Tehran, the Iranian capital, serves as a pit-stop for tourists whose itinerary takes them around the country. While some spend only a few hours in Tehran, many tour the city for a couple of days before heading to other destinations.
Tehran is a large city replete with historical and modern venues; from palaces to cafes, museums to art galleries, the city has it all!
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What follows is a short list of routes comprising sites in the vicinity of one another; meaning you won’t need to travel long distances to see the places. Whether you’ll be staying for a day or three, the following list could come in handy.
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Day 1- Uptown Palaces: Niavaran and Sa’adabad Complexes
Uptown Tehran is home to chic cafes and modern shopping centers, but to culture vultures it is known as the home of two of the city’s most lavish palaces: Niavaran and Sa’adabad palace complexes.
They’re called complexes because they’re massive compounds comprising palaces and museums.
The reason both complexes were built in northern Tehran was because at the time of construction, the areas were considered countryside and had cool to mild temperatures in the summer.
Before becoming a complex, Niavaran Palace, located in a neighborhood of the same name, was initially a collection of small-scale mansions built by Qajar King Fat’hali Shah (r. 1797-1834), his immediate successors Mohammad Shah (r. 1834 – 1848) and Nassereddin Shah (r. 1848 – 1896).
Following the fall of the Qajar Dynasty, Mohammad Reza Shah (r. 1941 – 1979), the second and final Pahlavi ruler, expanded the collection of mansions, creating what is now known as Niavaran Palace Complex.
The complex is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance fee for non-Iranians is 150,000 rials (€3), but that’s only to enter the grounds: Fee for every palace/museum is paid separately at the ticket counter, which is only open until 5 p.m. The complex isn’t easily accessible by public transportation, so it would be ideal to hire a cab.
Read more about Niavaran Palace.
Working on Sa’adabad Palace Complex began in the twilight years of the Qajar era, during the reign of Ahmad Shah (r. 1898 – 1930), and was expanded by Pahlavi rulers Reza Shah (1925 – 1941) and Mohammad Reza Shah.
The complex is open every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance for non-Iranians is 150,000 rials (€3), and like Niavaran Complex, to visit every palace or museum a separate fee must be paid at the counter, which is open until 5 p.m.
The two complexes are so big that if you decide to visit every site on the ground in one complex, you’re unlikely to have enough time to visit the other! Sa’adabad is the bigger of the two, and easier to access: Just go to Tajrish Square and taxis will take you up Sa’adabad Street to the entrance of the complex.
Read more about Sa’adabad Palace.
Day 2- Mobile Cafes and Museums: Si-e-Tir Street
The Si-e-Tir Street in Tehran’s historical District 12 has always been hot with tourists and locals alike, but in recent months its popularity has spiked thanks to newly-sprung coffee and food carts.
Located in downtown Tehran, Si-e-Tir is rife with history and home to three of the city’s – if not the country’s – most famous museums: The National Museum of Iran, Abgineh Museum (museum of glassware and ceramic), and Iran Science and Technology Museum.
Read more about Iran National Museum.
The latest addition – repurposed vans and motorhomes offering fresh coffee and snacks – has helped improve the profile of the street. The mobile cafes on the fringes of the historical roadway give the street a Parisian feel. Traditionalists balk at the change, but many people agree it has helped liven up Tehran’s gloomy nights.
Read more about Abgineh Museum.
Si-e-Tir has come to symbolize unity and coexistence, due to the presence of different houses of worship close to one another: Hazrat-e Ebrahim Mosque, St. Mary’s Church, St. Peter’s Church, Haim Synagogue and the Zoroastrian Temple of Adrian.
To get there, take the subway and get off Hassan Abad Station (Line 2) and walk west, or get off Imam Khomeini Station (an interchange station where lines 1 and 2 meet) and walk east.
Day 3- Royal to Retail: Golestan Palace and Tehran Bazaar
Arguably the city’s most famous royal residence, the 440-year old Golestan Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site in downtown Tehran.
Golestan Palace, which is one of the oldest historical structures in the Iranian capital, is made up of gardens and royal halls (called Talar in Persian) and is home to a trove of Iranian handicrafts and gifts from Europe dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries.
The palace is open every day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The entrance fee is 150,000 rials (€3) but you have to pay extra to visit some areas.
To get there, take the subway and get off at Panzdah-e-Khordad Stations (Line 1) and walk a little toward Panzdah-e-Khordad (or Arg) Square, where the palace is located.
Visiting every nook and cranny of Golestan Palace takes around two hours, so if you still have it in you, you can visit Tehran’s famous Grand Bazaar.
Read more about Golestan Palace.
Once the beating heart of Iran’s economy, the bazaar does not have the power it used to wield, having lost the mantle to upscale malls and shopping centers further north. Nevertheless, the massive marketplace still commands respect and brims with people every day.
As the Persian saying goes, you can find anything from hen’s milk to human life in the bazaar – a testament to the variety of products one can find in the ancient trade center.
The labyrinthine market is so big that its quite easy to get lost in, but don’t fret: any direction you go, you’re bound to reach a well-known and busy street: The bazaar is surrounded by Khayyam, Molavi, Panzdah-e-Khordad and Mostafa Khoemini streets.
Make sure to dine at Moselm Restaurant, one the most popular diners in the entire city. It’s hard to miss it: It’s the restaurant with a long line of people queuing outside. Try their kebabs!
Read more about Tehran Bazaar.
There you have it; three options to consider for your brief stay in Tehran. If you’re staying longer than three days, you can spread out the itinerary, as some of the spots are big enough to merit spending an entire day.
Of course, the city is so big that it’s impossible to include all the cool places in one article, so feel free to drop a comment and tell us where you would spend your time if you had a day to spare!