OVERVIEW In this day trip to Khinalug, Guba, one of the Azerbaijan’s highest mountain villages, you will explore life style of remote villagers in country side in 2350m altitude. Khinalug is also considered one of most ancient and continuously inhabited places in Azerbaijan. You will have a chance visit Red Town (Qırmızı Qəsəbə or Krasnaya Sloboda) in Guba city which is one of the last strongholds of Mountain Jews in Caucasus as well as visit mosques of Shiite and Sunni communities of Guba.
Explore one of endangered people’s life style
Enjoy mountain scenery on drive (several stops are expected)
Soak up atmosphere in a remote desolate village
Short hiking to hills around Khinalug
Led by local guide
Taste pakhlava distinct to Guba
Tour includes lunch with local family in Khinalug
What You Can Expect: Discover Azerbaijan’s country side on a day trip to Khinalug that travels through changing landscape from below sea level up to 2360m altitude. You will also experience coexistence of communities, though in a separate settlements, Shiites, Sunnis and Jews in Guba on a walking tour and distinct life style of Khinalug people. Meanwhile you will taste local cuisine (lunch in Khinalug) and Guba pakhlava. In Khinalug, you will also have chance to do a short hiking to hills in close vicinity of Khinalug to have bird-eye view of the village.
Price: 1 person: 350 AZN 2 people: 205 AZN / per person 3 people: 160 AZN / per person 4 people: 130 AZN / per person 5 people: 100 AZN / per person 6 people: 90 AZN / per person
Baku’s built environment overwhelmingly owes to oil. Without oil, Baku would be merely a small town in semi-desert arid climate. No matter how decisive oil was to Baku’s development as a city, individuals, culture, politics and ideologies independent of oil influence had their impact, too. Prior to oil development, Baku was a truly oriental town where spatial structures were based on the Muslim concept of urban planning. Continuity of oriental identity was broken by the Oil Barons of the late XIX and the early XX century. Oil riches opened Baku’s doors to European ideas of urban planning and architecture of eclecticism. Later the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 had shaken-up the existing economic and socio-political system. This led to Baku’s expansion and growth driven by the socialist ideology for the rest of the XX century. All these created an exceptional synthesis best described by Pirouz Khanlou as “Baku is perhaps the only true Eurasian city on the world map, not only geographically but in its unique ability to synthesize both European and Asian architectural styles…”
In the background of Baku’s transformation as a city and unique mixture of cultures, traditions and contradictions, we present you a guide to Baku Architecture. This will help you to prioritize neighbourhoods and attractions of your primary interests to explore or to have knowledge of what to do and to see upon your visit from the perspective of Architecture.
Medieval Baku Until 1860
Baku had been ruled by Shirvanshahs (Shahs of Shirvan, historic name of the north-eastern part of Azerbaijan) since Baku became a domain in Islamic Caliphate throughout most of medieval times. Originally an Arabic dynasty later became persianized under the influence of much dominant culture. In 1501, Baku was invaded by Shah Ismail I of the Safavid Empire which brought the reign of Shirvanshahs to an end. After the fall of the Safavid Empire, the chaos and power struggle made Baku a Khanate of an autonomous principality under Persian suzerainty. Lasted for a half of a century Baku Khanate ceased to exist with the Imperial Russia invasion in 1806.
Until 1860, Baku was just all about today what we call it Ichari Shahar (literally Inner City a name given later), the Old Town. It had a population about 7400. Almost all of them were Muslims.
Development and Specifics of the Architecture
The architecture that developed in Shirvan has been nominally termed as Shirvan-Absheron Architecture School. Oriental and Islamic traditions of architecture from Persia had a large influence on the architecture in Baku. Nonetheless, Shirvan-Absheron Architecture School produced a brand-specific to this region.
The built environment, design and spatial structures were organized in accordance with the Muslim concept of urban planning. In medieval times, Baku consisted of Mahallas, traditional Muslim neighbourhoods. No matter how small they were but every Mahalla would have its own mosque, bathhouse, market square. The streets were narrow, curved and labyrinthine. Most houses were low, one story and they all had flat roofs which were used mostly in summer times.
The Shirvanshahs moved the capital to Baku two times in the medieval times: the 11th and the 15th centuries. Both occasions brought enormous changes to Baku. In the Eleventh Century, Manuchehr III ordered to fortify the city by building fortress walls on all the sides of the city. Those fortress walls survived to our times. In the fifteenth century, three Shirvanshahs resided in Baku permanently as their capital. During this time city underwent huge urbanization as well as the completion of the Ensemble of the Shirvanshahs Palace. This has left a legacy for Baku’s Ichari Shahar to depend until even today. Thus the architectural details and structure of Ichari Shahar came down to us from the 15th century.
