IsfahanIsfahan Province. The Persians call it Nesf-e Jahan, meaning "Half of The World". Due to its beautiful hand-painted tiling and magnificent public square, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. An ancient town and capital of Persia from 1598 to 1722, it was long noted for its fine carpets and silver filigree. Today, textile and steel mills take their place. Its architecture, tree-lined boulevards and relaxed pace make it one of the highlights of Iran.
Much of the splendor of the city, including most of its finest monuments, date back to the Safavid era, when the city was the imperial capital of Iran.
The city has an Armenian quarter called New Jolfa established by Shah Abbas I in the 1600s. The district is named after the town of Julfa, still existing along the Aras river, from where Armenians were forcefully relocated during the development of Isfahan. They were allocated land south of the Zayandeh river, and built a prosperous community thanks to international trade networks. Today the quarter still has many Armenian churches and institutions.
phone: +98 31 3527 5063It was a military air base before the revolution. There are daily flights to Tehran and Mashhad in Iran. There are also flights to Dubai, Kuwait and Istanbul.
Getting there: From the airport taxi costs 350,000 rials to the city centre (as of 2016).
Besides, there are direct buses to Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport leave from Terminal-e Kaveh at 13:00, 18:00, 20:30 (and possibly other times as well). A trip costs 275,000 rials and takes under 6 hours (as of Sep 2016).
By trainThere is a night-train to Tehran and a daily train to Mashhad. There are no trains to Shiraz.
The night train from Tehran to Isfahan costs 240,000 rials for sleeping in a comfortable 6-bed compartment.
Getting there: take bus #37 from the train station to Soffe Bus Terminal (ترمینال صفه;), where you can change for bus #91 to old town. The best place to get off is Chaharbaq street, where there are many hostels, hotels, cafés and things to see.
By carIsfahan is well-served by highways. There are good routes to the capital Tehran, Kashan, Shiraz, Yazd and Ahvaz.
By busIsfahan is well connected to most parts of Iran by bus. There are several bus terminals in Isfahan and you should note which one is more suitable for you.
From Tehran the busiest and most comfortable bus terminal to get to Isfahan is Beyhaghi terminal (known also as Argentina terminal) and Southern Terminal. Also there are a few luxury buses with a so-called "European standard" (very comfortable seats, open mini-bar, etc.)
- Royal Safar Iranian is one a few luxury bus operators. Seats are extremely comfortable with lots of leg room. Water and snacks are provided and movies are shown. The ticket to Tehran costs 300,000 rials, and takes around 5 hours.
By metroA metro opened in October 2015
By busThe easiest and the cheapest way of traveling inside of Isfahan is buying Isfahan card which is a multi-journey contactless card sold at certain bus stop booths. A single journey costs 5,000 rials when using Isfahan card or 10,000 rials if paid directly to a bus driver (as of 2017). There are separate sections in a bus: front - for men and rear - for women.
By taxiShort rides cost 50,000 rials, longer ones to Soffeh mountain and bus terminals - 100,000 rials (as of 2007). Taxi drivers will try to demand at least double of those prices at the beginning.
Squares and streets
Naqsh-e Jahan SquareAlso known as shah square or imam square-1602 (Meidan Emam). 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 a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era, and souvenir shops. This a very popular place for locals to picnic on Friday and holiday evenings. When sitting on the grass locals will approach you to practise their English.
Chaharbagh Boulevard1596, dating from the Saffavid era, the avenue is the most historically famous in all of Persia. Although it's just a regular street nowadays.
The stunning mosques of Isfahan are among the most beautiful and interesting in the world.
Imam Mosqueaddress: Naqsh-e Jahan Square, south sideBuilt 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 splendour is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-colour mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.
Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosqueaddress: Naqsh-e Jahan Square, east sideOne 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.
Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahanaddress: north of Naqsh-e Jahan Square in the old quarterStarted in AD 842, this is the first Islamic building to adopt the four-courtyard layout of Sassanid palaces.
Hakim Mosqueaddress: HakimOne 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.
Ālī QāpūEarly 17th century. It is 48 meters 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.
Hasht Behesht Palace1669, reportedly built for residence purposes of the king's harem. Set within lush gardens which are free to roam if you don't want to go inside the building.
Chehel Sotoun Palace1647. 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. Its Persian Gardens are among the nine inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Contains some spectacular battle murals.
Talar Ashraf1650. Not accessible for public.
phone: +98 31 32223230address: harunia st,moshir st,hatef st,isfahanBuilt in Safavid era, Moshir al-Molk Palace is a historical European-style building. The first owners of the house were the family of Moshir al-Molk who were the Mostofis (finance ministers) and Monshis (secretaries) of Safavid court. Mirza Habib Allah Moshir al-Molk Ansari can be referred to as the most prominent figure in his family. He was assigned as the governor of Isfahan in Qajar era in 1288 AH (1841 AD).
