You can take a tour of entire Tehran via the world’s least expensive metro. It is almost free! Too good to be true?! Don’t you believe it? Just keep on reading to see how it is possible!
Some believe one needs a big wad of cash to travel abroad, but this could be proven to be just a lame excuse! In fact, in my opinion these people don’t love traveling while pretending they do!
So now let’s get down to business. You are in Tehran and are looking to explore the city on a budget tour. The best and most convenient option for you is Tehran’s subway system. Here is your well-tailored and exclusive metro itinerary! Enjoy your trip. It will make an unforgettable one. No doubt!
If you are a male you are not allowed in the women only carriages. But if you are a female, you may enter mixed passenger cars. Some feel more comfortable in the women-only cars.
Note: You should take care of your belongings and travel documents in the metro like anywhere else in the world.
1. Wherever you are, head to the closest metro station to you. It shouldn’t be difficult finding a metro station in your vicinity.
2. For the first leg of this tour, you should get to Line 1 (the line colored in red) of the subway system. See the map of Tehran’s metro below and plan your journey first.
3. The first stop is Panzdah-e-Khordad Metro Station. This busy station is located in the heart of old Tehran. The neighborhood is home to 70% of Tehran’s tourist attractions including old mansions, museums, the Golestan Palace, the Grand Bazaar, Shah Mosque and many sturdy buildings with eye-catching architecture of the first Pahlavi era, constructed by German architects.
4. Leave the train and exit Panzdah-e-Khordad station .You will find yourself at Sabzeh Meydan, the main entrance of the Grand Bazaar. It should be evident from the hustle and bustle of the stone-paved street that you are at the city’s hub. Shops selling dried fruits, spices, clothes, dates, dried nuts, candies and pastries! And whatever you can imagine. Now you are just 70 meters away from the Golestan Palace.
Note: You will need a few hours to explore the royal Qajar complex.
5. It seems better to visit the Golestan Palace first and then explore the Grand Bazaar of Tehran. When visiting the bazaar you should keep in mind that it is really big with countless winding passageways and you could easily get lost.
6. When you are done with strolling through the Grand Bazaar return to Sabzeh Meydan. If you can’t find your way back, just ask locals for directions.
7. Walk for 5 minutes eastbound to the entrance of Shah Mosque- go down the stairs and enter the large court. Spend some time inside to appreciate the amazing mirror-work in the mosque. But be careful! An Italian guest of mine, badly amazed by the mirror work and the ceiling failed to mind the stairs and felt down badly! I thought for a second that his bones were badly hurt! But fortunately he was strong enough to escape injury!
8. When finished in the mosque come back to the entrance. Climb up the stairs, you will face Naser Khosrow Street.
9. Walk north along Naser Khosrow and have a look at the back side of Shamsolemareh which is one of the buildings in the Golestan Palace. It was once the tallest building in Tehran.
10. Next, there is Dar ul-Funun, the first modern college of Iran which was established in the Qajar era.
11. Continue walking along Naser Khosrow until you arrive at the Imam Khomeini Square. Now turn left and pass by the huge building of the Ministry of Telecom.
12. You will see the main entrance of the Imam Khomeini metro station facing a traditional market, where you can try delicious fast foods and many more edibles. You can enjoy drinking or eating near a small replica of the tomb of Hafiz there.
13. Now walk another 50 meters westbound along Imam Khomeini Street (Sepah Avenue) to reach the National Garden (Bagh-e Melli) entrance. Enter the gate and pay visits to Malek Museum, Archeology Museum, National Museum, Post Museum and the entire premises of the foreign ministry. The complex includes the old police headquarters of the country during the Pahlavi era and some more old German made buildings, all now belonging to the foreign ministry.
14. This areas is connected to 30th Tir Street. It is a narrow street on the western side of the National Museum, leading you to Abgineh Museum of Tehran within a 5 to 7-minute walk. There you can see ancient glassware and ceramic items displayed in an eye-catching mansion. The mansion itself is a beautiful traditional house which was once the residence of a dignitary family.
15. The Russian and British embassies are also located at the end of 30th Tir Street.
16. From Abgineh Museum, you can visit the Royal Jewelry Museum within a 10-minute walk to east along Jomhouri Avenue. The priceless treasury is hiding in the basement of the old building of the Central Bank in Ferdowsi Avenue.
17. The German and Turkish embassies are just on the other side of the Ferdowsi Avenue, in front of the Royal Jewelry Museum.