Today all the rehabilitation and restoration works have been carried carefully to preserve that medieval vibes and atmosphere in Ichari Shahar. This offers a unique opportunity to walk in an urban setting of the 15th century in the 21st century.
Neighbourhoods to Explore
Unmistakable, the must-visit neighbourhood to explore the medieval attractions of Baku is Ichari Shahar, aka the Old Town. Icheri Shahar is easily recognizable with high and grey Fortress Walls surrounding it. There are five entry points to on the Fortress Walls and they are accessible all day around. To the south of Icheri Shahar stands grand Baku Promenade along the Caspian Sea.
One can observe zones in Ichari Shahar, although there is no such a formal policy. There are commercially busy streets such as Boyuk Gala, Kichik Gala and Asef Zeynalli streets, the quarter where most of the historic attractions locate, such as the surroundings of the Shirvanshahs Palace, and most areas where only local people
It is still a residential area where some three thousand people live. As the most historic area it attracts a great deal of Bakuvians, to have their Sunday breakfast or weekday dinner with a view to architectural delights of Ichari Shahar.
Landmark Architectures of XI century Medieval are Fortress Walls, XII century Maiden Tower, XV century the Shirvanshahs Palace and Muhammad Mosque and reconstructed Bibi Heybat Mosque. All of them except for Bibi Heybat Mosque are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. See the map of the attractions below.
Oil Boom Architecture of Baku: the late XIX and early XX century
In its entirety, Baku had been part of Imperial Russian from 1806 to 1917. The Russian invasion cuts Baku’s ties with the oriental south. However, it was the devastating earthquake in 1859 in Shamakhi that changed everything.
In 1860 Baku became centre of Gubernia (an administrative division of Transcaucasia), hence the name Baku Gubernia. For the first time in ages, civilian engineers took a proper role to plan the city and expansion. Additionally, the development of the oil industry led to a massive investment of capital and an influx of emigration to Baku.
A small town now turned into a global industrial and modern centre. In 1901 Baku was one of the two largest oil producers in the world by surpassing the US oil production. Major industrialists of Europe, such as the Nobel Brothers, the Rothschild family, few emerging local entrepreneurs were leading actors of the oil industry.
Emigration also changed Baku’s human geography and made it a cosmopolitan city. In the 1850s Baku’s population was just about 7400 and the absolute majority of them were Muslim. In 1901 Baku’s official population was 150 000 and only one-third of them were Muslims. Alongside with Muslim Azerbaijanis, there were Russians, Jews, Armenians, Germans and Polish ethnicities.
During this time of period, Baku had been transformed into a metropolitan city with reminiscent of European metropolises or as they call it Paris of the Caucasus but with oriental spirit in its core.
Development and Specifics of the Architecture
In this period, three factors that facilitated the transformation of Baku’s Oil Boom Architecture. Firstly, a greater role was given to civilian engineers and architects. In particular, civil architects of Saint Petersburg Civil Engineering Institute were instrumental in importing European Architecture and Planning to Baku. The second was the role played by the Oil Barons, a new generation emerged in Baku. They were not bonded with the traditional and customary lifestyle of Old Baku. And their oil riches enabled them to adopt new ideas and cultures and values of Europe. Thirdly, the evolving cosmopolitan environment contributed to plurality in the society. Cultural diversity and mixing ethnic groups enriched artistic expression and creativity in Baku’s Oil Boom Architecture. All these played an equal role in giving Baku a new architectural identity.
The defining characteristic of Baku’s Oil Boom Architecture is eclecticism. Some scholars go further calling it Baku Architecture of Eclecticism. As much as abovementioned three factors acted in harmony to start a new architecture movement in Baku, they clashed in regard to principles of architecture, personal tastes of the Oil Barons and their affiliation with particular cultural backgrounds. That clash could not be well-explained by anything but this popular saying that an Oil Baron summoning an architect and wishing “I want to have an entrance like in Taghiyev’s house, the dome like in Mukhtarov’s mansion, the porch like in Dadashov’s domicile, the decorations like in Mitrofanov’s residence, and something of my own.” Oil Barons’ lack of architecture knowledge put architects to face dilemma of following principles of built environment or fulfil extravagant wishes of their clients. A solution would be a synthesis of clients’ desires and architects’ ability to showcase their creativity put in their works.
No matter how peculiar was Baku Oil Boom Architecture, it produced great architects to be well respected and honoured across the times. Among them were architects: Gasim bey Hajibababeyov, Zivar bey Ahmadbeyov, Mammad Hasan Hajinski, Józef Gosławski, Józef Plośko, Adolf Eichler, Nikolay Von Der Nonne, Robert Marfeld, Nikolai Bayev, Gavril Ter-Mikelov and so the list can continue with many others. They gave Baku masterpieces of architecture in Neo-Classical, German and Italian Renaissance Revival, French Islamic Magreb, Vienna Secession, Venetian Gothic Revival styles. All these gave rise to a metamorphosis of European and Oriental architectures in Baku.
