A Guide to Isfahan Attractions and Things to do in Isfahan

The city of Isfahan is easily one of the most popular destinations in Iran, due to the high concentrations of Isfahan attractions and diverse things to do in Isfahan, making it one of the finest cities in the Middle East.

You could very easily spend days checking out all the Isfahan attractions and architecture, palaces, mosques, squares and gardens without getting bored in the slightest. Unfortunately, we only had one and half days available to explore the best things to do in Isfahan, since we decided to split our time and spend a couple for nights in the Varzaneh desert, when we were in the area.

This blog post includes all the most popular Isfahan attraction and suggests the best things to do in Isfahan if you are limited with time, like we were! Luckily, many Isfahan attractions are located very close to each other, so traveling between them is very efficient, a detail which makes Isfahan such a great city for sightseeing!

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The beautifully intricate decorations inside the Masjed-e Shah (Imam Mosque)
Bridges of Zajandeh River

Getting to Isfahan

Isfahan is very well-connected to the rest of Iran, being a main town as well as a popular tourist destination. Trains run to and from Tehran regularly, whilst bus services to Isfahan are available from many other destinations in Iran.

You can book buses to and from Isfahan here.

We caught a VIP night bus going straight from Kermanshah to Isfahan for 680,000 rial (68,000 toman) each, a trip which took around 10 hours. You can read more about the different types of transport in Iran in our post about independent travel to Iran.

Isfahan is also home to an airport which has regular flights to Tehran and Shiraz, amongst others. Domestic flights in Iran are usually very well-priced and can be booked here.

two arches inside the Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Shah)

Isfahan Attractions and things to do in Isfahan                                                       

The following is a list of what we think are the best Isfahan attractions and things to do in Isfahan if you’re only there for one or two days. In fact, we managed to visit all the below Isfahan attractions in one very long day, but we do tend to be fast travelers, so this would not be unusual.

We do appreciate that many others would find all the below things to do in Isfahan, a little overwhelming in just one day, so you might want to pick and choose your favourite Isfahan attractions.

Glass and mirrors decorate the Chehel Sotoon Palace

Visit Naqsh-e Jahan Square, one of the best things to do in Isfahan

Naqsh-e Jahan Square is one the most popular Isfahan attractions, especially also, due to the fact that many other Isfahan attractions are located in or around this square. We advise you to make your way to the huge square and spend some time walking around (and admiring) the tree-lined paths and manicured gardens, whilst visiting the other Isfahan attractions you come across on your walk.

You will notice that many locals like to just relax and spend time picnicking or chatting in the square, whilst many kids use the wide open space to play games. You can also take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the square!

Find it on a map! – Naqsh-e Jahan Square

Naqsh-e Jahan Square - the main square in Isfahan
Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Shah)

Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Shah)

The Imam Mosque is easily one of the most recognisable attractions in Isfahan, and should surely be on your list of things to do in Isfahan. The magnificent mosque consists of a large, conspicuous gate and two minarets, as well as the main mosque building.

Once you are inside, you will realise that every corner of the mosque is laid out with breath-taking blue tilework, resulting in a spectacular masterpiece. The mosque is particularly large and worth exploring, so we advise you to dedicate at least an hour to it!

The main chamber inside the Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Shah)

Worth noting, is the particular acoustic feature of the mosque whereby a person standing at the centre of the dome, can be heard speaking from far away, even when speaking softly. Nikki and I tested this out and were pretty impressed!

Entrance fee: 500,000 rial / 50,000 toman each.

Find it on a map! – Masjed-e Shah

The minaret of the Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Shah)
inside the Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Shah)

Aali Qapu Palace

This gorgeous palace located within Naqsh-e Jahan Square is one of the most beautiful Isfahan attractions and is surely worth some of your time.

There’s an impressive view of the square from the top-most floor of the palace, and equally impressive, is the magnificent music room with its acoustic features, in which live musicians would play traditional Persian instruments, and be heard clearly around the palace.

The palace’s six floors are connected by a narrow spiral staircase, so be prepared for a bit of climbing to access the rooms!

Entrance fee: 500,000 rial / 50,000 toman each.

Find it on a map! – Aali Qapu Palace

Aali Qapu Palace
Aali Qapu Palace wall decorations in Isfahan

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque is also located in Naqsh-e Jahan Square, right opposite Aali Qapu Palace. As you can tell, many of the Isfahan attractions are very easy to visit, being located very close to each other!

Again, the Lotfollah mosque is a wonderful piece of architecture, and it’s not hard to see why it is one of the top Isfahan attractions. The mosque’s dome is astounding, as are the tiles of blueish hues, whilst the light coming through the windows, creates a beautiful and clever play of colour.

Entrance fee: 500,000 rial / 50,000 toman each.

Find it on a map! – Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque

Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
The internal decoration inside the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque dome

Walk along Bazaar-e Bozorg, one of the most interesting things to do in Isfahan

Although we had experienced our fair share of bazaars by the time we got to Isfahan, we found the Bazaar-e Bozorg to be no less impressive than the ones we had already visited, especially since it seemed to be the most organised of the bazaars we had been to so far.

Brassware at the Bazaar-e Bozorg in Isfahan

The bazaar actually links the Naqsh-e Jahan Square to the Masjed-e Jameh (which is located some distance away from the square), so the best way of travelling in between the square and the Jameh mosque is to walk through the bazaar to experience the buzzing vibe and activity, and perhaps get some shopping done too!

