As I walked through the streets, I encountered the ghosts of so many dreams. A soul of a young student, a girl from the Azeri parts of Iran, passed through me. Another young man from Kerman in search of a job talked to me about his dreams. I sat and drank coffee with an older woman, talking about her days as a young girl, before the revolution. I could picture her stunning beauty. A lost German tourist asked for Tabiat bridge. A man, in suits, carried his bag, looking serious. And I saw me, in all of this, in all of them. Yes, Tehran is my home.
General Facts about Tehran
Tehran, the city that never sleeps, is the energetic, electric capital of Iran. Sitting at the foot of the towering snow-capped Alborz Mountains, Tehran is the nation’s most dynamic and liberal city. It has a bustling population of 13 million and growing. Tehran is included nearly on all Iran travel itineraries and deserves about two or three days in your plans. There are a plethora of things to do in Tehran that you wouldn’t want to miss. And that is precisely why there are so many Tehran travel guides on the internet.
Many visitors have expressed that Tehran is similar to European capitals, young and lively. Just like other big capitals all around the world, Tehran is a mish-mash of everything; and it’s beautiful. People are diverse, different, and even weird at times. Young boys and girls hang out in popular spots of the city, like Tehran’s Bam (roof). Tehran is the epitome of modern and secular Iran.
Population in Tehran
Here you can find the most diverse population in the whole country. Since Tehran is the administrative center, as well as the most prominent job market in Iran, a large number of people from all over the country have moved to Tehran. So, you can easily find various ethnic minorities of Iran: Turks, Kurds, Baluchis, Turkmen, Lurs, and Arabs. Young people from all over the country migrated to Tehran in search of jobs, so it has become very diverse. About 60 percent of the population are migrants. Crazy, huh?
With 13 million people during the day and 8.5 million during the night, the capital embraces commuters and workers mostly from Karaj but also other parts of Iran as well. Tehran, like a god-mother, accepts everybody. Different types of people live harmoniously alongside each other: the religious and the secular, the young and the old, the conservative, and the hippie.
Nahla62, from Egypt, on TripAdvisor
When I decided to go to Tehran in a business trip, I was not comfortable because of the negative publicity about that country. To my surprise, I had the most successful business trip ever. Moreover, I enjoyed my stay in Tehran to the most.
Tehran is a modern city…as it is the capital… so a lot of traffic jams same as New York, Dubai, Tokyo…but the road network is excellent…. a lot of remarkable buildings, parks, and tourist attractions. The beautiful nature of the city with the mountains topped with the snow make you think of getting skiing lessons…. five stars hotels and exquisite classy traditional, Indian and European restaurants.
Since Tehran is a large city and located at the foothills of the Alborz Mountains, the weather can be different in various parts of the city. There are about 600 meters of difference in altitude between the northern and southern neighborhoods, 30 km away from each other.
Similar to many other parts of Iran, Tehran has a generally dry climate. However, it does enjoy four distinct seasons throughout the year. Summer is its most extended season. Springs and autumns are fair and delightful, while during winter, it gets chilly, and at times, frosty.
What is crazy about Tehran’s weather is that, because it’s a vast city, there can be different weather at the same time in Tehran. You may be walking in Tehran’s roof (Bam), and it may be snowy. But take the BRT (the Bus Rapid Transit) and go 20 km south, you might see that it’s perfectly sunny out.
When to visit Tehran
Forget what your Tehran travel guide says! Best time to visit Tehran? Easy! Any time of the year you travel to Tehran, it has something to offer. However, climate-wise, summers a tad hot and winters a tad cold. Springs and autumns, on the other hand, are lovely here in Tehran.
History of Tehran
If you had a time machine and went back 300 hundred years in Valiasr street, you will find a small agricultural village. No sign of skyscrapers, modern buildings, or high-tech companies. You may come across a few villagers tending to their lands and animals. Even in the early 19th century, the then-capital Tehran had no more than 80,000 habitants.
