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Isfahan travel guide

Esfahan, Isfahan or the ancient Espadana is the capital of the province with the same name. Esfahan Nesf-e Jahan is the most famous Persian description of the 16th century for this city, which means that Isfahan is half the world, this Florence of Orient is chosen and designed as the capital under Shah Abbas I (1598), and has been reconstructed with so many new mosques, beautiful palaces and bridges, masterpieces of world architecture, avenues and parks during Savafid dynasty.

Imam square, Isfahan


Florence of Orient and Isfahan Nesf-e Jahan (Isfahan; half the world) all are to describe the splendor of a city shining along its life-giving river at the heart of Iran.
In Isfahan You can hardly find a street without a wide central pedestrian reservation of trees, fountains and flowers. Behind every corner you stumble upon spectacular remainders of rich past. In its heyday under Safavid dynasty when the city flourished and gave birth to its outstanding Islamic and Iranian architecture, Isfahan was a large city with a population of one million and owned many parks, libraries, public baths, shops and mosques that amazed western visitors, who had not seen anything like that at home.
One of the great works of Shah Abass the Great in that period was "The Pattern of the world" or Naqsh-e Jahan Square which is a real jewel in Isfahan's crown. This majestic collection of buildings fits money, worship and aristocratic pleasures together in deliberate visual harmony.
Somewhere in the west of Imam Square, a beautiful tree-lined boulevard, offers delightful hours of walking under its cool green shades. Chahar Bagh is the main street of Isfahan and traverses Zayandeh Rud through Si-o-se Pol. Zayandeh Rud is crossed by some of the world's most picturesque covered bridges.
Another sight worth spending hours of strolling is the city's four-mile labyrinthine bazaar, with its majestic Qeysarieh Portal in imam square. As Iran's artistic and craft centre and Isfahan's world famous fine carpets, handicrafts and textile, Grand Bazaar of Isfahan would be a charming adventure for shopaholics.
Andre Malraux, the famous French author and adventurer says: "Who can claim to have seen the most beautiful city of the world without having seen Isfahan?" therefore, do not hesitate to visit The Florence of Iran whose well-proportioned mosques whose turquoise blue dome and minarets rival the color of the sky.

Top places to see in Isfahan

There is an old Iranian saying that goes, “Isfahan nesf-e jahan”, which means that Isfahan is half the world. During your visit to this magnificent city in central Iran, try to slowly unravele its layers to better grasp this rhyming proverb. There are hundreds of palaces, mosques, bridges and gardens in Isfahan. Here are some highlights: 

Imam Square (Naghsh-e jahan square)

Meidan-e-Imam , formerly known as Royal Square or the Shah Square, was the symbolic center of the Safavid dynasty and the Persian Empire.this huge rectangular square measuring 160 x 512 m,is the second largest in the world. Framed by turquoise domed mosques, a palace perched on plane tree columns and a covered bazaar; it stands out as one of the most spectacular architectural complexes in Iran. In the background, the domes, minarets, the sensitive bustle of the bazaar whose mazes leave north of the square: everything contributes to evoke the most beautiful mirages of the East.

The great Safavid king, Abbas I who made Isfahan his capital in 1598, rebuilt a new city according to a simple and grand plan, with vast ordinances and large breakthroughs , a fine example of urban planning ahead of its time. The heart was the king Place (1611), a huge perimeter surrounded by long walls with double arches and whose dimensions were designed to accommodate a polo field.

The Afghan invasion of 1722 put an end to the magnificence of a city that will struggle for two centuries to regain its rank. However, the immense restoration work undertaken has restored its entire splendor to Isfahan, which is again one of the largest urban centers in Iran. With incomparable monuments like the Imam Mosque (formerly the Royal Grand Mosque), one of the most beautiful in the country, Isfahan could not remain in the shade.

isfahan blue mosqueImam mosque, Isfahan, Iran 


Isfahan Imam mosque

The Shah Mosque, now called the Imam Mosque, is located at the southern end of the imam square. The construction of this mosque, ordered by Shâh Abbâs Ier, took place from 1612 to 1627. Unlike the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, the Shah Mosque is built on the Iranian plan with four Iwans surrounding a courtyard. The portal of the mosque is a Pishtak, that is to say a large rectangle of masonry surrounding a shallow niche dominated by a Persian arch. It is flanked by two towers in the form of minarets. Two towers similar to the previous ones surround the main courtyard Iwan which leads to the prayer hall surmounted by a large dome. From the courtyard, you can also access each of the two madrasas located on either side of the central courtyard. The entrance portal is aligned in the axis of the square but the orientation of the prayer hall towards Mecca induces a non-alignment of the perspective between the entrance portal, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the prayer hall building and the rest of the building.


sheikh lotfollah mosqueSheikh Lotfollah mosque, Isfahan, Iran 

Sheikh Lotfollah mosque

This small mosque located on Southeast of the square, opposite the Ali Qâpu palace,was completed in 1619 by Mohammad Reza Isfahani (son of the architect of the Thirty-Three Arches Bridge), and owes its name to a prestigious theologian. Of more modest proportions than the great mosque, it is covered, outside as well as inside, with ceramics in rare tones. The glazed earthenware dome is decorated with blue flowers and white arabesques that stand out against a cream or pink background depending on the time of day.
Do not hesitate to give yourself some time for contemplation and to come back at different times of the day because of the whole changes radically according to the angle of the sun.

the highlight of the show is the ray of light filtered by high  Moucharabies placed in the dome supporting the dome and letting the "peacock tail" appear on the walls. Take the time to wander in this square room, 19 m wide, to vary the shades, colors and shadows on the decorations depending on the angle of entry of the sun's rays through the windows.