Neighbourhoods to Explore
The best neighbourhood to explore Baku’s Oil Boom Architecture is Baku Downtown. When Ichari Shahar listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site, Baku Downtown was included in the protected area as a buffer zone due to its proximity to Ichari Shahar. So any street in Baku downtown is an area to showcase the best examples of the architecture.
In Baku Downtown locates the Nizami Street, the busiest street in Baku. It is a traffic-free street with retail brand shops, popular cafes and restaurants as well as theatres. Thus anyone finds anything to do to feel like a local in the beating heart of the city.
Additionally, you can take a walk along Istiqlaliyyat Street where most architecture is monumental and rich in terms of artistic expressions for first impressions: Khagani Street for a walk of urban exploration with local places to hang out; 28 May Street to observes various architecture styles side by side; and Mammad Amin Rasulzade Street to have your cup of coffee at international brands such as Starbucks, Hard Rock Cafe or Gloria Jean’s Coffee.
Some of the Mansions of Oil Barons are Mukhtarov Palace, Taghiyev Residence, Ismayiliyya Palace, Sadigov Brothers Residence, Nagiyev Palaces, Rylski Residence, Town Hall and many others are listed on the map below.
Soviet Baku – XX Century
The main event of this era was undeniably the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and subsequent invasion of Baku on 28 April 1920 by the 12th Red Army. Baku became the capital city of newly established Azerbaijan Socialist Soviet Republic.
Socialism was adopted as the socio-political system of organizing society. Eventually, all industries were nationalized, private ownership was banned. The central authorities such as the Communist Party and other essential soviet apparatus were given enormous power to make decisions for all. All these were driven by the ideology of Socialism and communism. State’s interference in every aspect of social, political and economic life, and the emphasis put on the ideology played an unchallenged role in the society.
For the first time in history, Baku’s population reached 1 million. Mega constructions projects have been carried out such as Baku Metro, massive underground transport system, ‘Neft Dashlari’ off-shore oil platform, literally a full-fledged city on the Caspian, and masive residential complexes. The city grew bigger giving a rise to a new term, Greater Baku.
Baku’s was still a cosmopolitan city with a mixture of various ethnic groups. Oil kept its crucial role in Baku’s heavy industry, however, it lost the traditional essence. Baku was no longer an exporter of crude oil, but oil expertise and technology to the Soviet Republics. Baku was the Oil Academy of the Soviet Union.
Development and Specifics of the Architecture
During the Soviet Union, architecture was subject to the changing tastes of the Soviet leaders. Every leader would enact an evolving policy about how architecture should be. There was two movements of architecture, Constructivism and Empire Style, before and during Stalin’s era. Khrushchev era saw the rise of architecture coined as Soviet Modernism and it lasted until the fall of the Soviet Union.
In the mid-1930s, Constructivism fell out of favour and the Soviet leadership backed a policy of return to national traditions and roots. The architecture of this era is more known as the Stalinist Empire Style. In Azerbaijan, it produced a new wave called National Romanticism. This architecture advocated the adoption of decorations, ornaments and tall and larger arch-ways that rooted in Oriental and Azerbaijani culture. Leading architects of this movement in Azerbaijan were Mikayil Useynov and Sadig Dadashov.
The era of 1955-1991 radically changed the approaches to architecture and in particular urban planning. Rooted in constructivism, Soviet Modernist architecture primarily oriented with utilitarian purposes by complete refection of decorations. Advanced methods and modern technologies required to boost industrialization and cost reduction. This is when massive, grey, tall, austere match-boxes appread in the built enviornment of Baku. The notable projects of this era are Baku’s microraion residential complexes.
Neighbourhoods to Explore
Exploring Soviet-era architecture is searching for hidden gems in Baku. Baku Downtown area has few must-see Soviet-era architectures scattered around, but the hidden gem neighbourhoods locate quite outside of Baku Downtown.
For the Stalinist Era Architecture, the neighbourhood of Elmler Akademiyasi is perfect. It is a quarter high level of student activity. It includes several Universities and Baku State University, the largest in Azerbaijan, as well as the Campus of the Academy of Sciences (Elmer Akademiyasi) and all necessary infrastructure to support student and urban life.
The main purpose of the Microraions was to solve housing problems in Baku. It created new settlement complexes to house Baku’s working classes. There are nine Microraions and all of them primarily oriented to meet the needs of residents. While exploring the neighbourhoods of the Microraions, one would naturally find an authentic suburban lifestyle.
