Welcome back to my little corner of the internet!
The great Shirazi poet Hafez describes his city with the following words: “Blessed be Shiraz in its unparalleled state/May God Almighty guard against its demise.”
This time we are going to the heart of the Persian empire. Shiraz is one of the historical and cultural pearls of Iran. So let’s discover 16 of the must-see places in and around Shiraz:
If you are coming from Esfahan, you definitely should stop at Pasargadae. Otherwise, you can take a day trip from Shiraz, a bus or rent a car (with driver if you fear the crazy Iranian traffic). This complex contains what has been dug up from the ancient residence, and city, of Cyrus the Great and his tomb.
The solemn tomb of Cyrus the Great is the first building that you will see upon entering the complex. Pasargadae used to be the political centre of the Persian empire, before the construction of Persepolis.
The once green and luscious pastures are now a dry and inhospitable terrain. Legend has it that the great Alexander himself visited the tomb and paid his respects to Cyrus.
2. Qu’ran Gate
At the Northern entrance to the city, you will drive through the Qu’ran Gate. If you are coming from Esfahan, you will be passing through it when entering Shiraz.
The name derives from the Qu’rans stored inside the gate. Travelers leaving Shiraz would pass under the Holy Book and be protected by it on their journey. In Iran, the Qu’ran is often seen as a magic item that will protect you against evil spirits and misfortune.
3. Tomb of Hafez
Shiraz is the city of Hafez, the most known poet from Iran. As such, his tomb is also located in the city and connecting to his poems, the building appears like a park with trees, coloured flowers, water and delicate buildings. In the middle, the mausoleum of Hafez watches over the surrounding luscious landscape.
In this magical place, you can find people reading or reciting verses from Hafez.
4. Tomb of Saadi
Saadi is the the other big name in Iranian literature. Like Hafez, he is also originally from Shiraz and in his mausoleum you can also find groups of people reading of reciting verses of Saadi.
Unlike the first tomb, this one has a smaller park around it, but it is not less impressive. Just look at the ceilings!
5. Eram Garden
This garden is a historical botanical garden in Shiraz. The idea behind this garden was to make it as similar to paradise as possible. The flowers, water basins and trees should recollect the garden of Eden.
6. Shiraz Castle
In the city centre, it will be hard not to acknowledge the massive castle. It resembles a Medieval castle or fortress that also served as a prison. The most impressive sight are the walls on the outside that are well preserved to this day. Karim Khan Castle, however, is not less impressive on the inside with high vaults and intricate beehive constructions.
7. Pars Museum
A short walk past the castle and towards the heart of Shiraz, you will find the Pars Museum. It is a small museum in an octagonal building, with a collection of art and artifacts until the present. Definitely worth a visit, if you have some spare time.
9. Bazaar Vakil
Not far away you can walk to the Vakil Bazaar and the old baths. Why not, grab a freshly squeezed juice at the the juice bar along the road. Both the pomegranate juice and the orange juice are delicious.
Like most bazaars, it is a labyrinth of streets and shops with a square and a water basin in the middle. You won’t remember what way you came from now how you actually managed to get there. Beautiful jewellery and accessories, scarves, carpets and clothes can be found in this bazaar that is open well into the night.
In front of the bazaar, you can have a delicious meal with a lot of locals in a historic restaurant. It would not be surprising if you made some new Iranian friends that praise the quality and fame of the Shirazi wine (which is no longer made in Iran, due to government restrictions on alcoholic beverages).
10. Nasir ol molk Mosque or Pink mosque
The most famous and iconic view from Shiraz and all of Iran is the pink mosque. The best time to go, before being overwhelmed by tourist groups and eager Chinese tourists, is early in the morning. It is when the light best invades the coloured windows and the beautiful, nearly magical, reflections invade the room.
It will be hard not to be enchanted by the magical light, but the pink tile works behind the windows are just as beautiful.
11. Shah-e Cheragh Shrine
Once you will have left the Pink Mosque, you might feel a bit empty, but this emptiness can be filled by one of the most extraordinary places for a siesta, ever: The Shah e-Cheragh Shrine.
You will find yourself immersed in a fabulous room fully covered in glass plates. What started as an accident, evolved to become a mesmerising way to decorate interiors. Back in the day, a shipment of mirrors from Venice, arrived in Iran with a few of the pieces being cracked. The decorators did not know what to do with the mirrors, so they decided to use them as mosaics. I think they did a great job. What do you think?
12. Atigh Jame Mosque
If you cannot have enough of those tiled beauties, the Atigh Jame Mosque might be the right thing for you. Especially, because there will be kind people who are ready to talk to you about the Koran and serve you tea and cookies.
However, my absolute highlight was the toilet that, although only for men, was open to women as well. A shocking surprise considering that we are in a segregated country.
Now let’s get to the actual reason why you’ll be in Shiraz: Persepolis! The incredible capital of the Persian empire, where Alexander the Great himself blushed with envy at the luxury and magnitude of this city.
Up to now, even though the forests and gardens surrounding Persepolis are gone, the massive boulevard leading to its entrance gives you a glimpse of what it must have looked like back in the day.
Especially if you get yourself on a camel and ride towards the entrance, you’ll feel like a merchant in one of the many caravans that probably crossed Persia thousands of years ago.
14. Naqsh-e Rajab
Only a few kilometres away from Persepolis, you’ll find Naqh-e Rajab. This archeological site depicts reliefs with inscriptions and coronation scenes of the Sassanid kings.
15. Naqsh-e Rustam
This necropolis, which is very close to Naqsh-e Rajab, holds kings of the Achaemenid dynasty and dates back to 500 BC. The reliefs depict the legendary hero Rustam, hence its name. it is impressive that the entrances of the tombs are located quite high up from where we stand today.
16. Eat with a local
Now, when in Shiraz, you should not miss out of the chance to cook and eat with a local. This home restaurant is run by Mosehn, a fan of Hafez, and Sahar, his lovely wife and chef. While Mosehn will seduce you reciting verses of the poet Hafez, singing traditional songs and playing the guitar, Sahar will be busy in the kitchen and explaining you, how to cook traditional Iranian dishes.
17. Maharloo Salt lake
Approximately one and a half hours’ drive away from Shiraz, you’ll encounter one of Iran’s biggest salt lakes. In the dry season, the lake is completely dried out and presents itself like a white sea of salt.
18. Eat in the culinary capital of Iran
With all these things to do and visit, you should not forget to enjoy Shirazi hospitality and a lot of their lovely cuisine. In Iran, Shiraz is often viewed as the capital of gastronomy and food. Shirazi salad and Falloudeh, a fruity sorbet with rice noodles, are only a few of the many dishes you can find here.
One go-to place is close to the Qu’ran Gate, actually right above it. Shams Ol Emareh is a traditional Iranian restaurant with a modern twist, playing modern music and serving traditional foods. It is not a tourist place, so you’ll be in good company with locals.
The food is amazing and they will make sure to feed you will you drop.
Another great restaurant is Haft Khan. This restaurant is in a multi-storey building with different restaurants. The traditional Persian restaurant offers a variety of local and Iranian foods, traditional dances, performed by hearing impaired people and is a go-to place for both national and international guests.
Have you ever visited Shiraz? What was you favourite sight? Would you like to discover Iran? Let me know in the comments below.