18. When finished visiting, walk back to Imam Khomeini Metro Station. Take Line 1 and head north.
19. Get off the train at Taleghani Metro Station. The only entrance/exit way of this station will take you directly to the south eastern corner of the former US embassy. You will see the Greek Church on the other side of the crossing and a row of handicraft shops just on the southern side of Taleghani Avenue. Iranian Artists Forum with a tranquil atmosphere, cozy cafes and theater halls are just within walking distance of the embassy building.
20. It is somehow tricky to visit all these sites in a single day. But if you still feel like exploring Tehran, the city has much more to offer. The Azadi Tower is another must-see in the capital. Return to Taleghani Metro station. Catch a train going south to Kahrizak and get off at the next station which is Darvazeh- Dowlat.
21. Here you should switch to Line 4 (the yellow line). Catch a train bound to Ekbatan (Eram-e Sabz) and get off at Azadi Square station (Meydan-e Azadi Metro Station).
22. Here you can visit the museum on the grand floor. It showcases artworks from around the world. Then take the elevator to the upper floors for a panoramic view of Tehran.
23. Now return to the metro station. If you still feel like traveling across the city keep on reading this guide since there are more interesting places to see. If you will tired and want to get some rest, use the subway system to get to the station closest to your residence.
24. Go back to Meydan-e Enghelab-e Eslami Metro Station. Exit the station and walk for 7-10 minutes to the north along the Kargar Street to get to the entrance of Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art. It is a popular attraction for those interested in contemporary art. The museum has a rich and world-class contemporary art collection.
25. If you continue walking north, you will arrive at the Carpet Museum of Iran in a few minutes. Here you will see some of the most valuable and finest Iranian carpets. It is a glorious feast for your eyes and mind.
26. The next and last stop would be Tajrish. To get there, you should go to the nearest metro station which is Meydan-e Jahad Metro Station near Jahad Square (Fatemi Square).
27. Catch a train heading to Gha-em but be alert not to pass more than two stations. Get off at Shahid Beheshti station.
28. Now you should take Line 1 (the red line) heading north to reach Tajrish Metro Station. In Tajrish, you have to take the escalators 4 times and should pass a few long corridors to reach the street level.
29. Once you leave the station, you find yourself at a very crowded bazaar with hundreds of street vendors, shouting hawkers and a beautiful traditional market: the Tajrish Bazaar.
30. Walk through the traditional bazaar and shop for souvenirs to take home. The main passageway at bazaar will take you to the tomb of Imamzadeh Saleh, the tomb of a descendant of Imam Musa al-Kadhim, the seventh Shia Imam. Tajrish is an amazing place. It is in the heart of Tehran’s northernmost district and a high-end residential area, where you may find heavenly tranquil streets with luxury villas in favorite atmosphere just few hundred meters from the crowded and narrow bazaar and malls around the square.
Your metro tour is now more or less over. However, you have few more places to visit near Tajrish Square: Cinema Museum of Iran, Saadabad Historical Complex, and Niavaran Palace Complex. There is also the Darband neighborhood at the foothills of Mount Tochal where you can enjoy a nice hiking and a pleasant meal.
The interesting point is that the whole trip will cost you less than one dollar in subway fare. It is just amazing, isn’t it?!
Tip: If you are a cyclist heading to Tehran, the good news is the city’s metro is open to you and your bike! You can take your folding bike (90x60x30cm) with you on all carriages every day of the week except during rush hours: 6:30 to 9:30 AM and 4 to 7 PM. If you have an ordinary (non-folding) bike, you can use metro on Fridays and public holidays. Just note that such bikes are only allowed in carriages marked with the illustration of a bicycle on their windows.
You are not allowed to ride your bike inside and outside cars and within metro premises. Just control your bike not to bother others. It is something like when you go around with your dog, you must harness it not to bite or frighten others!!
Tip: If you are a budget traveler or willing to mingle with locals just from the beginning, another good news is that Imam Khomeini International Airport is connected to Tehran’s metro network.
Tip: There are dozens of male and female hawkers inside metro cars! In Moscow, you can see hawkers and street vendors forming a corridor at the entrance of the main metro stations, but in Tehran it differs! Hawkers are allowed to enter the cars to promote their poor-quality items mainly accessories of mobile phones, toothpaste and tooth brush, cookies, socks and many more. In the women-only cars, you will see female hawkers, young and old. Meanwhile, there are many signs advising passengers not to buy from them, helping the management to reduce this annoyance especially during rush hours.