Esfahan (Es·fa·han (ĕs'fə-hän') or Is·fa·han (Persian: اصفهان) is a city in central Iran. Located south of Tehran, it is considered by the locals 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 over their place. Its architecture, tree-lined boulevards and relaxed pace make it one of the highlights of Iran's cities. The capital of Esfahan Province, and once the country's capital, the Persians call it "Nesf-e-Jahan", meaning "Half The World".
The city is 430 km south of Tehran at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range. The city enjoys a temperate climate and regular seasons. Esfahan is located on the main north-south and east-west routes crossing Iran.
- Esfahan International Airport or Esfahan Shahid Beheshti (IATA: IFN) was a military air base before the revolution. There are daily flights to Tehran and Mashhad in Iran. There are also flights to Damascus, Dubai and Kuwait.
Esfahan is well connected to most parts of the country by bus . there are buses from Esfahan to Tehran and Tehran to Esfahan every 15 minutes. 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 of them, and don't forget to buy the 185,000 Rials ticket to get the full package.
It is easy to get around Esfahan by bus, and possibly the cheapest way as well. Tickets are sold at IR 500 / trip - you can purchase the tickets on the bus or at the booths at the bus stops. Note that there are separate men (front) and women (rear) sections on the bus.
Squares and Streets
- Naqsh-e Jahan Square also known as shah square or imam square-1602. With two mosques and the bazaar. It is an important historical site, and one of UNESCO's World Heritage Sites.The square is surrounded by buildings from the Safavid era.
- Meydan Kohne (Kohne Square)
- Shahshahan square
- Chaharbagh Boulevard - 1596, dating from the Saffavid era. The avenue is the most historically famous in all of Persia.
- Chaharbagh-e-khajou Boulevard
The stunning mosques of Esfahan are among the most beautiful and interesting in the world.
- Imam Mosque it was called Shah mosque before Iran's Revolution)Built during the Safavid period, it is an excellent example of Islamic architecture of Iran, and regarded as one of the masterpieces of Persian Architecture. The Shah Mosque of Esfahan is one of the everlasting masterpieces of architecture in Iran. It is registered, along with the Naghsh-i Jahan Square, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its splendor is mainly due to the beauty of its seven-colour mosaic tiles and calligraphic inscriptions.
- Sheikh Lotf Allah Mosque- one of the architectural masterpieces of Safavid Iranian architecture.
- Hakim Mosqueis one of the oldest mosques in Esfahan
- Masjed Jame Mosque
- Ālī Qāpū (The Royal Palace) - Early 17th Century. It is forty-eight 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.
- Talar Ashraf (The Palace of Ashraf) - 1650.
- Hasht Behesht (The Palace of Eight Paradises) - 1669: Reportedly built for residence purposes of the King's harem.
- Chehel Sotoun (The Palace of forty columns) - 1647: 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.
- Madreseye Sadr
- 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
- Carvanserai Shah
- Pol-e Shahrestan (The Shahrestan Bridge) - 11th Century. It is one of the oldest surviving bridges in Iran, built in the 14th Century (C.E.).
- Pol-e Khaju (Khaju Bridge) - 1650. It is the finest bridge in the province of Esfahan.It was built by the Persian Safavid king, Shah Abbas II around 1650 C.E. This structure originally was ornated with artistic tile works and paintings serving as a teahouse
- Si-o-Seh Pol (The Bridge of 33 Arches) - 1602. It is highly ranked as being one of the most famous examples of Safavid bridge design.
- Pol-e-Joui or choobi(Joui bridge)It is one of Isfahan's oldest bridges and was built in 1665, during the Safavid era.
- Pol-e-Maarnaan (Maarnaan Bridge)
Churches and Cathedrals
- Vank Cathedral(The Church of the Saintly Sisters) - 17th century. 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.
- Kelisaye maryam (maryam church)
- Flowers Garden
- Birds Garden
- Atashgah - a Zoroastrian fire temple. This temple is dramatically set atop a rock on the outskirts of Esfahan 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.
- Buqe'h-ye Ibn-Sina (Avicenna's Dome) - 12th Century.
- The Tombs of Nizam al-Mulk & Malek Shah - 12th & 18th Century.
- Jolfa (The Armenian Quarter).
- The Bathhouse of Sheikh Bahai.
- Pigeon Towers - 17th Century.
- The Bathhouse of Ali Gholi Agha
- Take a walk in any of Esfahan's beautiful and well kept gardens, or go and take a look at the bazaar of Isfahan.
- Walk along the Zayandehrood river beside the ancient bridges. You see many locals doing this everyday.
- Get some take out food and go to Naqsh-e Jahan Square for a dinner. You'll find many locals doing this especially on Fridays.
