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This article is about the city of Isfahan. For other uses, see Isfahan (disambiguation).
"Espahan" redirects here. For the village in Razavi Khorasan Province, see Espahan, Razavi Khorasan.
Ancient names: Spadana, Spahān
Esfahan Logo.jpg
Official seal of Isfahan
Nickname(s): Nesf-e Jahān (Half of the world)
Isfahan is located in Iran
Isfahan in Iran
Coordinates: 32°38′N 51°39′E / 32.633°N 51.650°E / 32.633; 51.650Coordinates: 32°38′N 51°39′E / 32.633°N 51.650°E / 32.633; 51.650
Country Iran
Province Isfahan
County Isfahan
District Central
 • Mayor Morteza Saqaeian Nejad
 • city 280 km2 (110 sq mi)
 • Metro 7,654 km2 (2,955 sq mi)
Elevation 1,590 m (5,217 ft)
Population (2012)
 • city 1,908,968
 • Population Rank in Iran 3rd
  Population Data from 2011 Census[2]
Time zone IRST (UTC+3:30)
 • Summer (DST) IRDT 21 March – 20 September (UTC+4:30)

Isfahan (Persian: اصفهان‎, Esfahān About this sound pronunciation ), historically also rendered in English as Ispahan, Sepahan, Esfahan or Hispahan, is the capital of Isfahan Province in Iran, located about 340 kilometres (211 miles) south of Tehran. It has a population of 1,908,609 and is Iran's third largest city after Tehran and Mashhad. The Greater Isfahan Region had a population of 3,793,101 in the 2011 Census, the third most populous metropolitan area in Iran after Tehran and Mashhad.[3]

The cities of Zarrinshahr, Fooladshahr and Najafabad, Se-deh, Shahinshahr, Mobarakeh, Falavarjan and Charmahin all constitute the metropolitan city of Isfahan.

Isfahan is located on the main north–south and east–west routes crossing Iran, and was once one of the largest cities in the world. It flourished from 1050 to 1722, particularly in the 16th century under the Safavid dynasty, when it became the capital of Persia for the second time in its history. Even today, the city retains much of its past glory. It is famous for its Islamic architecture, with many beautiful boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, mosques, and minarets. This led to the Persian proverb "Esfahān nesf-e jahān ast" (Isfahan is half of the world).[4]

The Naghsh-e Jahan Square in Isfahan is one of the largest city squares in the world and an outstanding example of Iranian and Islamic architecture. It has been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The city also has a wide variety of historic monuments and is known for the paintings and history.



The history of Isfahan can be traced back to the Palaeolithic period. In recent discoveries, archaeologists have found artifacts dating back to the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages.

Pre-Islamic era[edit]

Isfahan, capital of the Kingdom of Persia
Russian army in Isfahan in 1890s
Detail of Khaju Bridge

The city emerged gradually over the course of the Elamite civilization (2700–1600 BCE) under the name of Aspandana also spelt Ispandana. During the Median dynasty, this commercial entrepôt began to show signs of a more sedentary urbanism, steadily growing into a noteworthy regional center that benefited from the exceptionally fertile soil on the banks of the Zayendehrud River. Once Cyrus the Great (reg. 559–529 BCE) unified Persian and Median lands into the Achaemenid Empire (648–330 BCE), the religiously and ethnically diverse city of Isfahan became an early example of the king's fabled religious tolerance. The Parthians (250 BCE – 226 CE) continued this tradition after the fall of the Achaemenids, fostering the Hellenistic dimension within Iranian culture and political organization introduced by Alexander the Great's invading armies. Under the Parthians, Arsacid governors administered a large province from Isfahan, and the city's urban development accelerated to accommodate the needs of a capital city. The next empire to rule Persia, the Sassanids (226 – 652 CE), presided over massive changes in their realm, instituting sweeping agricultural reform and reviving Iranian culture and the Zoroastrian religion. The city was then called by the name Spahān in Middle Persian. The city was governed by "Espoohrans" or the members of seven noble Iranian families who had important royal positions, and served as the residence of these noble families as well. Extant foundations of some Sassanid-era bridges in Isfahan suggest that the kings were also fond of ambitious urban planning projects. While Isfahan's political importance declined during the period, many Sassanian princes would study statecraft in the city, and its military role developed rapidly. Its strategic location at the intersection of the ancient roads to Susa and Persepolis made it an ideal candidate to house a standing army, ready to march against Constantinople at any moment. One etymological theory argues that the name 'Aspahan' derives from the Pahlavi for 'place of the army'.[5]

Persia's capital[edit]

In 1598 Shah Abbas the Great moved his capital from Qazvin to the more central and Persian Isfahan, called Ispahān in early New Persian, so that it wouldn't be threatened by his arch rival, the Ottomans. This new importance ushered in a golden age for the city, with architecture, prestige, and Persian culture flourishing.

