“O beautiful wine-bearer, bring forth the cup and put it to my lips
Path of love seemed easy at first; what came were many hardships”
Long have I traveled, and I have been to many places in the world. But even in all the cities I have gone on my Iran tour, I have never seen such a beautiful and romantic city. The fragrance of bitter orange hits my nostrils: is it spring already? I read on:
“With its perfume, the morning breeze unlocks those beautiful locks
The curl of those dark ringlets; many hearts to shreds strips”
I know where I am; Google precisely tells me so. And yet I feel so lost. What will happen to me? Where will I go from here? I wish to know my fortune:
“With wine color your robe, one of the old Magi’s best tips
Trust in this traveler’s tips, who knows of many paths and trips”
I think about all the cities I haven’t been to, all the people I haven’t met, and all the stories ready to unfold for me. I take my backpack and get ready to go:
“If His presence you seek, Hafez, then why yourself eclipse?
Stick to the One you know, let go of imaginary trips”
General Facts about Shiraz
City of flowers and nightingales, Shiraz is the princess of all Iranian cities. Charming, diverse, and romantic, Shiraz’s attractions are soul-binding. It had been the capital of Persia for centuries and in different dynasties. Shiraz is mentioned in most school textbooks of the world since it was the capital of Persia during the glorious Achaemenid Empire. Persepolis and Pasargadae attest to the city’s rich history and are mentioned in every Shiraz travel guide.
Shiraz’s air is whimsical. Walking around in green and clean streets and alleyways of Shiraz during spring, when the fragrance of bitter orange has filled the air is poetic. No wonder why so many Iranian’s poets come from this city. Saadi and Hafez, whose tombs are among the places to visit in Shiraz, have sung their songs here in this magical city.
Population in Shiraz
Shiraz is the most populous and diverse city in southern Iran. With a booming and young population of a million and a half, the city is filled with different people of various backgrounds. Turks, Lurs, Arabs, and Kurds are among the more significant minorities of Shiraz, while the Persians make up the majority of the population. Shiraz is also home to the nomadic people of Qashqai, who are famous for their carpet patterns and exciting ways of life. Most of the clans of these groups have now become sedentary in southern Shiraz. However, a small group still travels between the southern highlands of Shiraz to regions close to the Persian Gulf. Visit them in your Shiraz day plans to get to know a unique lifestyle, so radically different from yours.
As southerners, Shirazi people experience hot and dry weather most of the year, and that changes everything. Having hot days most of the year, Shirazis have come up with a way to enjoy their lives: embracing nightlife. They tend to stay up later at night (similar to other southern parts of Iran, like Bandar Abbas) and finish their days after midnight. And obviously, they start their days late as well. Shopkeepers open their shops around past 10 in the morning, while other cities of Iran, start their business days at around 9.
In such a hot climate of Shiraz, you know what would lift your spirits? Skiing on snowy slopes of a mountain. But damn it, we’re in southern parts of the Middle East. You’re sure you won’t find any ski resorts near here. But you can’t be more wrong! Pooladkaf ski resort, located on the slopes of the Zagros Mountains, is only 80 km northwest of the magical city and can be included in your Shiraz day plans. Close to the town of Sepidan, this resort is the most southern skiing trail in the northern hemisphere of the earth. You must know when to visit Shiraz if you plan to ski.
When to visit Shiraz
Among Iranians, Shiraz is nicknamed “the City of Bitter Oranges” and for a good reason. These flowers bloom and decorate the city in spring and once again in autumn when the fruits bear. They are everywhere: in boulevards of Shiraz, in its glorious Persian gardens, or more humbly in the backyard of a house. So, when to visit Shiraz? When the fragrance of bitter oranges has filled the air and given the city a whimsical and magical flair: April.
You walking down a street in Shiraz, and you look up to see rows of palm trees decorating a boulevard. You know you’re in the south now!
April may be the best time to visit Shiraz, yet at other times of the year, this historical gem is still a great place to visit. Warm summers and chilly winters offer unique experiences to the adventurer and provide many things do to in Shiraz.
