There are few better ways to spend an afternoon in Esfahan than strolling along the Zayandeh River, crossing back and forth using the old fairytale bridges and listening to Esfahanis reciting poetry and just chilling out. Such a stroll is especially pleasant at sunset and early evening when most of the Zayandeh river bridges are illuminated. In total, 11 bridges (six are new) cross the Zayandeh.
All but one of the historic Safavid-era crossings lie to the east of Chahar Bagh St – the exception is the shorter Marnan Bridge – but most people satisfy themselves with the walk from Si-o-Seh Bridge to Khaju Bridge, and back.
Arguably the finest of Esfahan’s bridges, the Khaju Bridge was built by Shah Abbas II in about 1650 (although a bridge is believed to have crossed the waters here since the time of Tamerlane). It also doubles as a dam, and has always been as much a meeting place as a bearer of traffic.
Its 110m length has two levels of terraced arcades, the lower containing locks regulating water flow. If you look hard, you can still see original paintings and tiles, and the remains of stone seats built for Shah Abbas II to sit on and admire the views. In the centre, a pavilion was built exclusively for his pleasure. It was a teahouse, but not anymore. Vendors at the end of the bridge sell tea and snacks.
Nearly 150m long, with 21 arches, Chubi Bridge was built by Shah Abbas II in 1665, primarily to help irrigate palace gardens in the area. Chubi and the two parlours within were for the exclusive use of the shah and his courtiers. Until recently one of these parlours was one of the most atmospheric teahouses in Iran; hopefully it will be again.