Tehran, Vibrant and Multifaceted

Tehran, Vibrant  and MultifacetedTehran, Vibrant  and Multifaceted

Tehran, the largest city in Iran, is a sprawling metropolis at the foot of Mount Tochal with an immense network of highways unparalleled in Western Asia. The city is famous for its numerous Ski resorts on the Alborz slopes, large museums, art galleries, cafes, and palace complexes.

If visitors are expecting an exotic, oriental splendor, they’ll be sadly disappointed, for Tehran is a relatively new city.  It has a number of good hotels, an impressive variety of restaurants compared to other cities, the facilities are superior to those of other provinces, and the Tehranis are generally friendly, according to Rafie Hamidpour in her book.

Similar to other big cities that have grown organically, it has many hearts, but no real center. Many budget travelers base themselves near Imam Khomeini Square, which could be considered the ‘inner city’ and again like other cities is considered less appealing,  south of the city, where one can find cheap accommodation and good public transport links.  However, being close to the Grand Bazaar, the best kebab joints can also be found!

Getting lost in Tehran is easy. If a landmark is needed, Mount Tochal, known as the ‘North Star’ of Tehran, provides a northern orientation, and the huge telephone office at Imam Khomeini Square dominates south Tehran. Fortunately, most streets that travelers are likely to take are signposted in English; although, many streets such as those around the Tehran Grand Bazaar have no signposts at all.

The best times to visit the capital are during late spring (mid-April to early June) and autumn (late September to early November). Similar to Christmas time in the West, during the Iranian New Year (generally March 21) many people leave the metropolis and return home to their families in the provinces or take vacation.

Visitors planning to catch Tehran in full swing should avoid the New Year period; although the air quality is at its best.  It should also be noted during the lunar month of Ramadan many restaurants in the city close between dawn and dusk.


The development of Tehran is recent compared to other major Iranian cities and its rise to prominence largely accidental. In 1197, after Mongols sacked and destroyed the nearby historical city of Rey, a major urban center in Iran at the time, Tehran began to develop in its place.

From the mid-16th century, Tehran’s attractive natural setting, which also provided good hunting ground, brought it into the favor of the Safavid king, Tahmasb I, and gradually it developed from a moderately prosperous trading village into an elegant city. European visitors wrote of its many enchanting vineyards and gardens.

In 1789, Aqa Mohammad Khan of Qajar Dynasty declared Tehran his capital, and six years later crowned himself as shah of all Iran. The town continued to grow slowly under later Qajar rulers.

From the early 1920s, the city was extensively modernized on a grid system, and this period marked the start of phenomenal population growth.

The city however, underwent its greatest change and expansion after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, when large highways and towers were constructed, and when it changed into the modern metropolis it is today.  The population also mushroomed, with people from the provinces looking to capitalize on the opportunities that were on offer.  The imposed war (1980-88) also contributed to a large migration from the south to the city.


With the towering Alborz Mountains to its north and the central desert to the south, Tehran’s climate can be generally described as mild in the spring, hot and dry in the summer, pleasant in the autumn, and cold in the winter.

As a large city with a significant difference in elevation among various districts, the weather is often cooler in the hilly north as compared to the flat southern part of Tehran.

Summer is usually hot and dry with very little rain. Relative humidity is generally low and the nights are cool. Most of the light annual precipitation occurs from late-autumn to mid-spring, but no one month is particularly wet.

The hottest month is July (mean minimum temperature 23°C, mean maximum temperature 36°C) and the coldest is January (mean minimum temperature -2°C, mean maximum temperature 8°C).

  Tourist Attractions

Considering its geographical location and its past, Tehran is a good place for tourism. Grand Bazaar of Tehran, as a commercial center, is very attractive and interesting with its architecture. Shahr-e Rey ‘City of rey’, the ancient neighboring town, which has now been engulfed by the capital, is of interest because of its long history.

The three important ski resorts Dizin, Shemshak, and Tochal are among the most important attractions of the capital of Iran. Various museums, recreational centers, and natural resorts give a prominent appearance to Tehran.

The city has a very vibrant café culture, bustling with lively youth, ambient music and art on the walls.  Caramel Macchiato a totally Tehrani invention, is really delicious and definitely worth a try.

Friday afternoons in Tehran are never to be missed.  This is the time crowds of arty urbanites go on a tour of the galleries.  In response the galleries always schedule their openings and launch their new exhibitions at this time.  It is a time to catch the latest of the now world famous Iranian art and also a place to be and be seen in the city.  

The city has undergone a myriad of changes in a short period of time, but the inner city still holds the footprints of the city’s past, walking around this area, wandering into old book shops, cafes and eateries and haggling items at the shops and markets, can provide a rare glimpse into the lives of this vibrant and multi-faceted culture.