Shirazi35; Portland. Oregon
Shiraz without a doubt is the most famous city in the world similar to a very unique diamond, which is somewhere in a museum or the one that has been sitting on a crown of a king or queen! Whatever I write about Shiraz is not fair; because my pen does not have the power to elaborate its beauty and history!
HINT: if you can go there between mid-April and early May, you will also shower yourself with the beauty and majestic aroma of orange-blossoms!
History of Shiraz
As the capital of Fars province, Shiraz is rich in history as any city in Iran ever gets. You know the mighty Persian Empire you read about in your textbooks when you were a kid? Yup! The capital was Persepolis, in northern Shiraz. This historical magnificence has led Shiraz and the surrounding regions to be a grand city with four UNESCO world heritage sites from different times in Iranian history. Persepolis, Pasargadae, Eram Garden, and Qal’eh Dokhtar in southern Fars province are among these Shiraz attractions.
You may have read about the significance of the Achaemenid and Sassanid Empires in ancient Iran in your textbooks. And that’s true; they are significant, but it was during the Zand dynasty in the 18th century that Shiraz prospered. Now, most of Shiraz attraction sites are from that era: Nasir – al Molk Mosque, Karim Khan Citadel, Vakil Bazaar, Bathhouse, and Mosque are among them.
Hearts of the city
Sang-e Siah Neighborhood
Are you ready for a traveling game? Well, then leave your hotel room and head to the maze-like alleyways of Sang e Siah neighborhood. Get ready to be lost in a whimsical place! Sang e Siah and Darvazeh e Kazerun neighborhood in traditional Shiraz would surprise you with the plethora of wonders. Walking around in these interwoven alleyways is more rewarding than you think. A quaint house, an old church, a charismatic mosque, or even the ever-famous Shirazi drink: Baharnarenj (bitter orange) drink.
Hey, can’t sleep? It’s midnight, and you have no idea what to do! Well then, you’re in luck! Get up and head to Eram street in downtown Shiraz. You might think why I would want to go there so late at night? Isn’t everyone supposed to be asleep by now? And to that we say: You might have forgotten that you’re in Shiraz, the liveliest city at night with fantastic street food lining up along its Eram street. Here the fun starts at night: the students of the nearby prestigious Shiraz University, locals, and visitors alike head to this street, especially at the weekends to experience the nightlife. Don’t hesitate to add some nightlife to your Shiraz sightseeing plans.
You might have heard the name Shiraz before. Name of wine, right? Produced in France, right? And what that has got to do with Shiraz, the Iranian city, you wonder. Well, one theory says that vine was brought to France by the crusaders during the medieval times, from Iran, Shiraz, whose wine were the subjects of many poets, including Hafez.
With tourism booming in the city as well as a population that loves to go out, shop, and enjoy themselves, Shiraz has turned into a “service” city throughout the past years. A myriad of restaurants and cafés pop up in every street. Hotels and other service-providing businesses have thrived in Shiraz’s economy. And also, in recent years, more and more hospital patients or convalescing sick people have been paying visits to Shiraz because of its on-the-rise health and well-being tourism services.
Unlike Shiraz, which is home to a vast array of various businesses, from modern start-ups to traditional bazaar, the cities in the surrounding regions are mostly farming and agricultural towns. Some of Iran’s best fruits come from these cities: pomegranates from Arsanjan, oranges, and lemons from Shiraz itself are a few examples.
Your Shiraz travel guide might have told you that the handicraft market in Shiraz is also robust. The Qashqai nomads living in Shiraz are famous for their craftsmanship and unique designs of their carpets. Carpets, rugs, nomad’s tents, and Kilims are among the most popular ones. You might want to put visit the Qashqai nomads on your Shiraz day plans.
Souvenirs of Shiraz
Apart from memories and eternal pieces of love poetry, there are also other things to take home from Shiraz. It’s a city of wonders; that’s why Iranians love it so. Shiraz’s iconic sweet called Masghati is an excellent choice to bring back with you. Tasting the flavor of rosewater, saffron, pistachio, and cardamom in this delicate sweet after you’ve left Shiraz will surely make you want to revisit the city. However, it’s not only sweets that you’ll take home. Shiraz’s handicrafts are Iran’s most elegant. There is this exquisite Persian woodwork called Khatam Kari, which is the art of decorating wood surfaces with geometric patterns. And, you must caress the highly-praised and oriental Qashqai carpets.
