Zanjan is the center of a province with the same name. It is believed that the name of the city is the Arabized version of Zangan. Considering the locals still use Zangan to refer to this city proves the validity of the theory. People in Zanjan speak with a dialect that is a subsection of Tati, one of the ancient dialects of Iran. Azerbaijani Turkish with Zanjani dialect is also spoken here. The oldest name found referring to this area is Andia, and after that Zandigan that became popular in the Sassanid time. The city itself is said to date back to the Ardeshir I; in this time it was known as Shahin that means belonging to Shah or King.
Zanjan benefits from natural defense, and have always been a difficult city to conquer. In the Arabs invasion, it was one of the last cities to be overcome, and in Mongols’ attack people resisted bravely, but was defeated eventually. The destructions left by Mongols were so severe that no one even approached the city’s ruins for a long time. With Ilkhanid Kings’ desire to make a city in Sultanieh, Zanjan became more and more abandoned. It was the overthrowing of the Ilkhanid and forsaking of the Sultanieh city that revived Zanjan. Unlike Sultanieh, Zanjan was on the path of caravans, and that made it a much better choice for living and trading. Although it took Zanjan a long time to become a city again, all the efforts were wasted when Tamerlane attacked the country and destroyed whatever was on his path.
The ambassador of the king of Spain, that visited the court of Timurids describes that when he visited the city, the main part of Zanjan was in ruins. It takes Zanjan a long time to become a populous city again. In the Safavid Era that the country becomes stabilized, Zanjan gains a chance to become thriving once again; the oldest remaining site of the city belongs to this period as well. It is a caravanserai in the eastern side of the city with a gate known as Hamedan Portal. Today, the caravanserai is mostly ruined.
When Aqa Muhammad Khan becomes the king, the city was advanced enough to have different neighborhoods. In this time Zanjan had three sections, the central area where the governmental and religious structures were found, the eastern side where Bazaar was located known as Youkary Bashi, and the western lands known as Ashaqeh Bashi.
The neighborhoods of the city were named after the family or person that made them, and had all the necessary elements like mosque, Tekieh, bathhouse, small bazaar, water reservoir and other service constructs. This division of neighborhoods and their internal unification is still seen in the religious rituals held in the city.