Many foreigners feel trepidation at the thought of visiting Tehran, a capital linked in the western consciousness with momentous political upheaval and threat. So the city's tree-lined streets, exceptional museums, modern art galleries and hip cafes come as a pleasant surprise. There's enough to keep you occupied in this accommodating capital for a good few days if you can put up with the traffic-clogged streets and air pollution.

 

What to see

National Jewels Museum

Stored in the vault of Iran's Central Bank, this is one of the world's greatest treasures. Here you'll see the Darya-ye Nur (Sea of Light), the world's biggest uncut diamond at 182 carats, the crowns worn by the last shah and his wife, Farah, and the 34kg 'Globe of Jewels' made in 1869 from 51,366 precious stones.


Glass and Ceramics Museum

Set in an attractive Qajar-era building, this small museum is a treat. The house was built as the private home of a prominent Persian family, then housed the Egyptian embassy before being transformed into a museum in 1976. With a design blending East and West, it has lovely swirling wooden staircases and pretty stucco mouldings, as well as a collection of hundreds of artefacts.

National Museum of Iran

This excellent museum is packed full of priceless artefacts including pottery, stone figures, friezes and carvings from across the country. The presentation of these exhibits is a little basic, as is the explanations provided on labels, but the museum brings home the incredible scale and richness of Iran's history.


 
Tehran was such a surprise! I had no idea what to expect, and I guess I was a little nervous as it was the first place I would visit in Iran. But everyone was so friendly and helpful, and the museums were incredible. I wasn’t expecting to see snowy mountains from Tehran, either!
— Claudia Hui, guest of Burrows and Bird on our Classic Persia itinerary