philipp Geist’s Gate of Words, in which Azadi Tower was used as the canvas for a light installation, with words of peace, love, and freedom poetically shone in Persian, English, and German to live music. This has the tower playing less of a political role nowadays and acting more like a cultural ambassador.

azadi

azadi

 

Although there are some beautiful high-rises and phenomenally innovative villas and residential towers in Tehran, there’s no doubt the most spectacular ones are those that have withstood the test of time. From European influence to modern takes on the traditional, here are 10 of the most impressive buildings in the capital of Iran.

Cinema Museum

Walking along Valiasr Street, you cannot help but be captivated by a mansion that demands attention. Behind Ferdows Garden sits a Qajar-era estate that houses the Iran Cinema Museum. The most delightful feature is the balcony, with its walls and columns adorned in detailed floral plasterwork and arched wooden-framed windows. The exhibitions take you through Iran’s century-old film industry, and the surrounding cafés allow you to admire the building (and check out Tehran’s artsy crowd) a little longer as you sip on some tea.

Cinema Museum, Valiasr St., behind Bagh-e Ferdows, Tehran, Iran,

Cinema Museum

Cinema Museum

 

Saraye Roshan

On Naser Khosrow Street, one of the oldest streets in Tehran, stands the bewitching Saraye Roshan. Established in 1932 as one of the first commercial centers, this gothic-inspired building is strikingly unusual in the setting of Iran. While the faces and statues, nearly nonexistent elsewhere in Iran, are more reminiscent of European architecture, the symbol of Zoroastrianism in the center, Ahura Mazda, gives it a distinctly Persian flavor. 

Saraye Roshan, Naser Khosrow Street, Tehran, Iran

Saraye Roshan

Saraye Roshan

Tamasha-gah Zaman

Sitting amidst a luxurious Persian garden, the Time Museum not only has an extensive collection of timekeepers, but the building itself is the epitome of authentic Iranian architecture. This 80-year-old manor once belonged to Hossein Khodadad, a well-known Iranian merchant, but now serves as a museum to showcase numerous clocks and watches. The pastel-blue exterior boasts windows that resemble cream-colored lace, and the inside does not cease to dazzle with it decorated ceilings, plasterwork, and colorful orosi (stained-glass) windows.

Tamasha-gah Zaman, Zaferaniyeh St., between Kafiabadi St. and Baghdadi St., Tehran, Iran,

Tamasha-gah Zaman

Tamasha-gah Zaman

Abgineh Museum of Tehran

The remarkable Glassware and Ceramic Museum is housed in a beautiful Qajar-era building constructed 90 years ago by Ahamd Qavam as his private residence and work office. It later served as the embassy of Egypt, before turning into a museum in 1976. It gracefully blends European and Iranian architectural styles with a Russian staircase to connect the first and second floors. The ornate plaster, carved wooden columns, and crystal chandeliers make the interior of this building just as beautiful, if not more so, as the exterior.

Abgineh Museum of Tehran, 30th Tir St., Tehran, Iran,

Abgineh Museum of Tehran

Abgineh Museum of Tehran

Golestan Palace

Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2013, Golestan Palace consists of a group of royal buildings that once served as the seat of government during the Qajar era. It exemplifies a fusion of Persian and Western design, with immaculate archways, mirrored halls and ceilings, and decorative tiles all placed within the confines of a lavish Persian garden. Words don’t do justice to the ancient Persian badgir, windcatchers, and exquisite varied mosaics bordering the rounded windows, which are among the many highlights. 

Golestan Palace, Panzdah-e Khordad Square, Tehran, Iran,

Golestan Palace

Golestan Palace

Shams-ol-Emareh

Although it comprises part of Golestan Palace, Shams-ol-Emareh, or Edifice of the Sun, is a masterpiece deserving its own recognition. The monarch Nasser-ol-Din Shah started with the idea to build a tower that gave a panoramic view of the city, and in 1867, construction was finished two years after it began. Twin two-tiered towers sit atop the structure with arched windows, intricate tile work, and an open hall in the center. Though it’s not possible to climb to the top, it’s easy to imagine Nasser-ol-Din Shah’s success in achieving his desired view.

Shams-ol-Emareh, Panzdah-e Khordad St., Tehran, Iran

Green Palace

Green Palace

Green Palace

One of the buildings of the Sa’ad Abad Complex and perhaps the most beautiful is the Green Palace. It was built at the end of the Qajar era and later remodeled by Reza Shah, serving as his residence for one year, before turning into a guest house. Brought from mines in the Zanjan and Khorasan provinces, the marble used to construct its exterior has a unique hint of green. Just as elaborately designed are the interiors, with a mirror hall and a Persian rug woven over a period of seven years, among their other ostentatious features.