From Abbas' time and on, the city was also settled by thousands of deportees from the Caucasus (Most notably Georgians) which Abbas and his predecessors had settled en masse in Persia's heartland. At the end of the 16th century the city is said to have at least 250,000 Georgian inhabitants.[6]

During the time of Abbas and on Isfahan was very famous in Europe, and many European travellers made an account of their visit to the city, such as Jean Chardin. This all lasted until it was sacked by Afghan invaders in 1722 during the Safavids heavy decline. The capital subsequently moved several times until settling in Tehran in 1775.[citation needed]

In the 20th century the city was resettled by a very large number of people from southern Iran, firstly during the population migrations in the early century, and again in the 1980s following the Iran-Iraq war.

Modern age[edit]

Modern architecture at Isfahan City Center

Today Isfahan, the third largest city in Iran, produces fine carpets, textiles, steel, and handicrafts. Isfahan also has nuclear experimental reactors as well as facilities for producing nuclear fuel (UCF). Isfahan has one of the largest steel-producing facilities in the entire region, as well as facilities for producing special alloys.[citation needed]

The city has an international airport and is in the final stages of constructing its first Metro line.

Over 2000 companies work in the area using Isfahan's economic, cultural, and social potentials. Isfahan contains a major oil refinery and a large airforce base. HESA, Iran's most advanced aircraft manufacturing plant (where the IR.AN-140 aircraft is made), is located nearby.[7][ 1 ]. Isfahan is also becoming an attraction for international investments[ 3 ], like investments in Isfahan City Center[ Website ], which is the largest shopping mall in Iran and the largest shopping mall with a museum in the world and has the largest indoor amusement park in the middle-east[ 2 ].

Isfahan hosted the International Physics Olympiad in 2007.

Geography and climate[edit]

The city is located in the lush plain of the Zayanderud River, at the foothills of the Zagros mountain range. The nearest mountain is Mount Soffeh (Kuh-e Soffeh) which is situated just south of Isfahan. No geological obstacles exist within 90 kilometres (56 miles) north of Isfahan, allowing cool northern winds to blow from this direction. Situated at 1,590 metres (5,217 ft) above sea level on the eastern side of the Zagros Mountains, Isfahan has an arid climate (Köppen BSk). Despite its altitude, Isfahan remains hot during the summer with maxima typically around 35 °C (95 °F). However, with low humidity and moderate temperatures at night, the climate can be very pleasant. During the winter, days are mild while nights can be very cold. Snow has occurred at least once every winter except 1986/1987 and 1989/1990.[8][9]

Climate data for Isfahan
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 20
Average high °C (°F) 9.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 3.4
Average low °C (°F) −2.5
Record low °C (°F) −19.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 39.9
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 4.4 6.5 4.1 3.4 2.5 1.8 1.1 0.9 0.7 1.7 3.3 3.9 34.3
Average humidity (%) 62 66 57 50 44 35 25 26 28 38 52 60 45.3
Mean monthly sunshine hours 203.6 216.8 243.7 250.0 308.7 348.3 349.4 339.7 311.3 281.5 224.2 197.0 3,274.2
Source: Synoptic Stations Statistics
A handicraft shop
A handicraft from Isfahan

Main sights[edit]

See also: Tourism in Iran
Shah Mosque. Painting by the French architect, Pascal Coste, visiting Persia in 1841
Naghsh-i Jahan Square, Isfahan, Iran
View of Ali Qapu Palace
A carpet shop in Grand Bazaar, Isfahan
Khaju Bridge
An ancient item from Isfahan City Center museum



The Zayande River starts in the Zagros Mountains, flows from west to east through the heart of Isfahan, and dries up in the Gavkhooni wetland.

