Located in the northernmost part of Tehran, the Sa’dabad Complex is a sprawling royal estate that encapsulates the essence of Iranian regality and cultural richness. Once the summer residence of the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties, this majestic complex, encompassing over 18 palaces set in an expanse of lush gardens, now serves as a multifaceted museum. The Sa’dabad Palace, the crown jewel, alongside its surrounding palaces, offers visitors a unique glimpse into Iran’s royal past, art, and architecture.
Explore the Sa’dabad Complex to discover a pivotal piece of Iran’s historical and cultural tapestry, right in the heart of its modern capital.
How to Get to Sa’dabad Complex?
Currently, Darband and Zafaraniyeh gates are the entrances to Sa’dabad Complex accessible to tourists. Depending on your access, you can choose either of these gates to visit Sa’dabad Palace Museum.
We suggest that if you are using public transportation and do not need to visit the public relations or security units upon entry, choose the Darband entrance. However, if you are driving, the Zafaraniyeh gate is a better choice due to parking availability.
Access to Sa’dabad Complex from Darband
If you have chosen Darband gate for entry, follow the guide below:
Metro: From anywhere in Tehran, head to the nearest metro station and get off at Tajrish station (Line 1 of Tehran Metro). Both in front of the metro station in Qods Square and at the taxi stand in Tajrish Square (beginning of Jafari Street), there are taxis available to take you to the Darband gate of Sa’dabad Complex.
It’s advisable to familiarize yourself with the Tehran metro map and train schedules.
Bus: Using different bus lines, just get yourself to Tajrish Square station, then take taxis available in front of the metro station at Qods Square or the taxi stand at Tajrish Square (beginning of Jafari Street) to reach the Darband gate of Sa’dabad Complex.
Personal Car: If your choice of transportation to Sa’dabad Complex is a personal car, you should know that the complex does not have a parking lot. Therefore, it is recommended to choose the Zafaraniyeh gate. Otherwise, you can drive up Darband Street (north side of the square) all the way to Darband Square and park your car in the square and its surrounding areas.
Access Route to Sa’dabad Palace via Zafaraniyeh Gate
If you’ve chosen the Zafaraniyeh gate for entry, use the following guide:
Metro: From any part of Tehran, take line 1 of the metro to the last station, which is Tajrish. Stand on the west side of the square, at the beginning of Shahid Maleki Street, and get on the taxis headed to Asf or Asadabad. Then, ask the driver to drop you off at the beginning of Taheri Street. From here, you have about a 10-minute walk to the Zafaraniyeh Gate.
Bus: The BRT buses on the Railway-Tajrish line are also a suitable choice for reaching Tajrish. To get to the Zafaraniyeh Gate, follow the same method to reach Tajrish Square and, like before, take the taxis to Asf or Asadabad and ask the driver to drop you off at the beginning of Taheri Street. You have about a 10-minute walk from here to the Zafaraniyeh Gate.
Personal Car: Finding parking in the alleys of Zafaraniyeh is easier than in the streets around Darband Square! Simply enter Velayat Street from Tajrish Square. Continue on Shahid Fallahi Street (formerly Zafaraniyeh) on your right to the end. After the traffic light, turn right into Shahid Taheri Street and park your car in the surrounding streets. Additionally, you can use the link below for navigation.
Contact Information for Sa’dabad Complex
For access and contact with the Sa’dabad Complex, you can use the following information:
Zaferaniyeh Entrance Address: Tehran, Valiasr Street, Shahid Fallahi Street (Zaferaniyeh), end of Shahid Kamal Taheri Street
Darband Entrance Address: Tehran, Tajrish Square, Shahid Jafari Street, south side of Darband Square
Sa’dabad Complex Phone Number: +98 21 27940000
Visiting Hours for Sa’dabad Palace
Find the visiting hours for Sa’dabad Palace museums and other related information below:
Visiting and Ticket Sale Hours: Daily (Saturday to Friday) from 9 AM to 6 PM with ticket sales and entry to the complex available until 4 PM.
