Iran bazaars are not just a local marketplace for trading goods, they are places to practice, share and support political, social, religious, and economic movements as well.
Many cities in Iran grew around bazaars, which served (and in some cases, to continue to serve) as the beating heart of social life. Always surrounded by mosques, schools, teahouses, bathhouses and other public services, bazaars have always managed to meet the basic needs of the society they serve.
Bazaariha (a term used to describe commercial class and merchants) have virtually always been a part of social movements and protests.
Iranian bazaars are architectural masterpieces; a testament’s to Iranians’ knack for design.
Every city has its own bazaar, among which some were and still are better known either for their location in a key city or for their architecture and unique goods!
Here is a list of top 5 bazaars in Iran that you must see. From mesmerizing architecture to exotic goods, there is plenty to see and even more to buy.
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Tehran Grand Bazaar
Tehran was once a walled up city with only four neighborhoods, one of which was perhaps unimaginatively – but aptly – called “the Bazaar”.
At the time, Tehran bazaar was called Khandaq (a trench) as people would sit in trenches that separated the city from palaces and sell their goods.
The bazaar as it is today was mostly shaped during the Qajar era, especially during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah when most of the sarays (bazaar alleys) and other parts like caravanserais and entrances were built.
As one of the main economic hubs of Tehran or even Iran, the Tehran Grand Bazaar has played an important role in social, political and cultural development of the country particularly during the Qajar and Pahlavi eras.
From clothes and jewelry to toys and furniture, Tehran Grand Bazaar is one of the best places to buy souvenirs before you go back home. The only problem you might face in the labyrinthine bazaar is getting lost in the massive market.
The alleys (or sarays) are generally named after the goods sold in the quarter, e.g. Saray-e- Mesgarha, which translates into coppersmiths’ alley.
But the bazaar is more than just a place for trade; it is also a destination for many foodies! There are several quaint restaurants, some of which are almost a century old.
Located in Tehran’s historical District 12, or Old Tehran, the bazaar is in the vicinity of a number of historical sites. Don’t miss Sabzeh Meydan (a place for social gatherings and religious rituals like Taziyeh), Great Chahar Souq, Amir Saray, and Masjed Jame (Jame Mosque).
There are also public baths and zurkhanehs (where a traditional Iranian sport takes place), as well as cultural heritage sites such as the UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace, Ozra Yaghoub Synagogue and the tomb of Imamzadeh Yahya.
Covering an entire city block, the Tehran Grand Bazaar is accessible from all four sides. Its main entrance is located on Panzdah Khordad Street; just get on the Tehran Metro Line 1 and get off at Panzdah Khordad station.
Located on the crossroads of two historically significant roads – one connecting China to Europe (Silk Road) and the other linking Baghdad to the Caucasus – Tabriz was once the main commercial hub in the region.
Explorers of yore, namely Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta, sang the city’s praises in their travelogues and described its bazaar as one of the most beautiful in the world.
A UNESCO world heritage site since 2010, the Tabriz Bazaar is the oldest of its kind in Iran, and one of the oldest in the Middle East. Red bricks and numerous arcades decorated with stuccos have made Tabriz Bazaar a feast for the eyes.
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It is also one of the largest traditional roofed bazaars in the world, covering 1 square kilometer enclosed space!
Significantly damaged following a massive earthquake in 1780, the bazaar was reconstructed to its former glory, and it has been left relatively untouched since then.
The shopping complex, with its Islamic-influenced architecture, mosques, and schools provides a glimpse into life in the 18th century.
Rug, leather, shoes, jewelry, spice, and copper are among the most famous goods of Tabriz Bazaar. Timcheh Amir, the gold traders’ quarter located in the southern part of the bazaar, is one of the most splendid sections of the complex, so make sure to check it out. And don’t forget to at least try on papakh, or Azeri hats.
The bazaar, whose entrance is located on Ferdowsi Street, is close to the Mausoleum of Poets, Qajar Museum and Saat Tower (Clock Tower), so there is no shortage of historical and cultural site around.
Also known as Qeysarriyeh Bazaar, Isfahan Bazaar is part of the UNESCO-listed Imam Square (Naghsh-e Jahan Square) and one of the oldest bazaars still standing in Iran, with areas that are centuries old.
Originally built in the 11th century, the bazaar’s present structure is mostly made up of stone-paved streets with vaulted ceilings, skylights and gorgeous tile works from the 17th century.
To appreciate the hard work that goes into making the handcrafted products sold in the market, stroll down the streets to get a good look at how artisans create gold and copper pots, decorative metals, khatam (inlay), and painted plates, among others.
Isfahan Bazaar is one of the best places to buy handmade souvenirs, from carpets to jewelry.
If you find yourself in need of a break, there are plenty of traditional-style teahouses and restaurants in the bazaar to recharge your batteries.
The bazaar’s main entrance is called Qeysarriyeh Gate, located in Naqsh-e Jahan Square’s northern side.
Shiraz Vakil Bazaar
Located in the historic part of Shiraz, Vakil Bazaar was built on the order of the founder of the Zand Dynasty, Karim Khan.
Vakil Bazaar is actually part of the so-called Vakil complex that includes a mosque and bath house. Its vaulted brick structure essentially serves as a thermostat, keeping the bazaar cool in summer and warm in winter.
A cruciform construction, the site consists of a junction surrounded by four quarters constructed by brick and gypsum.
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Among the bazaar’s popular products are handwoven carpets and antiques, which make for great souvenirs.
Vakil Bazaar’s picturesque courtyard complete with a pond in the center provides a refreshing change of scenery from the market’s shop-lined streets.
If you find yourself in a café, do yourself a favor and order a Faloodeh (or Paloodeh) – a must-have cold dessert for which Shiraz is famous. One of the most interesting parts of Vakil Bazaar is Saray-e Moshir, a restored caravanserai with a popular teahouse!
The bazaar is located in the center of Shiraz, after Shahrdari Square.
Khan Bazaar of Yazd
Yazd, an ancient city listed on the UNESCO World Heritage, has more than 10 bazaars; the most popular one is Khan Bazaar with more than 50 shops.
Built during the reign of Qajar monarch Naser al-Din Shah, Khan Bazaar was part of a complex including a bath house, a square and a school, and was mostly used by rulers of the city whose title was Khan, hence the name.
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Some of the most famous souvenirs of Yazd, including silk and cashmere and carpets with handwoven patterns, can be found in this bazaar – at reasonable prices, compared to Tehran and Isfahan.
Copper pots, mosaic bricks, gold and termeh (a traditional silk and cotton textile product) are among other goods you may find in the marketplace.
Located in Lab-e Khandaq neighborhood, Khan Bazaar is close to Amir Chakhmagh Square, near the Yazd Water Museum and Jame Mosque!