The Azerbaijan Museum in Tabriz, situated next to the famous Blue Mosque, may be the nicest museum in Iran. It consists of three parts. When you enter, you will find the archaeological department, which tells the story of Azerbaijan from the fifth millennium BCE until the Sasanian Age.
There are many fine objects, like fifth-millennium ceramics from Ishmaelabad, beautiful weights, lots of Bronze Age pottery, jewelry from Khodafarin, an Iron Age idol from Rostamabad, a splendid Achaemenid rhyton, and a marvelous gold cup from the same age. The most beautiful objects were, easily, the precious Sasanian gold and silver dishes that surprise the visitor upon entering. They are so beautiful that I at first believed that they were made by a modern artist. The museum also shows some objects from other parts of Iran, like bronzes from Luristan and a Parthian figurine from Susa.
On the first floor are displays of coins, from the Achaemenid period to the nineteenth century, and seals (from Prehistory to the Sasanian age). Here, you will also find the second part of the archaeological department: pottery, carpets, candlesticks, and glass from about 650 to 1900.
In the basement is a small restaurant, but here you will also find several tall bronze statues by Ahad Hosseini, an artist born in Tabriz. I did not like them, but cannot deny that they were impressive works of art by someone with a gloomy view of the future of mankind. In the garden, you will find several inscriptions and other stone objects, mostly Islamic.
There is much to praise. The curators have wisely ignored that unfortunate fashion to display objects in the dark and use low key light to make them look mysterious. There is also a good bookshop where you can buy archaeological reports and a DVD with photos of the full collection — a kind of digital catalog. If there is something to be critical about, it is the explanatory signs, which might be a bit longer: for example, there is a splendid sword with the inscription “from Shimas Shipack, king of the world”, but I have no idea where it was excavated (unless Shimas Shipack is the name of a site). But that is a minor quibble; the Azerbaijan Museum in Tabriz is splendid and certainly worth a visit.
This museum was visited in 2011, 2014.