What to do in Tehran and Tehran tourist attractions in one day
If you’re traveling to Iran, it is likely that Tehran will be your gateway to the rest of the country, so you may be wondering about what do in Tehran and which Tehran tourist attractions are worth visiting, especially if you don’t intend spending much time in the city.
We only spent one day in Tehran, seeing that we wanted to explore other parts of the country, but we did manage to figure out what to do in Tehran and which Tehran tourist attractions to visit in one day.
Keep in mind that Tehran is a pretty large, chaotic and noisy city, so if you would like to make the most out of a short stay in Tehran, it would be best to plan out what to do in Tehran beforehand and follow some sort of plan. If on the other hand, you like to go with the flow, take your pick from the list of Tehran tourist attractions mentioned below!
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Arriving in Tehran
We had some reservations about arriving in Tehran at 2.45am, especially since this meant that we would have to get ourselves sorted with sim cards and money at once, and at the same time explore many of the Tehran tourist attractions on the same day.
If Tehran is your first destination in Iran, it would be best if you had an e-Visa approval letter prior to your arrival at the airport, since this definitely facilitates your visa issue process, and ensures that you will indeed get your visa. You can read our post about getting your Iran visa here.
You can also exchange money and obtain a sim card at the airport, even during the early hours of the morning, so that later during the day, you are ready to start checking things off from your list of what to do in Tehran.
Throughout our time in Tehran, we mostly used the app Snapp! to get around (similar to Uber, which you might be more familiar with) or we walked. Since the sim cards we had just bought at the airport would be activated within the following couple of hours, we could not use Snapp! for our first car journey out of the airport, so we got a regular yellow taxi to our hostel, about one hour’s drive away. This cost 1,250,000 rial (125,000 toman / €6.15*), and a billboard upon exit of the terminal indicates the current journey prices.
*This value reflects the conversion rate (free market rate) at the time of writing. We actually paid about a little less than double the stated price in Euro at the time of travel (Oct – Nov 2019), when compared to these conversions. So, although 1,250,000 rial is equal to €6.15 at the time of writing, it was equal to €9.98 at the time of travel.
If you are unfamiliar with the money situation in Iran, it would be best check out our post here, which includes all you need to know about prices and conversions to other currency in Iran.
Best Time to visit Tehran
The weather was pretty cold when we visited Tehran in late October, and it was snowing when we got back to the capital city in late November, 30 days later. We recommend that you do not travel to Tehran after mid-November, due to freezing cold weather and high probability of snow (unless you plan on going skiing!). Indeed, if you’re looking at what to do in Tehran during the winter-time, skiing might be good idea!
From late March onwards, Tehran starts warming up and this would be a great time to visit, just before it gets very hot throughout the country. The months of July and August are not great for visiting Tehran and exploring the rest of Iran, especially if you want to move down south, where it could be even hotter!
What to do in Tehran and Tehran tourist attractions in one day
Tehran may not be the most beautiful destination in Iran, however we feel that it is worth exploring for a few days if you have time. Unfortunately, we only had one day to explore the Tehran tourist attractions, so we had to pick and choose what to do in Iran in one day, over other activities.
The following list of what to do in Tehran and Tehran tourist attractions, can all be visited in one full day. If you’re staying in Tehran for longer, check out our list of what to do in Tehran and Tehran tourist attractions in more than one day, below.
Visit Golestan Palace
The lovely Golestan Palace is surely one of the loveliest and most popular Tehran tourist attractions. The complex consists of royal buildings and well-curated gardens, as well as a number of attractions housed within the same complex.
You need to select the attractions you want to see, and pay accordingly at the ticketing booth, so you need to decide everything beforehand. Your ticket will denote which of the attractions you paid for, and where you can go within the palace grounds.Find it on a map! – Golestan Palace
Sadly, I’ve lost the photo of the ticket showing the different areas and ticket prices, however we can tell you that we paid 1,600,000 rial each (160,000 toman / about €6.75). This included entrance to the grounds, the Hall of Mirrors (with the ‘Main Halls’), which is gorgeous, and the Hall of Diamonds, which we feel is not worth paying extra for.
You can easily spend a few (or many) hours exploring Golestan Palace, and we believe that it serves as a great introduction to your trip in Iran. Definitely one of the best Tehran tourist attractions, so do include it on your list of what to do in Tehran!
Drink pomegranate juice
As in many countries in the Middle East and the Caucasus, fresh pomegranate juice is very popular in Iran. The very refreshing drink can be bought from little street carts for about 100,000 rial (10,000 toman / about €0.40), where it is freshly squeezed in front of you.
Iran is famous for its pomegranates, actually being their country of origin. Indeed, in Iran, we learnt that there are two or more types of pomegranates, a fact we were not familiar with, since we only grow one type in our home country of Malta.
