Iranian Art Museum Garden
Scaled-down architectural models of famous Iranian buildings are dotted around this lovely, spacious walled garden surrounded by small boutiques, cafes and a restaurant. The models include such landmarks as the Si-o Seh bridge in Esfahan, the Gonbad Soltaniyeh and Tehran’s Azadi Tower. It’s a very pleasant spot to relax, do some shopping and mingle with locals.
Also known as Stone Garden, Park-e Jamshidiyeh climbs steeply up the lower reaches of the Alborz Mountains and offers a clean, quiet atmosphere in which to enjoy the views and escape the smog. It’s the sort of place you could happily spend time in, while you’re away an entire afternoon sipping tea, chatting with random Tehranis and watching the lights of this huge city slowly come to life.
Many Tehranis say Park-e Mellat is their favorite in-town getaway, and if you’re here around dusk on any spring or summer afternoon you’ll find plenty of people enjoying the shaded areas around a small lake. On weekend nights you’ll find just as many young people cruising up and down Valiasr Ave, several to a car, eyeing each other off and swapping phone numbers through car windows.
Imamzadeh Saleh Shemiran
One of Tehran’s most attractive shrines is Imamzadeh Saleh, which provides a photogenic focus to Tajrish Sq with its twin minarets and dome covered in beautifully patterned turquoise tiles: it looks especially stunning towards sunset.
Tehran’s street art
Tehran’s highway flyovers, high brick walls and a jumble of concrete housing complexes and towers win no awards for visual appeal. However, those same structures do provide enormous canvases for striking, colorful and highly imaginative street art.
Such public daubings date back to the early years of the Iranian Revolution and the anti-West propaganda public art, such as the wall fronting the US Den of Espionage and the iconic Stars & Stripes mural. towers over Karim Khan Zand Blvd in central Tehran. There are countless stories-tall portraits of Ayatollah Khomeini and of current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei. In the wake of the Iran–Iraq War, favorite subjects also include that conflict’s many martyrs.
In recent years, Mayor Ghalibaf’s administration has stepped up its program of beautifying Tehran by handing out gallons of paint to approved muralists such as Mehdi Ghadyanloo who painted over 100 large-scale works across the city between 2004 and 2011. Ghadyanloo’s surreal Magritte-like murals are typically whimsical, featuring figures walking across ceilings, twisting giant bolts or cycling or driving through the sky.
Of course, there’s also an underground army of non-approved street artists turning out works that tackle social and political issues and which are often quickly blanked out by the authorities. Among them is Black Hand, who is often labeled as Iran’s Banksy, and the Tabriz-born brothers and stencil artists Icy & Sot now based in New York City.