Landmark Architectures of the Soviet Baku in Baku Downtown are Soviet Government House, Office of Standard Bank, Monolith, Buzovnaneft, Republic Palace, President’s Administration, State Drama Theatre and Central Train Station. Outside Baku Downtown, visit Elmler Akademiyasi in Huseyn Javid avenue and residential apartments in Narmian Narimanov avenue. Above all Microraions are places not just a showcase of urban planning and architecture but also a typical soviet life style.
Contemporary Baku: XXI Century
In 1991 Azerbaijan regained independence from the Soviet Union. But the sweet independence came with costs. The collapse of the Soviet broke all existing system economic activity and it had a devastating impact on Azerbaijan, too. Besides, Azerbaijan found herself in a bloody with Armenia which resulted with Armenia occupying 20% of her territory and financial burden of dealing with 1 million refugees and IDPs.
In the meantime, Azerbaijan managed to attract western multinational oil corporations to invest and extract oil from the Caspian Sea. No matter how long it took, but eventually, the Azerbaijani government succeeded in the export of oil only in 2005. This was the inception of the Second Oil Boom. Subsequently, the Second Oil Boom, too, put Baku in the centre attention internationally such as hosting Eurovision Song Contest 2012, annual Formula 1 Races and the European Games 2015.
A huge part of the oil money has been allocated to mega construction projects in the name of modernisation and developing. This process is undergoing to add another layer of architecture history, futurism.
Development and Specifics of the Architecture
The Architecture in Contemporary Baku is an on-going process. This is the case when our generation lives through as the built environment is being made.
Generally, architectural development in Contemporary compared to Dubai or Kuwait by many in terms of glassy, shine futuristic skyscrapers. It is true that similarly, the oil money fuels Baku’s ambitious mega projects. They may even look like similar, but their essence is completely different and there lies a rich cultural history.
Overall the direction of the built environment in contemporary Baku is postmodern architecture with neo-futuristic tendencies.
Neighbourhoods to Explore
One of the important elements of the postmodern architecture is that it also changes the understanding of neighbourhoods where those kinds of architectures are found. The sheer size of these massive construction projects makes it nearly unsatisfying to approach them but stay in far distance away to appreciate their beauty. There one does not need to search for the exact location but you just need to find a viewpoint. The viewpoints of those postmodern architectures are on a walk across Baku Boulevard, the 15 km long promenade along the Caspian Sea.
Landmark Architectures of this era are Flame Towers, Heydar Aliyev Center, Caspian Waterfront Shopping Mall, Port Baku Residence and the Crescent. See map of postmodern landmarks and viewpoints below.
When darkness falls
over sky, flickering lights from coffee shops, restaurants, pubs, bars and basements
bring life to the streets of Baku. These places offer vibrant entertainment not
just for local people and but also visitors of Baku. Whether you are into jazz,
or rock or punk or pop, you can still find a place to socialize with local
people under pulsating melodies of your favourite music. Here we list local
places where Baku’smost exciting
recurring live music events happen.
Coffee Moffie: Piano and Wine Nights
Coffee Moffie is a movie themed local coffee shop in downtown Baku, across the Fountains Square. It is a cafe of little bits of everything: kind of common space where you can meet people with various social backgrounds (entrepreneurs) or simply sit over a cup of cappuccino. On Fridays, meet your friends over glass of wine listening to live piano covers of Azerbaijani music before heading out to main night-out places.
from 3 azn. Islam Safarli
street 9. +994509641880. www.facebook.com/coffeemoffiebaku. Open
Mon-Sun: 8:30am-12am. Live music on Fri.
Etud Cafe&bar: Jazz from Basement
Here you dive into
Baku’s night life by socialising while tasting local beer or cocktails. Although
it’s been gone for long, this underground place attempts to bring the nostalgia
of Soviet Baku with live jazz jam sessions. It will give thrilling vibes to
experience classic jazz, ethno jazz (remix of classic jazz with local folkloric
music), soul jazz and funky parties on weekends.
On a normal day, you
go there to play pool with strangers. But on weekend, the pool table turns into
a dance floor under the greatest guitar music of 80s and 90s. That would be
your Rock n’ Roll Friday night out. Although a small place and packed on
weekends, it has gotten vibes and people you might like on weekends.
Located in heart of
Baku, Icheri Sheher – Old Town, it is coined as a reminiscence of La La Land in
Baku. It has nice ambience and presents classic, modern and ethno jazz music
interpreted by contemporary local jazzmen. Although services are reported as laggish,
the experience of live music and local wine blend very well overall.
Open Mic is not a place but an event. It uses various popular places to bring people together who can sing. The principle is as simple as if you have a guitar and can sing a song, then bring it on. You can join the community to celebrate music holiday for couple of hours. Follow their page on Facebook to find out venues it is happening every month.
alternative environment of people with black cloths, long beard and tatoos
meanwhile listening to live music of rock, pop, hip-hop or punk in underground
atmosphere. Those people are of different social strata in a positive sense.