Administrative Office Hours: 7:30 AM to 3:45 PM
- Please note that the Military Museum is closed for renovation and construction operations until further notice.
- Visiting each of the palaces and museums takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour, so it’s advisable to plan your schedule to allow ample time for exploration.
- Children under 7 years of age do not require a ticket for entry.
Buying Tickets for Sa’dabad Palace
The Sa’dabad Cultural and Historical Complex is composed of various sections, each requiring a specific ticket for entry.
Remember that purchasing tickets requires a credit card, as tickets are not sold in cash.
The Best Time to Visit the Sa’dabad
Sa’dabad is essentially a lush and tree-filled garden. Its location in the verdant Darband valley has blessed visitors with a moderate and relatively cool climate. The Sa’dabad Complex likely faces its highest visitor turnout during the Nowruz holidays, with people from all corners of Iran coming to see Tehran’s attractions.
However, the end of April and the beginning of May, when the influx of Nowruz visitors diminishes, marks the best time of year to visit this exceptional palace museum.
The fall foliage season, from mid-October to late November, also offers a good opportunity for walking and photography to visitors.
Early hours of the weekday are usually the quietest times the Sa’dabad Museum experiences. Nonetheless, this sycamore-filled garden is magnificent and beautiful all year round. We promise you will probably spend a lot of time photographing the nature of this palace!
History of Sa’dabad Palace
Sa’dabad Palace, now recognized as the largest garden and historical complex in Tehran, originally was a small, pleasant garden within the district of Shemiran. Don’t be fooled by how easily one can now reach Sa’dabad via taxi or metro; this palace was once outside of Tehran and has expanded significantly over time.
Sa’dabad Palace has witnessed three significant historical periods:
Qajar Era: During the Qajar period, the Sa’dabad complex served as a summer residence for the kings in the pleasant climate of the mountain foothills, with the oldest building dating back to Ahmad Shah Qajar. However, the coup d’état of 1299 left little opportunity for the Qajars to enjoy this beautiful estate.
Pahlavi Era: After coming to power, Reza Shah took over part of the Sa’dabad estate, which initially comprised a not-so-large garden of seven thousand square meters with inner and outer mansions. Over time, the surrounding gardens and properties were also transferred to him, forming the Sa’dabad neighborhood with numerous buildings.By the order of Reza Shah, the buildings deemed usable were preserved, and several palaces were constructed throughout the garden.
During the first Pahlavi period, one of the palaces belonged to the Pahlavi family members, and units like the greenhouse, sports hall, stable, dairy farm, etc., were built to meet the daily needs of the royal family. Moreover, other buildings were used for administrative, military, and service purposes. Interestingly, Sa’dabad Palace was the site of significant international political meetings of that era and has seen many events unfold.
During World War II, after Reza Shah’s forced resignation, his son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, succeeded him. Throughout the second Pahlavi’s reign, each royal family member owned one of the Sa’dabad palaces as their residence and inheritance. Nonetheless, the garden’s layout remained unchanged, and new palaces were built with the birth of new family members.
Post-Revolution: Following the Islamic Revolution, the royal palaces of Sa’dabad were ordered by Imam Khomeini to be turned into museums under government management. The palaces were gradually prepared and opened to the public. Today, the Sa’dabad Cultural-Historical Complex serves as a center for holding the Islamic Republic of Iran’s state ceremonies and political events and continues to welcome visitors as a museum.
Sa’dabad Complex Palaces and Museums
The Sa’dabad Complex spans approximately 110 hectares, encompassing a total of 18 small and large palaces constructed during the Qajar and Pahlavi eras. Consequently, the architecture of Sa’dabad Palace varies in each of these buildings, making each palace a unique and exclusive attraction. A significant initiative by the then Cultural Heritage Organization was repurposing several palaces within the Sa’dabad Complex into museums showcasing contemporary Iranian culture and art, which we will introduce in this section.
Overall, the palaces and museums open for public visits, requiring ticket purchase upon entry to the complex, are detailed in this article. Remember, the Sa’dabad Complex facilitates visitor movement with shuttle vehicles available for a minimal fee.
