Tehran: Main Sights

Modern and traditional, secular and religious, rich and poor

Golestan Palace

The oldest of the historic monuments in Tehran, the Golestan Palace belongs to a group of royal buildings that were once enclosed within the mud-thatched walls of Tehran’s Historic Arg. The Arg was built during the reign of Tahmasp I of Safavid dynasty and was later renovated by Karim Khan Zand. Agha Mohammad Khan Qajar installed Tehran as his capital. The Arg became the site of the Qajar and the Court and Golestan Palace became the official residence of the royal Qajar family. The palace was rebuilt to its current form in 1865 by Haji Abol-hasan Mimar Navai. In its present state, Golestan Palace is the result of roughly 400 years construction and renovations. The buildings at the contemporary location each have a unique history. Since October 11, 2005 the Cultural Heritage Organization of Iran submitted the palace to the UNESCO for inclusion into the World Heritage List in 2007. Various glamorous monuments from the past dynasties can be found for your viewing pleasure.

The Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels

Tehran is also home to the Iranian Imperial Crown Jewels, also called the Imperial Crown Jewels of Persia. It is claimed to be the largest, most dazzling and valuable jewel collection in the world. The collection comprises a set of crowns and thrones, some 30 tiaras, numerous aigrettes, jewel-studded swords and shields, a vast amount of precious loose gems, including the largest collections of emeralds, rubies and diamonds in the world. It also includes other items collected by the Shahs of Iran during the 2,500 year existence of the Iranian Kingdom. You can see this dazzling collection in the Iranian Central Bank in Tehran.

National Museum of Iran

The National Museum of Iran should be high on the list of every visitor to Tehran’s list. The museum was designed by French architect André Godard and is one of the more attractive modern buildings in Tehran, blending Sassanian principles such as the grand iwan-style entrance, with Deco-style brickwork. Visitors can request an English-speaking guide in order to fully appreciate the treasures on display here. The museum boasts ancient exhibits from Persepolis, Shush, Rey and Turrang Tappeh – all detailing tremendously cultural delights from the Iranian’s ancestors.

National Jewels Museum

The National Jewels Museum is one of the best known museums in Iran. There is an impressive collection of some of the most famous and spectacular jewels in the world on display, including many priceless pieces. Many things have disappeared over the years but the remaining collection of gemstones, jewellery, royal emblems, ornamental guns and jewel-encrusted furniture is still remarkable. Most items on display were given to Safavid kings as gifts but many pieces taken by Nader Shah on his conquest of India, are also exhibited. Here you may see the Darya-e Nur diamond, The Peacock Throne and the Jewelled Globe. Among other famous pieces of jewellery are the crowns of the Qajar and Pahlavi Kings.

Iranian Bazaars (throughout Tehran)

The first bazaar was evidently established while several people gathered to exchange their surplus goods. In other words, a bazaar is a place for the exchange of merchandise, foodstuffs and services between two or more people. Yet, bazaar has an expanded definition. It is a network of bargains between salespeople and customers. To put it in a nutshell, a bazaar can be clearly defined as the organized concentration of a current of exchanges by an assembly of salesmen and customers at a certain venue, fostering contacts to exchange goods and services. Presently, the word bazaar has grown to cover any place of exchange. But for a Persian reader, the word connotes a long narrow roofed labyrinth, featured by shops and caravansaries on both sides. Everyone loves a bargain and you might yet find your Eastern promises in one of these traditional treasure troves.

Azadi Monument

This distinctively shaped arch is situated in the western part of Tehran near Mehrabat International Airport.
The word Azadi means national independence and it was completed in 1971 for the celebrations given by Mohammad Reza Shah to commemorate 2,500 years of Iranian Kings. The 3 floor, 45m high monument is constructed from 25,000 large granite blocks from Hamedan province. Almost 15,000 differently shaped blocks were used to create its unique shape. The 21m high archway is representative of the pre-Islamic Sassanid period while it is also pointed to represent hands raised in prayer. Four elevators and two staircases (286 stairs) take you to the top of the tower from where you can see extensive views of Tehran. In the basement is a museum divided into two rooms.

Carpet Museum

Ask someone to tell you what the Persians are for and they may well say, carpets, the finest ones at that. Not far from the Museum of Contemporary Art and also adjacent to Laleh Park, the Carpet Museum of Iran is one of the most rewarding to visit of Tehran's many museums. Most of the 100 plus carpets on display are from the 19th or 20th centuries but there are a handful of older specimens from as far back as the 16th century. Hunting and wildlife scenes show off the carpet maker's art to the greatest extent. Photography is permitted, though use of flash is not. Corner of Fatemi Street and Kargar Avenue; there is a small admission fee.

Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art

On the west side of the very lovely Laleh Park is a low-lying dun-brick building functioning as Tehran's most important museum of contemporary art. Strikingly, the skylights are noticeably raised from the roof. Reminiscent of the "badgirs" of Yazd or Kashan, these allow the harsh sun to softly light the central sunken well of inner space – itself a modern interpretation of the cool underground havens of desert city residences. Labyrinthine corridors spin off the central hall and guide you through the history of modern Iranian art. Kargar Avenue; there is a small admission fee to see these fantastic works in all their glory.

Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini

The man so famous, they named an airport after him. The huge Holy Shrine of Imam Khomeini, south of Tehran, is the final resting place of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of Iran's Islamic Republic. The vast mausoleum includes four 91m towers (Khomeini died aged 91) and is visited by hundreds of thousands of mourners on June 4, the anniversary of Khomeini's death in 1989. The interior hall is on a massive scale around 100m in length and the whole complex includes restaurants, shops and other facilities. There is also a nearby graveyard which holds over 200,000 victims of the Iran-Iraq War.