Often, tourists tend to see Persian carpets in their Iran tour packages. Shiraz carpet or Shiraz rug is woven by Shirazi Qashqai nomadic clans. It is the manifestation of hundreds of years living in the embrace of nature. Through generations, the old grandmothers had taught their young daughters how to weave the Persian asymmetrical knots into the angular shaped and small creatures. Shiraz nomadic rug is famous for its colorful patterns, don’t miss seeing these treasures in your shiraz travel. One of the interesting things to do in Shiraz tour can be visiting these rugs’ weaving rooms.
To live in Shiraz means to experience the richest Iranian culture. The city of Hafez and Saadi is not your typical town; you’re here to enjoy the moment. How? Through its poetry and romance, through long walks alongside the boulevards of this garden-city and through meeting new friends and the plethora of things do to in Shiraz. The nights are as lovely as the days, the people friendlier than other cities, and the tourists – surprisingly – more companionable. It’s the atmosphere. Shiraz invites you to slow down and enjoy the moment. Tomorrow may never come.
Shiraz: the city of literature, passion, arts, and poetry is among the country’s most liberal places to live. Religion is not as prevalent in Shiraz as it is so in other cities of Iran. Maybe only second to Tehran, in Shiraz, you can find the most diverse opinions about religion, God, Islam, and how one should live their life.
However, among Shiraz’s attractions, the religious ones stand out for the beauty and elegance. The Shah Cheragh Mosque is one of the most prominent sacred sites in southern Iran and is decorated with extremely delicate mirror work. Beautiful mosques pop out here and there, each with their own beauty, adding to the list of places to visit in Shiraz.
Being closer to the Persian Gulf region, Shiraz is home to a Sunni community that has lived alongside the Shia majority in harmony throughout the years.
Its people are known for
You’ll often hear that Shirazi people are lazy; that might be true. But what is certain is that Shirazis love to enjoy their lives, and they certainly know how to do so. With strong cultural backgrounds, locals are almost always cheery and rarely show that they are melancholic. They like to sit around, mostly doing nothing and maybe crack up a joke about how they want to stay put and enjoy each other’s company all day long. Sure, there are things to do in Shiraz, but that doesn’t seem to affect them much. They prefer leaning back on a sofa. Unlike other cities around the world, in Shiraz, if you smile, you will get a smile back! And that might be the start of a new friendship in Iran.
Art and architecture in Shiraz
Farah Pahlavi, the widow of Mohamad Reza Pahlavi and the former queen of Iran, initiated a ten-year-long annual festival in Shiraz, from 1967 to 1977. It was called the Shiraz Festival of Arts. She was fond of Iranian arts and architecture, and she chose this city to be the home of the festival. And It’s obvious why: Shiraz is rich in traditional Iranian culture. It’s the city of some of the best artists Iran has had: world-famous Persian miniaturists, architects who have built outside of Iran, and, of course, the birthplace of Hafez and Saadi. The plethora of architectural beauties, as well as the poetry and the literature in the air of Shiraz, make it the Princess of Iranian cities. In Your Shiraz sightseeing plans, you will run into the best of Iranian arts and architecture.
Welcome to the city of romance, poetry, and newly-found loves. The atmosphere of Shiraz during spring when the smell of bitter orange fills up the air is whimsical. As if you’re lost in the world of the poetry of Saadi and Hafez. Shiraz’s romanticism will surprise you in many ways. Everything invites you to settle down, relax, and enjoy the moment. Are you in a hurry to explore all the places to visit in Shiraz? Your local friend will calmly remind you to slow down and enjoy the scenery. Thinking about tomorrow and what to plan for your Shiraz sightseeing? Hafez’s poetry will tell you to appreciate the moment and savor the small happiness you have now. You have too many things to do in Shiraz? The city will whisper in your ears that it’s okay, there’s time, and if there isn’t, that is also okay!