1- Mellat Palace Museum, The White Palace of the Pahlavis
This palace is considered the most extensive within the Sa’dabad Historical Complex. Constructed between the years 1310 to 1315 in the Persian calendar, it was utilized during the first and second Pahlavi periods. However, following an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Mohammad Reza Shah in 1327, it was designated as his permanent residence for enhanced security.
This uniformly white building, also known as the White Palace, stands as a pinnacle of Sa’dabad architectural elegance. A two-story edifice with a basement, it comprises 54 different units, including 10 large ceremonial halls. The palace’s exterior is designed following German palace architecture, while the interior is styled in an Iran-Byzantine scheme, a majestic blend of Iranian and European architectural art. The White Palace underwent renovation and refurbishment to Farah’s tastes between the years 1345 to 1349.
Highlights of Mellat Palace in Sa’dabad include:
- Handwoven carpets from artisans across the country
- Delicate plasterwork by Iran’s great masters
- Priceless decorative artifacts from Iran and worldwide heritage
- Two burned paintings on leather in the Safavid miniature style
- Walls adorned with exquisite French and English silk and satin fabrics
- A notable collection of porcelain from the Sèvres factory in France
- Oil paintings with various stories and themes
The allure of this palace is so vast that discussing its attractions in detail would leave no room to introduce other museums and palaces.
Different Sections of The White Palace
The White Palace in the Sa’dabad Complex consists of three floors and various sections:
Basement: Cinema hall, pantry, wardrobe and dressing room, facilities, dishware storage, and Farah’s art collection museum
Ground Floor: Guards’ room, reception hall, dining hall, Shah’s office, billiard room, grand entrance lobby, visitors’ dressing room, and more
First Floor: Main large hall, formal dining hall, Farah’s office, Farah’s music and reception hall, family living room, two separate and private apartments for the Shah and Farah, bathroom, dressing room, and more
2. The Green Palace, Grand and Majestic
The Green Palace stands as one of Tehran’s most captivating ancient buildings. The primary reason for its naming lies in the significant use of enchanting green marble, sourced from the Khomseh mine in Zanjan. In 1922, Reza Khan purchased the palace from “Ali Khan Vāli” for seven thousand tomans and later instructed Mirza Jafar Khan, the chief architect, to add details to the original structure and expand it.
Mirza Jafar Khan, the chief architect, was responsible for the palace’s architecture, employing sand and stone mortar as construction materials. The palace features thick brick walls and a wooden roof covering. The Green Palace has witnessed several key historical events, including the signing of the Saadabad Pact in 1937 with officials from Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey present.
The Green Palace has two entrances adorned with wooden railings and carved images of Elamite soldiers from the Achaemenid era. Furthermore, the palace doors are beautifully decorated with intricate reliefs featuring designs such as Nader Shah, stories from the Shahnameh, Sassanian bas-reliefs, and more, each more captivating than the last.
Soleyman Behboudi, in his book “Twenty Years with Reza Shah,” writes about the carvings of the Green Palace: “At that time, there were only two carvers in Tehran, and later, a group from Golpayegan and Rezaiyeh was brought to Tehran for the stony palace and the marble palace doors, establishing a large workshop for them. The workers endeavored to carve in a novel and delicate manner. Two Tehranian master carvers named Seyed Ali and Master Nowruz excelled in creating statues and flowers on the doors, and Mr. Mokhtari from Golpayegan took charge of the lattice work on the mirrors and around the orosi, which was truly unparalleled…”
The Green Palace was renovated in the late 1960s and, in 1978, under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, was inaugurated as the Green Palace Museum for public visits. It is currently managed by the Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts, and Tourism Organization.
Sections of the Green Palace
Although the Green Palace was not a governmental residence, its beauty has garnered significant popularity. Broadly, the palace includes:
- Ground Floor: Entrance hall and staircase, Mirror Hall, bedroom and bathroom, private dining hall, Pahlavi I’s office (Khatam room), and waiting room.
