Backpacking in Iran: Top 5 Sights in Tehran

iran backpacking tehran murals

Backpacking in Iran – top 5 sights in Tehran.

Tehran, the capital city of Iran is manic and tamely daunting, yet in many ways it was the least favourite of all the Iranian cities or towns we visited. Capital cities are often like this on your travels and it’s elsewhere in the country that you find the real charm. In Iran, we loved Mashhad, Shahr-e Kord, Tabriz, Kerman and Yazd more than we’d owe to Tehran. But still, needs must and when backpacking in Iran it would seem rather ludicrous to miss it out, especially since we had to pass through it anyway on route from Qazvin to Mashhad. So here’s my personal quick fire top 5 from Tehran.

Backpacking in Iran: The Bazaar in Tehran.

Backpacking in Iran: The Bazaar in Tehran.

1. Golestan Palace
Yes this is the one you’ve heard about. It’s the main attraction when touring Tehran. It’s an immaculate palace. The cool thing for us was that it was easily within walking distance of our hotel, the Firouzeh Hotel. I think it was about 20 minute walk at most!

tehran backpacking golestan palace

Inside the grounds of Golestan Palace, Tehran, Iran

There’s an entry fee of 100,000 Rials (Just over $3 US) for foreigners so it’s not cheap and that entry only permits you into the grounds and inside three of the buildings. You pay slightly more to visit all the buildings.

backpacking iran golestan palace

A mosaic wall inside Golestan Palace.

We just didn’t want to pay the extra yet we managed to sneak into two of the other parts without tickets anyway.

backpacking tehran golestan

Immaculate ceiling inside Golestan Palace.

One of the parts in Golestan Palace forbids the taking of photos. The entire experience will provide you with artistic memories, photos of immaculate designs and leafy gardens to stroll around in. The whole does feel a bit odd though and I couldn’t put my finger on it. In short, I went because it’s the most recommended touristy thing to do in Tehran, and for that reason you should probably at least give it a visit.

backpacking tehran iran golestan

Inside one of many rooms in Golestan Palace, backpacking in Tehran.

2. Tehran Bazaar
Tehran’s Bazaar was the biggest we encountered in all of Iran, no surprises there! The amount of carpets for sale is mind blowing. It’s just a massive market seeling everything you can think of (alcohol and pork, likely excluded)

carpets tehran iran bazaar

Lots of carpet pictures in Tehran Bazaar. Carpets are everywhere.

The amount of people around is crazy too and you’ll rarely see another foreigner. While Iran is safe enough, be aware that people will follow you to be your friend hoping you buy something. Just brush them off and don’t buy anything.

tehran bazaar iran backpacking

Backpacking in Tehran – At the front entrance to Tehran Bazaar Iran

You can literally wander around for hours and hours. Getting lost is also a high possibility, but there’ll be no shortage of Iranians willing to help you out of this maze!

tehran bazaar iran carpets

One of hundreds of carpets shops and warehouses in Tehran Bazaar, Iran.

(DELETED – 3. Carpet Museum – DO NOT VISIT)
(This is the first ever time I include a deleted entry in my post on top sights in Tehran and I really didn’t want to, but there is a reason behind me including it here – I DON’T want other travellers to make the mistake of going here thinking it’s a “must visit”, the Carpet Museum was a rip off and a pointless waste of time – it was one small room of a few dozen carpets and involved buses and metros to get out to. Plus an entry fee of 150,000 Rials ($6 US). When for free you can see better carpets in the Tehran Bazaar.

tehran iran carpet museum

The Carpet Museum in Tehran – this is it. You can see better carpets for free in the Bazaar.

3. Imam Khomeini Mosque
This cool Mosque is really close to the Bazaar and Golestan Palace so you can get to visit them all on the same day or even morning without issues. Believe me when I tell you, you will visit too many Mosques while travelling in Iran. Having spent a month there, this one in Tehran was one of the least memorable Mosques, but if you only have time to see the capital, then I’d say it merits a visit.

mosque tehran imam khomeini

Imam Khomeini Mosque in Tehran, Iran

4. Bobby Sands Street
This isn’t ever listed in top sights in Tehran but for me – it was a must see. Bobby Sands was an IRA hunger striker from the 70s and 80s in my home country of Northern Ireland. The story goes that during his hunger strike, Iranian protesters supported him and ended up going to the British Embassy one night and put up Irish Tricolour flags and Banners in support of Bobby Sands. The next day, the British Embassy had to give in and the British Embassy could no longer live with having their building on a street which had now been re-named “Bobby Sands Street”.

bobby sands street iran tehran

Babi Sandez Street, Tehran, Iran

While politics hasn’t been my thing for years, I did take my Northern Ireland flag with me to pose by the street sign for Babi Sandez Street (Bobby Sands Street). There is also rumoured to be a Bobby Sands Restaurant somewhere though I’ve yet to hear a story from it or a person who has been. Plus how ironic that he has a restaurant named after him.

