Naqsh-e Jahan Square is the heart of the historic city of Isfahan in Iran. This UNESCO Heritage Site is the 400-year-old gem of Safavid Dynasty. With about 80,000 Square Meters of area, it is the largest square in the world after Tiananmen Square in China. You will not believe the ambiance of this great square until you have stepped into it. On each four corners of Naqsh-e Jahan Square, there is a historical monument. The famous Qeysarieh Bazaar, Ali-Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and Shah Mosque are the four main monuments around the square. You can find more information about each of these monuments by checking out our other Blog’s Posts. In this post, we will get into the history, importance, architectural highlights, and when to visit Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
The Pattern of the World in Naqsh-e Jahan Square
The name of Naqsh-e Jahan Square translates as the ‘’ Pattern of the World’’. And as you walked into the square, you can completely understand the reason behind this name. The four main monuments around the square each stand for an important part of a 17th century government in Iran. Aside from these main monuments, there are two-story arcades that cover all around Naqsh-e Jahan Square. The design of this square is in a way that if you look up, you will only see the sky. Therefore, in a modern world with high skyscrapers everywhere, this atmosphere can create a special ambiance. On the other hand, the traditional handicraft shops and workshops, restaurants, and cafes can take you to the old Isfahan. These stores and cafes are a part of the two-story arcades around the square. Now, let us get into the history, facts, and more about Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square’s Facts & History
One of the greatest dynasties in Iran was the Safavid Dynasty. Around 400 years ago, they chose Tabriz as their Capital. Over the years, for political reasons, they moved their capital to Qazvin and ultimately to Isfahan. At that time, Shah Abbas the Great was the king of Safavids. When he moved the capital of Persian Empire to Isfahan, he decided to build a center. And this is how the construction of Naqsh-e Jahan Square began by the head architect, Master Ali Akbar Isfahani. Naqsh-e Jahan Square before then was a vast garden by the same name. Gradually, every corner of the square formed into an everlasting monuments. Each of these monuments had a special function for the Safavids and the following eras.
The main monuments of Naqsh-e Jahan Square & their function:
- The royal Ali-Qapu Palace as the political pole of the Square.
- The Abbasi Jameh Mosque (Shah Mosque) as the center for religion.
- The Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque as the educational and religious center.
- Qeysarieh Bazaar and the two-story arcades around the mosque as the economic center.
- The square itself was a center for holding social and ceremonial gatherings. Also, it was an entertainment center for playing traditional games such as the game of polo.
Naqsh-e Jahan Square after the Safavids
After the fall of Safavid Dynasty, during the reign of Qajars, the square went through a series of destructions. Then, during the Pahlavi era, many reformations and renovations happened. Today, the central pool of the square, the gardens, and the pavement are attributed to the adjustments of Pahlavi era. The sycamore trees planted during the Safavid Dynasty were also replaced during Pahlavi era. Currently. Naqsh-e Jahan square is the touristic heart of Isfahan. Also, the square continues to be the center of commerce and religion. Stay with us for more information about the points of interest and things to do in Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
Points & Architectural highlights of Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Before getting into talking about the four main monuments around this square, we are going to give an overall view. There is a central pool with fountains at the center of the square. All around this pool, there are gardens and benches to sit on and enjoy your time. Aside from enjoying the great ambiance of this vast square, there are several things you can do.
Things to Do
- Shopping. As we mentioned earlier, there are two-story arcades around the square. The first story arcades are dedicated to handicraft workshops, souvenir, clothing, and spice shops.
- Restaurants and Cafes. All around the square and through its valleys, there are a range of traditional and modern restaurants. You can also find cafes from the rooftop of the square to its underground places.
- Carriage Ride. You can get on a horse carriage ride and have a fun ride around the square. This carriage ride can provide you with a different experience of exploring this historic square.
