Isfahan is half of the world.
As we mentioned in 6 Essential Cities First-Time Travelers To Iran Need To Visit, Isfahan is the symbol of the Glorious Persian Empire of all the cities in Iran.
Previously known as one of the largest cities in the world, Isfahan (or Ispahan, Sepahan, Esfahan, Hispahan) experienced its luminous days from 1050 – 1722, especially during the Safavid dynasty when the city became the capital of Persia.
Shah Abbas I moved Iran’s capital to Isfahan, thus constructed the most extraordinary and magnificent landmarks and architecture here. As the capital of Persia, Isfahan is recognized in the famous Persian proverb: “Esfahān nesf-e- jahān ast” which means, Isfahan is half of the world.
Isfahan is home to breathtaking mosques, grandiose bridges and extravagant palaces. You can easily spend one day sightseeing in this opulent city, as long as you stick to these 5 must-see’s. Link and map of our route is here.
1. Stroll through the Jameh Mosque.
Jameh Mosque is a massive congregational mosque. With four gates facing each other, this is one of the oldest mosques in Iran, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2012. On the southwest part of the mosque, you can stroll through the Grand Bazaar for great souvenirs.
2. Spend at least a few hours in Naghsh-e Jahan Square (Iman Square)…
…Because it’s bold and beautiful! The city’s largest square, Naghsh-e Jahan Square (Iman Square,) features the fusion of Iranian and Islamic architectural designs. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is formerly known as Shah Square, with its structure and size similar to those of Tiananmen Square in China. You’ll find boutiques lining the four sides and a large fountain and garden centering the square.
An impressive Shah Mosque (or Imam Mosque, Jameh Mosque of Isfahan) is located on the south side of the square. This is considered one of the masterpieces in Persian architecture.
Ali Qapu Palace occupies the west side of the square. This Imperial Gate has 7 floors and is 48 meters in height. You can climb up the spiral cases to visit the Music Hall, take a closer look at intricate decor of circular carvings on the walls for acoustic purposes. Take photos of the entire square from the balcony, what a sight!
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is on the east and the northern gate leads to Isfahan Grand Bazaar. Out of the four monuments surrounding Naghsh-e Jahan Square or Iman Square, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was the first to be built. It was meant to be a private mosque of the royal court.
3. Cross the Khaju Bridge AND Si-o-Seh Pol Bridge.
Since Zayande River runs through central Isfahan, three important bridges frequently welcome visitors. The most awe-inspiring bridges are: Khaju Bridge and Si-o-Seh Pol, which highlights 33 arches and connects Isfahan with Armenia. An almost 1,000 feet stroll on Si-o-Seh Pol is a fantastic opportunity for snapping photos and passing by locals.
4. Be dazzled by all the bling in Chehel Sotoun.
Chehel Sotun (or Chihil Sutun, Chehel Sotoon) literally means “Forty Columns” in Persian since 40 is considered a lucky number in local culture. The palace was used to host international dignitaries and diplomats. The pool at the entrance is lavish and also holds the reflection of twenty columns supporting the pavilion, hence the palace is named “forty.”
Be dazzled by the interior golden honeycomb shaped dome as well as the frescoes and paintings on ceramics similar to those you’ve already seen at Ali Qapu.
5. Shop for souvenirs at Qeysarie Bazaar.
If you’re a fan of market shopping, Isfahan has two famous ones: Shahi Bazaar and Qeysarie Bazaar, both have been popular since the 17th century. These are great places to buy souvenirs or collect personal knick-knacks.