Traveling to major banging cities like Tehran, more often than not, surrounds us with a big pot of crazy questions; is it like New York or Toronto, busy and busted? Where to go, and is there even touristy things to in Tehran? Does the city also hold any ancient and profound historical sites?
Matter of fact is, Tehran shows travelers two very distinct faces. Some travelers, who usually don’t have the time or the curiosity to spare on the capital, rush to buy their bus or plane tickets to the other top-listed destinations in Iran; they don’t care too much about the touristy things to do in Tehran. On the other side, tourists who make room in their schedules to roam around the city and invest a bit of sense adventurism in it, emerge fascinated and taken-away by the old soul and magnificent structures, old-in-tooth edifices, acclaimed museums, typical yet priceless Persian or semi-Persian gardens, and kilometers-long streets full of hidden stories and mementos. If asked, they would hit back with a single yet powerful line: “Tehran and its people are definitely worth the time.” So, what gets these city-lovers so excited about Tehran? What gets their blood flowing? What are the best touristy things to do in Tehran, one of the most populated and polluted cities in the middle-east? Well, strap in as we reveal the real face of Tehran with all its glory, history, and endless possibilities.
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The Amazing Food
We kick off the list with a savory subject; the food in Tehran! No matter where you stay in Tehran or what hour you hear your stomach growl out of hunger, Tehran always has something cooked up for you, day and night. From small local Falafel carts and shiny fast-food joints lurking at every corner to multi-branched well-known traditional and international restaurants with delicious smells of Persian Kebabs and other mouth-watering dishes oozing out of there oven chimney holes to weaken every walker’s foot; Tehran serves at its inhabitants’ pleasure, and with style. You want to some touristy thing to in Tehran, hop in one of the long queues continuing to grow in front of one of the sandwich joints in Niloufar street and start a conversation with always-friendly and welcoming Iranians. You will learn so much about the old soul of Tehran while a two-man stash of meat, chicken fillet, mushrooms, cheese, or other ingredients (depending on what you will order because the menus on these joints don’t seem to end) cook on the stove, right before your eyes. A word of advice, stay clear of any food that they because one of these sandwiches don’t mess around, and, also, drive to the joints since limited seating is what you’ll find.
Also check out: Top Hotels in Tehran for Foodies
If you don’t feel like bombarding your stomach with overly delicious junk food, ask a local for a more traditional/international restaurant, or just put your faith in Google. Some of the best eating houses in Tehran, like Moslem in The Grand Bazaar, the Senso Italian Restaurant, Alborz Traditional Diner, Nayeb Traditional Restaurant, and many more, can be a pleasant change of menu for those who despise conventional fast-food.
The Grand Bazaar
Any traveler who had the time and energy, at one point, visited The Grand Bazaar because it’s a shopping hub in the heart of the old texture of Tehran with alleyways, chambers, and mini-bazaars hard to forget. Rooted in the middle section of the city, The Grand Bazaar works as the beating economic heart of Tehran, and one of the best touristy things to do in Tehran. While the chaotic flood of people rushing in each passageway and haggling at every chamber (called Hojreh in Farsi) paints a picture hard to find in any other location inside the city, the excellent artwork and architecture of the mini-bazaars and the whole edifice itself follows close behind; the walls and the arches create much-appreciated change of scenery in the middle of all the chaos.
Built back in the proud Safavid era, the local and international ground-breaking masters of architecture didn’t anticipate the invention of engines and cars. Thus, they designed the master-piece according to the old standards, which meant narrow alleyways no more capable of hosting three or four grown men shoulder to shoulder. These routes swirl in and out of each mini-bazaar and oddly enough, finally, find a way to one another.
Observing the daily hustle and bustle of Grand Bazaar, aside from being a fun touristy thing to in Tehran, whispers of unspoken facts; the power residing in this economic hub in inner-country movements. For decades, the merchants (called the Bazaaris) wield the real power behind political, social, and economic shifts, something anybody can detect as they move to pass the chambers and hear the cunning tone in every Bazaaris’ voices.
Today, you can arrive at the world’s largest covered bazaar by metro or bus to witness the beauty labyrinthine wholesale bazaar up close. After the aesthetic features of the marvel have given in and you felt the need to rest up a bit, you can order a “Faloodeh” (traditional Persian ice-cream sweetened by rose water and juice) in the bazaars massive courtyard and enjoy the passing carts drawn by glorious horses.
Also check out: Shopping in Tehran
Although we said wholesale, most of the Hojreh serve as retail shops as well, and nothing get’s them more energetic and ready to spill out courteous and appealing words than a tourist interested in their line of work.
The Walk Through History in The National Museum of Tehran
Just a stone-throw ride, or walk, to the north of The Grand Bazaar, takes you to The National Museum of Tehran and far away from the craziness of the beaming bazaar completely vanishes; it would feel like a God-sent to have such a quiet yet exciting museum full of reminiscing objects holding forgotten anecdotes in them.