- Basement: Reception hall, dining hall, and two bedrooms.
This palace, embodying the essence of Persian architectural and cultural heritage, invites visitors to explore its historical depth and artistic beauty.
3. Shams Pahlavi Palace or The Royal Clothing Museum
The summer residence of Shams Pahlavi, Mohammad Reza Shah’s sister, is located near the northern gate, Darband. The construction of this building started in 1935 and took about three years. Shams Palace, a two-story building with a basement, is designed with a blend of European and Iranian architecture. After Shams moved to her private palace in Mehrshahr, Karaj, this space was repurposed to house royal gifts.
After the Islamic Revolution, it was considered for the Museum of Iranian Anthropology but later became known as the Museum of Contemporary History, and today it is referred to as the Museum of Royal Clothing. In this museum, you can see photographs and clothing of the Pahlavi family members, including Farah Diba, Ashraf and Shahnaz Pahlavi, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and more. Therefore, if you are interested in royal clothing, we recommend visiting this museum.
4. Mir Emad Calligraphy Museum
The Mir Emad Calligraphy Museum, which was the residence of Farahnaz and Ali Reza during the Pahlavi era, remained unused for a long time after the revolution. However, it was later restored to display calligraphy works and finally opened to the public in 1997 as the Mir Emad Calligraphy Museum, named after one of the most famous calligraphers of the Safavid era. This museum comprises several sections: pre-Islamic scripts, Islamic scripts, recreational scripts, utilitarian objects, and manuscript copies, each opening new doors of art and beauty to your eyes.
5. Hossein Behzad Museum
The Master Hossein Behzad Museum is also located in the Karbaschi Palace, the office and rest house of Reza Shah. After Reza Shah’s abdication and the birth of the crown prince, it was transformed into the crown prince’s exclusive palace.
After the Islamic Revolution, in agreement with the Cultural Heritage Organization and Master Behzad’s son, it was repurposed as the Master Hossein Behzad Museum on World Museum Day in 1994, commemorating Master Behzad’s centennial birthday, showcasing the grand miniatures of this master.
The Master Hossein Behzad Museum has five halls displaying works in the style of Iranian painting schools, significant works from Iranian poets, common folk culture artworks, portraits of great figures in the form of painting, and designs.
6. Farshchian Museum
Like the Master Behzad Museum, the Master Farshchian Museum displays the miniature works of this contemporary artist. The building, once occupied by Reza Shah and his fourth wife, Esmat, was transformed into a museum in 2001, showcasing over 50 mesmerizing works of Master Farshchian.
7. Museum of Fine Arts
Located in the southern part of the Sa’dabad Palace complex, the Museum of Fine Arts is one of the most beautiful buildings in the ensemble. Before the revolution, this building was used by the Ministry of the Court, which was later converted into a place to display exquisite paintings and sculptures.
The museum consists of two floors and a ground floor. The ground floor is dedicated to contemporary artists like Sohrab Sepehri, Parvaneh Etemadi, Nasrollah Afjei, and more. The first floor showcases works by famous European painters like Salvador Dali, Peter Graham, Jules Breton, and others. The second floor displays works by prominent Iranian artists from the Safavid to the Qajar period, each dive into the past.
Museums of Sa’dabad Complex
8- Museum of Nations’ Art
The Museum of Nations’ Art, initially a segment of the White Palace or Nation’s Palace, served as Farah Diba‘s personal museum before the revolution. Recently, it has showcased works by both Iranian and international artists. Visitors can admire artifacts from pre-Islamic civilizations, African art, Mayan civilization, and contemporary arts from Iran and around the world.
9- Sa’dabad’s Armed Museums: Military Museum and Royal Weapons Museum
The Royal Weapons Museum, situated in a palace owned by Gholam Reza Pahlavi, displays 110 firearms. It also exhibits the first weapons manufactured by the Imperial Army’s armament factories and those gifted to Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
The Military Museum, originally the Taj al-Muluk palace, Reza Shah’s second wife, and later Shahram Pahlavi’s palace, showcases various historical wartime artifacts that were stored in the Military Museum of the Officer’s Academy before 1983.
