The enormous size and hustle and bustle of Tehran can be intimidating to newcomers, so spend your first day getting used to your surroundings and the rhythm of the city by exploring its three main landmarks. The symbol of the capital, the Azadi Tower, was built in 1971 to celebrate the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. Stroll around the solemn marble monument and snap a few selfies to officially Instagram your arrival to the city. Then, head to the Milad Tower, the sixth tallest tower in the world. The complete tour offers stops on several floors of the tower, but we recommend the abbreviated tour of the Open Observation Deck, which offers sweeping 360-degree views of Tehran. This is the ideal spot to get completely oriented with the city’s layout. To end your day, check out Tehran’s newest landmark, the multi-award winning Tabiat Bridge, where you can also grab a bite to eat and do some serious people watching.
Spend your day in the heart of Tehran. Start at the lavish Golestan Palace, once the seat of the Qajar dynasty’s government. Afterwards, head to the Grand Bazaar and sip on some tea in the tiniest teahouse. You’re sure to get lost in the labyrinth, but that leads to pleasant surprises. The bazaar has lunch options, such as the famous Moslem Restaurant, but if extra long lines and heavy crowds aren’t your thing, walk over to 30 Tir Street where you can grab something from a food truck and enjoy your meal on cobblestone streets or in the neighbouring park. The National Museum of Iran, the National Jewelry Treasury and the Glassware and Ceramics Museum are all options to visit nearby, but those who wish to get off the beaten track should explore the old neighborhoods around Naser Khosrow Street (where you’ll find the architecturally curious Saraye Roshan and Marvi Alley) and Lalezar Street (the one-time cultural hub of Tehran).
The north of Tehran is a far cry from the south, and it’s no wonder why the former monarchs settled in these parts. Visit the Shah’s main residence at Niavaran Palace in the east before going across town. Take a stroll through the bustling Tajrish Bazaar where you can grab some street food before going to Sa’ad Abad Palace, the Shah’s luxurious summer residence. Other than the two main palaces, the Fine Arts Museum and the Royal Costume Museum are also worth visits. This palace sits on the foothills of Darband, so when you’re done, take a short walk up north to this tranquil village where you can find a cozy cliffside restaurant and dine on some mouthwatering kebabs and end your day in nature.
Tehran is Iran’s cultural centre, so there’s no better place to get a hearty dose of art. Visit the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art to see the likes of Warhol, Pollock, Magritte and Monet alongside renowned Iranian artists. The Iranian Artists’ Forum is another excellent locale to discover the who’s-who of Tehran’s contemporary art world. Check out the best galleries in the city to uncover local artists’ latest exhibitions and if you are visiting on a Friday when many of these galleries have exhibition openings, you’ll be in for a real treat. In the evening, try a local pop or classical concert or check out a play.
Tehran is unique in that it has pristine nature right at its doorstep. Get out of the city by taking a hike in Darband or Tochal. If you are visiting in the winter, there are also plenty of options to go skiing nearby like Tochal, Dizin, Shemshak and Darbandsar. During the warmer months, take a day trip out to Tange Voshi, a gorge replete with carved rock reliefs and Qajar-era ruins, or Khojir and Sorkheh Hesar National Parks, which offer striking views of Mount Damavand and a wide array of flora and fauna.