You’re out with your Shirazi friends, and they take you to an ice-cream shop. They tell you it’s the best you’ll ever taste. You hesitate, and rightly so. But you order anyway and wait for the magical ice-cream to come out. The name is Faloodeh, your friend says. You’d read about it before in your Shiraz travel guide but never had the chance to try it. The guy behind the bar brings it to you. You look at the ice-cream, startled. We didn’t order noodles; you turn to your Shirazi friend. They laugh with their mouths full of the first bite. They tell you to go on and taste the “noodles ice-cream.” You won’t regret it, they tell you. And they’re right; the squishy noodles changes the taste of your mouth with saffron and rose-water. The after taste of each bite is heavenly. You order another.
Another nation-wide famous mixture is a local salad. The Shirazi salad is the real deal. In most Iranian homes, family members usually go wild over the salad. And yes, as the name suggests, the salad is originally from Shiraz and named after this glorious gem. This salad usually has three simple ingredients cucumber, tomato, and onions. But people around Iran like to get creative with the mixture and add their own signature to it; dried mint is a popular addition while some other people also pour some lemon juice into the Shiraz salad.
Read More: The Best Persian Foods You Shouldn’t Miss
In a country so friendly and hospitable, Shiraz stands out. Walking in the city and during your Shiraz sightseeing, you can easily make friends. Smile, and you’re sure to get a smile back! Shirazis don’t wait for a reason to invite you to their homes, show their friends and families, and share a meal with you; they just do.
Festivals of Shiraz
Kashan is not the only city in Iran with a beautiful Rose Festival. There are also many things to do in Shiraz. In the springs of Shiraz and its ever-so green gardens, the aroma of red roses is everywhere. Every year, the city of Meymand, with a population of fewer than ten thousand, hosts the Rose Festival. It is about 100 km south of Shiraz, and almost everyone in the city is in the “rose” business.
Iranians love Hafez, and they love to share their happiness with him by his tomb in Shiraz, Hafezieh, one of Shiraz’s attractions. A special night Iranians spend time with their beloved poet is Yalda: the longest and the darkest night of the year. It’s been a long tradition to recite Hafez’s poetry on Yalda Night. And where’s a better place to celebrate the end of the coldest night and read his poetry and let Persia’s greatest bard tell you of your fortunes than by his eternal resting place?
Regarding the hot weather of southern cities, Shiraz is blessed with a more moderate climate than its surrounding regions. And that is because of the location of the Zagros mountains hanging over the neighboring cities. The diversity of the natural elements around Shiraz will surprise everybody. Do you feel like skiing in the southern parts of Iran? No problem, the ski resort of Pooladkaf is only 2 hours away. The gorgeous natural Shiraz attractions like canyons, valleys, lakes, and waterfalls are enough to make anyone fall in love with Mother Nature. Maharloo, known as the Pink Lake in the southeast of Shiraz, is as exceptional as any body of water can get and adds to the romanticism of the city. The Margoon waterfall, which translates into “snake-like”, is a beauty not to miss and one of the top places to visit in Shiraz.
How nature affects their lives
Well, what to say about Iran’s biggest city-garden? It is as lovely as any place. Green boulevards and lush sceneries right in the middle of this mega-city will tell you stories of how long Shiraz has been a beautiful spot. The abundance of bitter orange trees in Shiraz is crazy. If you have pollen allergies and are traveling to Shiraz in spring, make sure you’ll bring loads of anti-histamines with you. The pleasant aroma of bitter oranges fills the air of Shiraz. And you know what? People of Shiraz love bitter oranges. You want some with your food, well then, go out and pick from the tree in the yard, or the alleyway. It’s that simple. Nature intertwines with the lives of Shirazis.
Surfing in Shiraz
“Blessed be Shiraz and its unparalleled beauty,” wrote the world-famous poet Hafez about Shiraz, his birthplace. And it’s true: it truly is a beautiful city, and there are so many things to do in Shiraz, culturally. From the tombs of two great Iranian poets, Hafez and Saadi to visiting exquisite mosques and bazaar to renowned gardens, Shiraz’s fame for cultural attractions is never-ending.
