12 unmissable destinations in Tehran 

December 20, 2020 - 19:42

Tehran is such a bustling metropolis that some travelers love to hate as many avoiding a stay there altogether en route to Iran's more popular tourist destinations. 

Others believe there are enough cultural sites, gorgeous galleries, museums, recreational places, and sociable locals to give it a beautiful side too.
Here is a selection of top destinations you can visit while in the Iranian capital: 

Treasury of National Jewels

For one who is not a fan of museums, their perceptions would be turned upside by this incredible place! Here is a selected comment made by a foreign visitor to the treasury: “Woooow! This place is just a wow! We were amazed! Speechless! I can’t put any comments… it’s something that if you visit Tehran it must be in the first place to visit.”

Owned by the Central Bank of Iran and accessed through its front doors, the incomparable Treasury of the National Jewels is a collection of the most expensive jewels of the world, collected over centuries. Commonly known as the ‘Jewels Museum’, it is not to be missed while in the Iranian capital.

Every piece of this collection is a reflection of the tumultuous history of this great nation, and the artistry of the residents of this land. Each piece recalls memories of bitter-sweet victories and defeats, of the pride and arrogance of rulers who were powerful or weak.

These jewels and rarities were decorations for the rulers during the past eras, and often showed the glory and extravagance of their courts, as well as their power and wealth. The Safavid, Qajar, and Pahlavi monarchs adorned themselves and their belongings with an astounding range of priceless gems and precious metals, making this collection of bling quite literally jaw-dropping. 

This Treasury, according to the Central Bank, on one hand, depicts the culture and civilization of the Iranian people who have had an adventurous past, and on the other, repeats the silent tears of oppressed people who worked hard and instead the rulers, could show off their arrogance and power with their gold and jewels.

The value of the objects in the Treasury of National Jewels is not limited to their economic value, but is also a reflection of the creativity and taste of Iranian craftsmen and artist over the different eras of history, and represents the artistic and cultural heritage of the vast country on Iran.

National Museum of Iran
The National Museum of Iran is the main archaeological museum of Iran (formerly Iran Bastan Museum) and the brainchild of André Godard, the French archaeologist and architect who was its first director. 
The vaulted brick entrance was designed to recall the famous Sassanid audience hall at Ctesiphon, Iraq. After its completion in 1936, the pre-Islamic collection of artifacts was displayed on the ground floor, with Islamic art exhibited on the first, but today the Islamic collection is housed in a building to the right of the entrance. 

In the 1936 building, the first cabinets displayed ceramics dating from the 4th millennium BC, but visitors are always attracted by the superb unglazed zoomorphic vessels from the 1000 BC Marlik settlement on the Caspian.

Remember to look out for the polished reliefs, capitals, and statues of the Achaemenid period (6th—4th century BC); this gleaming, rich brown color is how the real Persepolis stone quality should look, not today’s grey, pitted surface.

Tabiat Bridge

It's easy to see why this multilevel, sculptural pedestrian bridge, designed by Iranian architect Leila Araghian, has won awards and been a huge hit with locals. 
The 270m long walkway connecting Park-e Taleghani and Park-e Abo-Atash over the busy Modarres Highway is a fun space to relax and, in good weather, it provides superb views of the north Tehran skyline against the Alborz mountain range. 

There's a decent food court at one end and a restaurant at the other, as well as plenty of places to sit and socialize, making it a highly popular place to hang out in the evenings.

Reza Abbasi Museum
The exhibits, starting from around 2000BC, are without exception quite exquisite – especially the gold work - and a few people seem to visit, you might have it entirely to yourself.
Named after one of the great artists of the Safavid period, Reza Abbasi Museum embraces several permanent exhibition halls that showcase various eras of Iranian history with objects belonging to the pre-Islamic era, paintings and calligraphy works amongst them.
Reza Abbasi Museum embraces several permanent exhibition halls that showcase various eras of Iranian history with objects belonging to the pre-Islamic era, paintings and calligraphy works amongst them.

Golestan Palace

The lavish Golestan Palace was completed by the Qajar dynasty that rose to power in the late 1700s, this fabulous walled complex is centered on a landscaped garden with tranquil pools. The palace buildings are among the oldest in modern Tehran.
The UNESCO-listed palace complex is one of the oldest in the Iranian capital, originally built during the Safavid dynasty (1501–1736) in the historic walled city. 
Following extensions and additions, it received its most characteristic features in the 19th century, when the palace complex was selected as the royal residence and seat of power by the Qajar ruling family (1789-1925). At present, the Golestan Palace complex consists of eight key palace structures mostly used as museums and the eponymous gardens, a green shared center of the complex, surrounded by an outer wall with gates.

UNESCO has it that the complex exemplifies architectural and artistic achievements of the Qajar era including the introduction of European motifs and styles into Persian arts.

Sa’dabad Complex

Sprawled on about 110 hectares of a mountainside parkland, the Sa’dabad complex was once a royal summer residence during the Qajar era (1789–1925) and its subsequent Pahlavi epoch (1925–1979).

If you do not have time to visit all the museums, do find time for the Mellat Palace (‘White Palace’) with a pair of giant bronze boots — all that remains of a huge statue of Reza Shah (d1941) — standing by the side of the steps.

The Green Palace is so-called because it is faced with a distinctive special greenish-yellow marble, which reminded one visitor of 1950s Fablon plastic coverings. Reza Shah ordered this construction in 1925 and certainly, his small office has a more personal ambiance than the Mellat. Elsewhere the excess of mirror-work, blue brocade silk curtains with silver metal thread fringes, tassels in the bedrooms, and the crimson silk dining rooms speak more of the excesses of his son, Mohammedreza.