Green Palace, Sa’ad Abad Complex, Alborzkooh St., Tehran, Iran

Green Palace

Green Palace

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

The largest art museum in Iran, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is an impressive concrete feat in itself. To design this building, architect Kamran Diba was inspired by integrating traditional Persian architectural elements with modernity. This is particularly embodied in the four structures sitting atop the building, which resemble a modernized twist on the windcatchers of ancient Persia.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art, North Kargar St., Tehran, Iran,

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

Masoudieh Palace

Masoudieh Palace is one of the most beautiful historical buildings of the Qajar dynasty. Built in 1879, this palace has witnessed many events, including the formation of the first ministry of education and the establishment of the first official library. Among its characteristic traits are the plasterwork, mosaics, and gardens. Today, it’s a popular spot with visitors brunching in its cozy cafe with stained glass windows, before walking around to snap some photos of the picturesque edifice.

Masoudieh Palace, Mellat St., Tehran, Iran

Masoudieh Palace

Masoudieh Palace

Teatre Shahr

Built in 1972, City Theater deserves regard for its cylindrical design that combines both the traditional and modern. The standing columns add geometric patterns to the roof, which are then filled in with ceramic tiles. The grand entrance is made of wood, giving it a warm, earthy feel. It contains several stages and continues to be a top venue for the performing arts.

Teatre Shahr, Enghelab St., Tehran, Iran,

 

While the countless historical sites, monuments, and museums in Tehran can easily fill up a visitor’s day, there are some off-the-radar activities that can offer more insight into both the present and past of the Iranian capital and its people. Here’s a list of 10 unusual things to do in Tehran.

Go gallery-hopping

Tehran has a happening art scene, and every Friday afternoon, galleries around the city open to display exhibitions of well-known and up-and-coming young artists. Your idea of modern Iran is sure to change after viewing not only the contemporary art but also the catwalk-like style of fashionable Tehranis who come to see and be seen in these galleries. Sip on some tea as you contemplate the works, meet the artists, and maybe even purchase a piece from the next big name.

Tehran

Tehran

Conquer Valiasr Street

At nearly 12 miles (19 kilometers) long, Valiasr is the longest street in the Middle East, running from north to south, and dividing Tehran into east and west. This tree-lined avenue has wide sidewalks and cascading water features that offset the hum of traffic. Starting at Rah Ahan Square in the south, you’ll pass some of Tehran’s best sites, including Saee Park, Mellat Park, and the City Theater, which also make nice resting spots, before reaching Tajrish Square in the north. Take notice of the street sculptures and art projects along the way. Not feeling up to the walk? Consider taking the bus for all of the sights, but none of the exertion.

Tehran

Tehran

Play dress up

Many of Iran’s historical sites offer the opportunity to play dress up in Qajar-era clothes, but why not do it against the backdrop of a palace from the same period? You’re sure to be doing some sightseeing at Golestan Palace, so while you’re there, toss on some royal clothes and feel like a noble as you pose alongside silver antiques, ruby pomegranates, and colorful mosaics. When you’re done, you’ll snap back into present-day Tehran, with your pictures ready in the blink of an eye.

 

Tehran

Tehran

Be transported to old Tehran

Once known as the “Champs-Élysées of Tehran”, Lalezar Street is a far cry from its former days as a thriving hub of cafés, cinemas, and theaters. Named for the tulip gardens that were once plentiful, the first modern boulevard of the city is now lined with lamp and chandelier stores, but you only have to glance up to catch a glimpse of old Tehran. You may get lost in your imagination as you reconstruct broken windows and the happenings behind them. Among the forgotten jewels on and around this street is the former Grand Hotel, home of renowned writer Sadegh Hedayat, and Ettehadieh House, an early 20th-century-style Iranian mansion where the popular 1976 TV series, My Uncle Napoleon, was filmed.

Tehran

Get an adrenaline rush at Tochal

Located in the north of Tehran, Tochal has something for everyone. For a more relaxing time, catch a skyline view of the capital or strike out on an early-Friday-morning hike to station 1 or 2, where you can enjoy breakfast with a view. Those after some more excitement can try archery or zip-lining in the complex. Even though Shemshak and Dizin are more popular ski resorts, taking the telecabin to station 7 will throw you in the middle of white, powdered mountains, without having to venture too far from the city.

Tochal

Tochal

Tour Qasr Prison Museum

One of the oldest political prisons in Iran, Qasr Prison was originally built as a Qajar palace by Georgian architect Nikolai Markov and combines elements of Persian and European architecture. It was later converted into a prison for several decades until it finally closed for good. It reopened in 2012 as a museum, with the surrounding area transformed into a public park. Framed photos of male and female political prisoners hang around the entrance while a few former inmates lead guided tours, providing first-hand accounts of the atrocities they endured during their time behind the bars of this hauntingly beautiful prison.

Qasr Prison Museum

Qasr Prison Museum

Dine among the intellectuals at Cafe Gol Rezaeieh

Along the cobblestone streets of Si-e Tir sits a quaint, unassuming café that’s easily overlooked if you don’t know what it is. Throughout its 70-plus years, Cafe Gol Rezaeieh has been the scene of Iran’s writers and artists. Displaying framed pictures from old magazines and photos of prominent figures in literature and cinema, its quirky, cluttered décor makes it feel like a museum of Tehran’s artistic scholars and their inspiration. After a day exploring the nearby museums, stop here to try the café’s famed appetizers and meals, which include borscht (beetroot-based soup) and homemade Persian stews.

