Iran’s largest and most populous city, Tehran is usually the first destination for foreign tourists traveling to the Middle Eastern country.
With the growing interest in travel to Iran, the sprawling Iranian capital is gradually receiving more tourists. As such, we decided it was time to write a brief article answering some of the most pressing questions you may have about Tehran.
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Where is Tehran?
Tehran is located slightly north of central Iran. In fact, on a clear day you can even see Mount Damavand in the northern Mazandaran Province. At 4,667m, Mt. Damavand is Iran’s highest peak and Asia’s highest volcano.
Tehran is pretty big! At 730 km2, Tehran is more than 7.5 times larger than it was only 60 years ago. The city itself is home to over 8 million people, while the larger metropolitan area has a population of around 12 million.
What’s the weather like in Tehran?
Summers in Tehran can get pretty warm, with temperatures occasionally reaching and sometimes surpassing 40 degrees Celsius.
Winters can be pretty cold, particularly in the mountainous northern Tehran, with occasional rain and snowfall.
During spring and autumn, the weather is mild with frequent rainfall in early spring.
Tehran’s main environmental problem, aside from water shortage, is air pollution. Most of the year, the air quality is okay. But things take a turn for the worse during cold months due to a phenomenon known as temperature inversion – when hot air overlays cold air at higher altitudes, essentially acting as a ‘cap’ and trapping air pollutants in the city.
Tehran’s struggle with thick smog usually begins in November and lasts until around April.
How safe is Tehran?
With a large population comes a high crime rate, and Tehran is no exception. Tehran Province is the most populated in the country and, unsurprisingly, has the highest rate of crime.
Violent crime rate is lower than one might think, and as a tourist the most serious crime you need to worry is pickpocketing in extremely crowded places, like the Tehran Bazaar at peak hours.
Can I rent a car in Tehran?
Of course you can. A number of car rental companies operate in Tehran, including Europcar, Hashemi Co. and Saadat Rent.
If you want to arrange for airport pick-up, it would be best to call them. If you plan to rent a car after arriving in Tehran, you can ask a hotel receptionist to help you out.
But, should you rent a car? Well, it is not recommended for a number of reasons. Driving in Tehran is a nightmare even for people who have lived all their lives in the city. In fact, some joke that following driving rules makes it more likely for you to cause an accident.
Public transportation in Tehran, while not great, it’s pretty good. Getting around the city via Tehran Metro and Bus Rapid Transit routes is fast and easy. You can also hire a cab, either through your hotel or via ride-hailing apps like Snapp, Tap30, and Carpino.
How can I travel to other cities?
Being the capital of Iran, Tehran is the country’s largest transportation hub. You can book plane and train tickets at authorized travel agencies (your hotel can help you with that). You can book bus tickets on the phone by calling the relevant bus station, though odds are you’ll need a Persian speaker to do it for you.
Bear in mind that Mehrabad Airport in western Tehran (near Azadi Square) handles domestic flights, so no need to travel all the way to Imam Khomeini International Airport (30 km south of Tehran). Tehran train station is in Rah Ahan Square. Click here to read our article on train travel in Iran.
If you’re taking the bus, make sure you know which terminal the bus leaves from, since Tehran has three inter-city bus terminals:
- West Terminal: Located near Azadi Square in west Tehran, buses for destinations in western (and northern) Iran leave from this station.
- East Terminal: Buses for towns and cities in eastern Iran depart from this station, which is located on Damavand Street in east Tehran.
- South Terminal: If you’re going to a city in the south, the South Terminal in Tehran’s Khazaneh neighborhood is where you need to go.
For more information on traveling in Iran by bus, take a look at our comprehensive guide on the subject.
Where can I buy souvenirs in Tehran?
Depends on what you want to buy. While Tehran is not particularly known for a specific souvenir, it still offers a host of souvenirs from other areas of Iran.
Nejtatollahi Street (commonly known as Villa Street) in downtown Tehran is the go-to place for handicraft products, while Tajrish Bazaar in uptown Tehran is a must-see if you’re thinking of buying food products.
To buy traditional Iranian clothes or handmade rugs, you might want to check out Parvaneh shopping center in Tehran’s Istanbul Crossroads (just south of Ferdowsi Square).
Bear in mind that your debit and credit cards don’t work in Iran. For more information on Iranian money, bank cards, and where to exchange foreign currency, take a look at our Iranian money guide.
Where can I eat good food in Tehran?
Assuming you’re not looking for fast food joints, which can be found pretty much around every corner, Tehran is replete with quality restaurants regardless of neighborhood.
Tehran Bazaar is home to two of the most popular dining establishments in the city: Moslem and Sharaf-ol-Eslami. Both places serve traditional Iranian dishes. Don’t worry about finding them: When you see a long queue of people lining up outside a shop, you’ve found one of the restaurants.
Unsurprisingly, Tehran’s upscale neighborhoods, such as Jordan, Elahiyeh and Sa’adat Abad offer a wider selection of top quality restaurants. When in doubt, ask a hotel receptionist and they will be more than ready to suggest places.
If you’re in the mood for Iranian-style omelette – which is similar to shakshuka – you might want to check out these places.
Many upscale restaurants in Tehran include a 10% to 15% service fee in the bill, so you shouldn’t feel obligated to tip in those places. But if you still want to tip, then by all means; go ahead!
Are there historical attractions in Tehran?
Absolutely! While Tehran is considered a young city by Iranian standards, it has no shortage of historical sites. Downtown Tehran, particularly District 12, is replete with cultural heritage sites. Take a look at our two-part series on Tehran’s historical streets, as well as our itinerary for a short stay in the metropolis.
How about natural attractions?
Tehran is a fast developing city, and unfortunately that takes a toll on nature. With that said, the city is still surrounded by natural attractions. There are even a few within the city itself.
Bam-e Tehran in Velenjak is a cliff overlooking the city. It’s become a popular site due to its clean air and the view. It also has a lively nightlife, thanks to cafes that are open late into the night.
Darakeh neighborhood in northern Tehran is a prime hiking destination, replete with traditional restaurants along or above Darakeh River.
Within the city, there are so-called forest-parks such as Lavizan and Chitgar where you can go for picnics and ride bikes.
How’s the graffiti scene in Tehran?
Graffiti artists – and I do mean artists, not people who merely spray paint on a wall – are quite active in Tehran.
The city’s graffiti hotspot is without a doubt Ekbatan, a neighborhood in west Tehran. Walk between the apartment blocks and you’ll see plenty of artwork on the walls and utility boxes that aim to make a statement.
The stretch between Valiasr Square and Valiasr Junction is also a pretty good place to spot quality graffiti.
Where is the best place to stay in Tehran?
Well that depends on your preferences: Do you want to stay at a luxury establishment or would a budget option suffice?
Generally, affordable hotels are centrally located and provide easy access to shopping centers and historical attractions. Luxury hotels, however, are mostly located uptown and a fair bit away from sites of attraction.
So, is there anything we missed? Ask your question in the comments below and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!