The bright white interior and cleanness of The National Museum wash away any distraught and uneasiness as you step through the archway entrance. As the calm ambiance steadies your blood pressure, the breath-taking unique set of artifacts, manuscripts, and hand-made historical jewels, tickles your senses once again, but in a more pleasant way.
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At the museum, rows of sculptures, statues, and other priceless items from different eras brighten up the tranquil ambiance of the building. The spectacular rich collections of pre-Islam items reminding us of empires like the Achaemenid, or The Ashkanian (Parthian), and other periods, reanimate Iran’s previous glory; here, history really comes back to life, and with it, every soul’s thoughts get entrenched with the unique culture of the old Aryan people.
The National Museum is segregated into three stories with separate designs and layouts of multiple timelines, from pre-historic antiques to pre-Islam conquests. In our minds, the first right touristy thing to do in Tehran is to visit this splendid museum.
Incredible Natural Landmarks & Strolling Paths
If you open up Tehran’s map, you will find a surfeit of historical buildings and spots with shocking natural and cultural views ready to blow you away. Why we said visible? Because they get a lot of attention and daily visits from locals.
Unlike The Grand Bazaar and National Museum in mid-town Tehran, to break free from the metropolitan area, either go to the far north of Tehran or to the outskirts. Only there you’d appreciate the fact of the capital being surrounded by dashing mountain-ranges and semi-arid flatlands that create great get-away spots.
With mountains cutting off the city from the north comes a variety of fun and touristy things to do in Tehran, and at heights. The snow-capped mountain-slopes have gifted the citizens with numerous ski resorts like Tochal or Dizin ski pistes. However, if you’re not into putting on ski-boards, you can always climb the other side of Tochal mountains at the top of Velenjak district or go for a nice Friday-morning (Thursdays and Fridays are weekend time in Iran) stroll on one of the accessible steeped pathways of Darband or Darakeh, which are still very refreshing. Each of these spots tends to get overcrowded at weekends, so If you don’t want to share the experience with many people, we recommend heading up the slopes midweek. As one of the healthiest touristy things to do in Tehran, pathways up the mountainsides take you closer to mentally understanding the nature of Iranians living in the capital.
Gazing Over The Highways on The Tabi’at Bridge (Nature Bridge)
If you’re looking for one of the most eye-catching items of modern urban architecture in Tehran, then put on your jogging shoes and head out for Tabi’at bridge. Bringing two major parks in Tehran together, Tabi’at bridge (Tabi’at, meaning Nature) is a three-story architectural leviathan where many people come to have fun. Enlivened by hundreds of gorgeous street lamps and vivid green-life guarding both entrances of the bridge, Tabi’at bridge quickly turned into a hang-out spot for couples and an iron stop in-between to famous parks in Tehran. While Iranians are used to the idea of going for a walk on the bridge since it was finished back in 2014, the stroll up and down the Nature Bridge comes relatively new to the voyagers wanting to discover new things and want to bet on the idea of touristy things to do in Tehran.
Also check out: Tehran Parks
Walking on The Story-telling Sidewalks of Old Tehran (Valiasr Street)
By now, and if you’re really an Iran-admirer, you’ve probably heard of the longest urban road in the area of middle-east. Yes, I’m talking about the famous Valiasr street that has been responsible for millions of transportations and loads of daily commutes; commuters have been going up and back down along Valiasr street for over a quarter of a century. And still, the longest street in Tehran which spans over 25 kilometers of asphalt concrete, humbly paves the way for the people in Tehran.
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The history of Valiasr has become so inspirational that it put the idea some groups and individuals mind to set up one-day jogging trips on different entry points to walk the people through one of Tehran’s oldest streets and get them reacquainted with its former glory. On these short trips, you can discover the real stories of the city, the advent of the Qajar empire, the treacherous coup conspiracies, the fall of dynasties, and the bloody Revolution that only happened 40 years ago. At each turn or exit, and at the numerous car-stricken intersections, an anecdote lies that you can only unlock it by going on one of these trips or experiencing it by yourself; one of the many self-discovered touristy things to do in Tehran which comes with many revealings you can, later on, share on your travel journal.
CouchSurfing Groups and Outdoor Activates
This is a rather new phenomenon in Tehran since CouchSurfing itself, and the idea of hosting foreigners without any financial intention still seems strange to a vast portion of the country. Nevertheless, Iranian CouchSurfing groups and teams are forming up like it’s nobody’s business and with them, a new strand of fun activities. You can join these groups and enter their dedicated telegram (a social media platform) groups by only typing Iran in CS, and not long after, you will stumble upon tons of gathering, free discussion groups, climbing teams, biker squads, and other groups, all with their own unique plans on how to spend the weekend or open days. This is really exciting touristy things to do in Tehran while the visa time hasn’t still expired. You will be amazed at the number of meetings and outgoing gatherings advertised in these groups. From an afternoon dedicated to English-learning students and scholars who want to test out their language skills debating over a subject in an “English Free Discussion” to a mysterious night of a room silenced by the infamous mob members plotting out to outlive the ordinary and innocent civilians in a well-orchestrated set of the board game “The Mafia Wars” in separated Farsi and English sessions, tons of fun awaits newcomers to the city.