Nightlife in Shiraz
The real Shiraz starts at night; it’s when all the fun begins. Nightlife is the theme of Shiraz. Many locals start going out late at night to search for food, a place to hang out, or window-shop as they stroll along the green boulevards of their city. Quaint and traditional cafes and restaurants offer delicious food and drink, and a space to meet locals and decide on other plans. Many Shiraz attractions are open at nights, and it’s probably Iran’s most active city in terms of having a vigorous nightlife.
Main areas for eating, shopping, and hanging out in Shiraz
You’re a foodie. You plan to stay in Shiraz for one week. You want to experience Iranian cuisine. We feel you. So does Shirazis. They love eating out. Your Shirazi friends can make sure you’re not bored of eating the same food every night you’re out. There are many things to do in Shiraz, a significant number of places to eat and hang out. Restaurants and cafes pop up all over the town. Haftkhan restaurant, Shater Abbas, and Saraye Mehr are among the most popular local eateries. The traditional bazaar is also a terrific spot if you want to take something precious home. And if you get tired of shopping, you can take refuge in a lovely Sherbet House and drink traditional Persian drinks.
Off-the-beaten tracks of Shiraz
Shiraz is not only home to cultural and historical gems; the region also has some of the country’s most spectacular valleys and natural heavens. There are so many things to do in Shiraz that it gets confusing where to travel to. Nicknamed the Princess of Iranian Canyons, Raghez is a fantastic place for some professional rock climbing, mountaineering, canyoning, and, more simply, jumping into ponds from heights. You need an expert leader to visit the place to get the most fun out of it. Maharloo Lake is another unusual off-the-beaten-track in Shiraz where you can go for a picnic with your friends while you watch over the pink body of water and wonder how it came to be!
Read More: 15 Most Unknown Wonders of Iran
Shiraz is reasonably accessible. Just like how all roads lead to Rome in Italy, all roads to southern parts of Iran must pass from Shiraz first. This cultural hub is a transportation center and a gateway to traveling to Persian Gulf countries like UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and many more. Three flights per week take off to Dubai from Shiraz.
How to reach Shiraz?
From major cities of Iran, reaching Shiraz is extremely easy. Domestic planes from Tehran, Isfahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, Bandar Abbas head fly to this elegant city a few times every week. The Iranian railway system also connects to Shiraz. Buses leave for Shiraz a couple of times every day from all major cities of Iran.
Shiraz’s airport (SYZ) is the largest international airport in southern Iran and the most significant one in the country after Imam Khomeini international airport in Tehran. Istanbul, Antalya, Serbia, Georgia, and Armenia are some of the international cities that fly to Shiraz through this airport.
How to get around in Shiraz?
So, it’s the evening, and now you want to explore Shiraz’s attractions and nightlife that you read so much about in your Shiraz travel guide. How do you get around the city? Well, you have plenty of options. Locals use the extensive bus system, or the newly-built metro if they don’t want to take out their cars. And just like all cities of Iran, shared-taxis work perfectly-well in the town. And compared to Tehran, they have relatively low-prices. But if all that is too complicated for you, Snapp and Tap30, ride-hailing taxi apps, work fine in this cultural hub.
Top Places to Visit in Shiraz, and the Best Things to do in Shiraz
Exploring Persepolis in the northeast of Shiraz is like entering a history book: one that doesn’t lie and tells the story of the past as it happened. Persepolis was the summer capital of the Achaemenid Empire, dating more than 2500 years back. Once a glorious site, now it sits silently but majestically and tells us the story of the glory of the Persian people and their greatness during their golden age. Then it narrates how it was set ablaze by Alexander when he conquered Persia. Locals call it Takht-e Jamshid (the throne of Jamshid: the first mythical ruler of Iran), and it is often quoted in Persian poetry.
Although now in ruins, Persepolis offers a lot to the keen and curious eyes: the thrill of re-living the sublime past of Persia. Persepolis was announced as a World Heritage Site back in 1979 by UNESCO.
Read More: Complete Guide Of Persepolis
More patriotic Iranians love to go to the site because of one crucial thing: the tomb of Cyrus the Great. Every year, Iranians try to gather around the place to visit the grave of Cyrus, to once again strengthen their identity as Persian. Located 100 km northeast of Persepolis, Pasargadae was the first dynastical capital of Persia. Now in ruins by the invasion of Alexander, the place is sure to take you back in time to see history in real-time.