Tehran first became the capital of Iran in 1786. A Qajar king chose the then-humble Tehran as the city to hold his throne. It has been the political center of Iran ever since. Tehran, a big name today, follows even more prominent names in history, as the capital of Persia. Ecbatana, Persepolis, Susa, Isfahan, Tabriz, and Qazvin, to name a few. Now, Tehran resembles a young and hopeful persona, bearing the weight of a 2500-year-old civilization of Cyrus the Great, trying to be as grand as them.
Heart of the city: Valiasr Street
The leading Tehran attraction center (which can be considered not “the heart of the city,” but rather its vein) is Valiasr St. It covers 18 KMs of Tehran and is the longest street in the Middle East. If you wanted to explore the whole street, you must start at the railway station in the south of Tehran and finish at Tajrish square in the north. Merits of this street are usually missed on most Tehran travel guides. But don’t forget to put Valiasr in your Tehran day plans.
In a way, Valiasr embodies Tehran. Railway station at the beginning of Valiasr filled with passengers and visitors from all over Iran starts this street. You must then continue to Imam Khomeini street, which is close to Tehran’s famous bazaar. Here, you can see the traditional side of this modern capital. Golestan Palace and the different unique places to visit in Tehran bazaar show authentic traditionality amid all these modernities of Tehran. Heading north, you will come across Enghelab street in downtown. Now, here we find the young soul of Tehran. Since Enghelab and the neighboring streets are filled with universities (such as the prestigious University of Tehran), many young students from all over the country live and spend their time here. Art, engineering, literature, architecture, management, physics, philosophy (and many more) students take out to the streets in the evenings after their classes. They find each other in cafes, cinemas, and bookstores to spend time together. Enghelab truly is the young soul of Tehran.
However, when you go further north, you reach Vanak Square. Here is the center for offices and companies. Tehran’s more business and administrative side shows up. At the northern end of Valiasr, we reach Tajrish Square. Crowds of people are in Tajrish almost any time of the day and even night. They’re busy shopping, eating, and sitting at cafes, hanging out. The neighborhood for more affluent parts of Tehran, Tajrish, also has a traditional bazaar as well as a religious shrine.
Valiasr, beautifully, covers most aspects of the Tehrani lifestyle and the different economic and social classes. The whole 18 kilometers of Valiasr is the best Tehran travel guide you can find.
June64, from the UK, on TripAdvisor
I have just returned from Tehran and cannot wait to go back in march next year. Iran is a very beautiful country the people are lovely and the food is to die for. In Tehran you have so much to do there’s beautiful Damavand mountain which has restaurants that are very cheap to eat from as Iran is very family orientated you will find many families eating and walking in the mountains Tehran has the most amazing parks were again families will go in the evening and have picnics. Tehran is also very good for shopping and you must go to the bazar in down town Tehran.
When you walk in Tehran’s street, you might be surprised at the abundance of different types of companies and businesses. And it is true. Tehran is the economic center of Iran. It is, by far, the most significant and largest job market in the country. All sorts of businesses have thrived in this colossal capital: high-tech start-ups, traditional bazaars, international companies, freelancers, and many more. Most of the successful Iranian start-ups have come out of Tehran’s business atmosphere.
If you live in Tehran, as a foreigner, you probably will be confused at the end of your first year, for example. Tehran’s culture cannot be defined so easily. Your Tehran travel guide might miss out on many essential things. And this is because of Tehran’s diversity.
Tehran is Iran’s most secular and liberal city, with a booming young population whose lifestyles might remind you of the lifestyles of the citizens of a European city. Tehran might be a unique city throughout Iran, in this sense. Hijab is taken less seriously than the rest of the country, and few percents of the population wear Chador, Iran’s most traditional and religious piece of clothing for women.