10- Water Museum
The Water Treasury, more than a museum, is a cultural institute preserving the heritage of ancient water distribution networks. Located near the Green Palace in Tehran and another in the historical city of Yazd, the museum aims to display the historical and engineering achievements in Iran’s water management. Topics covered include water history, irrigation, importance of water, introduction to water industry scholars, irrigation techniques, old Tehran water distribution, and the museum’s development.
11- Museum of Royal Dishes
The Museum of Royal Dishes has changed hands between various organizations over the years. From Ashraf Pahlavi‘s residence to the Presidency and the Museum of Handicrafts, it now displays Qajar and Pahlavi royal dishes, either purchased by or gifted to the royal families.
12- Royal Kitchen Museum
Exploring the Royal Kitchen, located in the central part of Sa’dabad Complex, offers insight into the culinary arrangements for the royal family. Operating about 50 to 60 days annually, it utilized the most advanced cooking facilities of its time. Today, some of these equipments and used dishes are on display, catering to culinary enthusiasts and researchers.
13- Omidvar Brothers Museum
The Omidvar Brothers Museum in Sa’dabad Complex provides an exciting global travel experience. The museum, originally a Qajar era carriage house, has been restored to celebrate Iran’s first globetrotters. Issa and Abdullah Omidvar explored 99 countries across five continents over ten years, with their travels documented through photos, films, crafts, articles, and scientific research housed in this museum.
14- Museum of Royal Cars
The Museum of Royal Cars showcases royal vehicles that were forgotten post-revolution and restored for display. Highlights include a Mercedes 600, Rolls-Royce, Cadillac, Mercedes 300SL, each a unique production of their time.
15- Museum of Royal Albums
The Museum of Royal Albums, aiming to familiarize the public with contemporary Iranian history and events of Sa’dabad Complex, showcases Pahlavi era’s private life, historical albums, photos of the Pahlavi family’s travels, festivals, and official documents. Additionally, it features seals from the Pahlavi era, vintage audio and visual equipment, and administrative correspondence.
Sa’dabad Palace Complex Gates
Due to the extensive gardens and palaces within the complex, several gates were constructed in different parts of the Sa’dabad Garden. Currently, only two entrance gates, the Zaferaniyeh and Darband gates, are open to tourists. Generally, the gates of the Sa’dabad Palace include:
- Zaferaniyeh Gate
- Niyavaran Gate (Reza Shah Pahlavi’s commute route)
- Darband Street Gate (Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s commute route)
- Darband Square Gate
- River Gate
- White Palace Gate
- Two Jafarabad Gates
Sa’dabad Palace Complex Qanats
In the past, the Darband River encircled the Sa’dabad Garden, irrigating all its trees. However, as the garden expanded, there was a need to use qanats for watering the trees. Consequently, 12 qanat streams were dug within the garden premises, which are still visible today. The qanats of the Sa’dabad Palace include:
- Qavam-al-Dowleh Qanat
- Stone Palace Qanat
- Harash Abad Qanat
- Jafarabad Qanat
- White Palace Qanat
- Water Feature Qanat
- Javadiyeh Qanat
- Shams Palace Qanat
- Dormitory Qanat
- Two qanats in the Special Office Palace
- Greenhouse Qanat
Non-Visitable Palaces in the Sa’dabad Complex
Beyond the ten palaces and museums introduced so far, there are more attractions within the Sa’dabad Complex not open for public visits. These include the Queen Mother’s Palace, the Private Palace, Ahmad Shahi Palace, Abdol Reza Building, Bahman Pahlavi Building, Farideh Diba Palace, New Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi’s Palace, Leila Palace, and Ahmad Reza Palace. Some of these buildings serve as administrative offices for the Sa’dabad Complex, while others are under the jurisdiction of the Presidential Office.