The bridges over the river include some of the finest architecture in Isfahan. The oldest bridge is the Shahrestan_bridge or "Pol-e Shahrestan", whose foundations was built by the Sasanian_Empire (3rd-7th century Sassanid era) and has been repaired during the Seljuk period.پل شهرستان. Further upstream is the "Pol-e Khaju", which was built by Shah Abbas II in 1650. It is 123 metres long with 24 arches, and also serves as a sluice gate.

The next bridge is the "Pol-e Chubi". It was originally built as an aqueduct to supply the palace gardens on the north bank of the river. Further upstream again is the Si-o-Seh Pol or bridge of 33 arches. Built during the rule of Shah Abbas the Great, it linked Isfahan with the Armenian suburb of Jolfa. It is by far the longest bridge in Isfahan at 295 m (967.85 ft).

Other bridges include:

Churches and cathedrals[edit]


Gardens and Parks[edit]


Mausoleums and Tombs[edit]




Schools (madresse)[edit]

Palaces and caravanserais[edit]

Squares and streets[edit]

A view of Meydan Kohne

Tourist attractions[edit]

Old building of Isfahan city hall

Isfahan is an important historical center for different groups of tourists in the domestic and international world. The central historical area in Isfahan is called Seeosepol (the name of a famous bridge).[11][12]

Other sites[edit]


See also: Economy of Iran



Isfahan is served by the Isfahan International Airport which handles domestic flights to Iranian cities and international flights.Turkish Airlines operates 4 weekly flights to Istanbul

Metro and inter-city public transportation[edit]

Isfahan Metro is under construction and will include 2 lines with 43 km (27 mi) length. The first line of that is planned to be finished by end of 2010 with 21 km (13 mi) length and 20 stations.[citation needed] Until the metro is completed an expanded bus system accompanied by taxis will handle Isfahan intra-urban public transportation.


Isfahan is connected to three major rail lines: Isfahan–Tehran, Isfahan–Shiraz (recently opened), Isfahan–Yazd and via this recent one to Bandar Abbas and Zahedan.

Road transport[edit]

Isfahan's internal highway network is currently under heavy expansion which began during the last decade. Its lengthy construction is due to concerns of possible destruction of valuable historical buildings. Outside the city, Isfahan is connected by modern highways to Tehran which spans a distance of nearly 400 km (248.55 mi) to North and to Shiraz at about 200 km (124.27 mi) to the south. The highways also service satellite cities surrounding the metropolitan area.[14]


An old master of hand-printed carpets in Isfahan bazaar
The Damask rose 'Ispahan', reputedly developed in Ispahan

Rug manufacture[edit]

Main article: Isfahan rug

Isfahan has long been one of the centers for production of the famous Persian Rug. Weaving in Isfahan flourished in the Safavid era. But when the Afghans invaded Iran, ending the Safavid dynasty, the craft also became stagnant.


  • Isfahan is famous for its Beryuni. This dish is made of baked mutton & lungs that are minced and then cooked in a special small pan over open fire with a pinch of cinnamon. Beryuni is generally eaten with a certain type of bread, "nan-e taftton." Although it can also be served with other breads.
    See also Biryani.
  • Fesenjan – a casserole type dish with a sweet and tart sauce containing the two base ingredients, pomegranate molasses and ground walnuts cooked with chicken, duck, lamb or beef and served with rice.
  • Gaz – the name given to Persian Nougat using the sap collected from angebin, a plant from the tamarisk family found only on the outskirts of Isfahan. It is mixed with various ingredients including rose water, pistachio and almond kernels and saffron.
  • "Khoresht-e mast" (yoghurt stew) is a traditional dish in Isfahan.[citation needed] Unlike other stews despite its name, it is not served as a main dish and with rice; Since it is more of a sweet pudding it is usually served as a side dish or dessert. The dish is made with yogurt, lamb/mutton or chicken, saffron, sugar and orange zest. Iranians either put the orange zest in water for one week or longer or boil them for few minutes so the orange peels become sweet and ready for use. People in Iran make a lot of delicate dishes and jam with fruit rinds. This dish often accompanies celebrations and weddings.[citation needed]
  • Pulaki – the name given to a type of Isfahani candy which is formed to thin circles like coins and served with tea or other warm drinks.

