Esfahan is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in all of Iran thanks to its beautiful palaces, bridges, mosques and the Naqsh e Jahan Square. In addition to all of this beauty, Esfahan is one of Iran’s cultural capitals. Esfahan is home to many artisans and musicians. The Armenian minority living primarily in the Jolfa District of the city add to the city’s cultural diversity. Travel to Iran is incomplete without travel to Esfahan. The incredible Safavid architecture of the city makes travel to Esfahan a must for travelers to Iran hoping to see some of the finest examples of Islamic architecture in the world.
If you tell an Iranian that you are on your way to travel to Esfahan he or she is likely to say “Esfahan nesef-e jahan ast – Esfahan is half the world.” You might think to yourself that the phrase seems rather ridiculous, then again have you been to Esfahan? Throughout its history, Esfahan (also spelled Isfahan) has remained one of those extraordinary cities that has bewitched travelers from around the world. The famous 17th century French traveler Jean Chardin described Esfahan as “expressly made for the delights of love.” In the Road to Oxiana Robert Byron wrote that Esfahan is “among those rarer places, like Athens or Rome, which are the common refreshment of humanity.” Esfahan was made the capital of the Persian empire in 1598 by Shah Abbas the Great and today remains the cultural capital of Iran. Filled with lush, fragrant gardens, unparalleled Islamic architecture, charming tree-lined boulevards and traditional artisans whose craft has been passed down generation to generation, Esfahan lives up to its trademark.
Strolling around Naqshe Jahan Square, a UNESCO world heritage site, travelers will no doubt feel as if they have been transported into a living illustration from 1001 Nights. One of the largest squares in the world, Naqshe Jahan Square, also known as Imam Square or Royal Square, is 89,600 square meters in size and exhibits the magnificent splendor of medieval Persia under the Safavid Dynasty. To the east of the square features the Ali Qapu Palace or “Exalted Port”, to the south of the square sits the Royal Mosque and to the west Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. The remaining perimeter of the square is made up of long corridors of bazaars that display some of Esfahan’s most precious handicrafts. The center of the square is a large open park where people can ride carriages or bikes from one end to the other or sit in the middle for a Persian picnic.
Walk from Naqshe Jahan Square and count the columns at Chehel Sotoun Palace or “Palace of 40 Columns” where Shah Abbas II received and entertained foreign dignitaries. Then visit Hasht Behesht Palace or “Eight Paradises Palace” the only remaining mansion of the more than forty mansions built by the Safavid Dynasty. Watch the swinging minarets at Menar Jonban, a mausoleum that features two minarets that mirror the shaking of the other. Some of Esfahan’s finest architecture can be found in the many bridges built across the river, including Khaju Bridge and Si o Se Bridge, known as the bridge of 33 arches.
What to eat when you travel to Esfahan: Esfahan is famous in Iran for its gaz, a nougat candy made from sap, pistachios, egg whites and rose water. Beryuni is another Esfahani specialty made from ground lamb and served with fresh sangak bread.
Naqshe Jahan Square
Esfahan is considered by many to be the most beautiful city in all of Iran thanks to its beautiful palaces, bridges, mosques and the Naqsh e Jahan Squ READ MORE
What to buy when you travel to Esfahan
Esfahan is a city full of artisans who specialize in different Persian handicrafts. Khatam-Kari is the delicate and meticulous artform of decorating objects such as boxes, frames, chess boards and even musical instruments with intricate star patterned designs made from thin pieces of colored wood, gold, brass and ivory. Another popular handcraft is the ancient craft of Mina-Kari where artisans colorfully paint metal and copper pieces (like dishes, vases or frames) in a glaze and then baked in a kiln creating a polished finish. Other handicrafts include termeh and of course hand woven Persian rugs. Stroll the bazaar surrounding Naqshe Jahan Square and find your favorite piece.