TRAVEL

A vi­brant and dy­namic city, Tehran is the beat­ing heart of mod­ern Iran and a food lover’s par­adise

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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.

GRAND BAZAAR

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.

GOLESTAN PALACE

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.

DARBAND

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.

JOMEH BAZAAR

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.

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Darband

Jomeh Bazaar

Grand Bazaar

Golestan Palace

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