Shiraz City Guide
Shiraz has come to be known among Iranians as the city of the flower and the nightingale.
The famous poets and beautiful gardens have earned the city that lyrical nickname. Hearing about the poets and exploring serene gardens is an important part of any Shiraz experience, however the city offers a lot more. Magnificent ancient temples, palaces and hammams, as well as a vibrant bazaar are just some of the wonderful things you can see in Shiraz.
Sightseeing in the Old Town
Start your tour around the city by walking through the Quran gate. Part of the ancient city walls, this gate was the entrance to Shiraz in the olden days. Nearby you will find the tomb and the statue of Khaju Kermani, a renowned medieval mystic and poet. The medieval rulers of Shiraz were patrons of the arts and sciences. The city became popular with artists and it eventually became home to not one but several of Iran's most celebrated poets. Among them are Saadi and Hafez whose tombs are well preserved till present day.
Many of the city's historic landmarks were built by one and the same ruler – Karim Khan. Places not to miss include his beautifully preserved castle, the mosques, the bathhouses and the bazaar. The khan's castle (also known as the citadel) is completely intact. Its imposing walls, colourful mosaics and ornate stained glass windows, created by some of the best artisans of the era, have all survived the test of time and are an enchanting reminder of days gone by.
The bathhouses built by the khan are equally fascinating. In Persia bathhouses (or hammams) played a function similar to that of the baths in ancient Rome. A bathhouse functioned as a beauty salon, a spa and a venue where to socialise. Today exhibits and statues decorate the bathhouse to illustrate how people interacted and what treatments they received when they came to take a bath.
Vakil Bazaar, on the other hand, offers much less history and far more amusement. This colourful locale should be your first stop for shopping. Apart from legendary Iranian carpets, you can also browse a range of other traditional goodies, as well as high-quality antiques. The bazaar is filled with the workshops of artisans and craftsmen dedicated to preserving old-time crafts.
One of the most breathtaking sites in Shiraz is the Shah Cheragh complex. This medieval mausoleum became a popular pilgrimage site and was expanded with many buildings over the centuries but the real jewel remains the 13th-century mosque. Its striking interiors are covered in a dazzling mosaic of stained glass, mirror parts and tiles, which make the walls and ceilings glittery. The fine Iranian carpets, marble floors and crystal chandeliers only add to the beauty of the temple that looks as if it has materialized out of Scheherazade's magical tales.
An oasis of gardens
In a land with a climate as dry as that of Iran, gardens are highly revered and gardening has been taken to an art form. Shiraz is one of those cities where this is very easy to see and the city is famous for its green spaces, most notably its gardens, which in Persian are known as baghs.
One of the most famous among all is the UNESCO designated heritage site of the Eram garden, which is part of the botanical gardens of the city. The royal Eram garden, which was laid-out in the 13th century around a fountain, belongs to an elegant and ornate palace (unfortunately closed to the public). Visit on any day and you can relax under the shades of palm and cypress trees, while admiring the fragrant flower beds.
Albeit much smaller and not that famous, the Golsham or Afif-Abad garden, is also worth a visit. This leafy oasis also belongs to a royal mansion. Today one part of the mansion houses an arms and armory museum, while other parts reveal richly decorated interiors. The garden also has a tea house where you can catch your breath and recharge.
An hour's journey north of Shiraz lies the most fascinating historic site in all of Iran –ancient Persepolis. More than 2500 years ago this city was the seat of the powerful Achaemenid Empire. Even though what's left today are mostly ruins, foundations and pillars that once supported rooftops, the site gives any visitor an idea of how grand this city once was – no less inspiring than nearby modern-day Shiraz.