The maze of bustling alleys and the bazaris that fill them make Tehran Bazar. a fascinating, if somewhat daunting, place to explore. Traders have been hawking their wares on this site for nearly a thousand years, but most of what you see today is less than 200 years old; it’s no architectural jewel. The bazaar encompasses more than 10km of covered stores and has several entrances, but it’s worth using the main entrance, in a square opposite Bank Melli. The warren of people and goods is a city within a city and includes several mosques, guesthouses, banks, a church and even a fire station. Most lanes specialise in a particular commodity: copper, paper, gold, spices and carpets, among others. You’ll also find tobacconists, shoemakers, tailors, broadcloth sellers, bookbinders, flag sellers, haberdashers, saddlers, tinsmiths, knife-makers and carpenters. The carpet, nut and spice bazaars might be the most photogenic and also catches the eye.
Set on 104 hectares of spectacular mountainside parkland, the Sa’d Abad Museum was once the royal summer home. What is now called the White Palace was built between 1931 and 1936 and served as the Pahlavi summer residence. it’s a modern building filled with a hodge-podge of extravagant furnishings, paintings and vast made-to measure carpets. The tiger pelt in the office, among other things, reveals the shah as a man of dubious taste, though in fairness pelts were more in vogue in the 1950s. Whatever you think of the furnishings, the White Palace was the height of luxury in its day.
It was Named after one of the great artists of the Safavid period, the Reza Abbasi Museum. showcases Iranian art from ancient times and the Safavid-era paintings of Abbasi himself. If you like Iranian art, it’s one of the best and most professionally run museums in the country. The museum is organised chronologically starting with the top-floor Pre-Islamic Gallery, where you’ll find Achaemenid gold bowls, drinking vessels, armlets and decorative pieces, often with exquisite carvings of bulls and rams. Here, too, you’ll find fine examples of Lorestan bronzes. The middle-floor Painting Gallery shows samples of fine calligraphy from ancient Qurans and illustrated manuscripts, particularly copies of Ferdosi’s Shahnamah and Sa’di’s Golestan.
About 6km east of the Sa’d Abad Museum complex is the Niyavaran Palace Museum, the complex where Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family spent most of the last 10 years of royal rule. It’s set in five hectares of landscaped gardens and has four separate museums. it is the insight into the shah’s daily life that makes it most fascinating. Some of the very attractive rooms include a private basement teahouse, private dental surgery and a bar decorated with Shirazi painted beams.
The modest National Museum of Iran is no Louvre, but it is chock-full of Iran’s rich history and should be on every visitor’s list of things to see in Tehran. Designed by French architect André Godard, it’s one of the more attractive modern buildings in Tehran, blending Sassanian principles such as the grand iwan-style entrance, with Deco-style brickwork. Inside you’ll find a marvellous collection, including ceramics, pottery, stone figures and carvings, mostly taken from excavations at Persepolis, Ismail Abad (near Qazvin), Shush, Rey and Turang Tappeh. Among the finds from Shush, there’s a stone capital of a winged lion, some delightful pitchers and vessels in animal shapes, and colourful glazed bricks decorated with double-winged mythical creatures.
The incomparable treasury of the national jewels, is a collection of thye most expensive jewels of the world, collected over centuries.every piece of this collection is a reflection of the tumultuous history of this great nation, and artistry of the residents of this land. Each piece recalls memories of bitter-sweet victories and defeats, of the pride and arrogance of rulers who were powerful or weak.
In what was once the heart of Tehran is this monument to the glories and excesses of the Qajar rulers. the Golestan Palace complex is made up of several grand buildings set around a carefully manicured garden. Admission isn’t expensive but you must buy a separate ticket for each building. Although there was a Safavid-era citadel on this site, it was the Qajar ruler Nasser al-Din Shah (r 1848–96), impressed by what he’d seen of European palaces, who built it into the fine complex you see today. Originally it would have been much bigger, with inner and outer sections to encompass offices, ministries and private living quarters, but several surrounding buildings were pulled down under the Pahlavis.
North of the National Museum of Iran is the impressive Glass & Ceramics Museum , housed in a beautiful Qajar-era building. Built as a private residence for a prominent Persian family, it later housed the Egyptian embassy and was converted into a museum in 1976. The building marks a move away from purely Persian traditions, successfully blending features of both Eastern and Western styles. The graceful wooden staircase and the classical stucco mouldings on the walls and ceilings are particularly delightful, and there are many delicate carvings and other decorations.
on the western side of Park-e Laleh, the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art is in a striking concrete modernist building constructed during the shah’s rush to build modern landmarks in the 1970s. Contrary to preconceptions of Iran, here’s a collection of art by Iranian artists and some of the biggest names of the last century. Established during the ’70s under the direction of the progressive Queen Farah Diba, the museum holds arguably the greatest collection of Western art in Asia – worth between US$2 billion and US$5 billion. It includes works by Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh, Miró, Dali, Bacon, Pollock, Monet and Warhol, among others.
the two floors of the Carpet Museum house more than a hundred pieces from all over Iran, dating from the 17th century to the present day; the older carpets are mostly upstairs. The museum itself was designed by Queen Farah Diba and mixes ’70s style with carpet-inspired function – the exterior is meant to resemble threads on a loom, which cool down the main building by casting shadows on its walls. You will often see weavers working on a loom on the ground floor and questions are welcome. Inside, a shop sells post cards and books and there’s a pleasant café.