Iran’s 3rd city claims bragging rights to some of the country’s finest Islamic architecture, and its locals are rightly proud of its rich history. Here we review 10 great cafés and coffeehouses inEsfahan that will help you soak up all that the city has to offer.
Si-o-Seh Bridge Teahouse is the last remaining riverside teahouse along the Zayandeh. The river itself is regrettably going the same way as its teahouses, gradually drying up. The teahouse – located on the north side of the eponymous 33-arched bridge – is a terrific venue to meet locals, sip piping hot tea, and subject your lungs to some fruity Iranian shisha smoke (known is Persian as qalyan). Practice your wistful glances as you inevitably join Esfahanis in lamenting the demise of this erstwhile social and commercial hub.
A stone’s throw from Imam Square and Chehelsotoon Palace is the unassuming exterior of Sibil Coffee, widely regarded as the home of the best coffee in town. Sibil (which translates to moustache) is short on seating, but offers an excellent selection of cappuccinos, lattes, espressos, and hot chocolates to take away. Also on the menu are juices, smoothies, and a crowd-favourite: non-alcoholic mojitos.
A minute away from the Sheikh Lotfollah mosque in Imam Square, Café Roozegar is a tastefully decorated, reasonably priced coffee shop with an excellent range of herbal teas and juices on offer. A little stuffy in the summer and often short on seating, it’s perfect for a quick pit stop before tackling the main attractions of the square. Price: Budget Watch out for: the herbal teas
With every inch of the walls and ceiling covered in photographs, paintings, lamps, and other intriguing knick knacks, Azadegan teahouse seems like veritable cave of wonders. Characterful old men make up the regular clientele, and reliably regale tourists with amusing anecdotes and a whirlwind history of Esfahan, all whilst puffing away on a shisha pipe. Their doogh (an Iranian yoghurt drink) is excellent, although this isn’t a venue for non-smokers.
With its black and white colour scheme and modernist chandeliers, Hermes Café-Restaurant has the feel of a slick, quasi-futuristic country club. Its menu caters to the Western palette with a range of salads, pastas, pizzas, and burgers, and the service is professional and straightforward. A good mix of drinks and friendly, English-speaking staff, it’s hard to quibble with their company slogan: fresh food and great coffee. Price: High-end Watch out for: their built in Instagram machine
Another artsy establishment, Theatre Café has a central location, just along the east side of Hasht Behesht Garden. Its soft mood lighting, tasteful furnishings, and trendy clientele make Theatre Café a great place to wile away a relaxed afternoon. With photographs of Iranian actors decking the walls, you may even learn a thing or two about Iranian cinema. Be sure to pay attention to their daily specials. Price: Mid-range Watch out for: the saffron halwa
The 17th-century caravanserai-turned-hotel complex is an exquisite building well worth a visit, if not a stay. The rooftop restaurant has particularly pleasant views, but the courtyard teahouse is not without its own charm. Open until 11pm in the summer months, few teahouses in the country are quite so atmospheric and tangibly historic. A more conventional coffee shop is located in the main lobby of the hotel. Price: High-end Watch out for: the unparalleled historic surrounds
Time Café is a quirky, modern-style coffee shop with exceptionally friendly staff and reasonable prices. Popular with tourists and local creative types, the café has rotating exhibits of artworks and a fine selection of teas, coffees, cakes, and juices. Located in the east of the city, a little north of Marnan Bridge, this cosy café deserves your business if you’re in that neck of the woods.
The Qeysarieh Teahouse, situated on the north side of Imam Square adjacent to the passage to the bazaar, offers cheap tea and shisha with fantastic views of the square. Whilst the inside is cluttered with pots, photographs, and colourful ornaments, the terrace provides a more serene platform from which to enjoy the impressive vista. Worth frequenting at different times of the day to observe the changing moods of Iran’s biggest square.
Café Van has to be one of Esfahan’s most stylish coffee shops. Minimalist décor with one wall dedicated to black and white portraits, Van epitomises the aesthetics of the modern Iranian café. Its espressos are particularly revered, and the café really comes into its own when the outside seating area is open. Price: Mid-range Watch out for: the perfect Italian espresso