Besides, buying juice from street vendors, we were also shown how to literally smash up the insides of the pomegranate without piercing the skin. When it sounded ‘juicy’ enough, we made a small hole in the skin and just sucked the fresh juice right up. Awesome way of consuming pomegranates!
If you’re looking at what to do in Iran, try go to a pomegranate festival in one of the smaller villages, if you’re there in Autumn, however you can sample plenty of fresh pomegranates in Tehran.
Also be aware of pomegranate molasses, a pomegranate syrup used widely in Persian cuisine. Every household seems to make and bottle its own pomegranate molasses, although the commercial version is also easily found. We love pomegranate molasses in Fesenjan, our favourite Iranian dish!
Explore the US Den of Espionage Museum
The very suggestive name of this museum immediately sets the tone of what you’re about to visit. The former US embassy and site of the hostage crisis in Iran in 1979 has been mostly left as it was back then, besides the addition of several anti-US propaganda posters.
You can wander former US-embassy’s offices and visit formerly classified embassy paraphernalia, particularly a full-sized, highly-insulated meeting room used for secret meetings, as well as series of document encryption machines left behind after the embassy was abandoned.Find it on a map! – US Den of Espionage
Having only basic knowledge of the events that led to the hostage crisis in 1979, we thought that the museum was incredibly fascinating, though of course very subjective and probably a little ‘difficult’ for people coming from the US.
Entry fee is 300,000 rial (30,000 toman / about €1.20).
Marvel at the National Jewellery Treasury
In our opinion, the National Jewellery Treasury tops all the other Tehran tourist attractions, and should have a prominent position on your list of what to do in Tehran.
The entry process may be cumbersome, and the lines a bit lengthy, but much the effort. The complex is located at a heavily fortified and secure basement at the site of the central bank; identifying the building may be a bit tricky as it is not very well marked.
First you need to buy a ticket from the reception desk for 200,000 rial (20,000 toman / €0.80), then you need to join some other queues for security and checks. You are not allowed to take any bags, including camera or phones into the underground treasury, so you need to leave all those items in a locker.
A guide will take down a group of people at a time to the underground vaults, and explain all about the different exhibits. You are encouraged to stay with your group, as you’re not really allowed to wander off on your own. Be aware the queues to the vaults are generally very long (but we assure you, the gems are worth seeing!).Find it on a map! – National Jewellery Treasury
No photos are allowed, but you can buy postcards of the pieces if you wish. We felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the items on display, which made the entry ordeal worth the effort!
Our favourite piece was without doubt the large 34 kg golden globe depicting several countries in rubies and diamonds with the sea being depicted in emeralds, whilst a gorgeous red diamond (apparently one of only 8 in the world) was very popular among visitors.
We were obviously unable to get a picture of this amazing piece, but you can check this site here for more details.
Additionally, the famous peacock throne, lots of crowns and tiaras, diamond-encrusted swords and so many other more riches make this one of the most beautiful museums we have ever been to, and easily our favourite of all Tehran tourist attractions!
Take a photo of the Azadi Tower
There’s nothing much to do at the Azadi Tower, except for walking along its base (it is set on a large roundabout in a very busy road), but it is definitely worth a good look, and is a great photo op. Crossing the road is no mean feat though… so stay alert!
The Azadi Tower indicates the west entrance into Tehran and is one of the most recognisable and iconic Tehran attractions. There’s an underground museum just beneath the tower, but it was closed when we visited late evening.
The white marble monument was completed in 1971, but has become a very popular Instagram spot nowadays!Find it on a map! – Azadi Tower
Get lost in the Tehran Grand Bazaar
The oldest bazaar in Tehran probably merits a guide all of its own. However, suffice to say that as the winding paths along the bazaar can be fascinating to some, they may be nightmarish to others.
The very busy bazaar is truly massive, but makes for a great introduction to how commerce is conducted in all of Iran. If you only have one day in Tehran like we did, plan ahead and make sure you leave enough time to get lost in the long, vast corridors of Tehran’s Grand bazaar, where the sights and smells are sure to captivate you.
Be aware that the Grand Bazaar doesn’t only house shops within its winding corridors, but is also home to mosques, restaurants and shrines. Put it on your list of what to do in Tehran in one day!Find it on a map! – Tehran Bazaar
Sample the tasty bread
The bread in Iran has to be some of the best we’ve ever had, especially when you have the luck of getting it warm, freshly served from a typical bakery!
Iranians bake several types of flat breads with Barbari, Sangak, Taftoon and Lavash being the most popular. Lavash, the thinnest of all Iranian breads will be served at every meal, but we really loved the thick Barbari bread topped with sesame seeds most.
Bakeries are found everywhere in Tehran and you can just buy some, fresh out of the oven from whichever one you come across! Many bakeries also sell slightly sweet, typical, round bread, along with the more savoury kinds.