Notable people[edit]

Persian Pottery from the city Isfahan, 17th century.
Actors and movie directors
Political figures
Religious figures
Writers and poets


Central Municipal Library of Esfahan.

Aside from the seminaries and religious schools, the major universities of the Esfahan metropolitan area are:

There are also more than 50 Technical and Vocational Training Centers under the administration of Esfahan TVTO which provide non-formal training programs freely throughout the province.[15]


Isfahan is the host of many national and international sport events therefore enjoying sport facilities such as Naghsh-e-Jahan Stadium with 50,000 capacity which second phase is under development to increase capacity to 75,000 spectators. Isfahan has an important derby called as Naqsh e jahan derby. This competition is one of the most popular annual football events in Iran between Sepahan Isfahan and Zob Ahan Isfahan.

Isfahan has three association football clubs that play professionally. These are:

Giti Pasand also has a futsal team, Giti Pasand FSC, they are one of the best teams in Asia and Iran. They won the AFC Futsal Club Championship in 2012 and were runners-up in 2013.

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Esfahan street in Kuala Lumpur, and Kovalalampor avenue in Isfahan.

Isfahan is twinned with:

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Census (from the Statistical Center of Iran, in Persian.)
  3. ^ 2006 Census Results and Mashhad(Statistical Center of Iran, Excel file, in Persian.)
  4. ^ "Isfahan Is Half The World", Saudi Aramco World, Volume 13, Nr. 1, January 1962
  5. ^
  6. ^ Oberling, Pierre, "Georgians and Circassians in Iran"
  7. ^ (from the HESA official company website)
  8. ^ "Snowy days for Esfahan". Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  9. ^ assari, ali; T.M. Mahesh (August 2011). "Demographic comparative in heritage texture of Isfahan city". Journal of Geography and Regional Planning. ISSN 2070-1845 2011 Academic Journals 4 (8): 463–470. Retrieved 6 January 2013. 
  10. ^ "Isfahan Jame(Congregative) mosque – BackPack". Retrieved 2009-07-26. 
  11. ^ "Seifolddini-Faranak; M. S. Fard; Hosseini Ali" (PDF). 
  12. ^ Assari, Ali; T.M. Mahesh (January 2012). "Conservation of historic urban core in traditional Islamic culture: case study of Isfahan city". Indian Journal of Science and Technology 5 (1): 1970–1976. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  13. ^ "Castles of the Fields". Saudi Aramco World. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  14. ^ Assari, Ali; Erfan Assari (2012). "Urban spirit and heritage conservation problems: case study Isfahan city in Iran". Journal of American Science 8 (1): 203–209. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  15. ^ "Isfahan Technical and Vocational Training Organization". 8 October 2007. Archived from the original on 8 October 2007. Retrieved 2012-04-23. 
  16. ^ "Isfahan, Beirut named sister cities". MNA. Retrieved 2007-05-02. 
  17. ^ "Barcelona internacional – Ciutats agermanades" (in Catalan). 2006–2009 Ajuntament de Barcelona. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  18. ^ "Sister Cities of Istanbul". Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  19. ^ Erdem, Selim Efe (1 July 2009). "İstanbul'a 49 kardeş" (in Turkish). Radikal. Retrieved 2009-07-26. 49 sister cities in 2003 
  20. ^ "Sisterhoods". Isfahan Islamic Council. 2005. Archived from the original on 12 October 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-04. 
  21. ^ "Saint Petersburg in figures – International and Interregional Ties". Saint Petersburg City Government. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  22. ^ "Yerevan – Twin Towns & Sister Cities". Yerevan Municipality Official Website. 2005—2013 Retrieved 2013-11-04. 
  23. ^ ԵՐԵՎԱՆԻ ՔԱՂԱՔԱՊԵՏԱՐԱՆՊԱՇՏՈՆԱԿԱՆ ԿԱՅՔ [Yerevan expanding its international relations] (in Armenian). [1]. Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-08-05. 

External links[edit]

Isfahan travel guide from Wikivoyage

Preceded by
Capital of Seljuq Empire (Persia)
Succeeded by
Hamadan (Western capital)
Merv (Eastern capital)
Preceded by
Capital of Iran (Persia)
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Capital of Safavid dynasty
Succeeded by