Still one gets chance to socialize with local people over one of the cheapest
beers in the city.
Since its inception in 2015, iN sets the bar in bringing up Baku’s electronic club culture. This alternative recreation breaks stereotypes and changes night life. Now running the club from abandoned Soviet factory of Valuable Papers it gathers more 400 people attenting their events. Both international and local artists offer best of electronic techno music in the city. All has been said nicely, please follow their dress code rules to get iN Club.
The most historic quarter of modern cosmopolitan Baku is called Icherisheher (aka Inner City or Old Town). It used to have dozen of quarters. Each quarter had its population with different various socio-economic and political background as well as its own mosque and hammams, the bath-houses. Hammams occupied an important place to organize social interactions: men would discuss politics and solve problems of any level whether personal or society; women would use hammams as a platform to exchange gossips, trade rumours or choose their son’s future wives. Although it is not as common as it used to be, however they are still retain their oriental charm.
There are many intriguing love stories of Baku, among them the most famous is Ali and Nino, even the book of their love story became New York Times Bestseller. In the book, a passage goes as:
I had not spoken to Nino for two
weeks. A wise rule demands that a man should keep away from women when he
stands at life’s crossroads. Now I lifted the grip of the unwieldy apparatus,
turned the bell and shouted into the mouthpiece: “3381!”
Nino’s voice replied: “Passed, Ali?”
-“When and where, Nino?”
-“Five o’clock at the lake in the Governor’s Garden, Ali.”
When they met at the Governor’s Garden… “My hand glided over her hair. She lifted her head. The last ray of the setting sun was in her eyes. I bent towards her. Her lips opened tenderly and submissively. I kissed her for a very long time, and very improperly. She breathed heavily. “Then she tore herself away. We were silent and stared into the twilight. After awhile, we got up, a little shamefacedly. Hand in hand, we left the gardens.
The Governors Garden is now officially called Philharmonic Garden, however it still looks pretty much the same as Ali described it. You, too, can have your Ali and Nino moment there.
Drink tea in Chaykhana (Çayxana)
Recent Euromonitor survey portrayed Azerbaijan as second most tea-drinking society with absolute majority of population, 99.1%. So this is a tea-driking society. In this society, tea (çay) is a solution to everything. Literally. One of the best ways to experience tea culture is to visit chaykhanas (tea houses). However, there is a truth that most chaykhanas are stereotypical places where usually macho guys gather around to discuss “manly” issues over ridiculous number of cups of tea. Nonetheless, chaykhanas one of the mostly visited family place in Baku. In chaykhana they would usually order two teapots: thyme tea and black tea. Of course, do not forget about jam as they are inseparable. There are many types of jams you can choose to arrange a set of tea-jam duo: such as tea with walnut jam.
Eat kebab (kabab)
Kebab (akabarbecue or shashlyk) is various kinds of slow and usually outdoor cooked meat dish using skewers and fire-pan. In Azerbaijan, kebab is food that must be served for your most respected guests or during most feasts, celebrations and holidays. Even an Azerbaijani proverb goes saying that “Kabab qanlı, igid canlı” meaning that kebab must be undone, but a hero vigorous. Most popular kinds of kebabs are tike kebab, lulah kebab, basdirma kebab. Your most ultimate kebab feast would be ordering sebet kebab, a complete rib cage of lamb for four people. You can treat yourselves with sebet kebab in Qedim Qebele (open: 10am to 12am) for 50-70 AZN.
Stroll through narrow streets of Icharisheher (Inner City – Old Town)
Icharisheher, translates as inner city, is the most historic part of the city and is mostly known as Old Town. It houses four UNESCO World heritage sites. Icharisheher was used to be a Muslim quarter of Baku until mid 20th century and the streets, settlements, house and public places were designed in accordance with acceptable behaviour of social interactions in an oriental city. Icharisheher, now, with three thousand population and still retains some of its oriental qualities in a city of 2.5 million population as the population of Icharisheher would call themselves as native Bakuvians. Strolling through narrow streets of Icharisheher will allude you to idea of you being locked in a labyrinth of historic attractions of XI to XV centuries.
Climb up the mysterious Maiden Tower (UNESCO World heritage site)
Maiden Tower (Qiz Qalasi) is the most iconic landmark of Baku. However it is shrouded in complete mystery. This is to say that we do not know when it has been constructed, who architect is, what use of purpose it served or why it is called Maiden Tower. It is also a sophisticated construction of 8-floor and 29.5 metre tall cylinder-shaped structure built on huge rock sliding towards the Caspian Sea, 5 metre-thick wall with water well on the third floor, ceramic tubes from ground floor to top, a sewage system presumably, and all the windows facing towards the south-east, wide and tall buttress many other qualities contributes to secrecy to the most obvious and visible monument in the Old Town.
