Iran City Guides - Tehran
A-Z of Tehran Sights & Places of Interest
Azadi Monument | Carpet Museum | Darakeh | Golestan Palace | Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini | Jomeh Bazaar | National Jewels Museum | National Museum of Iran | Niavaran Palace | Tehran Grand Bazaar | Museum of Contemporary Art | Shrine of Shah Abd-Al-Azeem
This distinctively shaped arch is situated in the western part of Tehran near Mehrabat International Airport.
The word Azadi means national independence and it was completed in 1971 for the celebrations given by Mohammad Reza Shah to commemorate 2,500 years of Iranian Kings.
The 3 floor, 45m high monument is constructed from 25,000 large granite blocks from Hamedan province. Almost 15,000 differently shaped blocks were used to create its unique shape. The 21m high archway is representative of the pre-Islamic Sassanid period while it is also pointed to represent hands raised in prayer. Four elevators and two staircases (286 stairs) take you to the top of the tower from where you can see extensive views of Tehran. In the basement is a museum divided into two rooms.
Not far from the Museum of Contemporary Art and also adjacent to Laleh Park, the Carpet Musuem of Iran is one of the most rewarding to visit of Tehran's many museums. Most of 100 plus carpets on display are from the 19th or 20th centuries but there are a handful of older specimens from as far back as the 16th century. Hunting and wildlife scenes show off the carpet maker's art to the greatest extent.
Photography is permitted though use of flash is not.
Corner of Fatemi Street and Kargar Avenue; Admission fee
Darakeh is an escape from the hustle and bustle of downtown Tehran and the closest you'll get to a genuine hike without leaving the city. The path to the mountains in the north of Tehran starts from the city suburbs and follows a gushing stream to the top of the peak. The path is rocky and challenging enough in places to make the unaccustomed huff and puff. But that doesn't deter a handful of specialist traders from making up a scattered, eclectic bazaar on the earlier sections of the mountain path and there are teahouses where the thirsty walker can stop for refreshment. Tehranis come to stroll in the fresh mountain air, picnic or buy Darakeh's fresh fruits and vegetables.
Located on Khordad Square, the Golestan Palace ("Palace of Flowers") is a collection of buildings set in a walled park veined with canals rushing down from the Tochal mountains. It stands on the site of the historic Arg (citadel) of Tehran which was originally built in the time of Shah Abbas (r. 1588-1629) of the Safavid dynasty.
The splendour of the interiors of many of the buildings evokes a time when foreign dignitaries were invited to the Qajar court and compared its artistry to the royal buildings of Europe. Both the Eyvan-e Takht-e Marmar ("Terrace of the Marble Throne") and the Talar-e Aineh ("Hall of Mirrors") are famous for the spectacular mirror work that covers their walls. Elsewhere can be seen fine examples of Iranian stained glass, mosaic tiles and painting. Several buildings house collections of paintings and gifts given to Qajar kings by European dignitaries as well as paintings by Iranian masters. Though not all of the buildings are open to the public, the park itself is an oasis of calm in the heart of the city.
The huge Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini, south of Tehran, is the final resting place of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic. The vast mausoleum includes four 91m towers (Khomeini died aged 91) and is visited by hundreds of thousands of mourners on June 4, the anniversary of Khomeini's death in 1989. The interior hall is on a massive scale around 100m in length and the whole complex includes restaurants, shops and other facilities.
Nearby is the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, which includes the graves of around 200,000 victims of the Iran-Iraq War (1990-98).
Take the Tehran Metro Line 1 to Haram-e Motahar Station for access to both the Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini and Behesht-e Zahra.
Tehran's Jomeh Bazaar (Friday Market) has a huge variety of bric-a-brac on display. Objects for sale range from obvious junk to high-value antiques. Just about everything can be found here: musical instruments, daggers, clothing, glassware, paintings, carpets, antiques, the list goes on.
The Friday Market is held on three floors of a multi-storey car park in central Tehran, on the east side of Joumbouri Avenue. The flea market is open every Friday from around 9am to 4pm.