The mosque, once completed, was reserved for the private use of the Sheikh and his relatives, hence its nickname of the king's oratory. You will also notice the total absence of a minaret, a strange fact for a mosque, but the call of the muezzin was useless since only the Sheikh came to pray under the dome.

isfahan khaju bridgeKhaju Bridge, Isfahan, Iran

Khaju bridge

Khaju Bridge, built in 1650 and restored in 1873, is one of the historical bridges on the Zayanderud in Isfahan. linking the Khaju quarter on the north bank to the Zoroastrian quarter across the Zayanderud. The bridge was used a place for public meetings as well. There is a pavilion located in the center of the structure, inside which Abbas II would have once sat, admiring the view.
The mausoleum of Arthur Pope and his wife Phyllis Ackerman is situated nearby.

sio se pol
sio se pol bridge, Isfahan, Iran 

Si-o-Se Pol (Thirty three arched bridge)

Also called Allah Verdi Khan Bridge, Si-o-Se pol connects the north of Chahâr Bâgh Avenue to the south, the main artery of Isfahan and then to the district of Julfa. Si-o se pol dates back to the beginning of the 17th century (1603), when the district had just been taken over by the Armenians, it owes its name to a general of King Shah Abbas, the famous war chief in charge of the works. The latter had imagined the bridge as a point of exchange between the two communities, and imposed that travelers can spend the night there. The exchanges could be commercial, with the holding of a bazaar, but also cultural, with rooms planned for shows, storytellers, jugglers ... So that the bridge quickly became one of the liveliest places in Isfahan after its construction. With its thirty-three arcades on two levels, this magnificent structure is still the largest bridge in Isfahan today (298 m long and 14 m wide).

Zayandeh Rood River
Zayandeh Rood river of Isfahan is mentioned in history and geography books as Zendeh rood, Zand rood, Zarrin rood, Zarrineh rood, Zanrood and Zandak rood. Zayandeh means birth giving and the reason for this naming is because it cultivates and revives many gardens and fields along its route. That is why this river is also called Zendeh Rood meaning the living river. Most of Zayandeh River's water enters Isfahan and many efforts have been taken to transfer Koohrang water to Isfahan. There are several historical bridges on this river dating from the Safavid period (17th C) and before. In Isfahan, Si-o-Se Pol or Allah Verdi Khan Bridge, Khajoo Bridge and Shahrestan Bridge are among the most famous ones. Zayandeh rood is a vital vessel and the main factor of greenery and fertility of Isfahan. The source of this river is the slopes of Mt. Zardkooh, which is located between Isfahan and Lorestan provinces. The source of Zayandeh rood is in the form of a circular basin with an area of about 320 square meters, which is known as Jaanan spring. After three miles, it reaches another spring called "Chehel Cheshmeh". Also, from the northern part of this region, that is, the Frieden region, two other large springs called "Khorsang" and "Kodang" join the main stream and form Zayandeh Rood.

   isfahan vank churchVank Church, Isfahan, Iran 

Vank Cathedral 

Located in Jolfa Armenian district of Isfahan, Vank Cathedral, built first in 1606, is among the most famous churches in Iran. The building, protected in an inner courtyard, is flanked by a campanile (1700) and topped with an Islamic dome. There are Beautiful interiors with murals and evangelical fresco paintings in particular; such as the scenes of resurrection, the Last Judgement and the scenes of Gregory the Illuminator's life. there is a beautiful adjoining museum inside the courtyard which is open at the same time as the cathedral. The ground floor of this museum is partly devoted to the genocide committed by the Turkish authorities in 1915 (claimed by Armenians) , led to the death of 1.5 million Armenians. There are also lots of interesting objects mostly related to Christianity and Armenians in this small museum. 


isfahan jame mosqueFriday mosque (Jame Mosque), Isfahan, Iran 

Jame mosque of Isfahan 

Isfahan Friday Mosque (Congregational Mosque) preserves evidence of a very long and very rich architectural history. This mosque was built in a Four-Iwan architectural style and each Iwan is decorated with breathtaking turquoise ceramics in shape of Muqarnas (niche-like cells).

Since it combines artistic and architectural innovations of 15 centuries of the Islamic era, it is considered one of the best Islamic works that is famous in the world today. According to various sources, it is clear that Isfahan Friday Mosque had been severely damaged and rebuilt over time due to fires and numerous wars and riots of different periods. 

The famous Uljayto Mehrab and the great domes (Nezam-al-Mulk and Jaj-al-Mulk domes) of the mosque are the masterpieces of art. If you stand right beneath one of the mosque domes, you will notice that the ceiling is closer than its loon from the outside. That is because these are no ordinary domes; They are actually double shelled domes, one shell inside the greater one.

Chehel Sotoun Palace

Chehel Sotoon Palace 

Chehel Sotoon (or Sotoun, also Sotun) palace of Isfahan is one of the most famous and beautiful historical places of Isfahan, which fascinates visitors with its impressive architecture and design. The function of Chehel Sotoon Palace was a meeting place or reception hall for foreign delegations and ambassadors. The paintings and decorations of the various halls of the palace show the peak of Safavid art that impressed foreigners who visited the place. Chehel Sotoon Palace of Isfahan was founded during the reign of Shah Abbas I and was completed and developed during the reign of the next Safavid rulers such as Shah Abbas II. Read more>>