- Get a taxi to the south of the city to Soffeh Mountain and catch a telecabin up for 60,000 IR or go bowling at the only bowling alley in the city underneath the telecabin station
- Shahid Ashrafi Esfahani University - Foreign students can learn Persian here as part of tailor-made courses to suit their needs. Contact: Foreign Student Coordinator Ghaem Blv., Sepahan Shahr, Esfahan, Iran, Po Box: 81798-49999,Tel: 98-311-6502820-28
- University of Esfahan
- Esfahan University of Medical Sciences
- Esfahan University of Technology
- Malek Ashtar University
- Sheikh Baha'i University
- Mohajer Technical College
- Khorasgaan(Esfahan) Azad University
- Art University Of Esfahan
There is a technology university known as IUT and there are a lot of technology towns such as Sheikh bahaee, Jay, Amir Kabir, Oshtorjaan and many others which all are active in industry. Qualified people would like work in these towns or Foolad mobarakeh or Melt Iron companies, both active in the steel industry.
- Esfahan carpets are world-famous, being the very finest of the Persian carpets. They are also often extremely expensive. Carpets from the nearby town of Nain 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 Esfahan, but such clothing can be expensive, so it's better to haggle for a reasonable price.
- For a real treasure trove, shop in the famous bazaar.
- Miniatures These exquisite miniature paintings are painted on camel bone. Most of them are sold framed, and prices start from about IR15,000. They can be more costly if done by a miniature master. Shop and look at various stores before making your decision.
As with most of Iran, the standard national dish of Chelo kebab is a must. Try the regional variations of this dish in the numerous restaurants in Esfahan. Food is usually of high standard. In some parks in Esfahan, you can simply obtain a carpet and tea from the park warden, and have a picnic on the grass. You will find families gather in these parks, and bring barbecues and cook freshly made kebabs, which smell and taste delicious.
Another favourite meal is a beryani which you can eat for lunch. This is a special meal of Esfahan. It is made with mutton and lung. Although Iranians love this meal, it is very fatty and so it may be unpleasant to westerners.
If you have the chance, try Fereni (a concoction of rice flour, water and milk) at Fereni Hafez, which is along Hafez Street near Imam Square. It costs IR3,000 for a small bowl or IR5,000 for a bigger one.
Visit one of the tea-houses in the bazaar or under one of the bridges.
There are lots of coffee shops in Esfahan. Feel Cafe in "Mir Fendereski" St. is one of the most popular Cafes in Esfahan.
- The Amir Kabir Hotel is a favourite among backpackers. As of July 2012, simple dorm beds are IR150,000, sleeping in the carpet room (on the floor) is IR120,000. Breakfast is included. Wifi is slow but the signal is strong. The dorm rooms have airconditioning. There is internet next door (IR10,000/hour) as well as a laundry service (IR25,000/kg). Rooms are clean and toilets are shared (with hot water showers). Address: Charbagh st., Esfahan. Tel. 0098 311 2227273; fax: 0098 311 2210255 (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). There is a bus stop right outside the entrance.
- Dibai House, 1 Masjed Ali Alley, Harunie, ☎ , fax: +98 311 2209786, e-mail: email@example.com. This is Esfahan's most atmospheric hotel. Dibai House comprises a fully and scrupulously restored 17th-century Safavid historic mansion that with modern facilities. Ideally located in the Old Quarter. No smoking indoors. Price includes breakfast, and owner Sufi is extremely helpful with travel information. € 40/60/80 per room/night for single/double/triple rooms. 10% discount for stays longer than a week and for groups of 5 or more.
- Hasht Behesht Apartment Hotel, Ostandari st, ☎ , e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Amazing value apartments, clean, modern and central.
- Bekhradi Historial Residence, No. 56 Sonbolestan Alley, Ebn-e-Sina, Shohada Sq., ☎ , fax: +98 311 4882073, e-mail: email@example.com. 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. Rooms between US$60-US$90 per person, per night (+16% tax/service).
- Abbasi Hotel. Was built at the time 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).
- Kowsar International Hotel. Overlooks Zayandeh Rood River.
- Hotel Ali Ghapou is one of the best 4-star hotels in Esfahan.
- 'Hotel Aseman is another 4-star hotel, with a very beautiful view of Zayande Rood River.
There are various Internet cafés in Esfahan. The best place which has the fastest connection and also cheapest in the city is the Central Library of Esfahan. It is accessible from Naghshe-Jahan Square by five minutes walk.
Visas & Permits
There is an old consulate of Russia behind the bazzar.
- Qom is a holy city a few hundred kilometres away.
- The Dasht-e-Kavir (central desert of Iran) is easily reached in about 4 hours bus ride from Esfahan. You'll find oasis, salt lakes...