Isfahan , historically also rendered in English as Ispahan,Sepahan, Esfahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 kilometres (211 miles) south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,908,609 and is Iran’s third largest city after Tehran andMashhad. The Greater Isfahan Region had a population of 3,793,101 in the 2011 Census, the third most populous metropolitan area in Iran after Tehran and Mashhad.
The cities of Zarrinshahr, Fooladshahr and Najafabad, Se-deh, Shahinshahr, Mobarakeh, Falavarjan andCharmahin all constitute the metropolitan city of Isfahan.
Isfahan is located on the main north–south and east–west routes crossing Iran, and was once one of the largest cities in the world. It flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th century under the Safaviddynasty, when it became the capital of Persia for the second time in its history. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory. It is famous for its Persian–Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. This led to the Persian proverb “Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast” (Isfahan is half of the world).
The Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is one of the largest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. It has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city also has a wide variety of historic monuments and is known for the paintings and history.
Sightseeing in Isfahan
Squares and streets
- Naqsh-e Jahan Square also known as shah square or imam square-1602. The square contains two mosques, a palace, and the bazaar. The square is the largest historical public square in the world after Tiananmen Square in Beijing and it is one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era. This a very popular place for locals to picnic on Friday and holiday evenings.
- Meydan Kohne (Kohne Square)
- Chaharbagh Boulevard – 1596, dating from the Saffavid era, the avenue is the most historically famous in all of Persia.
- Chaharbagh-e-khajou Boulevard
The stunning mosques of Isfahan are among the most beautiful and interesting in the world.
- Imam Mosque (fka Shah Mosque before Iran’s Revolution), In Naghsh-i Jahan Square.Built during the Safavid period, it is an excellent example of Islamic architecture of Iran, and regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian Architecture. It is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its splendor is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-colour mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.
- Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque– one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture, this mosque is considered to be the most beautiful in Iran. Built in 1602 by Shah Abbas I.= and designed by his chief architect, Sheikh Bahai. The mosque was designed to be a private mosque for the royal family and therefore it does not have any minarets. There is a tunnel from the mosque to the Royal Palace, across the square.
- Hakim Mosque – one of the oldest mosques in Isfahan. Built by Shah Abbas II between 1656 and 1662. Located on the site of a 10th century mosque. The portal was covered in mud until it was discovered in 1956.
- Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan. Started in AD842, this is the first Islamic building to adapt the four-courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces
- Ālī Qāpū(The Royal Palace) – Early 17th Century. It is forty-eight metres high and there are seven floors, each accessible by a difficult spiral staircase. In the sixth floor music room, deep circular niches are found in the walls, having not only aesthetic value, but also acoustic. It is rich in naturalistic wall paintings by Reza Abbassi, the court painter of Shah Abbas I, and his pupils. There are floral, animal and bird motifs.
- Talar Ashraf (The Palace of Ashraf) – 1650.
- Hasht Behesht (The Palace of Eight Paradises) – 1669: Reportedly built for residence purposes of the King’s harem.
- Chehel Sotoun (The Palace of forty columns) – 1647: It is called Palace of forty columns, as there are many columns, and in Iranian, 40 means many. Incidentally, there are twenty columns, and these are reflected in the pool in front, which might also account for its name. The function of this palace was for holding religious-national ceremonies and royal festivals and for receiving royal ambassadors and guests.
- Madreseye Shah (Imam Jafar Sadegh after revolution). The compound was built during Soltan Hossein, a Safavid king, to serve as a theological and clerical school to train those who were interested in such sciences.The dome and the greater part of the walls are covered in bright yellow bricks which give a feeling of lightness. The entrance gate decorated with gold facade and silver, and the tile-works inside the building are masterpieces of fine art and industry. The central court, with its pool and garden, are surrounded by arcades on two levels, each giving access to a student’s room.
Walk along the Zayanderud River beside the ancient bridges. You see many locals doing this everyday. However, as a result of a drought and badly planned dam, there is usually no water in the river.
- Pol-e Shahrestan (The Shahrestan Bridge) – 11th Century. It is one of the oldest surviving bridges in Iran, built in the 14th Century (C.E.).
- Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge) – 1650. It is the finest bridge in the province of Esfahan.It was built by the Persian Safavid king, Shah Abbas II around 1650 C.E. This structure originally was ornated with artistic tile works and paintings serving as a teahouse
- Si-o-Seh Pol (The Bridge of 33 Arches) – 1602. It is highly ranked as being one of the most famous examples of Safavid bridge design.
- Pol-e-Joui or choobi(Joui bridge)It is one of Isfahan’s oldest bridges and was built in 1665, during the Safavid era.
- Pol-e-Maarnaan (Maarnaan Bridge)
Churches and Cathedrals
- Vank Cathedral (The Church of the Saintly Sisters) – 17th century. The interior is covered with fine paintings and gilded carvings and includes a wainscot of rich tile work. The delicately blue and gold painted central dome depicts the Biblical story of creation of the world and man’s expulsion from Eden.
- Kelisaye maryam (maryam church)
- Flowers Garden Though, the best time for Flowers Garden is spring, in other seasons, you can find many beautiful small waterfalls, covered sub-garden of cactus.
- Atashgah – a Zoroastrian fire temple. This temple is dramatically set atop a rock on the outskirts of Isfahan and provides a commanding view of the smog-covered city. You can take one of the blue buses there (ask the drivers).
- Buqe’h-ye Ibn-Sina (Avicenna’s Dome) – 12th Century.
- The Tombs of Nizam al-Mulk & Malek Shah – 12th & 18th Century.
- Jolfa – The Armenian Quarter, it includes one of the most beautiful churches in Iran.
- Sheikh Bahai Bathhouse – falling apart due to neglect.
- Pigeon Towers – Built in the 17th century to attract pigeons, whose feces were then used as fertilizer.
- Hamam-e (Bathhouse) Ali Gholi Agha