Top 15 Unmissable Things to Do in Tehran, Capital of Iran
Even though it’s the capital and there are plenty of things to do in Tehran, including historical sites, parks and bazaars, often tour guides leading a classic Iran itinerary skip the city. We disagree.
The reason is mainly one: the traffic. While we can’t deny that traffic can be pretty asphyxiating at times, we still think there are too many places to visit in Tehran to just leave it out completely.
Top places to visit in Tehran, must-see city in Iran
Secular and dynamic, Tehran is one of the most vibrant cities in Iran. With citizens coming from all over the country, it’s only natural that you are going to see a great variety of population from all the provinces gathered there to work. Not only a good deal of Tehran attractions, then, but also a pivotal commercial and economic hub.
If you are wondering what to do in Tehran in 3 days up to one week, you are in the right place. Right below the top Tehran sights, you will find a useful FAQ section where we answer the main questions about visiting this fantastic Middle Eastern metropolis.
1. Azadi Tower, one of the first things to do in Tehran
“Borj-e Azadi”, Persian for Freedom Tower, is one of the first things to see in Tehran. Commissioned by Iran’s last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, it was inaugurated in 1971 to celebrate the 2500th anniversary of the Persian Empire. Before the 1979 Revolution it was known as Shahyad Tower, Kings’ Memorial.
It’s not just the symbol of Tehran but it has also been mentioned as the symbol of Iran. The architecture of Azadi Tower was inspired by Achaemenid, Sassanian and Islamic architectural styles. The 45-meter-high three-story building has four elevators and two staircases with 286 stairs. Below the tower, there are exhibition halls, library, a museum and a gallery. Azadi Tower is located in the centre of Azadi Square, “Meidan Azadi”, which, with 65.000 square meters, is the biggest square in Tehran and probably in all of Iran.
Address: Azadi Square
Opening hours: Sunday-Thursday 9 am-6 pm. On Fridays 10 am-6 pm.
2. Tehran Grand Bazaar, one of the top places to visit in Tehran
Stretching for some twenty square kilometres, “Bazaar-e Bozorg-e Tehran” is absolutely one of the favourite Tehran tourist attractions. Entering the covered bazaar, you can feel the traditional atmosphere of the ancient Iranian architecture.
Tehran Grand Bazaar has everything you are looking for, be it clothes, handicraft, restaurants, nuts, jewellery, rugs and more. The shops of saddle makers (saraj), horseshoe makers (nal chiha) and carpet traders (labof) are in the oldest parts of the market.
Alongside countless shops, Tehran Grand Bazaar boasts also historical monuments such as the two mosques Masjid Jama and Masjid Imam. Days before major holidays I suggest you avoid visiting it because it’s going to be very crowded.
Address: Panzdah-e-Khordad Street, District 12
Opening hours: Daily except for Fridays and national holidays 8 am-6 pm. On Thursdays, most shops are open only until noon.
3. National Museum of Iran and Museum of Islamic Era (Moozeh Mili Iran)
Even though set in two separate buildings, both museums date back to the 20th century and add great value to your list of what to see in Tehran if it’s your first time in the city.
Displaying some 300,000 objects, they are considered Iran’s most important museums. If you want to find out about Iranian culture, art, and traditions, these are the places to go.
Covering a time span of centuries, from prehistoric times on the Iranian Plateau to pre-Islamic eras up to Islamic times, the museums will show you anything you want to know about Iran.
Address: Khomeini Street
Opening hours: Spring and summer daily 9 am-7 pm, fall, and winter 9 am-5 pm. Closed July 8th, December 10th, August 11th, October 23rd-24th
Entrance fee: 200.000 rials.
4. Golestan Palace, one of the top Tehran tourist attractions
UNESCO-enlisted Golestan Palace, or Kakhe Golestan is one of the top Tehran attractions. The original building dates back to the 16th century by the order of Safavid king Shah Abbas and was later rebuilt during the Qajar Era. A wing of the palace was devoted to the wives and mistresses of the Qajar kings. Some sources say the number of wives and courtesans sometimes reached more than 400.
The complex is huge and for a complete visit to the Golestan Palace, you can set aside at least two hours. Some of the areas not to miss are the Marble Throne, dating back from the year of Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar’s coronation ceremony, the Springhouse, the restaurant “Sofrakhane”, Salam Hall, Aineh Hall, Shamsul Emara, Khalwat Karim Khan, the gallery and the museum.
Address: 12th District, Panzdah-e Khordad Square
Opening hours: April to September 9 am-6 pm and October to March 9 am-5 pm
Entry fee: 200.000 Rials.
5. Niavaran Palace, one of the top royal Tehran sights
The 9000-square-meter complex of Niavaran Palace (Kakh-e Niavaran) was built in the 19th century during the Qajar era. Later, the Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi built and renovated many parts of it to use it as one of the winter residences of the royal family.
