The Bridges of Isfahan – photo essay and tourist information
Some of Isfahan’s finest architecture spans the Zayandeh River, contributing to the breathtaking images already abundant in Iran’s prettiest city. The bridges of Isfahan, of which there are 11 in total (6 are new), are a stunning example of urban and functional architecture and have become a symbol of the city. Walking up and down the river is a great (and free) way to spend an afternoon but for those who haven’t visited Iran yet, here is some information and photos on 3 of these wonderful structures to inspire you to get going.
Pol-e Marnan (Marnan Bridge)
The Marnan Bridge is one of three pedestrian bridges crossing the Zayandeh and is said to be one of the oldest bridges in the city. The current structure dates back to the Safavid era but is has been subject to frequent reconstructions since. It is the most westerly of the beautiful bridges in Isfahan.
Pol-e Khāju (Khaju Bridge)
Khaju Bridge is considered by many to be the finest bridge in Isfahan and it isn’t hard to see why. Built by Shah Abbas II around 1650 on the site of an earlier construction, it serves as both a bridge and a dam as well as being an important social centre in the city. The structure was originally decorated with artistic tilework and paintings (which have unfortunately not stood the test of time) and was enjoyed by the Shah so much that a pavilion was constructed in its centre for him to sit and admire the views.
The bridge has 24 arches, is 133 metres long and 12 metres wide and is divided into two levels. The upper level was once reserved for horse and carts with side passages for pedestrians whilst the lower was utilised by pedestrians only and is still a popular shaded area for citizens to relax. The lower level is also remarkable for its acoustics, and is commonly used by young Isfahanians to hold impromptu concerts in its vaults. They are also a fine example of a whispering gallery, where words uttered to one of the walls can be heard on the opposite side.
An interesting fact was pointed out to us by our Iranian friends. On each side of the bridge there are statues of lions. If you place your head on top of the lion’s, you will be able to see the other lion’s eyes shining in the dark :)
Siosepol (Bridge of 33 Arches)
The mesmeric Siosepol bridge connects the main Chahar Bagh Boulevard with the Armenian neighborhood of New Julfa. Consisting of 33 arches (as the name would suggest) it was constructed between 1591 and 1597 on the order of Shah Abbas the Great, and is the longest bridge anywhere in Iran. It doubles up as both a pedestrian bridge and a dam and was famous for its teahouses which originally sat in the larger alcoves underneath, but which only one remains at the northern end. We found particularly stunning the view underneath the bridge, as it was hypnotic in its perfect symmetry.
written by: Jon