Just as the continuous attacks of the Ottomans and Uzbeks was getting out of hand, Shah Tahmasp, the second king of the Safavid empire decides to relocate the capital from Tabriz to Qazvin. Not only was Qazvin further enough from the borders to facilitate keeping things under control, it was also located along the Silk road with great connections to the rest of the country.
A great patron of art, Shah Tahmasp managed to attract the finest artists and architects to build his new home. However, everything proved to be only a rehearsal for his successor, Shah Abbas I, to bring Isfahan to sublimity later on.
Today Qazvin, once the nation’s capital, has a considerable number of minor sites and is a launch point to the mysterious castle of Assassins just over an hour away. But again like many other Iranian cities, it’s left forlornly isolated and ignored.
Qazvin is home to some of Iran’s best conserved domed water cisterns. Since most part of the country has been struggling with drought and lack of rain ever since, water cisterns are commonly found in drier parts of the country. The architecture of these cisterns is quite a masterpiece itself. The water tanks would be built below ground level which were consequently earthquake resistant – a good reason why many of them are still standing tall even after the city has been hit by a devastating earthquake. The water storage tanks in Qazvin are interestingly built with a rectangular plan whereas most of the others especially the ones in Yazd have a cylindrical plan. In order to access the water one would go through the entrance which would lead to a long staircase reaching the bottom level of the water storage. There was no access to the tank itself after it was built, but faucets were installed in intervals along the staircase where people could fill up their bottles.
We visited the Ab anbar (water cistern in Persian) of Haj Kazem, one the most famous landmarks of the city. Since the water cistern is currently not in use, they have opened an entrance to the tank at the bottom of the staircase where visitors could actually see the interior of the storage itself. The cistern comes with a beautifully tiled portal and two wind towers that reach 8 meters high, although only one stands today.
The smallest church of Iran
During the Russians occupation of Qazvin in the Second World War, the Russians built this church to feel more at home. Now, this tiny Orthodox church with its turquoise brick belfry dome is the smallest church of the Iran and open to visitors.
The Aminiha house
Surprise! Surprise! A wealthy Iranian merchant decided to spare some cash to build the home of his dreams! If you’ve been to Kashan, you’d know exactly what I’m talking about!
While now we would write down a check for our private interior designer, then, in 1858, Haj Kazem Amini brought the finest craftsmen to adorn his house with dazzling mirrored walls, stucco ceilings, wooden doors and handwoven carpets.
While there’s no lack of majestic structures in Qazvin and there are a few good restaurants to offer great local delicacies, the city left me in thoughts. Recently I’ve been directing my travels to lesser known parts of the country and I can’t help to see their huge contrast with places like Tehran.
I’ve come to witness nice and clear that apart from a few major cities, others don’t seem to be getting much. While here in Tehran we have theatre and cinemas scattered all across the city, huge parks and green spaces to enjoy our picnics and dozens of festivals, exhibitions and other entertainment to keep us busy, others seem to be only getting a bluer sky. There’s seems to be almost nothing happening in the banal modern backstreets of cities like Qazvin.
Despite the unoriginal modern side of the city, Qazvin comes with tons of history and culture. The most typical dish – Gheime Nesar – is a must eat and the city offers a huge variety of sweets to try out.
How to get there: Qazvin is located 157 km north of Tehran, so it’s an easy drive if you have your own vehicle. Buses from Tehran to Qazvin run frequently and take up around 2.5 hours. Trains from Tehran to Zanjan or Tabriz also make a stop in Qazvin.
Where to eat: We had lunch at the most well-known restaurant in town called Eghbali. The food is pretty good and they offer the local dishes. Make sure to make reservations if you’re going with a big group as it can get quite busy.
Qazvin is a great option if you’re looking for a day trip from the capital, which is exactly what we did. There was obviously a lot more to see and visiting the castle of Assassins requires an additional day, but all and all a full day will give you enough time to visit most of the main landmarks.