Shiraz is a key stop for tourists in Iran.
Its main draw comes from the extensive and stunning ruins of Persepolis, about 60km north of the city, but Shiraz itself has plenty of attractions to keep you busy for at least two days including a citadel, numerous mosques, shrines and the tombs of two of Iran’s famous poets; Hafez and Sadi.
Shiraz is also one of the best places to get your visa extended. Your first stop should be the tourist office, which is located in the middle of the pedestrian area next to the citadel. There you can get a good map of the city and the area.
Sleeping: Hotels are thick on the ground in Shiraz but finding a good one that’s also cheap can be a challenge. Many options are on or just off the western end of Zand Street.
Zand Hotel (Dehnadi Street) was our first port of call but its cheap room rate of 100,000 Rials for a double with shower didn’t include clean sheets. We discovered hairs on all the beds, the mattresses were rock hard and bugs ran across the floor occasionally. The room was generally scruffy and in need of a good lick of paint and a new carpet. We can praise the hot showers and there’s access to a sparsely equipped kitchen (two gas rings and a sink, no pots).
If you aren’t penny pinching too much, Anvari Hotel (Anvari Street) is much better value at 160,000 Rials for a double room with ensuite toilet and shower, television and fridge. They have cheaper rooms as well. There’s also access to a kitchen here and it’s bigger and better than the one at Zand Hotel. Staff speak good English and can exchange money and arrange tours. Worth the extra money!
Self-catering: Fruit and vegetable markets are scattered throughout the city. There are some at the corner of Tohid and Lotfalikhan Zand streets. Walking further down Lotfalikhan Zand street leads to more shops selling meat and another vegetable market. On the main Karimkhane Zand street there’s a good and busy vegetable stand quite close to Valiasr Square (before you reach the park of the square). Shops selling drinks, dairy products, pasta and other staples are everywhere.
Eating out: Shiraz, like most Iranian cities, doesn’t excel when it comes to dining out. Most of the food is the standard fare; pizzas, hamburgers and kebab restaurants. There are plenty of these options along Zand Street. You may also find street sellers frying up falafels or samosas.
A nice change and a cheap option is osh, a hearty soup served in many cities in Iran. Each area has its own take on the specialty and in Shiraz it’s a noodle and bean soup with oil and yogurt on top. A small bowl costs just 2,000 Rials and bigger sizes to share are available as well. Two hungry cyclists can eat well for just 8,000 Rials between them. You can find osh being served up for take-away along Lotfalikhan Zand Street (one stall is at the intersection with Tohid Street). If you’re getting your visa renewed early in the morning, a small down-to-earth restaurant serves osh for breakfast where Valiasr Square meets Salman E Pirniya street.
There are painfully few teahouses in Iran compared with other countries like Turkey and Morocco but Saray-e Mehr is a cozy one in the bazaar, good for a drink or a lunchtime bite.
Bike Repair: Most bike shops in the downtown area leave a lot to be desired but Cross Cycle on Afifabad Street, just outside the central core, has quality Shimano parts and Alex rims. For repairs, a small shop beside the mosque on Fakhrabad Street (off Emam Hasan Square, a few blocks south of Zand street) is a good bet.
What to see:
- The Citadel has recently been restored and inside you can walk through a pleasant garden and explore its many rooms. Some have scenes in them from days gone by and you may find art exhibitions on as well.
- The tombs of the poets Hafez and Sadi make for an interesting afternoon diversion. Just sitting and watching Iranians come to the graves of their favourite poets makes for some interesting moments.
- Walk through the bazaar in Shiraz to see some of the region’s famous carpets and other handicrafts.
- The Nasir al Molk mosque has a hefty entrance fee (15,000 Rials) but it’s worth it to see the beautiful tiles and stained glass.
- Normally any visit to Shiraz wouldn’t be complete without a stop at the Shah Cheragh but currently only muslims are allowed inside so instead why not visit the shrine of Mazar Ali ibn Hamzeh, which has similar mirrored tilework inside. It’s located next to the river, on the same side as and not far from the tomb of Hafez.
Staying connected: Internet cafes cost between 6,000-10,000 Rials an hour in Shiraz. The cheapest one we found was near Valiasr Square. Several located on and around Rudaki Street (two blocks away from the bazaar, off Zand Street) charge mid-range prices and more still pop up as you walk further down Zand Street, away from the citadel. We never found the “perfect” internet cafe – none had great connections and some don’t allow USB use.