The young guardsman appears slightly uneasy: A group of German tourists is jumping up and down in front of the Marble Throne Hall in Tehran's Golestan Palace. A large glass screen is blocking the view of the enormous marble throne and its famed decorations, and it's angled in such a way that the sky reflects and it's all but impossible to take a decent photo of the pomp. Finally one man is taking his wife on the shoulders so that she can take a picture. Like most women in the group, she isn't exactly clad according to the stricter interpretations of Iranian dress rules, and the guardsman is probably mulling whether he should intervene for reasons of modesty, but decides against it.
Golestan Palace, the palace of the Qajar rulers from the late 18th century onwards, is Tehran's only UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site and along with the jewelry museum the city's main tourist draw. Actually it is more a collection of royal residence and administrative buildings grouped around a large garden than a palace. The so-called main hall in the centre of the North side is basically a two-up-two-down affair, albeit with extremely large rooms and a glitzy staircase (the walls are covered with different-sized mirrors). We have to don soft overshoes to preserve the parquet flooring, and all the rooms again are fitted with mirrors and mirror decorations, even around the electrical sockets. There's some furniture on exhibit, as well as dozens of china plates that came as gifts from European rulers to the Qajar Shahs. The interior design must have been modern and impressive in its time, although today it looks like a hotel catering to the Russian middle class.
The other buildings and palaces house a variety of museums, as well as some administrative offices.There are some more open verandahs and large thrones to see, and the tombstone of Naser-al-din Shah (1831-96) also ended up here. We do quite like the facades, all of which are decorated with Persian tiles, showing lots of Persian lions fighting dragons or hunting antelopes. Some of the motives we know from the madrasas in Samarkand.
Although we didn't make it to the jewelry museum, we did visit the National Museum as well as the Museum for Glass and Ceramics, both of which were very good: the latter has an excellent presentation (a mix of modern and traditional) and a very good collection, and the National Museum has an excellent collection with appropriate presentation.
Probably not. The Qajar rulers are the least famous one of the Iranian dynasties (except maybe for their decadence), and their palace might have been quite avantgarde during their time, but it failed to impress us. But Teheran is a great city and there are plenty of things to see and do.
How to get there
The Golestan Palace is opposite of the Bazaar in the Southern part of Tehran. The next Metro Station is Imam Khomenei.