The hijab law is compulsory in all over Iran. That’s a fact. All women, Muslim or not, are required to wear loose-fitting clothes and headscarves in public. Ok, but is that all? Nope. Some cities are more religious than others. For example, you might see more women wearing the chador in places like Yazd or Kashan. But in Tehran, things are a bit more liberal. As a female, you have more freedom in choosing what to wear, how to wear it, and how short/tight/etc. is should be.
Its people are known for
Tehranis love to enjoy their lives. Streets of Tehran on the weekends are quiet since the majority of the people either stay at home for a private party or hit the Chalous road to go to the north. Locally called “shomal,” the northern parts of Iran are Tehrani’s gateway to a pleasurable weekend. Tehranis also know how to have a good time inside the city as well. During off days, families, young couples or groups of friends head to the capital’s parks like Mellat, Chitgar, or Saee to have a picnic and enjoy each other’s company. In general, the vigorous young population of Tehran is super friendly, open-minded, and want to have a good time.
What you might not find in your typical Tehran travel guides is that Tehranis are also known for being more politically active than the rest of the country. With so many political groups as well as vibrant student communities, Tehran is usually at the frontline political events in the country.
Art and architecture in Tehran
Let’s put aside the plethora of ancient archeological sites all over Iran, as well as Tehran, for a moment. And now, let’s talk about the modern and contemporary art scene in Iran. Although Iran is typically known as the center of traditional Persian art, the country has become a contender in the international contemporary art scene. Art galleries and museums pop up all over the city and attract many interested locals. Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art in Iran’s most extensive gallery and is home to some big names in art. Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet, Pollock, and many more artists have some work displayed in the museum.
The heart of modern art in Iran, Tehran, is a great place to explore art and architecture. Whether it’s Qajar and Pahlavi palaces (like Golestan or Sa’ad Abad) or the weekend art galleries spread all over the city, or grand Tehran Symphony Orchestra, the Iranian capital has a lot to offer to those who seek to see Persian art and architecture.
What is interesting about Tehran is the fact that if you’re an aspiring artist and want to make a name for yourself, you do have the chance! You can go on and open your own art gallery show! With the most prominent artist community in the country, Tehran offers a lot of opportunities for young and aspiring artists.
When you enter the city from the west Terminal – that’s where the immigrants came in – the first thing that catches your eye is the epic Azadi tower. White with marble, Azadi shows off an austere atmosphere, standing not too high and neither too low, with real dignity. It emits an aura of welcomeness to all. And it is true. Tehran is a city that accepts everybody. And we mean everybody. And that is precisely why Tehran’s atmosphere is not so simple to define; It really is a gigantic city. There is a myriad of things to do in Tehran.
What differs Tehran from the rest of the country is the ever-growing sense of individualism in the capital. All sorts of people live in Tehran, harmoniously alongside each other. Hippies drink café at Tajrish square, Islamists say their Friday prayers in the University of Tehran while, maybe a hundred meters away on a bench, a philosophy student reads Nietzsche’s famous statement: “God is Dead.”
Because of Tehran’s extreme diversity, there are many different groups alive and active in the capital. The art scene is big: theater, film, painting, music, and many more activities for anyone interested. There is also an intellectual community with a strong voice on popular culture and the political frontlines in Tehran. As well as many other groups such as the religious, the students, and last but not least, the average man who is working his 9- 5 job to provide for his family, and loves growing old in Tehran.
Tehran is home to some of the best restaurants in Iran, local and international. Whether it’s the traditional Kebab or a dish at a Lebanese restaurant, Tehran will cater to all needs. You can live in Tehran for one week, and not eat one same dish twice during that time. The diversity is absurd. The immigrants’ cuisine and the culture they bring to Tehran adds to this as well. People go out during the weekends to eat out at different restaurants in Tehran. Even though there’s no McDonalds in Iran, but still some of the best fast-food chains in the Middle East are in Tehran.
Read More: The Best Persian Foods You Shouldn’t Miss
Walking down a street, Tehranis will probably approach you to strike a conversation, have a cup of coffee, and even invite you to their homes for lunch or dinner. This is Iranian culture at its finest. And the good thing is that young people know English pretty well and are interested in European and western culture. Feel free to enjoy Iranian hospitality while in Tehran.
