The capital since 1786, Tehran remains the political, administrative and international centre of the country. The most westernized thinking, the most modern technology, the most important and varied public culture is to be found in Tehran. For some, a city without tradition or memory, Tehran is not a mirror for the country but its complexity is reflected in an Iran torn between modernity, nationalism, tradition, Islamic Shi’ism and Western culture. For most tourists, this city of diabolical traffic and smog, is a city of transit: however, it offers some remarkable monuments, excellent museums, and extremely rich culture and woven amongst its urban fabric, innumerable architectural treasures.




Golestan Palace , 19th century





Today the metropolitan capital of modern Iran, Tehran was documented for the first time in the 10th century. As a large village known for its underground dwellings, its rich gardens, its pleasant climate and its clear water. Backed by the Alborz mountains, nourished by the Qanats (aquaducts), Tehran is situated near to Rey, a Seljuk capital which was destroyed by the Mongols in 1220 and whose ruins are today beneath the southern suburbs of the city. Their city demolished, the inhabitants of Rey fled to Tehran, which then became progressively the largest community of the region.




Azadi Tower, 1971


Tehran took off in the 16th century when it became the holiday residence of the kings. In 1554, Shah Tahmasp the 1st ordered the construction of a citadel, the ramparts and a bazaar. The city suffered through the Afghan invasion of 1725-28 and was subsequently renovated by Karim Khan Zand (1760), before the first of the Qadjar kings, Aqa Muhammad Khan, chose it for his capital and was crowned there. In the 19th century, Tehran emerged as a city whose mosques, with their domes and polychrome minarets, rose from perfumed gardens. From 1930, a new city began to take form: the ancient portals and ramparts were destroyed, its avenues broached and the erstwhile city of Tehran rapidly disappeared. Administrative buildings and western-style hotels and restaurants were built. The population quickly increased: from 200,000 people in 1900 to more than 2,719,000 in 1966, then to 6,475,000 in 1991. Since the 1970’s, the creation of a vast suburban area surrounding Tehran (“Great Tehran”) has contributed to an explosion of the population. At the beginning of the 21st century, Tehran and its suburbs house between 12,000,000 and 15,000,000 inhabitants.




Borj-e Milad, 2008



Main Monuments


Golestan Palace ; Grand bazaar ; Museums:- Iran Bastan, or Archeological museum or national museum; Reza Abbasi ; Carpet museum ( Gandjineh-ye farsh-e Iran) ; Museum of Contemporary Art ( Gandjineh-ye honarha-ye mo’aser) ; Museum of Ceramic and Glass ( Abgineh) ; National Museum of Precious Stones ( Gandjineh-ye djavaherat-e melli) ; Museum and Palace of Sa’d Abad ; Niavaran Palace.


Sites registered on the UNESCO world heritage list: Golestan Palace (2013)




Iran Bastan Museum or National Museum





One day is sufficient to see the main sights (Golestan Palace, National Museum, grand bazaar). Two or three days would allow the inclusion of other museums and the Pahlavi palaces. Another day could be dedicated to visiting Rey and Varamin, to the south of Tehran, abundant with interesting if lesser known monuments.




Bagh-e Ferdows: a 19th century house transformed into the musuem of cinema




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