With the death of Moshir al-Molk, the house turned into the consulate of Kingdom of Prussia. Later, it was purchased by Haj Hossein Charmi, an Isfahani businessman. Haj Mohamad Samaeian was the next owner of the building.
The distinctive features of the building include:
1. Having the largest 9-piece orosi in Iran
2. Having a garden with Chahar Baghi form
3. Having a howz with Chalipaei form
4. Having a private bathroom
5. Having two iwans with a deconstructivist style of columns
The Museum of Islamic Heritage is the most important museum in Iran in terms of preserving and displaying Islamic artifacts as well as researching Islamic collections of the world which covers various Islamic and historical periods.
- Madreseye Madar 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 façade 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.
- Madreseye Khajoo
BridgesWalk 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.
Si-o-Seh Pol1602. It is highly ranked as being one of the most famous examples of Safavid bridge design. Beautiful whether there is water underneath it or not, there is also a basic eatery at the northern end.
Pol-e Shahrestan11th century. It is one of the oldest surviving bridges in Iran, built in the 14th century (CE).
Pol-e Khaju1650. It is the finest bridge in the province of Isfahan and built by the Persian Safavid king, Shah Abbas II around 1650 CE. This structure used to be ornamented with artistic tile works and paintings. It served as a teahouse.
Pol-e JouiIt is one of Isfahan's oldest bridges and was built in 1665, during the Safavid era.
JolfaJolfa - The Armenian Quarter, it includes one of the most beautiful churches in Iran.
Vank Armenian Cathedral17th-century Armenian cathedral. 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.
Bedkhem Armenian ChurchAnother interesting combination of Persian and Armenian religious architecture, this large church completed in 1627 is full of stunning paintings and frescoes. Behind Jolfa Square, less than 5 minute walk from Vank Cathedral.
Flowers GardenBotanical garden.
Birds GardenGarden under a huge net with a lot of different birds, some locked in and some that you can walk among.
AtashgahA Zoroastrian fire temple. This temple is dramatically set atop a rock on the outskirts of Isfahan and provides a commanding view of the city (although much of it is covered in smog). You can take one of the blue buses (ask at the drivers), which will take you there. Climbing it will be a challenge on flip-flops, impossible with them downhill.
- Buqe'h-ye Ibn-Sina (Avicenna's Dome) - 12th century.
- The Tombs of Nizam al-Mulk & Malek Shah - 12th & 18th century.
- Pigeon Towers - Built in the 17th century to attract pigeons, whose feces were then used as fertilizer.
Shaykh Bahai hammamfalling apart due to neglect.
Ali Gholi Agha hammam
Soffeh MountainPopular pick-nick spot for locals. It's possible to climb up the mountain which will take about 3 hours return. Or catch a telecabin up for 200,000 rials at the . Besides, there is a bowling underneath the telecabin station.
Shops in the main square must pay an additional 8% tax on sales, which is passed on to the customer. Unless the item that you are purchasing is unique or inexpensive, you may be better off shopping outside of the main square.
- For a real treasure trove, visit the famous bazaar.
- Isfahan carpets are world-famous, being the very finest of the Persian carpets. They are also often extremely expensive. Carpets from the nearby town of Na'in are similar in style, also well-known, and are expensive too. For those who are interested, it is possible to buy the highly decorative and brightly coloured traditional dress of Isfahan, but such clothing can be expensive, so it's better to haggle for a reasonable price.
- Miniatures These exquisite miniature paintings are painted on camel bone. Most of them are sold framed, and prices start from about 15,000 rials. It can be more costly if the artwork is done by a miniature master. Shop and look at various shops before making your decision.
- Chelo kebab (kebab with rice) is a must; there are regional variations in Isfahan.
- Beryani is a popular lunch dish in Isfahan. It has made with sheep meat and lung. Although Iranians love this meal, it is very fatty. Therefore some westerners may dislike Beryani.
- Fereni (a concoction of rice flour, water and milk) at Fereni Hafez, which is along Hafez Street near Imam Square. It costs 3,000 rials for a small bowl or 5,000 rials for a bigger one.
- Safran ice cream
Shem Shad Restaurantphone: +98 9132039884address: Hafez StreetThe small restaurant offers local Isfahan food like Beryani (110,000 rials) or Halim Bademjan (eggplant, 50,000 rials).
Naqsh-e Jahan Traditional Restaurantaddress: Naqsh-e Jahan Square, eastern side, first floorIn this restaurant you sit on benches. The windows are colourful.
Kosan Restaurantaddress: Hafez StreetTasty Persian dishes like minced meat, kebab, chicken. They have fish.