Festivals of Tehran
Generally, holidays and celebrations tend to center around the Islamic and the Persian calendar. ChaharShanbe Suri, Yalda, Nowruz, Ashura, to name a few. And they are all respectfully held in Tehran. But what Tehran offers that the other cities of Iran can’t, is its various international festivals. From Tehran International Puppet Theater held every two years, or the International Fajr Film festival, to the Theater and Music festivals, Tehran has an abundance of fairs.
Every year, at specific times, there are national and local fairs held in Tehran as well. Different ethnicities from various parts of the country come to Tehran to showcase their culture, their handicrafts, and their art. These kinds of fairs are so big – because Iran is so big – that to fully explore them, you must set aside a whole day in your Tehran day plans.
Do you want snow-capped mountains? Head to the north and to explore Alborz and Tochal mountain ranges! Wondering what some things to do in Tehran are? Want safari and desert exploration? Head south, and you will reach Kavir National Park to see the best of deserts in the world. Do you wish to trail on the lush green hills of Iran? No problem, take the famous Chalous road to reach Shomal and travel in the Hyrcanian forests. Care for a climb on the highest volcano in Asia? Damavand mountain is only a two-hour drive. Tehran, indeed, is the city for everybody. You just have to decide for yourself: what to see in Tehran.
Surfing in Tehran
In Tehran and bored? Impossible! Get out there, and there are millions of things to do in Tehran, waiting for you! Whatever your wish may be, in Tehran, it can come true! Want to have an exciting dinner with your loved one at an exotic place? Try Milad Tower’s rotating restaurant at 400-meters-and-some height, overlooking all of the capital. Want to get a touch of Iranian art firsthand? Visit Honarmandan (Artists) park in central Tehran to explore modern art galleries as well as meeting the artists’ community, which is one of Tehran’s Attractions. Or you don’t want to have these so-called exciting activities, but you rather enjoy a peaceful and serene afternoon? Well, then head to Mellat Park and experience its green and calm atmosphere while mulling over your life and past decisions.
Nightlife in Tehran
You may have already read this in your Iran or Tehran travel guides: that unlike western culture, nightlife in Iran is not intertwined with alcohol. But that doesn’t mean Iranians can’t have fun. Compared to other cities in Iran, Tehran has more vigorous nightlife. There are shopping malls like Palladium in the north of the town as well as urban parks such as Mellat, where you can spend your night with your loved one or the lovely locals. Tehran’s roof (called Baam in Farsi) at the foot of the Tochal Mount offers a great view of Tehran. Many young people head to Baam in the evenings to enjoy eating out with a fantastic view of the glittering Tehran.
Tehran is a city for beautiful cafes. Spread all over the capital, small and quaint cafes provide shelter for the young, the in-love, and the different. Cafes are one of Tehran’s attractions. Students linger on cafes in Enghelab square, where they can spend hours together.
Usually, Tehrani is going out late in the evening. You may run into traffic even at 10 o’clock at night since there are so many people out. You can enjoy the myriad of things to do in Tehran during the night. Cinemas are open, restaurants offer a variety of delicious foods, and big shopping malls provide so many opportunities to hang out with your loved ones.
These are not enough for you? Want to see more of Tehran attractions later at midnight? Well, then head Paknezhad street, in the north-western part of Tehran. Caravans of street food and street cafes stand at the side of the street, serving to the sleepless and the night owl of Tehran. Even if you’re a morning person, this can be one of your Tehran sightseeing plans!
Main areas for eating, shopping, and hanging out in Tehran
Of course, there are so many places to eat out, shop, and hang out in gigantic Tehran. Palladium, Mega Mall, Saee Park at Valiasr street to name just a few of Tehran attractions. Care for a traditional lunch? Head to the bazaar in central Tehran and enjoy a Persian dish. Want to enjoy the ever-famous Kebab? Just visit Sattarkhan street and choose from the myriad of options. Want to have coffee with pastry? Head to Enghelab to have a plethora of cafés, available to you.
