A vibrant and dynamic city, Tehran is the beating heart of modern Iran and a food lover’s paradise
Take a trip to Tehran, the bustling capital and most populous city of Iran
TO DO LIST CENTRAL TEHRAN
The images traditionally associated with Iran – treelined boulevards, Persian gardens, and the splendour of its mosques – are largely absent from Tehran. Its most persistent feature is traffic. But what the city lacks in physical beauty it more than makes up for in dynamism. It may be polluted, disorientating, sprawling and sometimes ugly, but it is hugely rewarding for those who give it the time it deserves.
Much of your time may well be spent within the labyrinthine alleyways of the Grand Bazaar. Ten kilometres of covered streets split into sections peddling different wares, it may be less visually appealing than Tajrish Bazaar in the northern suburbs of the city, but it retains an air of faded grandeur nonetheless. Vaulted ceilings, mosques and decorative brickwork are a big part of its appeal, while the main thoroughfare runs from the entrance of Sabze Meydan and spreads like the roots of a tree into the rest of the bazaar. It’s easy to become disorientated, so try not to get lost as you search for everything from jewellery and fabrics to clothes and carpets. You’ll haggle endlessly, but you’ll also be warmly welcomed to Iran by many strangers.
A masterpiece of the Qajar era, Golestan Palace is almost immediately opposite the Grand Bazaar and is a bling lover’s dream. The word lavish doesn’t even come close to doing it justice. Richly ornate, with mirror-work mosaics and coloured glass lattice windows, the walled palace is built around a large central garden and consists of eight key structures, most of which are now museums that require separate entrance tickets. Of all the attractions, arguably the most impressive is the Talar e Almas, or Diamond Hall, which is covered floor-to-ceiling with magnificent glasswork.
Located on the northern fringes of Tehran, Darband is where you go to drink chai and smoke ghalyan (shisha) to the sound of running water. Nestled within the foothills of the Alborz Mountains, it is a popular local hangout and a world away from the hustle and bustle of central Tehran. With its cascading
streams, cafes and restaurants, this once small and secluded village is both peaceful and picturesque. It also acts as a starting point for those wishing to hike up to Tochal, the imposing mountain that towers over Tehran and gives the city its majestic backdrop.
There are flea markets and then there’s Jomeh Bazaar. Covering three stories of a multi-storey carpark on Jomhuri Avenue, this makeshift market may be claustrophobic but it’s a bargain hunter’s paradise. It is also the place to find all those Iranian novelties you’ve been looking for. From antiques and handicrafts to miscellaneous household oddities, expect the ordinary and the remarkable side-by-side. It is also a record hunter’s delight, with boxes of LPs located every few tables. Gets extremely busy, so head there early. Open on Fridays.