Certainly, Isfahan deserves the name ‘half of the world’. The third biggest city of Iran, is where you can see the socio-cultural life of Persians, walk on the bridges, eat hearty foods and enjoy your time. Whatch things to do in Isfahan here.
The first 24 hours
VISIT: Naqsh-e Jahan Complex, Imam Mosque, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, Ali Qapu and portico of Qeyssariyeh, Chehel Sotoun Palace, Si-o-Seh Pol and Pol-e-Khaju
• Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Start visiting the square from the portico of Qeyssariye which is connected to Bazaar. That’s because you’ll be able to see a wonderful open view of the square! The 2-km-long Bazaar of Isfahan is like travelling back in time, Where you can’t get enough of finding souvenirs like carpets, enamel dishes and miniature unique handicrafts and delicious sweets! But be patient and wait! You’ll be having enough time to bargain in bazaar tomorrow! Visiting Isfahan without a trip to Naqsh-e Jahan Square is akin to visiting Paris with seeing the Eiffel Tower. It is the second- largest square on earth. There are four splendid UNESCO listed buildings on each side of the square:
The portico of Qeyssariyeh, on the north, The Imam Mosque on the south, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque On the east and The Pavilion of Ali Qapu on the west. Entrance to the monuments costs about 200.000 rials for each person, so visiting four monuments costs about 800.000 rials to you! They are open to visit from 9AM to 9PM. The mosques are best visited in the morning.
• Imam Mosque
While entering the entrance corridor, you don’t even notice that you’ve just turned 45 degrees! You’re now in alignment with Mecca. The Shah Mosque is also named as the “masterpiece of Islamic architecture”. The marvelous seven-colored mosaics tiles of the arches capture your eye. All the walls are decorated by blue-tiled mosaics.
• Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
You’re going to see the private mosque of the royal court, where not everyone was allowed to see in the past! So make your cameras ready! You’re about to see the most beautiful and delicate paintings in the ceiling. Sheikh Lotfollah dome and its interior design, is more beautiful that you imagine.
• Pavilion of Ali Qapu
Visit a 38-meter throne room that overlooks a great view to the square. Today, great parts of this sumptuous place is under renovation. but be patient and climb it up to the sixth floor where you’ll see a fantastic music room with impressive niches on the walls. Definitely worth climbing!
• EAT: Beryani, Traditional Isfihanian Food
If you’re looking for a place that serves up delicious and cheap food, try Azam restaurant. This old restaurant serves Beryanis with a glass of dugh, lime and basil. Biryani is actually the shoulder lamb boiled with onions, salt and spices, and then minced and fried in oil. This tasty food is then crowned with walnuts and almonds and snuggled into a large naan, named ‘taftoon’. Azam biryani is a little bit crowded in holidays. It has both takeout and seating place. Azam has three branches: one near the bazaar, one in Masjed Seyyed St and one in Kamal-Esmaeil St. Malek Soltan Jarchi Bashi restaurant is also a good choice if you’re looking for a richly decorated place. It has colorful setting and it serves great Biryanis. It is located in Sepah Street, Hakim Street, seventh alley. The price ranges between 170,000 and 200,000 rials. The restaurant services may add about 100.000 rials to it.
Just by a 10-minute walk from Naqsh-e Jahan Sq and Chahar Bagh Abbasi St You’ll get to see a classic Persian Garden and a Unesco World Heritage listed monument. Chehel Sotun means ‘40 pillars’ the number reflected in the long pool in front of the palace. This royal palace of safavid era, is a must see place in Isfahan. The 20 wooden pillars lead to a wonderful inaly and mirrored worked ceiling. Don't miss the one headed, two bodied lion fountains on the way in! Also In Throne Hall you’ll see a series of marvelous paintings with sceneries from ancient battles and feasts. This is also a place where you can see daring pictures! They show Persians back in the 16th Century enjoyed wine while dancing and listening to lively music. The entry price is about 200,000 rials for foreign visitors and it's open from 9AM to 7PM. the place is best visited in early mornings and evenings.