The ground floor of Niavaran Palace displays an exquisite collection of handmade Persian carpets including the artistic portraits of kings and famous figures from Achaemenid and Qajar times.
In the second floor, there is the statue of Buddha and stone carvings from the 3rd century AD alongside a collection of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s personal and military clothes. Along the stairs of the second floor the decoration is a beautiful painting from Karim Khan’s palace.
In addition to old and contemporary artwork, in Niavaran Palace you can have a clue of the luxurious life led by the royal family. You can see the kids’ toys in their room, Farah Diba’s clothes still hanging in the wardrobe, even her nail polish. On the dining room, the lavish table is set as if guests were about to arrive. Part of the Niavaran Palace complex is also a tea house, a museum and a park.
Address: Northeastern Tehran, District 1, Niavaran Square.
Opening hours: Daily except for national holidays 8 am-5 pm
Entrance fee: 200.000 Rials.
6. Saad Abad Complex and Green Palace
Counting some eighteen palaces belonging to the Qajar and Pahlavi kings, Saad Abad Complex (Majmooa Saad Abbad) is an important historical complex in northern Tehran.
The complex was first built and inhabited by the Qajar king in the 19th century. Reza Shah Pahlavi lived in the Saad Abad Complex in the 1920s, while his son, Mohammad Reza, moved there in the 1970s. After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the complex was turned into a museum.
Address: 50 Kamal Taheri St., Za’feraniyeh, Vali’Asr Ave.
Opening hours: Spring and summer (March 20th to September 20th), open daily except for religious holidays, 9 am-6,30 pm, last entry 5 pm. Autumn and winter (September 21st to March 19th), open daily except religious holidays, 9 am-5 pm, last entry 4 pm.
Entrance fee: 200.000 rials.
7. Jewellery Museum, one of the best things to see in Tehran
Tehran’s Jewellery Museum, Moozeh Jawaherat, was originally kept inside Golestan Palace. In the 20th century Shah Pahlavi moved 21 boxes filled with jewellery to Iran National Bank, and in the 1960s, the museum was moved to the current location, the Central Bank of Iran.
It’s an impressive collection of some of the world’s most expensive and precious jewellery gathered over the centuries such as diamonds, emeralds, rubies and turquoise stones. This is what to visit in Tehran if you still have time before your next destination.
Address: Imam Khomeini Square, Ferdowsi Avenue, in front of the Turkish Embassy.
Opening hours: Saturday to Tuesday 2 pm-4.30 pm, Wednesday to Friday closed. Note: Children under 12 are not allowed. Photography is not allowed.
Entrance fee: 200.000 rials.
8. Tajrish Bazaar, one of the places to see in Tehran
Located in northern Tehran, this is one the oldest bazaars in the city. I found it less touristy than the Grand Bazaar and just like the main one, packed with good quality shops. Do here your gift shopping if you want to take home some souvenirs from Iran.
You can find stuff such as handicraft, copper and clay pots, varieties of pistachios, pastries, saffron, spices, pickles “Turoshi” and fresh fruits. Nearby are also nice and cheap restaurants.
Address: Southwest of Tajrish Square, one entrance on Imamzadeh Saleh shrine, the other on Qods Square.
Opening hours: Daily 9 am-10 pm. As for the Grand Bazaar, we suggest you don’t go on weekends (Fridays) as many shops are closed.
9. Nature Bridge and Fire and Water Park
“Pol-e Tabiat” was designed by Iranian architect Leila Araghian and built between 2010 and 2014. The 270-meter-long bridge is the largest pedestrian overpass built in Iran to connect two parks in northern Tehran.
On your way to the edge of the lovely Fire and Water Park “Ab-o-Atash Park,” you can stop at the many restaurants and coffee shops to relax enjoying a beautiful view of Tehran and the Alborz mountains. Always packed with locals, Pol-e Tabiat is stunning from afar at night when it’s all spruced up with colourful lights.
Address: Modarres Highway
Visiting hours: You can visit the bridge all year around 8 am-11 pm
READ MORE: Want to explore more green places and picnic areas? Check out our guide to the best parks in Tehran.
10. Chitgar Lake, where to go in Tehran to relax
Called Daryacheh Chitak in Persian,Chitgar Lake is located in northwestern Tehran on Hemmat Gharb Highway. It’s Iran’s largest artificial lake and the biggest entertainment complex in the capital built on 140 hectares of land.
This is one of the fun things to do in Tehran. You will see many locals spending their free time watching birds, doing water sports activities, biking, or just even walking.
Visiting hours: You can visit the bridge all year round
11. Artists’ Garden
Lovely park devoted to local artists not far from the former US embassy, it houses halls that always host temporary exhibitions. Located in the city centre, it also has a theatre hall and season markets selling handicrafts and artwork.
If you are tired of the ubiquitous kebabs, here you can have a nice alternative lunch at the vegetarian restaurant cafe within the park.
