I finally went to Iran for a few days! I have been dreaming about it for so long, and it really didn’t disappoint ! Before going into the details of my itinerary, I must be honest with you, 2 days in Esfahan is a little quick to really enjoy the city. It is enough to run from one place to another and see almost everything, but not enough to enjoy walking, sitting in a tea house, and people watching …And that is something you want to do when in Iran!
But if that is all the time you have, don’t miss out the below during your 2 days in Esfahan :
Day 1 in Esfahan:
- Masjed-e Shah
- Kakh-e Ali Qapu
- Masjed-e Cheikh Lotfollah
- Nasqh-e Jahan
- Zayandeh river bridges
Day 2 in Esfahan:
- Cathedral Vank
- Abassi Hotel
- Kakh-e Chehl Sotun
- Masjed-e Jameh
- Bazar-e Bozorg
- Nasqh-e Jahan at night
- What to see in Esfahan ?
2 DAYS IN ESFAHAN – DAY 1
Start your 2 days in Esfahan with the obvious, and head to Nasqh-e Jahan, the heart of the city. Nasqh-e Jahan is one of the biggest squares in the world and is surrounded by some of the most beautiful buildings in Esfahan.
For the whoa effect, start by visiting Masjed-e Shah, The Shah mosque, built in the 17th century by Shah Abbas 1st. The monumental entrance of the building, at the south end of Nasqh-e Jahan is exactly what you imagine of Iranian architecture: a massive arched entrance covered in blue, turquoise and yellow mosaics, flower motifs and calligraphy. The central courtyard is also surrounded by 4 amazing portals, called iwans. The most beautiful side is of course the main prayer hall, with its 53m high dome and 2 minarets. In April, the mosque was undergoing some renovation, so unfortunately there were some scaffoldings and closed areas here and there, but it was still stunning!
Kakh-e Ali Qapu
Kakh-e Ali Qapu was one of Shah Abbas 1st’s residences. The best part of the palace is its terrace, overlooking Naqsh- e Jahan. It is only when I saw the square from this elevated point of view that I realised how impressive it was, both in size and architecture. It is also the best view you can get of Masjed-e Shah and Masjed-e Cheikj Lotfollah. Check out the music salon, with its surprising wall and ceiling decorations, considered masterpieces of Persian art.
Masjed-e Cheikh Lotfollah
The third main monument of Naqsh- e Jahan is Cheikh Lotfollah Mosque. With no minarets and no central courtyard, Masjed-e Cheikh Lotfollah is rather understated compared to the Shah Mosque but still beautiful. Inside, the main hall is covered from floor to ceiling with deep blue and yellow mosaics, and the high windows brings in a wonderful light.
The afternoon is a good time to walk around Nasqh-e Jahan as the square becomes more and more lively. Take time to explore the shops surrounding the square or just sit and observe. Groups of teenage girls giggling, not so innocent boys driving their bike in front of you again and again, an old tourist guide that will tell you all about his time as a teacher in France … Buy an ice cream, sit back on one the many benches and enjoy the afternoon.
Zayandeh river bridges
In the evening, it looks like all of Esfahan’s youth comes out and one of their meet-up point is the banks of Zayandeh river and its famous bridges. So around sunset time head to Pol-e Khaju, the most beautiful bridge in Esfahan, with its typical blue and yellow flowers mosaics decorating the arches.
As beautiful as the bridges was we were quite disappointed to see the river completely dried up. I had definitely missed that during my researches. But apparently it has been so for years, as Iran is suffering of severe drought and water shortage. For more on this, check out this 6 min documentary from CNN “Our Man in Teheran – The Empty River of Life” (from 2015 though).
Nevertheless, we walked the banks of the river, all the way to Si-o-Seh Pol, the 33 arches bridge. All along, we watched family, couples or group of friends picnicking, chatting, strolling or smoking shisha. The mood if very lively and I can only imagine how beautiful it would have been if the river was flowing.
Go for sunset, but wait until the bridges light up for the best view. Unfortunately, I ran out of batteries, so no picture to illustrate that!
For more, check out part 2 of my article here
2 DAYS IN ESFAHAN – WHERE TO EAT ?
For lunch : Bastani Traditional Restaurant
We then grabbed lunch in Bastani Traditional Restaurant. Coming as the Lonely Planet top pick I was a bit worried it would be overly touristic, but it was really nice. We ordered 2 main courses, with absolutely no clue of what would be coming our way. Thankfully it was delicious meat and rice dished, that we devoured the traditional way: on a sort of large bench, used as both table and seating. It was delicious, the central courtyard was beautiful and we only paid around 17 EUR for a starter, 2 main courses and 2 drinks. Definitely worth visiting.
For desert : Fereni Hafez
We ended up the night eating desert at the local Fereni Hafez. North East of Nasqh-e Jahan, on Hafez Street, you will recognize the place by the queue of locals waiting to be served. With the help of a friendly man we grabbed 2 fereni, a sort of rice pudding with date honey. And OMG that was good ! We sat on some plastic chairs, on the sidewalk, chatting with the man who helped us order and his mum, and that was the most lovely and authentic moment of our 5 days in Iran.
For tea time : Roozegar cafe
We stopped by this little tea house for tea time and had tea, hot chocolate, and some pastries (chocolate cake and apple pie). It was all very good and very easy to access, just beside Masjed-e Shah.
For more action and people watching try to grab a chair on the front side of one of the cafes around and beyond the square.
2 DAYS IN ESFAHAN – WHERE TO STAY ?
If you like exploring most of the city on foot, I recommend to stay nearby Nasqh-e Jahan. We stayed in the newly open Ghasr Monshi boutique hotel. Just 10 min walked from Nasqh-e Jahan, it is ideal located. The rooms are simples, but bright and comfortable.
Prices : 70 EUR / night for a single room, 90 EUR for a double room and 120 EUR for a triple room.
You can book online directly on their website http://ghasrmonshihotel.com/en, and payment can only be made in cash (EUR/USD/IRR preferred).
For more info, check out my review of Ghasr Monshi Boutique hotel here
I hope you liked this first part of my itinerary for 2 days in Esfahan. Please check out part 2 here.