Located in the basement of the National Bank of Iran on Ferdosi Avenue, in front of the embassies of Germany and Turkey, this is one of the best known museums in Iran. On display is an impressive collection of some of the most famous and spectacular jewels in the world including many priceless pieces. Many pieces have disappeared over the years but the remaining collection of gemstones, jewellery, royal emblems, ornamental guns and jewel-encrusted furniture is still impressive. The majority of the items on display were given to Safavid kings as gifts but many pieces taken by Nader Shah on his conquest of India are also exhibited. These include the Darya-e Nur diamond, The Peacock Throne and the Jeweled Globe. Other pieces include the crowns of the Qajar and Pahlavi Kings.
Opened in 1937, the National Museum was Iran's very first museum and houses Iran's foremost collection of archaeological and cultural treasures. The main entrance is on Tir Street but it can also be entered from Shahid ra Jai Street. The museum was designed by the French archaeologist and architect Andre Godard. The two-floor building was built to resemble the palace of Ardeshir I in Firuzabad and the red brick entranceway and dome are reminiscent of the Sassanid and Arsakid styles. The main building houses a collection of artefacts from prehistoric Iran to the end of the Sassanid period, Elamite artefacts discovered at Susa and Chogha Zambil and a wealth of Achaemenid period decorations from Persepolis. An extension built in 1997 houses treasures from the early years of the Islamic era to the present. The uppers floors of the building chart the flourishing of Iranian art in fields such as pottery, glassware, miniature painting, carpets, metal engravings and calligraphy.
The Niavaran Palace in northern Tehran is another of the last Shah's palaces now converted in to a museum complex. The attractive Ahmad Shahi Pavilion with its green roof and white columns was used by the Shah to store presents from other world leaders. The actual palace is an austere 1960s building full of royal trappings including a Kerman carpet showing Iran's rulers back to the Achaemenid period. The Sahebqerameh (King's Special Office) contains a collection of art and the Shah's golden phone and royal pistols. The Jahan-Nama Museum (Queen's Private Museum) has more art plus archeological finds from Iran, Egypt and even Mexico.
Tehran's bustling and chaotic bazaar, reputedly the world's largest, covers a huge area and includes countless stalls selling just about everything imaginable. There are also mosques, guesthouses, banks and even a fire station within the sprawling area in south Tehran covered by the bazaar district. Most commodity sellers have grouped themselves together to form distinct "corridors" selling similar merchandize. The main business in Tehran's grand bazaar takes place around noon and between 5-7pm in the evening and visitors are encouraged to bargain over prices. The grand bazaar has a long history in Tehran and the bazaaris who run it tend to be conservative and helped finance the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
15 Khordad Avenue; Admission free
On the west side the very lovely Laleh Park is a low-lying dun-brick building functioning as Tehran's most important museum of contemporary art.
Notice the skylights raised from the roof. Reminiscent of the "badgirs" of Yazd or Kashan, these allow the harsh sun to softly light the central sunken well of inner space - itself a modern interpretation of the cool underground havens of desert city residences.
Labyrinthine corridors spin off the central hall and guide you through the history of modern Iranian art.
Kargar Avenue; Admission fee
Shah Abd-Al-Azeem (786-865 AD) was the great grandson of Imam Hassan (the Second Imam of the Shia Isna Asharis or Twelver Shias) and a noted religious scholar.
Al-Azeem (Azim), was killed in Rey in 860 and he is buried here along with other important figures in Islamic history including Hamzeh, the brother of Emam Reza, and Taher, the son of Emam Saj'ad. Other graves adjacent to the main shrine include those of famous Islamic scientists and that of Naser al-Din Shah Qajar who was assassinated here after attending Friday prayers in 1896. The shrine of Shah Abd-Al-Azeem is visited by more than 1 million pilgrims every year.
The shrine is about a half an hour drive from the Imam Khomeini International Airport (depending on traffic conditions).