While itself home to many of the marvelous attractions of Isfahan, the Naqsh-e Jahan Square deserves a mention in its own right – if not because it is one of the biggest public plazas in the world.
Built to symbolize the importance of Isfahan in the Safavid Empire – not much has changed except the addition of horse-drawn carriages, a beautiful fountain, and hoards of tourist shops. You can’t avoid this square even if you wanted to – but is best visited in the late afternoon or evening when Iranian families and couples come out to enjoy its splendor and the light is more mallow.
Isfahan is endowed with no less than 11 bridges crisscrossing the dried out Zayandeh River – five of which are protected historic monuments.
These bridges are popular places for locals to gather at any time of day, but especially in the evening as the bridges are perfectly lit up. The Si-o-Seh Pol bridge is a perennial favourite – and the longest, though Pol-e Khaju may well be the finest bridge in Iran.
Don’t miss Pol-e Shahrestan which is the oldest dating back to the 12th century or Pol-e Chubi with it’s interior parlours used by the shah and his concubines.
Newly opened the opulent Attar Hotel in Isfahan blows every other Isfahan hotel out of the water – and at pretty reasonable prices by western standards.
One of the best new hotels in Iran opening to cater to a booming tourism industry – I can think of no better way to enhance a stay in Isfahan that by indulging in their colorful pool, relax in rooms that hark back to the Shah era and take in all of the traditional details. A truly one of a kind hotel in Isfahan – and their traditional Iranian breakfast is rumored to be the best in the city.
Other great mid-range hotels in Isfahan include Piroozy Hotel and Viana Hotel, both bookable online so you can avoid confusion around price or facilitates when you arrive. If you are really on a budget and need a hostel in Isfahan there is not a great selection but Seven Hostel run out of Orchid Hotel is by far the best bet (but at 15€ per night and no common space, you are better getting one of the mid-range hotels in Isfahan.
Dating back to Sassanian times there is not much left of the crumbling bricks at Ateshkadeh-ye (the Isfahan Fire Temple) but the panoramic view from the top over Zayandeh River and the edge of Isfahan make it all worthwhile.
A slippery and treacherous path requires a 20-minute scramble uphill, but as long as the weather is good its worth it to wander amongst the ancient (or often rebuilt) ruins and gaze out to the horizon. Not the best example of a Zoroastrian Fire Temple in Iran, but there is still a certain otherworldly charm up here ave it all.
One of the highlights of Iran is the food and Isfahan is no exception.
You absolutely must try Biriyani when here, minced lamb served with bread and Faloodeh which is a cold dessert of corn vermicelli noodles in rosewater syrup. I also particularly liked the Dizi stew here ( lamb with assorted vegetables in a stew) but for the most comprehensive food guide to Isfahan, you really need to click through to this incredibly lengthy Food guide by The City Lane who does a far better job than I ever could!
For centuries Isfahan city was an oasis settlement but a population explosion and industrialization demanded more water and sadly the Zayandeh River suffered.
Having seasonal dry-outs, the Zayandeh River has not flown through Isfahan since 2010 due to poor environmental policies and rampant mismanagement. A man-made disaster that has left tourists with the bizarre option of walking all over a dried-out riverbed, or wandering the parks either-side which are brightened up by a few pieces of modern art.
The sight of swan boats simply left here 8 years ago reminds me a bit of Chernobyl and are quite photogenic.
The center point of the city, Masjed-e Shah Mosque otherwise known as the Abbasi Great Mosque is elegant and iconic – and by far the biggest building on the square.
The entrance gate provides plenty of stunning photo opportunities but considering there are many other beautiful mosques in Isfahan, you can probably skip going in this one if you want to avoid a hefty entrance fee. Simply wander around through the main entrance at sunset and into the internal courtyard – when it is free.
Don’t disrupt those going to pray, but you will get an incredible vantage point from which to admire the iconic blue tiling and overwhelming stature of Masjed-e Shah Mosque.
Jolfa is the Armenian quarter in the south of Isfahan.
Dating back to the 16th century when Shah Abbas the First ordered the transportation of the entire population of Jolfa ad hoc, a town boarding Armenia, to Isfahan to help complete his historic architectural works here in record time. These new populations talents as merchants, entrepreneurs and artists were needed, and it was ensured their religious freedoms were respected…though at quite a distance from the Islamic monuments he was creating.
Today Jolfa is a very fashionable and liberal enclave serving the needs of the remaining 6,000 Armenian Christians here – with many beautiful restaurants, cafes, hidden churches and a vibrant feel around the central Jolfa Square. A curiosity deep in the heart of Iran that no travelers who visiting Isfahan should skip!
A 14th century architecturally undistinguished shrinewhich covers the grave of Amu Abdollah Soqla, Monar Jonban has become famous for it’s shaking minarets.
Every 1.5 hours one of the minarets is shaken and the other minaret should be observed to shake in unison swell. Locals will tell you that science can not explain the miracle of the shaking minarets of Monar Jonban, but in actuality, it is simply an example of couples oscillation given the height of the minarets and width of the roof. Regardless, in 2018 when I visited only one minaret would shake and no visible effect could be seen on the other, so it is probably not worth the hefty 200,000 entrance fee – but if you have a local you can probably negotiate your way in for much less.
Then, perhaps you will get lucky and see the laws of physics defied. Best combined with a trip to the Isfahan Fire Temple.
Dating back to 841, the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Jameh Mosque of Isfahan lies in the historic center of Isfahan and is well worth the entrance fee, showcasing centuries of Islamic architecture.
Also known as the Friday Mosque of Isfahan, the innovative designs and additions undertaken almost every 100 years showcases stylistic developments over a millennium and provided a prototype all later mosques across Iran and Central Asia. Still functioning as a place of worship, you can respectfully observe muslims praying here as you take in the myriad of design details throughout.
Undoubtably one of the top things to do in Isfahan and Iran.