Tehran is a conservative city, but it is also home to some of Iranian society’s most liberal strands, particularly behind the closed doors of the tree-lined streets and cul-de-sacs of its northern neighbourhoods.
Hugging the lower slopes of the magnificent, snowcapped Alborz Mountains, Tehran is Iran’s most secular and liberal city. Spend time here – as you should – and you’ll soon realise that the city is so much more than a chaotic jumble of concrete and crazy traffic blanketed by a miasma of air pollution. This is the nation’s dynamic beating heart and the place to get a handle on modern Iran and what its future will likely be. There are many modern amenities from landscaped parks to multi-level motorways, huge gardens and towering skyscrapers. I was pleasantly surprised at the development in Tehran and how fashionably-dressed the young people were.
Exploring this fascinating metropolis will transport you on a journey through more than 250 years of Iranian history – from the glittering Golestan Palace and the adjacent Grand Bazaar to the beautiful Azadi Tower and the notorious former US embassy. Then there are the city’s many excellent museums and serene gardens. In such places, as well as in contemporary cafes, traditional teahouses and on the walking trails in the mountains, you can relax and enjoy all that’s good about Tehran.
It was easy to get around Tehran with the metro and there are several sights in central Tehran to keep you occupied for the whole day. There are two main ways you can pay for tickets. Magnetic tickets cost single/two-trips IR7000/11,0000 (40 cents) between any two stations on the system. Better value and more convenient are stored value cards, which cost an initial IR50,000 including IR35,000 of travel credit. You can buy these and have them topped up at metro stations; using them, each trip fare is significantly cheaper. There are separate train carriages for men and women as the trains can get really crowded during peak hours.