5. Wall Murals and Tributes
Can you believe that in a city as massive as Tehran and in a country as big as Iran, I struggled to make this a top 5 and almost resigned it to a 4?! I couldn’t believe it either, as I squeezed 11 top sights out of Yazd and easily 10 from Kerman plus when backpacking in Nagorno Karabakh I mustered a top 13 from little known Stepanakert! However Tehran didn’t do it for me. We passed through Azadi Square, didn’t bother with the Art Museum (it’s beside the Carpet Museum) and also gave a by ball to the National Museum of Iran and the US Den of Espionage. But in at number 5 is the artistic and commemorative wall murals that are all over the city!

Wall murals in Tehran, Iran.

Wall murals in Tehran, Iran.

I liked them – Iran are proud of their history and nation and these murals remember those who fought and died in wars. Coming from Northern Ireland, I am familiar with this concept and personally think it’s more artistic and about pride than it is evil. Pray these murals stand the test of time, but that no more wars occur. That’s the way I look at it.

wall murals tehran backpacking

Checking out Tehran’s many wall murals.

The weird things is we loved Iran, the whole country and its people were just an inspiring experience, yet we didn’t warm to the nation’s proud capital that much.

tehran backpacking

Top 5 Sights when backpacking in Tehran, Iran.

Anyway, check those 5 out if you go backpacking in Iran ‘s capital, Tehran and here are some of my videos from Tehran:

11 thoughts on “Backpacking in Iran: Top 5 Sights in Tehran

  • Wow Jonny. Your Tehran experience is so unique to mine. I did see allot of paintings and allot of them were supportive of the Islamic republic.

    I didn’t get to visit the Palaces in Tehran because they were closed on Sundays . Mondays and off limits to the public in that time (august 2012).

    I went to the Martyrs Cemetery at Behesht-e Zahray to pay my respects to the war dead of the Iran Iraq conflict

    Up the road from the Cemetery is Khomeini Mausoleum. Free entry but all shoes and cameras need to be cloaked on arrival . Its a cemetery in a mosque where allot of Khomeini family members are buried inside.

    It was very daunting visiting the Ebrat Museum where the SAVAK had their secret police HQ. So many horrific things happened inside that building.

    I took the train from Ankara to Tehran and that was a few days worth of traveling but it was only 55 euros. Can’t wait to get back to Tehran and see my friends.

  • Great tips here Martin and thanks for the comment – yes I didn’t visit some of the places you’ve listed so good to know, that’s a great value train!! We ended up getting a bus from Dogubayzit to the border and overlanding it slow from there. We were in Iran for a week before we arrived in Tehran, on route to Mashhad. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Thanks for the tips, Jonny! We will be sure to leave out the Carpet Museum, it doesn’t sounds that interesting indeed. I’m surprised to hear there are not that many sights in Tehran and I guess we will spend there a long time due to the fact that we will try to collect most of our visas for the ‘Stans’ there. But maybe it just makes more sense to go and explore the country and come back to pick up the visas when we are ready to leave…
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  • Hi Hitch-hikers, thanks for the comments. Yes, the rest of Iran was MUCH MUCH better than Tehran, but that was only our opinion. You could head to Mashhad as lots get their Turkmenistan and Afghanistan visas there. We also loved Qazvin, Yazy, Khoor and Kerman. Iran is an amazing country so I’m sure you will love it. Safe travels. Jonny

  • I disagree with some of the comments here. I think it all depends what it is you want to see, hear, do, know. I would recommend the carpet Museum – the carpets are stunning and it is well interpreted. Not as physically nice as the Carpet museum in Baku but I think it is a much richer collection.

    I’d also recommend the Contemporary Art museum which has one of the most extensive collections in the Middle East; the Shas wife Farah was responsible for establishing this museum and no expense was spared on the collection.

    I too would recommend the war cemetery and on 2 sperate visits to tehran I have sussed out contemporary art openings and gone along – a great way to meet locals who often will speak another language and all sorts of doors start opening – invites to secret rock concerts, private parties etcetera.


    Likewise, bookshops in Teheran often have book launches/events and that is another place to meet people that will be interested to met you. And 1st grade football [soccer} matches – if you are male – cost a dolar and you are bound to get talking to locals, no doubt!

    This is just a few things; there is much, much more to Tehran than visitors often ‘see’.

  • Hi Sammy, Thanks for the comment – totally agree that travel is each to their own and you clearly warmed to Tehran and the Carpet Museum more than us. We spent a month in Iran and by far Tehran was the worst city we saw. We did like Tarjrish and Zarad Band in the north of Tehran though but when you compare it to cities like Qazvin, Shahr e Kord, Yazd, Kerman, Kaluts and Kharanaq etc. it was nowhere near as good in our opinion. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Modern Traveller – sounds exciting. Iran is a great country though Tehran is not as impressive as the rest of the country. Spend a few days here then try to head to places like Qazvin, Kaluts and Mashhad. Safe travels. Jonny

  • Hi Jonny!

    Super cool blog, thanks alot.
    I suppose you do not get this inquiry often, but; I am a record collector, and strongly consider to visit Tehran, in order to find forgotten persian vinyl records (both LP’s and singles) from 1960-1980. Any advice? Did you see any antique stores? I think I will need to seek out “older” private people, and ask alot around the streets – But any guidance or thoughts would be more than welcome!

  • Hi Mads, thanks for the comment. I didn’t see any Persian vinyl stores myself, but I’m sure you can ask around and find them. It’s a beautiful country to tour. Safe travels. Jonny

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