Locates in Icherisheher. Open everyday 9am-6pm. Entry fee 15 AZN.
Visit the Palace of the Shirvanshahs Dynasty (UNESCO World heritage
Shirvanshah Ibrahim, the first, and his son Shirvanshah Khalilullah, the first moved capital to Baku after devastating earthquake levelling Shamakhi, main capital city, in XV century. They built a Palace Complex of burial-vaults, courtroom (divanhane), shah’s mosque, Seyid Yahya Bakuvi’s Mausoleum and bath-house that survived up to day. Although Shirvanshahs were modest and minimalistic in their approach to construction, the Palace Complex represents one of the best examples of Abhseron-Shirvan Architecture School.
Locates in Icherisheher. Open everyday 10am-6pm. Entry fee 10 AZN.
See the tinniest book of the world at Miniature Book Museum
Zarifa Salahova, sister of Tahir Salahov, is a formidable woman. As one of residences of the Old Town, she privately owns one of the most unique and strangest museums of the World that took over 30 years of her life to build it. Even the museum itself is a world of its kind regardless of its scale. That world is dedicated to teeny-tiny books known as miniature books. Although Guinness World Records certified 2.937 books as the largest collection of miniature books, she actually owns 8,500 of miniature books. Visit to see the tiniest book of the world exhibited behind the glasses of the second shelf in a blue case within white-background circular container: it 0.75 mm microscopic book publish in Tokyo, Japan in 2012. The 22-page book is titled as Flowers of Four Seasons.
Locates in Qasr street 67 . Open 11am-5pm; Tue-Sun. Closed Mon-Thu. No entry fee.
Ride Funicular for Panoramic View of the City
Funicular is a popular sightseeing attraction built in 1960s. It is a transport system connecting the lowest part of Baku, the Seaside promenade, with the highest point, the Highland Park. You see emerging beautiful scenic Baku and the bay, meanwhile the ascending funicular takes you up to the park. Night time in the park you observe and enjoy the view we’d like you to see, however, you can see city silhouette with all ugly and beautiful, dark and bright, dirty and clear sides of the city.
Enter into another dimension at Zaha Hadid’s architecture
Completed in 2013 the Heydar Aliyev Center became an iconic landmark of modern Baku to shape and influence ideas and movements in an era of redeveloping Baku. Built by Zaha Hadid, British-Iraqi architect, it represents an architecture of fluid and infinite patterns, form, shape, grid, column, surface and structure by applying futuristic understanding of local culture and historic Islamic architecture. It loses its essence and purpose with more words you put down on paper. Better you give a visit and eyewitness it yourselves.
A 50-year old Baku Metro is labelled as national wealth of Azerbaijani people. Besides it is use as one of cheapest and fastest transport means, every metro station carries heavy burden of symbolism: Nizami metro station is dedicated to 12th poet Nizami Ganjavi, the Greatest of all Greatests; 20 Yanvar (January) is dedicated to a day when Soviet army peaceful protestors to crack down independence movement in Baku; or Neftçilər (Oilmen) is honouring oil workers for bravery and hard work. Therefore every metro station would be designed with a particular theme and carriage arrival announcement would be accompanied with a 10-second musical tone to dramatize presentation of a station.
Once you have seen all attractions of downtown Baku and you have more time to do adventurous things and are expecting this city of pounding winds in desert-land to offer more excitement, here is our top 8 places to see in Absheron peninsula, the north-eastern suburb of Baku.
Built by Hindu community members of Sikhism, this 17th century fire-worshipers’ temple stands out as a sign of tolerance and quite astonishingly and respect to fire in a Muslim majority society. Although it was a place regularly visited by fire-worshipers then, it is now a museum where you hear about history, precepts and way of life about the fire worshiping practiced in Azerbaijan as well as around the world. The temple is such an historic importance to the Azerbaijan and its image abroad that the torch of the first European Games was lightened by the President Ilham Aliyev in here in an official ceremony and then it was carried all around the regions of Azerbaijan.
Natural gas flares in Absheron peninsula are present from ancient times and are one of the examples why local people call Azerbaijan as “Land of Fire”. Yanardag literally translates as flaming hill. Contrary to its fame, it is not a big or massive attraction but just a small hill which releases underground natural gas that turns into fire naturally. What is so an experience to see is surrounding residential settlements around natural wonders like Yanardag. So it gives you a sense to have an idea about the role oil and natural gas play in life of local people. You can contemplate about this or that issue of a concern to you, while seating up in the hill and seeping from your tea cup.