• DRINK: Herbal Flavored Syrup
“Sharbatkhaneh” is a great place to have a short pit stop. I highly recommend trying “Azadegan cofe”, in Chah Haj Mirza alley, Emam sq. All the walls and ceilings are decorated with lamps, old paintings of Shahnameh and “Taziyeh”, miniatures and a lot of antique stuff leading you to a world of wonders. You can order juices, rosewater, cherry and pomegranate syrups, herbal teas, and great coffees and enjoy a great tanbaco! The prices are reasonable and the place is unbelievable!
If you’re looking for a smaller atmospheric place, go to “Roozegar cofe”. It’s just right on the eastern side of the Naqsh-e Jahan square.
Visiting the most impressive bridges on Zayandeh River is free and it has no entry. Walking on both bridges takes you about one or two hours. Go there in the afternoon, when the bridges are illuminated by the soft lights, and the families pack up to picnic. You’ll see local people gather around the bridge and sing classic songs of Hafez
(The best time to see Zayandeh River is in spring. When It has water and it flows under the bridges. It gives life to Isfahan just like its name. (Zayandeh: Life Giver
The next 24 hours
VISIT: Bazaar, Jameh Mosque, Vank Church, Menar jonban and Abbasi Hotel)
• Bazaar of Isfahan
It’s the time to buy souvenirs! If you are looking for a luxurious and expensive gift for your nearest and dearests, try ‘mina Kari”, “Khatam kari” and old Persian carpets and rugs. You can buy ‘mina Kari’ bowls, spoons and dishes and also ‘Khatam’ jewelry boxes and picture frames. The prices ranges from 1.000.000 up to 4.000.000 rials. Notice that: The best “khatams” are perfectly symmetrical and has smooth surface. Don’t miss the smaller shops of bazaar! They can satisfy you with the best, low priced souvenirs. You also can find bracelets, necklace and rings made of colorful stones.
Don’t miss tiny coin shaped candies named “Poulaki”. They have saffron, lemon, cardamom, and chocolate tastes. But the most tasteful one is lemon and saffron.
• Jameh Mosque
Whit just a 15 minute walk from Bazaar You can get to this UNESCO world Heritage site. This 1000 year old mosque is the oldest and the biggest mosque in Iran. In the “Sultan Uljeitu” Shabestan in the northwest of the mosque, you can see the most beautiful Mihrab in Iran. This magnificent stucco Mihrab, is designed with elaborate guranic inscriptions and floral patterns.
You can visit Jameh Mosque from 9 AM to 7PM. It also worth to pay for a guide, who can show you the tombs, prayer places and hidden rooms. The entry price for foreign visitors is about 250,000 rials per person.
• Menar Jonban
This 14’s century monument of Isfahan is famous for its shaking minarets. So that if one minaret is shaken, the other one and later the whole building will shake as well. In the past, the visitors were allowed to shake the minarets themselves every 20 minute but it’s no longer allowed.
The entry price is about 200,000 rials for foreign visitors and it’s about 45 minutes away from the city. But it worth to see an amazing work of engineering in the city of wonders!
• EAT: Gooshfil and Dough
Try this this strange-mixed snack, Gooshfil is an Iranian sweet made by powder, egg, saffron and rosewater, shaping dough into the shape of an ear “goosh” and then, deep fried in oil. “Dough” is yoghurt drink. The combination of both, sour and sweet taste is really enticing.
Spend a great time in Abbasi Hotel. The oldest hotel in Iran, located in Amadegah Street, has an impressive decoration reminding of ancient Isfahan and it is a wonderful and luxurious place. It has an entry price which is about 250,000 rials for each person including snacks and desserts like ice cream, Ash Reshte, and Gooshfil and Dough.
Best time to go to Isfahan
Whole the spring and Fall, April, May, June, October and November, are the best time to visit there.
How to access to Isfahan
From Tehran, travelers can go to the Mehrabad Airport and take a flight to Isfahan, paying around 1,600,000 IRR. The flight takes about 1 hour. Usually there are 5 flights to Isfahan everyday. You can also go to Isfahan by VIP Buses. It takes about 5 hours to reach there and the ticket price is about 270,000 to 450,000 IRR. Also Isfahan has an International Airport so you can go there directly.