Although in the heart of Shiraz, Nasir-ol-Molk is outworld-ly. Walk into the place, and you’ll soon realize you’re not in Iran anymore, maybe on Mars or some other planet where all the colors of the universe come together. It’s probably the most photographed site in Iran. It is nicknamed the Pink Mosque by locals and tourists, and it’s for a reason; the dominant color of the tiles is pink! The architect who built the place never thought people from all over the world travel to this mosque to take pictures for their Instagram pages; it was intended to be a private mosque. That’s why the tiles are pink; he could do whatever he wanted without getting judged by the more conservative Muslims. Now, the mosque is among the top places to visit in Shiraz.
Alkisti S, Greece; TripAdvisor
It’s important to visit it in the morning with the right light. A small Mosque for the needs of the neighbourhood, full of mystic and so colourful atmosphere. You’ll be lucky if there aren’t so many tourists, so you can really enjoy it. Find a quiet corner, sit down on the carpets and enjoy all that feast of colours!
Karim Khan Citadel
The greatest king of the Zand dynasty, Karim Khan, asked some of the best architects of the country to come to Shiraz; he wanted to build living quarters for himself and his family. The construction was completed in a short time. The citadel, located in downtown Shiraz, worked as a prison after the Qajar dynasty for some time. Now, it serves as a tourism spot.
Vakil Mosque, bazaar, bathhouse
Some consider the Zand Dynasty is more prominent than the great Achaemenid Empire in Shiraz’s history and identity. Sure, the Achaemenid is in most history books and Shiraz travel guides. And many great kings and greater wars come from that age, but it was during the Zand dynasty when Shiraz was the capital that the city prospered. The Vakil complex stands out to show us that. The title of Karim Khan, the man behind the creation of the Zand Dynasty, was Vakil; that means Advocate in Persian. He didn’t call himself King; he was the Advocate of the People. Talk about progressiveness in the 18th century. The complex has a bathhouse, a mosque, and a bazaar. The idea is to clean yourself (bathhouse), say your prayers (mosque), and then go on doing business (bazaar) with a clean heart and body. Isn’t that nice?
Gardens: Eram and Qavam, Delgosha
What do we mean when we talk about the largest city-garden in Iran, and probably in the Middle East? Well, mostly, intricately designed Persian gardens with gorgeous flower work and a romantic atmosphere. Shiraz’s Gardens are places to stop and stay; to look back on your life and to enjoy the company of someone you met. Eram, which is among the best gardens in Iran, is registered on the UNESCO world heritage site and a hub for local students to hang out. Persian Gardens are the answer if you’re hesitating about what to see in Shiraz.
Tombs: Saadieh and Hafezieh
It’s not only on Yalda night that Iranians hang around Hafez and Saadi’s tombs and recite his poetry, but all nights of the year. Whenever you enter the gardens of these two tombs, you’re bound to see swarms of Iranian on the site. Because these two poets are parts of any Iranian identity. If you’re invited to a house in Shiraz, you’ll most probably find Hafez’s book on a shelf somewhere.
Shah Cheragh Mausoleum
A clergyman is singing an elegy. It’s evening and almost prayer-time for Muslims. Some children are playing in the courtyard. You look around. All women are wearing the chador, the Islamic hijab. The faithful come in to say their prayers on time. It’s a holy atmosphere, and you’re a part of it. Shah Cheragh – meaning the Kings of Lights – is a beautiful place to get to know Islamic culture in Shiraz. The sacred bodies of two brothers are buried deep into the ground, under the mesmerizing mirror work and the humble yet elegant dome. Make sure to put this religious site in your Shiraz day plans.
About an hour away from Shiraz, Maharloo Lake, nicknamed the Pink Lake, is an excellent spot for a small adventure, photo-shooting, and having a picnic with tea and fresh pistachios. Why is it called a pink lake, you ask? Well, based on various water levels in Maharloo, the color changes. Sometimes it’s greenish, sometimes it’s water-blue, and most of the time, it’s pink! Let’s go for a cup of hot tea while the sun is going down behind the mountains, shall we?