Iran's largest museum of history and archeology, the National Museum of Iran houses one of the greatest collections of ancient and post-Islamic artifacts in the world. The building complex itself is more than 70 years old, and it's not only Iran's largest museum of history and archeology, but it also ranks as one of the few prestigious museums of the world in regard to grand volume, diversity and quality of its huge monuments. This is why the National Museum of Iran is one of the most popular Tehran tourist attractions.
In the Iranian museum tradition it is considered Iran’s mother museum. It's aimed at preserving historical relics of past and future generations, enhancing better understanding among world peoples and nations, showing Iran’s role in shaping world culture and civilization, and trying to enhance public knowledge.
The National Museum of Iran is actually two complexes, including the Museum of Ancient Iran (Muze ye Irān e Bāstān) which was inaugurated in 1937, and the Museum of the post-Islamic Era (Muze ye Dowrān e (pasā) Eslāmi) which was inaugurated in 1972.
There are also a number of research departments in the museum, including paleolithic and osteological departments, and a center for Pottery Studies.
The National Museum of Iran is a brick building designed by the French architect Andre Godard in the early 20th century. It was influenced by Sassanid vaults, particularly the Eyvān-e-Kasrā at Ctesiphon. With an area of approximately 11000 square meters, its construction began in 1935 and was completed within two years, and officially inaugurated in 1937.
The later 'Museum of the post-Islamic Era' was built with white travertine next to the Museum of Ancient Iran. It has gone through quite a few hurried interior changes, and remodeling was still undergoing when the 1979 Revolution swept the country.
It hosts historical pieces dating back through preserved ancient and medieval Iranian antiquities, including pottery vessels, metal objects, textile remains, and some rare books and coins.
The ancient collection consists of three halls. The halls contain artifacts and fossils from the lower, middle, and upper Paleolithic, as well as Neolithic, Chalcolithic, early and late Bronze Age, and Iron Ages I-III, through to Median, Achaemenid, Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanid periods.
The collections amount to 300,000 museum objects in an area of more than 20,000 square meters. The oldest artifacts in the museum are from Kashafrud, Darband and Ganj Par, sites that date back to the Lower Paleolithic period. Mousterian stone tools made by Neanderthals are also on display in the first hall of the Museum of Ancient Iran. The most important Upper Paleolithic tools are from the Yafteh Cave, dating back about 30,000-35,000 years. There are also 9,000 year-old human and animal figurines from Sarab Hill in Kermanshah Province, among many other ancient artifacts.
However both museums have overlapping collections, as the volume of ancient relics was so vast, the newer building began to feature exquisite ancient pieces also, for example the Amlash pottery from the prehistoric Caspian Sea regions of Iran. Yet, however large the collection of the National Museum of Iran is, many important pieces remain scattered across museums in European capital cities.
In any event, plans are now underway for the construction of another building, as the current ones lack the capacity and standards for preserving all of the excavated treasures. As they say:
“Real museums are places where Time is transformed into Space.”
And indeed this applies to the National Museum of Iran, one of the best Tehran tourist attractions.
15 More Reasons to Visit Tehran
These are just some of the most famous places to visit in Tehran. But the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
The best way to discover Tehran is to hire an experienced local tour guide. Either compare the packaged Iran tours or join a cheap Tehran walking tour to learn about it's rich history and inspiring culture. You'll get more information of the places to visit in Tehran with an experienced local tour guide.
Where to Stay
My favorite luxury hotels in tehran are the 5 Star Espinas Hotel and Parsian Azadi Hotel Tehran (ex-Grand Hyatt Hotel prior to revolution), both with professional staff and great views from different parts of Tehran. Double rooms start from US $230 and $250 respectively, including breakfast.
Decent 4 Star Hotels also include Niloo Hotel and Escan Hotel. Or for more budget options, the 3 Star Rated Mashad Hotel is right next to Taleghani Metro and provides comfort at US $130 for a double, including breakfast. Otherwise Iran Central Hotel (Hotel Markazi), Firouzeh Hotel, and Golestan Hotel Tehran are also some of the better budget options under $80/night.
There are also Hostels in Tehran from $10 U.S. per night for the budget travellers.
Most of these hotels are within walking distance to the National Museum of Iran (about 1500 m).
Where to Eat Nearby
Of the Best Restaurants in Tehran, not far away from the city centre is the popular Gol Rezaeieye Cafe serving great traditional Iranian meals in a cute and hip American diner setting. Dizi Restaurant is also rated highly on Trip Adviser for a great stew, or Coffeeshop and Veggie Restaurant serves only vegetarian meals if that's more you (conveniently near Artists Park in Tehran). Or if you're in northern Tehran near Darband, Tehran SPU Restaurant is highly recommended. But for a great cup of coffee checkout Romaan Book Cafe near the Italian Embassy (what a perfectly match).
Need to Know
For general up-to-date information about the National Museum of Iran see these two websites:
What do you think of the National Museum of Iran? Leave your comments below.
Follow us: @Sfiran_Travel