Ali Qapu Palace, the center of power
On the western side of the square, you can see the Ali-Qapu Palace. This Palace as the center of power and royalty stands out in the Naqsh-e Jahan Square. Shah Abbas the Great ordered the construction of this Palace. It was then completed during the reign of Shah Abbas the Second and the following kings. Ali-Qapu Palace has a balcony overlooking the square. This is where the kings of Safavids used to seat and enjoy the beauties and ceremonies in the square. From this Balcony, you can have a fantastic view of the grand Naqsh-e Jahan Square. There is more to this masterpiece of Safavid era.
Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, a collection of mystic symbols
On the western side of the square, facing the Ali-Qapu Palace, we have the Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. Shah Abbas the Great ordered the construction of this mosque for his father-in-law, Sheikh Lotfollah. This mosque has many interesting elements. From the square, you can see that the mosque has no minarets (one of the basic elements of any mosque). The cream-colored dome of this mosque is another eye-catching feature of it. According to some sources, this mosque was not a public mosque. Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque was probably the royal mosque for the Safavid kings and their wives. Also, this mosque was one of the centers for theological studies.
Shah Mosque or Abbasi Jameh Mosque
Abbasi Jameh Mosque is on the southern side of Naqsh-e Jahan Square. The magnificent gate and tall minarets of this mosque attract all eyes from anywhere in the square. This mosque was the main pillar of religion in the square. The story is that the rulers of Safavid Dynast were followers of Islam Shia Religion. That is why, after declaring Isfahan as the Capital, Shah Abbas also wanted to establish a new center for religion. Its special blue-colored tiles and Double-shell dome are a few of the highlights of this mosque. You can read more about the significance, points and architectural highlights of Shah Mosque.
Qeysarieh Bazaar & the Symbol of Isfahan
On the northern side of the square, you can see the historic gate of Qeysarieh Bazaar. There are some faded paintings on top of the gate. Also, the symbol of Isfahan, a half human and half dragon body, is on a tilework above the gate. Through this gate, you can reach one of the greatest traditional Bazaars in Iran.
The Polo Goalpost in Naqsh-e Jahan Square
As we mentioned earlier, Naqsh-e Jahan Square was also the center of entertainment during the Safavid Dynasty. One of the games played in this square was the game of Polo. This game is like golf but it is played while riding on a horse. Notably, the polo game has been registered as a UNESCO Intangible cultural heritage. Today, on the southern and northern sides of the square you can see a pair of polo goalposts.
When and where can I visit Naqsh-e Jahan Square?
Naqsh-e Jahan Square is open to the public 24/7. Though, it is worth mentioning that you cannot just roam freely around the square after midnight. The best time to visit Naqsh-e Jahan Square is in the morning. In this way, you can visit Qeysarieh Bazaar, Ali-Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and Shah Mosque. Most of these monuments close around sunset (and also temporarily around lunch and prayer time). Notably, visiting every part of the square can take you hours. You can always revisit the square and complete your exploration if you are in Isfahan for more than one day.
The best way to get to Naqsh-e Jahan Square
The best way to get to Naqsh-e Jahan Square is by getting on the subway. You can get off at Imam Hossein Station and walk to Naqsh-e Jahan Square. Taxi and Online Taxi Apps are also available in Isfahan.
Attractions near Naqsh-e Jahan Square
Naqsh-e Jahan is the main historic heart of Isfahan. Exploring Qeysarieh Bazaar, Ali-Qapu Palace, Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque, and Shah Mosque can take you the whole day and even more. Yet, there are many other famous historic attractions near Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
You can visit the nearby attractions which are:
- The UNESCO site of Chehel Sotun Palace and Garden
- The UNESCO site of Atiq Mosque and the old Square
- Hakim Mosque
- Hasht Behesht Palace
- Chahar Bagh Street
- Sio-se-Pol and Khaju Bridges
Aside from the historical attractions, Isfahan has much more to offer. Notably, Isfahan is the center of Handicraft in Iran as it became the World Craft city in 2015. Also, make sure you try the local Food & Signature Dishes of Isfahan before leaving this historic city. For more information, you can check out our blog’s post about Isfahan, its points of interest & things to do.