Rasht, Iran, 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 one day in Rasht and I could be easily enough to explore most of the city’s main attractions. Rasht 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 and many other Iranians Rasht is all about delicious food and nightlife.
Iran’s Gilan province boasts of a teeming culinary scene. Almost everything here smells of garlic, tastes 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 plenty and 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 dishes for there and searching Rasht 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?
Most of the good restaurants like Shour Kooli, Razeghi, Cafe Kabab and Vanisha are located in the Golsar neighbourhood which is kind of upper town. Shour kooli is everyone’s first choice but it’s always too crowded and not really worth the hype. It’s also a lot pricier compared to others. Vanisha is an absolutely lovely place with great local food and the prices are a lot cheaper than you would expect. Apparently, Rezeghi restaurant is famous for their breakfast along with their local dishes as well but we didn’t get the chance to try it yet.
Ahmad restaurant in Sabzeh Meydan sq. is known for its Sour Kebab (Kebab Torsh).
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 and you should be aware of it.
Along with Kebab carts, tea is also commonly sold on the street. The sour cherry tea is a 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 a great neighbourhood to go for a walk if you’d like to see the 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, cheese 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 centre. 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-beat 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.