Architecture has always been a center of attention in Iran’s history. From the burnt city (Shahr-e Sukhte) built five thousand years ago to the incredible waterways under the city of Yazd and the Tabi’at Bridge, designed in the recent decade, there is a great variety of buildings from different civilizations in Iran.
Tehran, the capital city of Iran, owns a great deal of historical and modern structures that are definitely worth visiting. There are also many more attractions in other cities from different eras of the overwhelming history of this country.
Here is a list of must see architectural sites in Iran:
Built during the monarchy of Achaemenid empire, Persepolis was the capital of the realm. The main stone structures have survived not only the fire set by Alexander the great but many natural disasters such as earthquake and floods. This shows the proficiency of its architects who were the bests of their nations, all gathered to build this historical masterpiece.
Persepolis consists of many stonework and inscriptions. They represent the cultures, values and traditions of the empire.
#2 Naqsh-e Jahan square
Naqgh-e Jahan which translates as the image of the world, is a rectangular square in the centre of Esfahan. What was once a Polo field and the gathering point of merchants during the Safavids is now the most important attraction of Esfahan that only attracts tourists but also works as a hang-out spot for the locals.
There are 4 main structures on each side of the square. The Shah mosque which offers Safavid architecture at its best, the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque with its golden dome once belonged to the Safavid king and his harem and was hidden away from the public eye for centuries. The Ali Qapoo palace is where the king would live and watch the polo games from his balcony and lastly there is the entrance to Qeysarieh Bazaar, the oldest bazaar in Esfahan.
#3 Imam Reza shrine
This place is known as the burial of Imam Reza, the eighth Shia Imam. However the shrine is also the tomb of many other well known scholars such as Sheikh Bahayi the great scholar of the Safaid era. The shrine has been renovated many time during its presence and now it has become one of the largest holy sites for Shia Muslims in the world. One of the attractions of Imam Reza shrine is the golden porch. The dome of this shrine is also made of gold and is obvious from distant places.
#4 Choqa Zanbil ziggurat
This Ziggurat is located in the southwest part of Iran, in Khuzestan. Choqa in the native language means an unnatural hill and Zanbil is Persian for basket. That is how the structure looked like before the excavation, an upside down basket-like hill.
Choqa Zanbil was built as a temple about three thousand years ago by the Elamite Empire. It faced the war with Ashurbanipal which ruined the ziggurat and ended the era of Elam as well.
#5 Veresk bridge
Veresk is an arch bridge built as part of the trans-Iranian railway. The bridge is 360 feet tall which is among the tallest in the world and was built with very simple tools during the monarch of Pahlavi. Veresk is currently used daily for railway transportations.
#6 Tabriz grand bazaar
The grand bazaar of Tabriz is the biggest covered bazaar in the world. This bazaar is located on the Silk Road, thus it became a great center of trading during the time. The bazaar consists of many halls each for a specialized use, mosques, religious schools, inns and baths that were used for the travelling merchants.
The most architecturally stunning hall of the bazaar is called Timche-ye Mozafarie which is the bazaar of carpets.
Most parts of the grand bazaar of Tabriz are designed in three floors. The underground is used for storing goods, the ground level for trading and the upper floor as a place for the salesmen to rest.
#7 The pigeon tower of Meybod
There are many pigeon towers in Iran, mostly in Esfahan and Yazd province. One of the most famous pigeon towers of Iran is in Meybod, Yazd.
The aim of building these pigeon towers was to use the excrement of the birds for agricultural means. The exterior parts pf Meybod’s pigeon tower has white prints to attract the attention of birds. Pigeons can enter the structure through the small towers on the roof. These towers are small in size and don’t let the aggressive birds enter.
The pigeon towers were designed to be cool during the summer and to prevent the entrance of cold weather in the winter. There are thousands of small holes in the pigeon tower of Meybod for birds to sit, rest and eat.
#8 Sar Agha Seyed village
This village is located in the central part of Iran, in the mountainous area of Koohrang. Sar Agha Seyed is a stair-like village, meaning that the roof of one building is the courtyard of the building above.
The village is located in an alpine climate and experiences heavy snow during winter. This results in the closure of the roads around the village and prevents transportation in the cold season. Therefore the only time possible to visit the village is during spring and summer. It has the best weather in these seasons as well.
#9 Shushtar historical hydraulic system
Shushtar historical hydraulic system is located in the southwest part of Iran and is a collection of rivers, bridges, dams, watermills and waterfalls. The building of the system was started during the Achaemenid Empire to make the most use of water and its energy.
On the one of the hills overlooking the system, the temple of Anahita, the goddess of the waters and fertility in old Iranian cultures used to exist.
#10 The brick ice house of Abarkooh
The ice house of Abarkook is located in Yazd, a desert area in the center of Iran. The ice house was built in the Qajar dynasty for processing and storing of ice. The building is 40 feet tall. The depth of it is also the same amount. There is only a small entrance in the building to get the ice out.
These icehouses were made with bricks, a substance that prevents the warm weather to get in and also does not let the cold weather to get out. Small pools were designed in the building to keep the water and let it freeze, using the coldness of the weather.
The icehouses were mostly for the use of the royals and wealthy as ice was an expensive material at the time. There are remains of numerous ice houses scattered around Iran.