“The city of winds”.
Where is Baku?
The city of Baku is the capital city of Azerbaijan. It is located on the western side of the Caspian Sea and the southern side of the Abşeron Peninsula. Sweeping around the Bay of Baku and sheltered by the Baku Archipelago. It is the best harbour on the Caspian Sea.
Our journey from Sighnaghi to Baku was in marshrutkas.
During our time in Baku, we chose to stay at the Twin Castle Boutique Hotel, booked through Booking.com. Located a 7 min walk from Icherisheher metro station.
Arriving at the hotel we were told they were full, advising us that the hotel had a “booking system” problem and there was nothing they could do.
The receptionist offered us an alternative hotel Royal Castle Boutique Hotel. This hotel just happened to be their sister hotel. As it was getting late, we went for it. The receptionist took us the 5 min walk to the Royal Castle Boutique Hotel. Unfortunately, this alternative hotel wasn’t to our liking.
Contacting Booking.com, we advised them of the situation. Booking.com was brilliant, finding us another hotel, Buta Hotel, conveniently situated in the Old Town. Our room was spacious and clean, with daily housekeeping. Breakfast was on the top floor, affording good views over the city.
Whilst in Baku we ate in the following restaurants-
We were lost as to where to eat on our first night in Baku. A 2 min walk from our hotel, we came across Farmer’s kitchen in the Old Town. Blown away with the hospitality and food. The food was amazing and really tasty. The staff was really friendly and knowledgeable about the provenance of the organic food that they served. Definitely recommend eating here, you will not be disappointed.
Located in the heart of the pedestrian area of Baku. A great Italian restaurant. Good food and good service.
We only popped in for something to drink. The food looked so good, we ended up eating there. Good ambience and a nice feel about the place. We enjoyed the salad. The staff was very good.
Places of interest
There are so many things to see and so much to do in Baku. Impressive architecture, both new and old around the Old Town. We had a full 5 hour day of walking the sights.
The Old Town has a plethora of historical sites to visit. There are signposts guiding you through the maze of tiny cobblestone streets. The vicinity immediately outside of the Old Town is just as impressive. Shops lining large pedestrian streets and again so much impressive architecture.
Even though the streets of the Old Town are very narrow like a rabbit warren. You still feel safe wandering around during the day and at night as they are well lit.
A modern city with a charming character. It is full of architectural delights around every corner. There is further development work underway to add even more charm to this already vibrant city.
Baku Boulevard and waterfront
Baku Boulevard stretches 2.8 miles along the Caspian Sea coastline. The hour-long coastal stroll starts at National Flag Square, ending at Freedom Square. See spectacular views of the Flame Towers. The peculiarly shaped Crystal Hall arena, tucked behind the 70m by 35m Azerbaijan flag flying from a pole 162 m high. The 60m tall Baku Ferris Wheel.
Caspian Waterfront Mall
The iconic structure was designed to be the national symbol of Azerbaijan. Similar to the Sydney Opera House in Australia. It has a series of shell roofs that reflect in the water. At night it is illuminated giving it a grand appearance.
The central ‘flame’ tower is surrounded by eight glass façades. These were based on the eight-pointed star on the Azerbaijan national emblem.
Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
No guesses which building houses the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum………… The one that looks like a roll of carpet! One of the country’s most modern buildings. The museum hosts a collection of Azerbaijan artifacts and carpets.
International Mugham Centre of Azerbaijan
Another of Baku’s outlandish buildings is the Mugham Centre. The building’s design was based on the shapes of the tar, an Azeri musical instrument used in performing mugham, Azerbaijan folk music.
A recreational area along Baku Boulevard. Waterways with bridges and crossings. Gondola rides are available. There are a couple of restaurants on the Island.
A fountain with 7 natural stone swan statues. Inspired by poet Nizami Ganjavi’s “Seven Beauties” poem and Gara Garayev’s same-name ballet.
This 75m high parachute tower was built in 1936. Considered to be the tallest in the entire Soviet Union. Used for parachute training jumps. Allowing jumps from heights of 20m, 25m, and 60m. It closed after an accident in the 1960s, the tower was not demolished, but instead, kept as a memory of the past. Today, a sign on the tower indicates the time, wind strength, air, and sea temperature.
Baku F1 Grand Prix
One of only a handful that is run on a street circuit. Slinky, charming, and photogenic 3.73-mile-long. Starting on Baku Boulevard, in front of Freedom Square, next to Milli Park.
The circuit makes a quick 90° left onto Aleksander Pushkin, then another left on Xaqani Kucesi. Four right-angle corners take the circuit into the divided section of Baku Boulevard. Before reaching the famous ‘Maiden Tower’, the circuit makes a sharp right-hand turn.
Starting a loop around the old walled city. This section includes a narrow squeeze segment of less than eight meters, between a stone turret and an apartment building. After looping around the old city and passing the historic Maiden Tower. The circuit goes down a very wide and gently curving section of Baku Boulevard back to the start.
The circuit is currently the fastest street circuit in the world and the second longest circuit on the current F1 calendar. Walk past the pit lane garages, team and driver names still don display. Located in the sea just off the coast is the F1 Baku sign.
The Government House of Baku
Also known as the House of Government. Located on Neftchilar Avenue facing Baku Boulevard. An impressive looking government building that houses various state ministries of Azerbaijan.
The Museum Centre
Houses classical and conceptual art exhibitions of modern Azerbaijan.
The National Museum of History of Azerbaijan
The largest museum in Azerbaijan. Sited in the former mansion of Azerbaijani oil magnate and philanthropist Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev. When the Red Army entered Baku in April 1920 Taghiyev’s residence, was immediately confiscated, like that of other wealthy oil barons. In June 1920 the residence was established as a museum, two months after the Bolsheviks took Baku.