Milad Tower

Dominating the skyline of Tehran’s western suburbs, Milad Tower is 435m high, including 120m of antenna, making it, in 2017, the world’s sixth-tallest free-standing tower. 

Bearing a striking resemblance to Menara Kuala Lumpur, its octagonal concrete shaft tapers up to a pod with 12 floors, including both enclosed and open observation decks, a gallery, a cafe, and a revolving restaurant. 

Whether you should visit or not depends largely on the weather; on a rare clear day the views are worth it, but otherwise probably not. You need a taxi to get here.

The Grand Bazaar

Situated in the heart of Tehran, the Grand Bazaar boasts various mazes, corridors, lanes, intersections, entrances, and passageways with hundreds of shops offering different types of goods and services.

While most of its covered structures and marketplaces are associated with the 19th century onwards, the history of trade in the bazaar is rooted much deeper in time.
Some visitors to the bazaar refer to it as “a city within a city” because it also includes several mosques, guesthouses, banks, and once-thriving caravansaries.  
Most mazes and lanes are particularly allocated to commodities such as carpets, metalwork, spices, toys, clothing, jewelry, woodturning, and kitchen appliances.
One can also encounter with grocery stores, bookbinders, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, tobacconists, tailors, flag sellers, broadcloth sellers, carpenters, shoemakers, and knife-makers, among others.

Glassware and Ceramic Museum of Iran

Housed within an elegant Qajar-era edifice in downtown Tehran, the Glassware and Ceramic Museum of Iran also known as Abgineh Museum offers its visitors a wide range of glasswork, brickwork, plasterwork, mirror work as well as inlaid artworks.

The premises which have been turned into the museum roughly date back to a century ago. It was originally constructed upon the orders of the 20th-century politician Ahmad Qavam better known as Qavam-ol-Saltaneh for his lodging.  

Situated a short walk northward of the National Museum of Iran on Si-e Tir St., the museum puts on display nationwide relics that date from the 2nd millennium BC to the modern-day.

The two-story octagonal structure itself retains a lot of charm as seamlessly blends genuine Iranian architecture with the 19th-century European motifs.

Sacred Defense Museum

Sacred Defense Museum on a landscaped site of 21 hectares in north-central Tehran is a gigantic war memorial with its collections concentrated heavily on the 1980-1988 Iran–Iraq war.

A total of seven halls lead through the history of the sacred defense in forensic detail. The Hall of Butterflies greets visitors on arrival, the place is dedicated to martyrs and victims of the war filled with personal belongings found on the various battlefields.

Outside, a patchwork of domestically-manufactured armaments such as rockets, tanks, and artillery pieces are on show. The complex has vast garden areas, water features, and children’s play areas as well.

Sacred Defense Museum is equipped with a state-of-the-art visual system including projections and video walls, while audio recordings relevant to each period contributes to its charm.

Re-creation of the liberation of the city of Khorramshahr by the means of virtual exhibits and video projections is amongst the main features of the museum where stands a replica of the Khorramshahr mosque adorned with creamy and turquoise patterned tiles.

A strategic port city in western Iran, Khorramshahr fell into Iraqi hands on October 26, 1980. It was recaptured by Iranian forces on May 24, 1982.

Tochal Ski Resort 

Iran has long been an international destination for avid powder chasers during winter, while - in total contrast - its arid and semi-arid climate reaches sweltering levels in summer.

Maybe not the first that comes to mind, snow-capped mountains above Tehran are home to some of the world’s best ski resorts where powder hounds can enjoy famous Iranian hospitality. Amongst uppermost are Dizin, Tochal, Shemshak and Darbandsar, all situated within some 100 kilometers of the capital city and up to international standards.

The smallest of the four resorts, Tochal can be reached via a four-mile journey by cable car that leaves from the northern suburbs of Tehran. At 3963m, Tochal ski resort is the fifth-highest resort in the world, ensuring a long season from December to at least April and sometimes June.

Tochal is good for convenience and price, but the better terrain may be found at the other resorts. When it comes to comfortable accommodation, both Dizin and Shemshak have large hotels that will almost always have space. There are also several privately-owned cottages around that can be rented out. Prices for these vary on the quality of the cottage. Nightlife can be limited in resorts as most Iranians prefer to socialize at home in the evening.

Miniature Garden Museum
For ones who are always short of time but fascinated with rich Iranian cultural heritage, the Miniature Garden Museum is the right place for you to roam through.
Spanning 2.9 hectares in area, the park is home to replicas of the most important historical landmarks and landscapes including giant models of some UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Miniature maquettes of other UNESCO-registered sites will be constructed in the future, according to the Tehran Municipality website.

There are some eighty species of floras and plants that are endemic in the country, and a permanent photo gallery showing a variety of real shots of the World Heritage sites.

One of the key characteristics of the ensemble is that its replica models have entirely been designed and constructed by domestic sculptors and artists, according to executives.

The replicas are at one twenty-fifth of their original size. One of the complex’s highlights is probably the 17th-century Naghsh-e Jahan (Imam) Square that itself is composed of the Royal Mosque, the Ali Qapu Palace, the Mosque of Sheykh Lotfollah, the magnificent Portico of Qaysariyyeh, and a 15th-century Timurid palace all linked by a series of two-storied arcades.