Tabriz is a big but relaxed city, filled with proud people and a UNESCO-listed bazaar to explore. It’s the perfect introduction to Iran for people crossing over the border from Armenia… or anyone, for that matter. Here’s a quick introduction to travel to Tabriz
We climb out of the taxi, laden with bulging backpacks, unsure as to where we are.
“Is this Mohaqqeqi Street?” we ask the driver, completely butchering the pronunciation.
He looks at us quizzically, says something in Farsi, and motions for us to give him the money we owe him. Are we lost already? we think to ourselves while fumbling with 50,000 rial notes. But we’ve literally just arrived! Then, two teenage guys walk up to us.
“Hello! Can we help you?”
“We’re looking for Mohaqqeqi Street.”
“This is Mohaqqeqi Street. Which guesthouse are you looking for?”
We give them the name. They discuss for a moment.
“Ah we know that one, just follow us. And welcome to Tabriz!”
Things to do in Tabriz
Tabriz is the fifth biggest city in Iran, but we wouldn’t have guessed from being there for three days–the city feels more like a large town. The city center very walkable and the people also extremely friendly, something not particularly common in big cities. Below are just a few things you can do while traveling to Tabriz and its surroundings.
The Bazaar of Tabriz
When you visit Tabriz, you must visit The Bazaar of Tabriz. It’s one of the oldest bazaars in the world, comprised of an endless maze filled with bustling shoppers and friendly shopkeepers. It’s on the UNESCO World Heritage list, and deservedly so. You could easily wander around for an entire day (or two) without actually buying anything. Just observing the daily bazaar life is attraction enough.
Shahgoli park is another spot not-to-be-missed when you travel to Tabriz. This park is a bit away from the center, but definitely worth the trek (a trek by taxi, that is). There are several food stalls around the park and outside the park’s perimeter, and an upscale restaurant in the center of it. An artificial lake rings the park walkway, making it particularly pretty in the evening. The park is a Tabrizian favorite come evening time, and a great way to meet locals. Better yet, head there with one of the locals that you’ll inevitably meet while wandering around Tabriz.
The Blue Mosque of Tabriz
Once one of the most magnificent mosques in the world, an earthquake in 1772 severely damaged this mosque in Tabriz. Restoration work is going on to this day, and some of the mosaics are still incredible. The mosque is a bit away from the center, but all taxi drivers will know how to get there.
Kandovan is a small village outside of Tabriz. Kandovan is also known as the “Cappadocia of Iran” due to its spiring troglodyte caves. It’s an easy day trip away from Tabriz by public transport. Find out more about how to get from Tabriz to Kandovan here.
Meet the people
Tabrizians are incredibly warm and hospitable. Within an hour of being in the city, we were greeted and welcomed to Iran at least a dozen times. We were practically getting whiplash from looking over our shoulders so often to see who was shouting a greeting to us.
Looking for offbeat places in Iran? Check out our off the beaten path Iran itinerary!
A boy names Behzat showed us around on our second day in Tabriz. Behzat’s a witty 21-year-old who wanted to practice his already-excellent English. An hour later, we were invited to the home of a girl named “Butterfly” and her giggly friend, Rozhan.
Needless to say, we had a blast. They were all extremely friendly and curious and refused to let us pay for anything. I offered several times, always getting a tsst! or a “You are our guest, we cannot let you pay for anything!”
Where to stay in Tabriz
If you’re traveling on a budget, the only reasonable place you can stay in Darya Guest House, on Mohaqqeqi Street. It’s reasonably priced and is located near the city center. If you’re looking for something more upscale, you can book several mid-range and upscale hotels using 1StQuest (use the code LWP-QST to get a 5% discount).
Tabriz is a great introduction to Iran, or, if you’ve already been in Iran for a while, a great place to go and wander for a couple of days. The city’s inhabitants make you feel like a long lost friend–someone they haven’t seen in years, but with whom they can still continue like it was only yesterday that you last sat down for a cup of chai. A warm family will adopt you, curious to know everything about you and the place you’re from, and you will feel that you have become a bit of a Tabrizian by the time you leave.
Have you ever visited the city of Tabriz? What did you think? What was your favorite part about the city?