The Maiden Tower
The tower houses a museum, which presents the story of the historic evolution of Baku city. There is a stunning view from the roof. The minarets of the Old City can be clearly seen. Overlooking Baku Boulevard and a wide panorama of Baku Bay. There is an entrance charge of 2 AZN per person for Azerbaijani Citizens and 15 AZN for foreigners.
The caravanserai was a hotel, basically catering to merchants of Central Asia.
An octagonal courtyard, containing many shops. A galleried balcony runs around the upper level.
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs
A 15th-century palace built by the Shirvanshahs. Described as “one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture”. There is an entrance charge of 2 AZN per person for Azerbaijani Citizens and 15 AZN for foreigners.
The Baku Museum of Miniature Books
The Museum of Miniature Books is the only one of its kind in the world. Featuring more than 6500 books from 64 different countries. The personal collection of Zarifa Salahova amassed over a period of 30 years.
Teeny Ted from Turnip Town the current Guinness World Record holder for the world’s smallest reproduction of a printed book is “Teeny Ted from Turnip Town,” a children’s story etched using an ion beam onto pure crystalline silicon by Simon Frazer University in Canada. It measures 70 by 100 micrometers. This is one of only 100 limited edition copies ever published. See below.
Baku Fortress Wall
The Fortress consists of the walls and towers that surround the Old Town. The most ancient part of Baku. The walls stand at a height of 8 to 12 metres and have a width of 3.5 metres. Access on to the wall is possible in a few places.
The Paired Fortress Gates
Also referred to as Gosha Gala Gapysy. One of the main entrances to the Icherisheher section of Baku. Until the end of the 19th century, the Shamakhi Gates had been the only entry to the fortress. Not all of the gates were visible during our visit, October 2019, as there was some restoration work in progress.
One of the many impressive historical buildings in Baku is the Ismailiyya palace. Built by Baku millionaire Musa Nagiyev in the Gothic style in honor of his son Ismayil.
A public square frequently referred to by its previous name Parapet and is often referenced to by the so-called because of the dozens of fountains in the square. First constructed during the Soviet rule of Azerbaijan.
A busy place for both locals and tourists. The square is surrounded by restaurants, shops, hotels, and the obligatory McDonalds.
The first and only funicular system in Azerbaijan runs from Shovkat Alakbarova, in front of the Behram-ı Gür Monument up to Highland Park and the panoramic viewpoint. The funicular is a 455m single-track rope operated railway with passing place.
Departures are every 10 minutes, with the journey taking 4 minutes.
Operating Tue to Sun only from 1000 hrs to 2200 hrs. Closed on Mondays. We had the long climb up the steps running adjacent to the funicular to get to Highland Park and the panoramic view. Because we chose to visit on Monday. You could always get a taxi to the top.
Terrace walkways offering views of the city & sea. Easily accessed to and from the panoramic viewpoint. Dağüstü Fountain wall can be found here as well.
A cemetery and memorial dedicated to those killed by the Soviet Army during Black January 1990 and in the Nagorno-Karabakh War of 1988–1994.
The site first served as Muslim cemetery for victims of the closing days of World War I. Fighting had broken out in Baku as a result of the Russian Civil War. Vying for control when the Russian Empire collapsed were the Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, Armenians and Azeris.
On coming to power, the Bolsheviks completely destroyed the cemetery and removed the corpses. An amusement park was built on the site and a statue of Sergei Kirov, the prominent Bolshevik leader installed.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union. The amusement park and statue were removed and reinstated as a burial ground for national heroes. The first to be buried were those who had died during Black January of 1990 when Soviet forces invaded Baku. Next, the site was used for the bodies of those who died in the Nagorno-Karabakh War.
A trio of flame shaped skyscrapers that dominate the skyline of Baku day and night. The tallest tower is 182 m. A mixed development containing offices, residential, a hotel and a shopping mall. The ground floor of the East tower houses the Azerbaijan Lamborghini supercar showroom.
Referred to as the South, East, and West towers. Each tower, completely covered with more than 10,000 high-power LED luminaires. Nightly, light shows transform from giant flames into a figure waving a flag to giant tanks of water being filled. The complete transition taking approximately 2 minutes. The light show is visible from right across the city.
The only public transport we used in Baku, was the metro and the bus. Neither of these were used to get around the city. Only to get in and out. All of the sites that we visited, we did so on foot.
There are two types of card. The rechargeable plastic card and the limited use paper ticket. Both are available from the BakiKART machines located at the entrance to the metro or at bus stops.
Select either the “BakiKart” or “BakiKART limited use” option that is required.
If selecting the BakiKART option. The 2 AZN price of the card is displayed on the screen. Put the money in the machine. The amount entered is displayed on the screen. If the amount entered exceeds the value required, the excess amount will be credited to the card.
Be warned the machines do not give change. Credit on this type of card can be redeemed at some metro ticket offices. The 2 AZN for the card is non-refundable.
If selecting the BakiKART limited use option, the 0.3 AZN price of a single journey is displayed on the screen. There is also a 0.2 AZN fee for this type of ticket. Select the number of trips, up to a maximum of 4. Put the money into the machine.
Be warned machines do not give change. There is no refund of any type for the limited use type of card.
Baku Metro is open every day from 0600 hrs to 0000 hrs. It is prohibited to take photos, videos, and film on the metro trains and stations. As of August 2015, the fare for the metro is paid through either of the two “BakiKART” systems. One journey costs 0.30 AZN (plus the cost of whichever BakiKART system is used).
Buses can take you almost anywhere within Baku. Destinations are usually displayed on the front and the right-hand side of the vehicle. The fare is paid through either of the two “BakiKART” systems. One journey costs 0.30 AZN (plus the cost of whichever BakiKART system is used).