Also, be sure to look up at the ‘holes’ in the bazaar’s ceiling and notice the way that the shafts of light illuminate the bazaar; they are really quite fascinating! Be sure to include the bazaar on your list of things to do in Isfahan, even if you’ve experienced other bazaars!

Find it on a map! – Bazaar-e Bozorg

Light rays at the Bazaar-e Bozorg in Isfahan
Spices on display at the Bazaar-e Bozorg in Isfahan

Masjed-e Jameh

Unlike many of the Isfahan attractions, Jameh Mosque (Friday mosque) of Isfahan is not located in the large Naqsh-e Jahan Square, but rather within the historical centre, being also one of the earliest religious buildings in Iran.

The mosque is considered to be a prototype of Islamic architecture, and an indication of the way this evolved over time, since it includes several architectural and decorative styles from different eras. We were rather impressed with the architecture of the Jameh Mosque, and although we did not have enough time to stay too long, we feel that it one of the Isfahan attractions worth including on any itinerary!

Entrance fee: 500,000 rial / 50,000 toman each

Find it on a map! – Masjed-e Jameh

Inside Masjed-e Jameh in Isfahan
Inside the Masjed-e Jameh Mosque

Take a look around Chehel Sotoon Palace, one of the most relaxing things to do in Isfahan

The Chehel Sotoon Palace is home to a lovely garden and rich interior, known for its 40 columns, making it a worthy Isfahan attraction. What we enjoyed most about the Palace was its serenity and the peace it imparted within the garden, and the way it felt totally cut off from the city, despite being in the midst of it.

Entrance fee: 500,000 rial / 50,000 toman each

Find it on a map! – Chehel Sotoon Palace

Chehel Sotoon Palace in isfahan
Decorations inside the Chehel Sotoon Palace in isfahan

Vank Cathedral

The Vank Cathedral, which is renowned for its elaborate interior, is located in the Jolfa district, or the Armenian quarter, of Isfahan, and has stood there for more than 400 years, being built after thousands of Armenians were forced to settle in the area at the time.

The Armenian quarter itself feels very different to the rest of Isfahan, with modern coffee shops, other churches, and an almost European vibe, of which the Vank Cathedral is clearly the highlight, with its intricate frescoes, and magnificent central dome, making it one of the Isfahan attractions that should not be missed!

Entrance fee: 500,000 rial / 50,000 toman each

Find it on a map! – Vank Cathedral

Vank Cathedral in Isfahan
Fresco inside the Vank Catherdral

Walk along the bridges of Zajandeh River, one of the most pleasant things to do in Isfahan

There are 11 bridges crossing Isfahan’s Zajandeh River (Zajanderud), close by to the Jolfa district, five of which date back to the Safavid period, namely Shahrestan, Khaju, Choobi, Si-o-se Pol and Marnan Bridges.

You can easily stroll along the river to admire the bridges, and observe local life. Many locals seem to take their evening walk in the area, a pleasant activity by all means, especially if you’re a little overwhelmed with the large mosques and churches.

The long, 33-arched Si-o-se Pol Bridge is especially beautiful during golden hour, and it would be wise to time your visit purposely to enjoy the bridges and river at this time.

Find it on a map! – Bridges of Si-o-se Pol Bridge

Si o Se Pol Bridge in Isfahan

Ali Gholi Bathhouse

Finally, we suggest that you include the Ali Gholi Bathhouse on your list of things to do in Isfahan, especially if you have not been to any other bathhouses as yet. We felt that it was quite similar to the Qajar bathhouse we visited in Qazvin, but still, we really enjoyed walking through the passages and chambers, admiring the architecture, whilst wondering about all the conversations and gossip that must have been exchanged here, centuries ago.

Entrance fee: 300,000 rial / 30,000 toman each

Find it on a map! – Ali Gholi Bathhouse

Ali Gholi Bathhouse
Inside the Ali Gholi Bathouse.

Where to stay in Isfahan

We stayed at the Isfahan Boutique Hotel, for around €12 / night for a double room with a private bathroom at one side of a large courtyard garden. Although, the hotel was more like a hostel than an actual boutique hotel, we thought it was incredible value for money, and the breakfast (included in price) which was provided, was pretty decent, with some of the tastiest dates we had in Iran!

Other hotels and accommodation options can be booked here.

More decorations inside the Imam Mosque (Masjed-e Shah)

Where to eat in Isfahan

Isfahan is a very popular destination in Iran and is packed with restaurants serving some lovely and very affordable meals, however we should really mention the buffet we had at Ghasr Monshi, a rather hard to find restaurant, located within a hotel of the same name.

Although, a little pricier than other places, this restaurant serves a buffet of local dishes for €12 per person, which were all prepared and served beautifully and meticulously. We were genuinely impressed with the quality and the flavours of every dish, and the way in which the serving staff explained all about the dishes’ origins and ingredients.

The nicest gesture of all, was when we were stuck with choosing only one dessert out of the four on offer, and were brought (supposedly ‘tasting’) portions of each item. I especially loved the traditional, sweet dish Khoresht Mast, an ice-cream like concoction made with… lamb! Honestly, you have to taste it to understand exactly how delicious it is!

Deserts in Isfahan
Khoresht Mast - Faloodeh

We would like to add that we were in no way sponsored by or affiliated to the restaurant, we just really enjoyed our experience there and felt that it deserved a special recommendation!

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