It was difficult to decide whether to make a 2 or 3-day itinerary for Tehran. Not so much because of all the things to see but more because of the sheer size of the city and the difficulty navigating it. But two days should be enough for the highlights. And most of the time, the air in the city is so polluted that its detrimental to your health anyways.
As with many big cities, Tehran lacks a proper city centre. Most of its attractions are scattered around the city. To ease you into the city we’ll start our itinerary in what could be described as a sort of centre of Tehran.
National Museum of Iran
We start the day with a visit to the national museum of Iran. The museum is a bit old fashioned but it’s a great place to learn the pre-Islamic history of Iran. Highlights are the Achaemenid statues and reliefs. Which are in better state here than at Persepolis.
Next door is the Islamic museum, which is part of the same complex, so you can buy a combi ticket if needed. It has great pieces from all the periods. We’ll go to the Reza Abbasi museum also covers this.
Golestan palace complex
Next, we head south and take a walk through Park-e Shahr (City Park) and exit at the south-eastern corner. This brings us to the Golestan palace. Most of what remains today is from the end of the 19th century. The Golestan palace complex is divided into separate museums for which you’ll have to pay separately. This is the case for all palace complexes in Tehran. Choose only what interest you and skip the rest. We suggest at least a visit to the art gallery (Neggar Khaneh).
Now its’s time to mingle with the locals by paying a visit to the bazar. Do some souvenir shopping and take in the sights. A good place for lunch is Sharaf Al-Eslami at the eastern end of the bazar, near the Imam mosque.
National jewel museum
After lunch time, the national jewel museum will open. If you like sparkling and glistering things, this is the place to go. Here you find the world’s largest pink diamond, various crowns and other outlandishly shiny objects.
One metro stop away, near Baharestan Metro Station lies Bagh-e Negarestan (Negarestan garden). Nowadays its part of Tehran university and houses the Kamal al-Molk museum. The museum is dedicated to Iran’s most famous painter and his followers.
We start at the Azadi Tower, built to commemorate the 2500th anniversary of the birth of the Iranian nation. Nowadays it is rebranded as the freedom tower.
Take the taxi to Milad tower, from where you’ll have great views of both the city and its mountainous backdrop.
Reza Abbasi museum
Head eastwards to the Reza Abbasi museum. This is the best museum in Tehran and you shouldn’t miss it. The museum has superb examples of Iranian miniature paintings, decorated Quran’s and archaeologic treasures.
Niavaran Palace complex
Depending on the time and your appetite for palaces, decide whether to visit the Niavaran palace complex. This is a mainly 20th century palace complex, it was the place from which the last Shah fled into exile. It consists of seven separate museums which all need a separate ticket. If you go here, at least visit the Niavaran palace itself. Completed in 1968, it looks very modern from the outside, but its interior is classic in design.
When you only want to do one palace, go to the Saadabad Palace complex. It’s a 15-minute walk from Tajrish metro station. This large complex lies in the northern part of Tehran, set against the hillsides. It’s a great place to escape the madness of Tehran, relax and go for a walk. There are sixteen different museums in the complex all with sperate tickets. At least visit Mellat palace and the fine arts museum.
Take the northern exit from Saadabad palace towards Darband. Join the hundreds of Iranians going here for a walk, drink, smoke and a bite to eat. At the end of the road where the cars must turn back, take the elevator for some great views of the city. Continue back down alongside the stream. Pick a place and end your time in Tehran watching its people walk by and enjoy themselves.
Also read our review of Chogha Zanbil.