Visiting hours: You can visit the bridge all year round
12. “Meidan Enghelab” (Revolution Square) and “Kheiaban Enghelab” (Revolution Street)
This 20th-century square was originally named “24 Esfand Square” after Pahlavi’s birthday and used to display his statue in the middle. After the Iranian Revolution, the statue was removed and the named changed into Enqelab/Revolution Square.
It’s one of the busiest squares in the city, close to Tehran University and lined up with bookshops and trendy coffee shops where students like to hang out. Do enjoy some tea and cake in some of the laid-back cafes all along Enghelab Street to refuel while exploring the historical places of Tehran.
13. Darband, one of the fun things to do in Tehran
Located north of Saad Abad Gardens some 1700 meters above sea level, Darband is the beginning of one of the main paths hikers take to climb to the Alborz mountains. During the Qajar era, this beautiful place was chosen as the favourite dwelling by members of the royal family.
It’s a tourist draw for both Iranians and tourists who want relax and enjoy local food, tea, and hookah with a beautiful view. In summer the weather is pretty nice and not as hot as in Tehran city. On Fridays, it gets pretty crowded because many people from Tehran and surroundings head there with their families. If you want some peace and quiet, I suggest you go during the week.
You might see guys carrying cages with birds and folded papers on the side of the cage. They are called “fall gir“, Iran’s version of fortune tellers. Basically, the bird picks one of the folded papers and whatever is written will reveal how good of a person you are, what to expect from your future and all the things we wish to know in advance.
If you can’t hike, chairlifts will take you up.
14. Milad Tower, one of the things to do in Tehran at night
Rising some 435 meters, Milad Tower (Borj-e Milad) is the 6th tallest tower in the world. Perfect place to admire Tehran urban landscape both by day and in the evening for a night view.
Borj-e Milad hosts museums, a paintball field, a dolphin show, a movie theatre, a restaurant and a cafe.
Address: Hemmat Highway.
Opening hours: Daily 9 am-9 pm.
Entrance fee: Free admission for kids under 6. The full package ticket is 350,000 rials, but if you want to visit only the open platform, the ticket is 120,000 rials. You can buy the ticket at the counter below the tower.
15. Jamshidieh Park, one of the lesser-known Tehran attractions
Little-known among tourists, Jamshidied Park is an unusual public garden in Tehran. More rocky than green (it’s also called the Stone Garden), Jamshidieh Park makes it for a lovely walk.
What it does have in common with the Persian-style gardening is the heavy presence of the water element, both in a lake and in narrow channels between staircases and tree-lined boulevards.
Address: Shahid Omidvar St., Shahid Bahonar St.
Opening hours: Daily 7 am-midnight.
Entrance fee: Free admission.
READ MORE: See our post on visiting more parks in Tehran.
Tips to enjoy your trip to Tehran
Tehran is a very large and overcrowded city. Here are some tips on how to best enjoy your holiday in Tehran, avoid getting lost and make the most of your stay.
Find a Hotel Close to the Metro
To avoid being dependent on taxis or buses of which you might not understand the routes, I suggest you book a hotel close to a metro station. This way, you are always sure you can easily reach pretty much all Tehran points of interest.
READ MORE: Check out our guide to the best hotels in Tehran.
Use Tehran Public Transport
In Tehran, I always suggest taking the metro to avoid getting stuck in the city’s mental traffic. Tehran Metro is very wide and gets to most parts of the city. If you can, try to avoid the peak hours, early morning and afternoon between 4 and 6 pm, it gets so crowded you can risk missing your stop.
Solo women travellers can choose to get in the women’s section, the first and last car, they are usually less crowded and you can relax.
Use Google Maps
When it comes to navigate the streets, Google Maps can be of a great help in Tehran, too. You will find street names in English, bus and metro stops, names of places and restaurants.
Try the Local Restaurants
In Tehran, you will find plenty of fast food places. While they are also pretty much Iranian style, I suggest you prefer the local restaurants to have a taste of more traditional dishes.
Some of the dishes to try? One of the endless kebabs, herb stew gormeh sabzi, tachin joojeh with saffron rice and chicken or, if you are a vegetarian, the eggplant-based mirza ghasemi.
Is Tehran Safe?
Many tourists wonder if Tehran is a safe destination in Iran. As far as my experience goes, I’ve never had any problem. Last time I was there, I stayed alone in Khayyam Hotel for ten days and had no issues both inside the hotel and outside, even if that was a pretty male-oriented area packed of shops of car spares.
I took cabs by myself in Tehran both to go around the city and from and to the airport and again I had no safety issues.
This being said, like every other big city, you should take all the necessary precautions, especially if you are a solo traveller woman. I would suggest not to go back to your hotel alone at night, either take a taxi or ask any of your friends to accompany you to the door.
Keep a low profile, especially when it comes to the clothes, so dress according to the local law, and don’t carry or show too much cash when in the streets. Also, watch out for your belongings when you are in crowded areas like the bazaars, and keep tight your purse when you are walking on the sidewalks to avoid pickpockets.
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