Shahrzad restaurantA famous restaurant with a very long history. Some waiters can speak English. Its lamb chop are reported as delicious.
Behesht Cafephone: +98 31 32229848address: harunia st,moshir st,hatef st
Cafe Axaddress: hafez st,isfahanmodern café with fresh smoothies
CoffeeThere are lots of coffee shops in Isfahan.
address: Mir Fendereski St.One of the most popular cafés in Isfahan.
phone: +983132204425address: #19 Kazerooni Alley, Chaharbagh Abbasi St.takeaway, reservations, outdoor seating, waitstaff, highchairs available, wheelchair accessible, free wifi
phone: +989394593471address: Sheikh Bahaei street, alley number 28, building number 34Annie hostel is friendly place for budget travelers, the owner and stuff are backpackers and they can speak english. from here, you can walk 15 min to city center. There are plenty of restaurants, fast foods and grocery shops near by. They are flexible about their prices.
Hi Hostelphone: +98 913 603 9295address: #2, No.16, Nobahar alley,near Mir bridge, N Sheikh Sadoogh St.HI Isfahan Hostel is a Comfortable, Clean and Affordable, budget hostel in Isfahan, budget accommodation, near the river, Jolfa (christian neighbourhood) and Vank Cathedral,
phone: +989136960767address: No 8, Tayeb St.Khalvat House is a 100-year-old antique house from Pahlavi dynasty with a beautiful garden and very tall trees. It is 8-minute walk from Naghsh-e-Jahan Sq. and main highlights of Isfahan. The manager of this B&B accommodation is vegan and offers the guests real Persian cuisine with 100% vegan ingredients. They usually hold events related to Persian customs and traditions.
phone: +989134067845address: 81439 Chaharbagh Khaju StreetA hostel in a traditional Iranian house, English-speaking staff with dorms, private rooms and a cafe.
Nik Guest Housephone: +98 913 305 5008It is a guest house in the downtown. It is an old house but it is clean. The owner can speak English and a little bit Dutch. Send him an email before arriving in Isfahan to make sure the guest house is operating.
Amir Kabir Hostelphone: +98 31 3222 7273address: Charbagh stPopular among backpackers due to the cheap prices. Rooms are a bit cramped but ok and bathrooms are mostly clean. Nice breakfast is included.
Pardis Hotelphone: +98 31 3222 7831address: Corner of Charbagh street and Mesjid Sayyed street
phone: +98 311 2209787address: 1 Masjed Ali Alley, HarunieDibai House comprises a fully and scrupulously restored 17th-century Safavid historic mansion that with modern facilities. No smoking indoors. Price includes breakfast, and owner Sufi is extremely helpful with travel information.
phone: +98 311 221 486869address: Ostandari stClean, modern and central.
phone: +98 311 4482072-3address: No. 56 Sonbolestan Alley, Ebn-e-Sina, Shohada Sq.Quiet, traditional khan-e-sonnati (Iranian traditional house). Five beautifully resorted Safavid-style rooms, some with bathrooms set around two garden courtyards. There is also a restaurant and free internet in this quiet area north of Imam Square.
phone: +98 31 32222640address: Amadegah StreetGlass elevator. Some rooms don't have windows. Includes a pool with massage services at USD50/hour.
Abbasi HotelBuilt during the reign of King Sultan Hossein of Safavids about 300 years ago. King Soltan Hossein attributed this magnificent complex of building to his mother. That is why it is called "the school and caravansaray of Madar-shah" (which means king's mother). The hotel also has a nice restaurant and tea house in the courtyard.
Kowsar International HotelOverlooks Zayandeh Rood River.
phone: +98 311 2227922address: Chahar Bagh Ave97 rooms and 4 suites.
Aseman HotelOverlooks the river.
phone: +98 313 222-20-60address: no 11, Telephonkhane St., masjed-e sofretchi St., Chaharbagh-e Payin Ave.An old consulate of Russia behind the bazzar.
- Dasht-e-Kavir (central desert of Iran) is easily reached by a 6-hour bus journey from Isfahan. You'll find oases, salt lakes, etc.
- Kashan is famous for its beautiful mansions from the 1800s and its gardens.
- Na’in is the first desert city toward east. It's a small and quiet town at the edge of desert. A perfect pattern of a desert town. Everything you like to see in a desert town you can find there.
- Qom is a holy city a few hundred kilometres away.
- Shiraz is around 6 hours south of Isfahan by bus.
- Toudeshk-Cho is 100 km from Isfahan, on the way to Yazd. It is a very, quaint traditional desert village and it is easy to get to from the Jey Minibus terminal. It is well-known among backpackers as the location of the Tak-Taku Homestay.