Cafe Gol Rezaeieh

Cafe Gol Rezaeieh

Learn about Iranian communication before the smartphone

Before the Telegram messaging app took the nation by storm, communication in Iran was vastly different. Rather underrated, the Post and Communications Museum takes us through the history of Iran’s postal system and exhibits various collections, from stamps, post boxes, and horse-drawn carts that delivered mail, to the first telephones and radios. Perhaps just as exciting as the exhibits themselves is the architecture of the building, which gives us yet another example of architect Nikolai Markov’s innovative designs.

Iranian communication before the smartphone

Iranian communication before the smartphone

Ascend Tehran’s three towers

Ranging from ancient to modern, these three towers shouldn’t be missed. The oldest of the trio, the 12th-century Tughrul Tower is located in the city of Ray (connected to Tehran by metro) and serves as the tomb of Seljuk ruler Tugrul Beg. Further north, Azadi Tower combines pre- and post-Islamic architecture and is the symbol of Tehran. Finally, Milad Tower is the most modern of the three and is the sixth-tallest telecommunication tower in the world. The elevator to the observation deck will give you a view of Tehran from about 300 meters (984 feet).

 

Catch some culture

Catch some culture

Catch some culture

In addition to the many annual music and film festivals on offer in Tehran, there are other concerts on an ongoing basis in various locales. Whether it’s the Tehran Symphony Orchestra at Vahdat Hall, musical concerts at Milad Tower, or adaptations of Western plays in Iran Shahr Theater, you’re sure to find something almost every night of the week.

 

Tehran, the Capital City of Iran

Tehran, the Capital City of Iran

Tehran, the capital city of Iran has got plenty of interesting things to offer to culture-oriented travelers. It is highly recommended to visit Tehran at the beginning of your trip to Iran for several reasons. Everything happens in Tehran first!

Visit Tehran to See Its Modernization Process

When you take a tour to Iran, make sure you spend some time in Tehran. The very first observation of any traveler to Tehran is its size, number of cars, crowd of people, etc. A city with an area of 750 square kilometer and the population of over 8,500,000 cannot continue its traditional life. It has to shift its nature into a modern one. This transition is an interesting one. Visiting Tehran provides an opportunity for you to explore its modern aspects.

Visit Tehran’s Cultural Centers

There are lots of Culture Houses in Tehran in which various activities are performed. There are art classes, movie theaters, art exhibitions, book stores, etc.

There are several theater halls in Tehran where different plays are performed. Artists are supported by local enthusiasts who are keen fans.

Iranian movie industry has gained huge amount of global attention in post-revolution era. There are good numbers of new movies made in Iran for their fervent fans. Most of these actors and actresses are from Tehran.

There are some music concerts from time to time in Tehran where pop, classical, traditional, etc musicians play and sing for the music lovers. The frequency and size of such events in Tehran are much larger than those of other cities of Iran.

Visit Tehran’s Museums

Tehran’s Iran Bastan museum is the best of its category among the national museums of Iran. The exquisite items on display at this museum can give you a thorough insight in what you will go through during your tour to Iran.

Golestan Palace Compound in Tehran

Golestan Palace Compound in Tehran

 

Royal palaces of Qajars in Golestan palace compound are great examples of architecture at this period. Also, the items showcased at its galleries provide you with a view on Qajar kings’ lifestyle. Sa’ad Abad palace compound as well as Niavaran palace compound introduce the lifestyle of Pahlavy dynasty that ended in the revolution at 1979.

Museums of various arts like contemporary arts, Under-Glass Painting, calligraphies of Reza Abbasy, Glassware and Potteries of Abgineh, etc are the best in their genres. The unique Treasury of National Jewels leaves every visitor in great shock with nothing equally dazzling and ornate anywhere in the world.

Carpet Museum presents its visitors with an exclusive collection of the best examples of Iranians’ art in one place. The items on display at this museum cannot be found anywhere else in any carpet galleries or stores across Iran.

Parks in Tehran

There are lots of parks and green areas in Tehran and a lot being planned to be opened to public. In addition to the obvious use of fresh air and peaceful setting of parks, there are other activities going on in these places. Some parks are just for women. Some offer classes on various traditional and modern arts. Some are hangouts for certain groups who exercise on regular basis. And a lot more …

Shopping Malls

Bazaars are not the only centers of purchasing goods anymore. People need a different type of place for their shopping. Shopping malls of Tehran are not the largest ones in Iran, but the quality of the items offered there are some of the best. Entertainment areas for children, coffee shops, restaurants, etc are among the points of interest at such places. Taking a walk in one of such places in Tehran provides good comparison point when you travel to the traditional cities of Iran.

Skiing Resorts

If you happen to arrive in Tehran in skiing season, there are a couple of possibilities to go skiing around the city. The largest skiing field in the Middle East is in Dizin, close to Tehran. You may take a skiing tour to Iran in Winter as well.

Mountain Hiking

Every weekend in Iran, Thursdays and Fridays, lots of people go hiking and walking at the mountain paths located at the north of Tehran where the high mountains are. This sport activity happens during weekdays as well, but if you want to see large number of people, make sure you choose weekends.