If you’re considering what to do in Tehran in one day, the above would be our choice of Tehran attractions, however if you have more time in Tehran, you could also consider the below activities:
What to do in Tehran and Tehran tourist attractions in more than one day:
Saadabad Historical Complex
The Sa’dabad complex was a Summer Palace for the Iranian royal family. It covers an area of 110 hectares and is located at the northernmost part of Tehran.
The complex is home to 18 palaces that belonged to royal families of Qajar and Pahlavi, set in a beautiful location surrounded by gardens. During the summer, it is open every day from 9am till around 18.45 with the last entry at 17.00, whilst opening hours may change in the winter time.
The majestic palaces and buildings are truly gorgeous and deserve more than a quick visit. Indeed, be aware that exploring the grounds will take up the best part of a full day!Find it on a map! – Saadabad Historical Complex
If you have a soft spot for civil engineering feats, do not miss the Milad Tower (also known as Tehran Tower), which rises to 435 meters from its bottom, making it the 6th tallest tower (not building) in the world, putting it one step ahead of Nikki’s favourite, the KL Tower!Find it on a map! – Milad Tower
Holy Defence Museum
The very large museum, located close to the Tabiat Bridge, gives some detailed insight into the Iran – Iraq war, and should be one of the places to visit in Tehran for modern history aficionados.
The museum is very well set up and delivers a unique sensory experience
You should really take in the view of Tabiat Bridge at night when it is beautifully lit up. Tabiat Bridge is the largest pedestrian bridge in Iran and connect two parks. There are restaurants at both ends of the bridge and viewing areas along it.
Darban is a neighbourhood in Tehran, formerly a small village, which is actually the start of a hiking route to Mount Tochal mentioned in our next point.
There’s a trail along a river lined with cafes where you can relax and leave the more polluted parts of Tehran behind. It gets rather busy at night when many Iranians come to relax by the river, to take in the lively colours and the fresh air.
You can go hiking in the mountains when you’re in Tehran! Mount Tochal is actually a popular skiing area in the winter too, and if you don’t feel like hiking you can always use the telecabin to go up the mountain, though you might need to wait a little since it could get busy.
The start of the hiking trail starts off on Darband, and you can actually combine hiking with taking the telecabin at the different stations along the route, depending on your stamina and need!
Hostels in Tehran
There are a huge number of hostels in Tehran, which are not available for booking on the more popular international booking sites.
Some booking agencies like 1st Quest offer a convenient booking service for those who like to book and pay for their hostel online when located outside of Iran, among their many services.
We thought we would book directly with our preferred hotel, after we decided on using Seven Hostels as our base in Tehran. We cannot recommend the place enough. Rooms were clean and affordable and the staff was super friendly and helpful especially when I needed to change my sim card.
The simple breakfast served on the roof area was plentiful! We paid €42 for 2 nights which we thought was very affordable, although keep in mind that prices can be subject to quite a few changes in Iran depending on the value of local currency.
Seven Hostels are present in many cities in Iran and you can get a 5% discount by booking through their website. Alternatively, we used the website Hostels in Iran to find hostels in other locations and compare prices.
Keep in mind that during peak season, many accommodation options in Iran are fully booked and it would be wise to reserve a room ahead.
Getting around in Tehran
Tehran is a very large city, and although it is quite walkable in parts, you will need other means of transport if you intend crossing the city to visit the many Tehran attractions.
Read our post dedicated to independent travel in Iran for detailed info regarding transport in Iran.
Our favourite means of transport in Tehran was without doubt the Snapp! service which is popular in all of Iran. Snapp is a car-sharing app similar to Uber which you may be more familiar with. Fees depend on distance but are normally very affordable – think 120,000 rial (12,000 toman / € 0.50) for a 15-minute ride.
It is important that you learn the numbers in Persian to be able to recognise the car picking you up. You will need an Iranian sim card to use the app. Drivers are plentiful and in general very polite, although they would speak very little English. Learning some basic Farsi is a good idea!
The metro is a convenient way of getting from one part of Tehran to the another. Since we found using Snapp! so useful during our one day in Tehran, we didn’t bother with the metro much, but we were told that it is fast and efficient.
Single metro journeys cost around 12,000 – 25,000 rial (1,200 – 2,500 toman / about €0.10 – €0.20) but be aware that it can get really busy during peak hours.
We honestly didn’t bother exploring the bus system in Tehran since the Snapp! taxis were so convenient, but we think that this may be a good transportation option for those staying longer in Tehran.
You need a transportation card to use the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), so it is actually only useful for those intending to spend some time in Tehran.
Tours in Tehran and other experiences
Several operators offer plenty of guided tours in Tehran, and especially if you’re short on time, you should consider the guided tour option, since a knowledgeable local or guide will generally provide lots of insight into the city during your visit.
You can check out several tours and other experiences in Tehran by using this link.Read more about Iran!