With its relatively short history, ugly mask of concrete, sometimes choking smog and manic streets flowing hot with machines, many travellers and no small number of Tehranis will tell you there’s no reason to hang around in the capital. But to take their advice is to miss out. For while Esfahan or Persepolis has a convincing case for being the soul of Iran, Tehran is indisputably its big, ugly, chaotic and dynamic beating heart.
Packed onto the lower slopes of the Alborz Mountains, this is Iran’s most secular and liberal city and it attracts students from across the country. Expect relatively bold fashion statements, a range of ethnic and international restaurants, chic cafes and plenty of art galleries. And while Tehran lacks history, it makes up for it with impressive museums. But to get inside the real Tehran you need to get beyond the museums and into the cafes and teahouses and onto the walking trails. That’s where you’ll connect with Tehranis.