In a country famous for its ancient culture and classic route, what comes to mind when someone talks about museums is a collection of historical statues, tools and architecture.
You probably know about the National Museum of Iran or the collection of relics in Golestan Palace. What you may not have heard about is that Iran has many cool museums showcasing everything from dolls and contemporary arts to local houses and traditions. There are many museums all around Iran which offer either a unique experience of local life and traditions or present an unparalleled collection of jewelry and rugs.
Here are the 10 coolest museums in Iran you should put on your itinerary.
- Tehran Museum Guide: All You Need to Know (Part 1)
- Tehran Museum Guide: All You Need to Know (Part 2)
- A Review of Tour Guiding in Iran
Isfahan Music Museum
Opened in 2015 in Jolfa, a neighborhood in the Armenian Quarter of Isfahan City, the Music Museum home to more than 300 musical instruments from around Iran curated tirelessly by two local musicians, Mehrdad Jeyhooni and Shahriar Shokrani.
Among the multitude of musical instruments at the museum are the Kamancheh and Tar, which inspired the inventions of the violin and guitar respectively. Some of the items on display are centuries old.
While visiting the Music Museum, once awarded as the best private museum in Iran the by International Council of Museums (ICOM), you can also enjoy live performances and may even get to fiddle with less-precious instruments.
Yazd Water Museum
In Yazd, a city in the middle of one of the driest parts of Iran, water (or lack thereof) has always been an important issue.
It is well worth to visit Yazd Water Museum to grasp the importance of water in desert cities and how the locals have for so long struggled to extract water from underground resources.
The museum shows water distribution systems through photos, tools, equipment and even historical structures like Chah (water well).
You’ll also learn about Persian qanats, a feat of ancient Persian engineering which helped distribute water through underground canals. Persian qanats have been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The Yazd Water Museum was opened in 2000 in Kolahdoozha House, a historical building built around a beautiful garden, with an astonishing architecture and beautiful adornments in several floors with two qanats running below the house (one of them is still flowing). The museum is located due north of Amir Chakhmagh Square, in the heart of Yazd City.
It is highly recommended to get a museum guide to show you around, because otherwise appreciating what’s on display would be nigh on impossible.
Treasury of National Jewelry
Located in Iran’s capital city, Tehran, inside the vault of Central Bank of Iran, the Treasury of National Jewelry or Jewelry Museum, displays a brilliant collection of precious royal jewelries belonging to Safavid, Qajar and Pahlavi eras.
The museum’s collection includes gem-studded crowns, swords, and thrones like Takht-e Naderi and Takht-e Tavoos (Peacock Throne) to the Jewel-Studded Globe, decorated with diamond, ruby and other jewels.
Darya-ye Noor diamond or as it was named by Jean Baptiste Tavernier “Grand Table Diamante”, one of the most famous pink diamonds in the world and the trophy of one of the bloodiest wars of Nader Shah, is the highlight of this collection.
This treasury, which has been open to public since 1943, is on Ferdowsi Avenue and open from 14:00 to 16:00 from Saturday to Tuesday. There are multilingual guides available on site speaking.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art
Museum of Contemporary Art of Tehran is a must-see venue in Tehran.
In a concrete, 70s style building with an impressive modern and traditional architecture, there are almost 4,000 works of art by many contemporary Iranian and international artists like Pollock, Rothko, de Koning, Giacometti, and Picasso.
Also, art exhibitions and events are held at the museum from time to time. The museum exhibits different art works like photos, paintings, sculptures, art books, and drawings.
The museum has a book shop and café, as well as a sculpture garden which is not open to the public but the statues can be seen from the café’s terrace. There are sculptures of famous artists such as Ernst, Giacometti, Magritte and Moore in this outdoor exhibition.
Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is located in North Kargar Street, on the western side of Laleh Park, one of the oldest parks of Tehran dating back to 1977.
Tehran Carpet Museum
Iran is a country famous for its carpets and carpet-weaving art, among other things. Founded in 1978, in a two-floor building representing a carpet loom, The Tehran Carpet Museum Is home to 150 hand-woven carpets and kilims with unique designs from all over Iran, including Kerman, Tabriz, Kashan and other cities.