But at the end of the day, the best option is to ask the locals for each region. They always know better than your Tehran travel guide!
How to find a partner in Tehran? Well, there are many ways: some more creative than others. In the evenings, when the sun is going down, some young people get into their cars and start driving around, in some specific streets like Andarzgoo and Iranzamin, to find someone they like, in another car. So, for example, a group of three boys finds another group of three girls in another car. Now, all the love story begins. In Farsi, this activity is called dowr-dowr; literally, it means turn-turn. So, they turn and turn and turn in the streets of Tehran, hoping to find another suitable car. Maybe, this is what causes traffic in Tehran! Who knows!
How to reach Tehran?
Here’s the center of all forms of transportation in Iran.
Tehran’s two major airports, Imam Khomeini (IKA) and Mehrabad, are responsible for international and domestic flights, respectively. Tehran connects to the world through IKA. Abu Dhabi, Athens, Zurich, Frankfurt, Vienna, Kyiv, Kuala Lumpur, and Rome are just some of the cities to which Tehran is connected. Passengers also fly to Istanbul, on a daily basis. Mehrabad airport also unites Tehran with the rest of the homeland. Nearly all major cities throughout the country enjoy daily flights from and to Tehran.
Heart of Iran’s extended railway system is Tehran’s Rah Ahan Station in the south of the capital. It connects Tehran to Tabriz in the northwest, Khuzestan in the southwest, Bandar Abbas in the south, Zahedan in the southeast, and Mashhad in the northwest. Practically all Iran, right?
Tehran, the heart of Iran, welcomes everyone from all sides of Iran. The South and the West Terminals are two of the major ones, granting access to all. The North and the East terminals are also available for those who are heading that way. Now, the more down-to-earth way to get around in Iran, and to reach Tehran, is using its extensive bus system. Nearly all cities in Iran, whether major or not, connect to Tehran via some route.
How to get around in Tehran?
Senior Tehrani citizens have become comfortable with Tehran’s extensive transportation system. Tehran’s efficient and comprehensive metro system, its Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), local buses, shared taxis, and online taxi apps like Snapp, Tap30, and Maxim are just some of the way Tehranis get around in the city. Uber or Lyft may not work in Tehran, but don’t worry. Local taxi start-ups have got you covered.
However, Tehran’s streets and highway are usually congested. Tehranis sometimes stay in traffic for up to one hour. But wait! There’s a solution for the more adventurous! Motorbikes are kings during congestion. Need to get to the city center but don’t want to wait out the traffic? No problem! Get yourself a bike ride, and you’ll fly in Tehran – heading north to south!
You can also rent a bicycle from an amazing bike-renting start-up called Bdood (meaning “without smoke” in Farsi) in all over the capital.
One of Tehran’s most iconic traffic congestions happens on Hemmat highway, on the evening of every weekday. Hemmat is the major highway that connects Tehran to Karaj, a neighboring commuter city, located west of the capital. Now, each evening, when Karaj residents want to go back to their homes, they have to take the Hemmat highway. And that’s when crazy traffic creates. However, consider taking the high from west to east (from Karaj to Tehran); it’s nearly empty since few people take leave from Karaj to Tehran in the evenings.
Top Places to Visit in Tehran, and the Best Things to do in Tehran
Palaces: Golestan, Sa’ad Abad, and Niavaran complexes
Being the capital for monarchies before the revolution, names Qajar and Pahlavi, Tehran has a myriad of worth-the-visit palaces. Whether it’s is the UNESCO-registered Golestan Palace where Reza Shah, self-coroneted himself in a Napoleonian style or the fairer and greener mansions like Saad Abad and Niavaran Complexes, these Tehran attractions will take you back in history. And live the lives of Tehranis before the Islamic revolution.