Photography in Sa’dabad Palace
Today, photography of tourist attractions has become one of the important recreations. Everyone likes to take a few souvenir photos of Sa’dabad Palace and occasionally revisit them for reminiscing memories. Every corner of Sa’dabad Garden and its palaces offers an attractive subject for photography in different seasons. However, photography in Sa’dabad Palace has its limitations and specific rules. Photography in the complex is only allowed according to the points stated in the Sa’dabad Palace photography charter. Some of the important points of this charter include:
- Photography without flash and non-professional filming without auxiliary equipment of all cultural-historical objects on display and decorations related to architecture in museums and palace museums, which have not been marked with “No photography and filming,” is permitted for all visitors.
- Professional photography and filming with auxiliary equipment of all cultural-historical objects, whether inside the storage, on display, or related to architectural decorations in museums and palace museums, are possible by individuals and legal entities with permission from the General Directorate of Museums and Moveable Cultural-Historical Properties.
- Photography and filming of cultural-historical objects for research and investigative purposes by researchers at museums and palace museums, considering research and publication goals and according to the opinion of relevant managers, are possible through an agreement between the manager and the researcher under the supervision of the General Directorate of Museums and Moveable Cultural-Historical Properties.
- For information on all sections of the photography charter and its details, you can visit the Sa’dabad Complex website.
Welfare Facilities of Sa’dabad Palace
Sa’dabad Palace has provided appropriate welfare facilities for the convenience of visitors, some of which are listed below:
- Prayer room
- Qajar photography studio
- Sport park
- Cinema hall of Mellat Palace for conferences
- Radio station
- Cafe and restaurant
- Transportation service in the garden area
- Sanitary services
- Art center for independent art activities
Attractions Near Sa’dabad Palace
While it seems unlikely that wandering through Sa’dabad Palace would leave you time to visit other attractions, in this section, we introduce a few attractions near Sa’dabad Palace for you to explore in your spare time.
The old Tajrish Bazaar and its traditional atmosphere is one of Tehran’s most important attractions that never gets old for anyone. The old shops of this covered market, the hustle and bustle of people shopping, and the call to prayer from Imamzadeh Saleh on the other side, will be a different experience for you. Tajrish market has about 400 shops selling a variety of vegetables, fruits, copper utensils, clothing, spices, and more.
Address of Tajrish Bazaar: Tehran, southwest corner of Tajrish Square, next to the BRT station of Tajrish Square
Dr. Hesabi Museum
The Dr. Hesabi Museum is actually the home of this great scientist, which after his death, in 1993, became one of Tehran’s attractions. This museum, one of the attractions near Sa’dabad Palace, is located on the third floor of Professor Hesabi’s house. The museum displays personal belongings, medals, honors, writings, academic documents, old photos, and more. If you’re interested in learning more about Dr. Hesabi beyond what’s commonly known, this museum is a must-visit.
Address: Tehran, Tajrish, Moqaddas Ardabili (Darbandi) Street, Hesabi intersection, Hesabi Street, No. 47
Ferdows Garden, a large garden with an old mansion, dates back to the Qajar era. Currently, the Cinema Museum of Iran is also located in Ferdows Garden, making a visit to this garden an opportunity to stroll through nature, visit a historic mansion, and explore the cinema museum. If you wish, you can visit the delightful Ferdows Garden after exploring Sa’dabad Palace.
Address of Ferdows Garden: Tehran, Valiasr Street, before Tajrish Square, Bakhshayesh Alley, Ferdows Garden
Final Words About Sa’dabad Palace
There’s no doubt that Shemiran, Darband, and Tajrish, like in the past, are still places for Tehranians to explore. Although the concept of summer and winter residences is no longer present and Tehran is engulfed in hustle, smog, and traffic, one can still find a beautiful and serene spot in its northernmost part to relax during spring.
Sa’dabad Palace in Tehran is the gem of Shemiran. A palace that holds mysterious royal stories and a part of Iran’s contemporary history is now a gracious host for tourists with diverse interests. Whether your goal is to study history, view the works of artists, or even photograph people and nature, Sa’dabad Palace is an ideal destination for tourism in all seasons.