5 hours on the highway and we leave hot and dry Tehran for Iran’s wettest city; Rasht. Although not a huge city, Rasht has been playing a major role in Iranian history. It was Iran’s gateway to Russia and Europe and thus very influenced by western architecture. Iran’s first public library was built here and I’ve also heard it was the first city in Iran where girls were allowed to go to school.
The people of Rasht had a prominent influence on the radicalization of the Persian constitutional Revolution. They speak Gilaki, or Persian with a Gilaki accent and are considered one of the least religious Iranian ethnic groups.
We spent a day in Rasht and I honestly think it was enough. The city gives you a great perception of how Iranian northern cities are like. What makes this one so exceptional is its European vibe. But for us Rasht was all about the food…
Iran’s Gilan province boasts of a teeming culinary scene. Almost everything here smells of garlic, taste sour and has an extra dose of pomegranate molasses. While finding decent local food in off-road destinations in northern Iran is a challenge, here in Rasht good restaurants are easy to find.
What to eat in Rasht?
Ethnic delicacies in Gilan are numerous. You would normally find the famous Sour Kebab (Kabab Torsh in Persian) and Mirza Ghasemi (a vegetarian eggplant, tomatoes and egg dish) on the menu wherever you go. If you’re also travelling to the outskirts of Rasht, I’d personally suggest leaving these for them and going for stuff you won’t find elsewhere.
Sour chicken (Morgh-e Torsh), Aloo Mosamma (a chicken and plum stew that I die for!) and Torsh Tareh (a vegetarian stew) are among my favourite dishes in Rasht.
We also tried Anarbij, a stew made with walnuts, minced meat and vegetables and I thought it was fine. It’s almost like Fesenjan but with a sour twist. Baghali ghatogh is also quite popular which is again a stew with vegetables, garlic, beans and eggs. As you can tell, vegetarians won’t have any problems finding delectable dishes in northern Iran.
If you still want to go for Sour Kebab (Kabab Torsh), then Ahmad restaurant in Sabzeh Meydan sq. is the best place to get it.
Where to eat in Rasht?
There are a couple of good restaurants that we were recommended through friends. Obviously our limited time didn’t give us the option to try them all but they all seem to have great reviews.
Most of the good restaurants like Shour Kooli, Razeghi and Vanisha are located in the Golsar neighbourhood which is kind of upper town. Shour kooli was everyone’s first choice but it was too crowded and we were too hungry to be kept in the waiting list for an hour. We were also told it’s quite pricy. Hence we went for Vanisha instead which was absolutely lovely and the prices were a lot cheaper than you would expect. Apparently Rezeghi restaurant is famous for their breakfast along with their local dishes.
Ahmad restaurant in Sabzeh Meydan sq. is known for its Sour Kebab (Kebab Torsh) and there’s a unique dish called Eskamoo which is best served in an alley named Khosro in Sabzeh Meydan sq.
We were also told of an old restaurant in the bazaar called Moharram which is known for its Kabab. Kebabs sold as street food are also a common thing in Rasht. Make it to Shahrdari sq. in the evening and you’ll see numerous carts barbecuing Kababs right in front of you. We were actually recommended by many people to try the Kebabs on the street. But to tell you the truth, my husband got extremely sick the next morning and we’re guessing it was from what he ate. I know this could happen once in a blue moon and maybe we just got extremely unlucky but street food always comes with a risk.
Along with Kebab carts, tea is also commonly sold on the street. The sour cherry tea seemed to be the trend here but the lure of the familiar won and we went for our good old black tea from a very old cute couple – It was lovely!
What to do in Rasht?
Don’t expect some crazy attractions here. Rasht is all about wandering around its old streets and enjoying the atmosphere in the evening. Unlike many smaller Iranian cities, Rasht has great nightlife and you’ll see tons of people hanging out in the big squares by night time. Shahrdari square is the main square in Rasht with a few government buildings around it. It’s gorgeous and perfect for people watching. The bazaar is also close by and I’d highly recommend taking a stroll here and trying the fruits and pickles.
Saghari sazan is also a great place for a walk if you’d like to see old Rasht. It’s basically one of the oldest neighbourhoods in the city and has kept its original looks up to this day.
What to buy from Rasht?
The most common souvenirs from Rasht are handicrafts made from wicker, olives, olive oil, fish, pomegranate molasses, variety of pickles and Lavashak (sour fruit rolls). You’ll find all of these things at the bazaar.
Where to stay in Rasht?
There aren’t a lot of hotels in Rasht and the good ones seemed to be a little distant from the city center. We stayed at Ordibehesht hotel right at Shahrdari square. Since we were only for a night, the location was definitely a priority. The hotel is just really old, so don’t expect much. But it was clean, cheap and worth its great location.
The best day trips from Rasht:
Rasht makes a great base point for off-road is day trips in the region. You could either choose to stay the night at your destination or come back to Rasht in the evening. Here are a few of my suggestions:
Masooleh: The famous stepped village is extremely popular with tourists. It’s beautiful but has become very commercialized over the past couple of years. Still worth it though.
Qal’eh Roodkhan: If you’re up for a hiking trip then walking up this fortress offers pristine and luscious views. I’ve written a dedicated post about it here: Trekking to Roudkhan castle
Olsebelangah village: If you’re looking for intact forests and panoramas out of heaven then the 2-3 hours drive to this village on high altitudes is definitely a go-go. Read my guide to visiting Olsebelangah here.
Seqalaksar: This lake in the middle of the misty forest is a perfect picnic spot to relax and chill. It’s very close to Rasht and can also be visited on your way back to Tehran.