“With its relatively short history , ugly mask of concrete, sometimes choking smog and manic streets flowing hot with machines, many travelers and no small number of Tehranis will tell you there’s no reason to hang around the capital”. This is how Lonely planet’s section of Tehran starts!!
Now let’s hear it from an actual Tehrani:
Just a year ago a human skeleton was found in Tehran that proved the capital’s residence history to date back to 5000 B.C. Now even if the skeleton was never found, the city was estimated to date back to 3000 years ago. My mind doesn’t quite comprehend how 3000 years of history can come off as short. Many countries didn’t even exist by that time!
As you’ve clearly seen, Tehran doesn’t get much reputation for what it really is. Yes! It has crazy traffic, there’s pollution and sometimes it goes too far. It’s busy because more than 10 million people either live or work here, but there’s no way anyone could get away by saying Tehran is ugly! Because it’s not!!
When it comes to travelers, it’s been years that Tehran has been masked by the charms of Isfahan and Shiraz. Travelers hardly stay any longer than a few days because apparently they’ve come all the way to see the masterpiece of Cyrus the great and to catch a glimpse of the heavenly Safavid architecture in Isfahan. Yes! yes! These are all insanely beautiful. There’s no objection to why no one would want to leave the country without ticking off these places from their list, because they shouldn’t! But visiting Iran and skipping on the capital is just lame! And many do it because they simply don’t know what they are missing.
But things are about to change.
Tehran is slowly becoming the trend. Many locals now prefer to stay home during their Nowruz holidays and enjoy their hometown while everyone else is chasing for glory elsewhere. But if you’ve also been thinking otherwise of Tehran, here’s why you’ve been wrong all along!
#1 Tehran has over 60 museums
60 museums is A LOT more than you think. Now they are not going to be your average European museum in terms of vastness but the items on display are nothing less than what you’d find in the Louvre. Take it to the National museum of Iran and you’d find pieces from one of the world oldest civilizations, head over to the Reza Abbasi museum and marvel at the astonishing craftsmanship of the Safavid dynasty and even if you’re still not satisfied, you can always stopover at the Music museum and get an idea of the profound existence of Music in the Persian culture.
#2 Efficient transportation
Tehran has one of the cleanest metro stations and trains in the world! I really mean it! Now this doesn’t mean you won’t get crushed up at rush hour, or that you won’t experience the efficiency of how you could even purchase your underwear on the train!!! but apart from that, things are going to run pretty smoothly!
There’s also the shared taxi system, the express buses and the normal buses which means that with the help of a huge network of highways you’ll get home quite easily from anywhere in the city.
#3 Skiing is only an hour away
Whether you’re into hiking, skiing, snowboarding or any sport that requires a mountain and a peak, you’re in luck. With the towering Alborz mountains to its north, Tehran has it all. Hiking is quite common amongst Tehranis, since they only have to head to the north of the capital for it. There are a few trails but Darband is the most famous one. As for skiing, an hour drive will take you to Dizin or Tochal ski resort and leave you with some pretty epic memories.
#4 The mountains are to be seen from almost anywhere
This is one of my absolute favorite things about Tehran. Every single morning I walk our street to get to the main street and grab a taxi. Just before that I almost always look at my right to get a glimpse of the mountains. There’s this irrevocably feeling of joy when I get to see the mountains with details as I know the city is going to be experiencing a clear sky that day. The joy doubles in winter when the mountains are covered by snow. Ahh… the little things in life. 🙂
#5 Tehran has some of the most beautiful parks you’ve ever seen
The city council has been working extremely well on giving Tehran a green look over the last decade. The number of parks and green spaces have increased tremendously and unlike the past, the gardens have been delicately designed and assembled. Take it to Nahjolbalaghe park which was basically a dump-side before it turned to one of the best spots in Tehran for an afternoon stroll.
#6 Let’s not forget the hidden gardens!
Tehran and it’s gardens are bound to surprise you. These gorgeous spaces hidden in the chaos of the mega city are even unknown to many Tehranis. But with a little research it’ll almost feel like a treasure hunt!
#7 Palaces for those who love a bit of royalty
As crazy as it might sound, Tehran is the 32nd national capital of Iran and there’s even been rumors about relocating it for ages since it’s prone to earthquakes. During the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasty the royals seemed to have discovered its aura and started building their palaces and summer residents in the city. This leaves you with something like the remarkable Golestan Palace which is going to take your breath away upon arrival!
#8 Stunning houses
As the royals were building their palaces, the wealthy realized they must be missing out on something. So they started building their lavishing homes and gardens. There’s always been an affection for glorifying your home amongst Iranians which dates even to now. Just crash at an Iranian’s house for lunch and you’ll know what I’m talking about!
#9 Eat up!
Tehran will not disappoint you with its variety of cute cafes and restaurants. However there’s a lack of vegetarian food if you’re a vegan. But forget about the food. Greengages, Lavashak (Iranian sour fruit bars), pickles and pomegranates juice is what I’m really talking about!!
#10 The never-ending Art galleries
If you’re into art and want to get to know the vibe among the art loving generation of Tehran, the city’s large number of art galleries will have something to offer anytime!
#11 Shopping experiences
You’re not here for the huge Western style shopping centers. To get a quintessential Iranian shopping experience in Tehran, head over to the Grand Bazaar and make sure you’re prepared for some madness and crowds. If you want something a little different, Tehran’s Friday Market is great place to hunt for antiques and Iranian nostalgia at a cheaper price.
#12 A collide of Iranian cultures
Last but not least, Tehran is all about the people. The crazy drivers, the shop owners, the peddlers and the women and men who seem to always be in a rush to not let life get ahead of them. Tehran has been the subject of mass migration during the 20 and 21st century from all across the country hence why it’s currently a collide of all Iranian ethnicities. Go here armed with curiosity and a little patience and you’re bound to discover a little bit of Iran all across the paradise we call Tehran!