At the foot of the Alborz mountains, Tehran is Iran’s sprawling capital, and one of the most spectacularly situated cities in the world. Wherever you are, shining snow fields shimmer at the end of every street – a chimeric backdrop for a pulsating metropolis of over 12 million people! Most tours start and end here – with good reason. The city is the home of the UNESCO-listed Golestan Palace, as well as a superb crop of galleries and museums.
In the Treasury of National Jewels, you can marvel at some of the fineries with which the Safavid and Qajar rulers used to adorn themselves. Highlights include the Darya-e Hur, the world’s largest uncut diamond, the crowns worn by the last Shah and his wife, and a globe made of 51,366 precious stones.
At the National Museum, come face to face with huge Achaemenid bas-reliefs from Persepolis, a famous statue of Darius the Great and some exquisite cast-bronze figures from the distant Parthian era. With a little time to spare, you might also squeeze in a visit to the wonderful Reza Abbasi Museum, which holds a matchless collection of classical Persian paintings and manuscripts, and the Saadabad Palace, out in the city’s leafy fringes, which reveals the opulent lifestyle enjoyed by the country’s former rulers, the Shahs.
Tehran’s historic bazaar district is fabulously atmospheric, especially towards the end of the afternoon, when locals throng the squares to watch the world go by, while snacking on pistachios and saffron ice cream!
After exploring the markets, unwind over a bowl of hot, fragrant dizi (traditional Iranian stew) and a puff on a qalian (water pipe) at one of the city’s traditional tea houses. Or try a plate of tah-chin (crusty rice with layered chicken cooked in saffron and butter) at the famous Moslem restaurant on Panzdah-e Khordad Street.