The museum’s collection includes items that date back to the 16th century.
The first floor is where the museum’s permanent collection is displayed, while the second floor is used for exhibitions and special events.
Also there are roughly 7,000 books, videos, and films about carpets in the museum.
Aside from seeing the museum’s awesome collection, visitors also learn about how and where the carpets are made as well as the subtle differences between various designs, colors, and styles. Perhaps more interestingly, visitors will learn what every design and style symbolizes.
You might be intrigued by the various weaving tools, dying materials, carpet looms and also the map of main centers of carpet weaving around Iran at the entrance. You might be lucky enough to meet a carpet weaver at the museum!
The museum is not too far from the Museum of Contemporary Arts, so you may be able to check out both venues back-to-back.
Holy Defense Museum
Spanning a 21-hectare site, Holy Defense Museum showcase tanks, rockets and other military equipment used in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, referred to by Iranian as the “Holy Defense”.
The museum tells the story of Iranians’ valor in their defense against former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s attempted invasion of Iran.
While war museums aren’t for everyone, those who visit the Holy Defense Museum will find that it is one of the best of its kind in Iran. The museum makes ample use of technology, displaying one of the best 3D exhibitions in the country.
The museum contains eight halls that tell the story of the eight-year war, as well as the story of Khorramshahr, a city in western Iran which had been temporarily occupied by Iraqi forces during the war. To this day, the liberation of the city serves a symbol of resistance and hope for Iranians.
The museum complex also includes a library, mosque, three conference halls, and a pretty large lake.
Gilan’s Rural Heritage Museum
Located about 15 kilometers south of Rasht, Gilan Province, the Rural Heritage Museum of Gilan was created in 2002 in the form of a village to represent the lifestyle and culture of the local populace.
The open-air museum, which includes cottages dating back 150 years, is large and requires visitors to do a bit of walking to see everything, so bring your water bottles.
There are coffee shops and restrooms along the way and also traditional foods and breads are prepared and sold on-site. The museum is also hosts numerous exhibitions and theater performances throughout the year depicting local traditions.
The museum is a microcosm of local architecture, traditions, the Gilaki people’s lifestyle.
Iran Wildlife and Nature Museum (Darabad)
So here’s one which children can enjoy as well: The Iran Wildlife and Nature Museum, also known as Darabad Museum.
It is located in northern Tehran, near Niavaran Palace Complex and is a good option to visit after a tour of Niavaran Palace, especially if you have children or you are interested in animals.
Open since 1993 to encourage environmental protection, the museum tries to raise awareness about Iran’s biodiversity. Other than the birds and fish halls with living animals, visit the halls with taxidermied animals, which include rare and extinct species from all over Iran. Stuffed animals from various parts of the world are also on display.
Rakhtshooy Khaneh (Persian for washhouse), is a museum inside a historical edifice located in Zanjan City.
Built in 1926 to provide a comfortable and convenient place for women to wash their clothes, especially in the cold weather of the city, the building has been serving as Zanjan’s anthropology museum since 1998 and has been inscribed on the National Heritage List.
Rakhtshooy Khaneh has two parts: The entrance, which includes a courtyard and living quarters, and the washing area, including a water reservoir and wax dolls which are used for reenactments.
It has also a workshop where Charough (traditional local shoes) is made and sold.
Touring the museum doesn’t take much time, but since it’s located in the city’s historical texture, there are plenty of other places to visit once you’re done with the museum, such as the Zolfaghari House.
Although Afif Abad is neither the biggest and nor the most comprehensive weapons museum in Iran, it is still makes our list thanks to its garden and a beautiful mansion located at the center of the garden.
Dating back to the Safavid era (1501-1736), the garden, once called Golshan, was among the first of its kind in Shiraz and arguably one of the most beautiful gardens in a city that’s home to the UNESCO-listed Eram Garden.
Built by Mirza Ali Mohammad Khan Ghavam al-Mulk in 1863, the garden became a property of Afifeh, his niece.
There are several types of cold weapons and firearms including sword, armor, shield, spear, guns and other weapons on display in the mansion.
The museum is located on Sattar Khan Boulevard, Afif Abad Street. Even if you are not interested in weapons, visit Afif Abad for its extraordinary garden.