Ramana is one of the oldest villages of Baku. Allegedly it has been found by Roman troops. But later in 18th century it became a property of khans of Afshar origin from the south Azerbaijan. During late 19th and early 20th century, the village was producing industrially huge volume of oil. Although it is dormant, there area is still operated by SOCAR at a much lower productivity. However, the area is massive and allows you to see scale of oil operations in those villages as well as the disturbing conditions of environmentally impacted areas. At the hill side, there is also historic Ramana castle from where you can observe all the Ramana village if go up to the top of it. Moreover, the population of these villages still preserve local traditions and social conventions communally. This is to say that you should kindly reject local peoples’ repeated invitation over dinner in their house.
Located in the middle of densely populated residential settlements, quadrangular shaped Mardakan castle rises up in sky through roofs of private houses. It would be a joke to call it a castle as some of the houses around appear to be much larger than it. A watchtower would be an accurate term to define it. Therefore, you are better to go up to top of the tower for a nice bird-eye view of Mardakan and villages in the vicinity. The gatekeeper, an intelligent old man nicknamed by Baba (trans. grandpa) will give you warm welcome and then rush to guiding you through the castle, of course in local language. So help of a translator or English speaking local friend is necessary. You can also visit a small but old mosque in the yard of the castle.
Locates in Mardakan. Bus 136 from Koroghly Metro, stop at Nizami Garden. Entry fee 2azn. +994507227234. No website. Open 0900-1900
If you are looking for the cleanest beach along the Caspian Sea in Absheron, then Bilgah is the place you want to visit. Labelled as the best, you’d find beaches crowed with people of all ages. Sometimes it is inevitable that those crowds leave mess behind themselves unclean that would upset you about the beach. Nonetheless, the sea itself still offers one of the best experiences. Although most of coastal beaches are free, they will charge you for facilities you use such as umbrella or chairs. The fare of using the facilities differs place to place ranging 5-15azn. The best time to avoid crowds would be early morning till 1800 hours.
Once called Artyom (named after Comrade Artyom, socialist revoluntionary Fyodor Sergeyev), the Pirallahi Island is probably the only island in the Caspian Sea that has land connection with offshore in the north-east of the Absheron peninsula. It was once mainly Russian populated area with heavy oil and natural gas production. What makes this island attractive is the oil platform and structures that goes further into the sea much similar like the Oil Rocks (Neft Dashlari). The Oil Rocks is a security-wise strategic zone with very limited access to public. The oil structure in the north of the island gives a little bit ‘taste’ of the Oil Rocks.
The Absheron National Park is a monument dedicated to Absheron peninsula. The fact that it locates at the horn of the Absheron peninsula, it draws thrilling attention of adventurers. There is no better illustration that you can see how Absheron and Baku suburb was like centuries ago.The narrow land form that goes into the sea is called “Shah Dili” (Spit of the King). It is the farthest land part of Azerbaijan in the east that you put the foot on the ground. Perhaps, this is the only reason you might want to go there. The park is 8km long from one end to another and it offers long walk under the sun like hell fire.
Gala Archaeological and Ethnographic Museum Complex
The idea behind of the Gala museum is to build a museum infrastructure that illustrate the same old living standards and conventions existed in Absheron in old times. The Museum exhibits the discoveries of burial mounds, tombs, houses, appliances, the ruins of ancient living structures in the Absheron peninsula from bronze ages. The exhibition is also an important demonstration of the way of life of indigenous people in Absehron. If you are lucky to find the museum attendants, you would learn the process of sewing a carpet and you, yourself, give it a try, too.
Locates in Gala village. Bus 101 from Koroghly Metro. Entry fee 2azn. +994125114667. facebook.com/Qala-Dovlet-Tarix-Etnoqrafiya-Qorugu-629478247100400/. Open 0900-1800.
Whether you are looking for quick and fast solution for lunch or hangover starvation after midnight or just want to taste one of most consumed local fastfood, here we list 6 mostly visited and acclaimed döner joints in city centre of Baku.
Story goes that youngster drivers waited to have streets fully empty until early morning to go drive crazy. They would treat themselves at this centrally located small doner joint, which is now so called ‘Avtosh Döner’ after the name given to those crazy drivers, open until very late. For some people that is one and only döner joint in the town. Their service is real quick and only take-away as there are no sit-ins. Bear in mind that their döners are little faty.
Döners from 2 azn, Drinks from 0.60 azn. Bül-Bül pr. +994553040202. No website. Open 10am-12am.
They say that “Döners of Berlin, Germany are different kind of döners.” Berlin Döner promises you that difference of taste. Just off the Fountains Square, it locates in the corner of Nizami street next to Fisinjan restaurant. You can also treat yourself with business launch (döner, lentil soup and ayran) for just 5 azn from 12:00 pm to 15:00 pm. If you happen to pay a visit during afternoon, then you get to deal with local custom of standing in line and waiting for about 5-7 minutes.