Parks: Mellat, Ab o Atash, Chitgar, Saee
Imagine you’re a Tehrani young person, and you’ve recently met a lovely potential partner. You want to take them on a date, right? Tehran’s parks, like Mellat, Ab o Atash (literally meaning Water and Fire), and Saee, offer some of the best places for dating couples. Green scenery, beautiful flower work, and the pleasant romantic atmosphere of these parks add to the romanticism of Tehran’s afternoons. Put parks in your Tehran day plans and Tehran sightseeing, and you won’t regret it!
Sasamph, from California, on TripAdvisor
The architect and design is absolutely amazing. You see the beautiful Tehran. I was there around 6 pm, so saw the daylight and night time few, and it was spectacular.
Shopping malls: Palladium, Iran mall, Mega Mall
Huge and modern shopping malls abound in the northern part of Tehran. These Tehran attractions, like Palladium in Velenjak, Iran Mall and Mega Mall provide suitable places to visit in Tehran for the upper-class to buy their favorite western brand or enjoy an exotic foreign meal with their families in their food court.
Towers: Milad and Azadi towers
Confused about what to see in Tehran? Imagine standing on Milad Tower, west of the capital, 435 meters high in the sky, in an evening. One will think of how enormous and never-ending Tehran is. Lights flickering from all sides humbly remind you of How Iran’s heartbeat looks like. But hey, let’s get down from that gigantic tower and go to the more down-to-earth Azadi tower. Now, the symbol of Tehran stands dignified and forgiving, close to the west bus terminal. It is so inspiring to watch.
Bazaar: Tajrish and main bazaar
Bazaars are Tehran’s inner cities. Believe it or not, Tehran’s grand bazaar is 10 km long. With so many corridors and a couple of entrances, the southern bazaar in the more traditional parts of Tehran is a city within a city. Walking in the bazaar is a beautiful experience: the ceiling beautifully lets in a ray of sun, barely touching your skin, while the smell of spices from all parts of the world, take you to foreign lands.
Tajrish bazaar, however, is a bit different from your typical bazaar all around Iran. Bazaars are usually the heart of a traditional part of town, while Tajrish bazaar is located in the north of the city, where the more affluent families of Tehran live. Usually part of Tehran sightseeing plans, Tajrish Bazaar is a great place to spend an evening while also visiting the neighboring holy shrine, when the devoted come to pray.
Museums: National, Jewelry, and Contemporary Art Museums
What Tehran doesn’t lack is museums. Here’s the capital of Persia, bearing the weight of world-conquering dynasties. The pre-Islamic part of Iran’s National Museum, located in 30 Tir street, showcases some of Iran’s most identifiable artifacts. In the same street, you can find a myriad of other museums as well.
But one of the best museums in Tehran is its Jewelry museum, located within the Central Bank of Iran in Ferdowsi Street. Open only in limited hours because of security issues; Jewelry museum houses Qajar and Pahlavi precious gems.
However, if watching valuable metals doesn’t interest you, and you want to see more ‘real’ art, then don’t worry, Tehran has got you covered! There are a plethora of artistic things to do in Tehran! Head to Park Laleh, and visit Tehran’s museums of Contemporary Art. Gorgeous both from outside and inside, TMoCA is a lovely modern change in the more traditional Iran. Brought in by Queen Farah Diba before the revolution, a collection of precious artworks from contemporary artists such as Picasso, Monet, and Pollock are in its basement.
Mountains: Damavand and Tochal
Towering mountains surround Tehran. Many travelers from all over the world visit Tehran to climb the highest, potentially active volcano in Asia and the highest peak in the Middle East, Damavand. It is only 30 kilometers away from Tehran, and on a clear day, it is even visible from the Azadi tower. But the more accessible mountain range, that doesn’t need a ride out of town is the Tochal mountains, north of the capital. Towering at 4000 meters and more, Tochal mount stands over Tehran, majestic and grand, inviting climbers and nature-lovers alike. You can never run out of things to do in Tehran.