Bir Iki Döner made almost all social media talking about them when they came with cool idea of serving free döners during some of important public holidays. Their services are one of the most expensive döner joints in Baku. But still that is one of popular rebranded döner joints local people like to go. The way their serve döner is of course fancy and they have quality döner, too.
It is a Turkish restaurant with fastfood options, on the street to Seaside Promenade, a short walk from Fountains Square. It has tall transparent glass windows opening to one of the central streets with people rushing. The staff is friendly and quick to serve your order. Döner is served with soft bread. You can try tantuni, an alternative Turkish fastfood, though it spicy.
Ajdaha doner has couple joints around the city so easy to reach wherever you are in city centre. The staff is friendly and helpful. It has couple of sit-ins in a small environment but still tidy, clean and nice. What is so specific is use of local flavour such as herbs and vegetables in doners they serve but in crusty bread. However, the taste of those flavours is reflection of our everyday diet. They have doners for all kinds of customer budgets and rich, locals of foreigners.
If local food and Azerbaijani cuisine is an important part of your travel and you are wondering where to go and what to eat, here is a list of local restaurants and budget cafes in downtown Baku. All places locate in walking distance to main sightseeing attractions and historical sights, so you can have launch or dinner once you are done with exploring.
Firuze Restaurant is one of the most expensive and touristy place at Fountain Square. However it is the best in terms of local authentic Azerbaijani cuisine. It is worthy to give yourself a treat once during your visit by ordering pilaf (rice), king of all foods to Azerbaijani People.
Through the Double Gates (Gosha Gala Qapilari) and behind the historic twelfth century Citadel Walls locates Qayanana Restauran. That is another favorite of Baku’s high middle and high class. This would be the best place for breakfast with təndir çörəyi (tandir bread is cooked in clay oven) to start your day in the most historic part of the city in environs of medieval and oriental spirit.
Mains from 8-12azn. Omlette from 4azn. Kichik Gala street, Old Town. +994704340013. facebook.com/qaynanarestaurant/menu/. Open 8am-23pm.
Fisincan Cafe Fountain
As the name suggests, this restaurant is named after pilaf, fisincan, a very specific food to Baku and its people. Located at the Fountain Square, it also has nice small terrace, a perfect place to chill out with pint of local beer, Xırdalan, during summer time in Baku.
Mains from 7-11azn. Nizami Street 63. +994125949990. facebook.com/fisincancaferestaurant/. Open 10am-11pm.
Xəzər Kafe (Xezer)
Do not get bitterly disappointed to see expensive prices of restaurants in downtown. There are few of them offering decent service for decent prices. Xəzər Kafe is one those located centrally: a bistro – home-style cooking, and slow-cooked foods but served quickly and local people are main customers. So a hidden gem for a tourist to escape being-a-tourist-in-city. Oder dogva (kind of soup) in a beer glass to become like a local.
Mains from 3-5azn. Soups from 2azn. Istiglaliyyat street 53. Open 10am-23pm
Kafe Əriştə (Arishta)
Kafe Əriştə is a twin sister of Xezer Kafe in downtown Baku, 3-minute walk from Fountains Square. The concept and services are very similar, however flavor and taste of food are different. Order əriştə (arishta), the name for Azerbaijani noodle soup, or ət sousu (kind of stew) to feel vibes of this underground Baku.
Mains from 3-5azn. Soups from 2azn. Abdulkarim Alizadeh street (next to Shakespeare Pub). Open 10am-23pm
There is another local fastfood/restaurant next to the Government House. Their menu offers such a mix of fast foods and home style slow cooked dishes: Pizza, döner and dolma. You have an option to order half-portion of mains dishes, if you’d like to taste as many as you can. To recommend a local food, try küftə to taste one of winter time favourites of country side people.
Mains from 3-4azn. Soups 2azn. Azadliq Avenue 3 (around corner after busstop). +9945554643. Open 11am-7pm
The Walled City of Baku (Icharisheher – Old Town) is A UNESCO Cultural World Heritage site. It reveals evidence of Zoroastrian, Sasanian, Arabic, Persian, Shirvani, Ottoman, and Russian presence in cultural continuity. The Old Town has preserved much of its 12th-century defensive walls and Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy) and may other cultural structures dating from the 7th to 6th centuries BC, to the 15th-century Shirvanshahs’ Palace is one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture.
This private walking tour will guide you through the melding of cultures that have influenced the development of the surviving Medieval Old Town over the past nine centuries. It is a tour of an outstanding and rare example of an historic urban ensemble and architecture, which still is a living, vibrant city with residential areas with local communities.