Baku Architecture Guide: From Middle Ages to Contemporary Times

Table of Contents


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

Socio-Political Environment

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. 

Bird-Eye View of Ichari Shahar, Baku Old Town

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 Palace of Shirvanshahs now
 The Shirvanshahs Palace (Urek Meniashvili / Public Domain)

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

The Maiden Tower (Gulustan / Public Domain)

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

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

Socio-Political Environment

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. 

Oil Wells of Baku circa 1900s

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.

Hajinski Mansion (Tim Beddow / Baku Magazine)

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. 

Night View of Ismailiyya Palace (Photo:

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.

The Palace of Happiness (Photo:

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.

Landmark Architectures

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

Socio-Political Environment

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.  

Constructivism was a popular and flourishing modern architecture movement in the 1920s and the early 1930s in the Soviet Union. It combined technological innovation with a Russian Futurist influence, resulting in stylistically abstract geometric masses. It aimed at serving to meet the needs of changes in society of the time. One of the pioneering architects was the Vesnin brothers. Interestingly enough their first materialized constructivist project was built as workers’ town in Baku in 1925. Many other Azerbaijani architects, too, embraced constructivism in their early careers

Buzovnaneft (Sefer azeri / Public Domain)

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. 

7th Microraion

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. 

The Government House (Poco a poco / Public Domain)

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

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

Socio-Political Environment

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

Heydar Aliyev Center (Helene Binnet / ArchDaily)

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. 

Above all, this kind of architectural is nothing new to Baku. It happened once during the first oil boom era. Baku is not replicating and experience of some other places but reinventing itself on its own way. In a report to ArchDaily, Zaha Hadid Architects put it clear and straight that “Our intention was to relate to that historical understanding of architecture, not through the use of mimicry or a limiting adherence to the iconography of the past, but rather by developing a firmly contemporary interpretation, reflecting a more nuanced understanding.”

Overall the direction of the built environment in contemporary Baku is postmodern architecture with neo-futuristic tendencies.

Neighbourhoods to Explore

The Flame Towers (Photo:

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

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.



Baku’s most exciting recurring live music venues/events

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

Photo: Coffee Moffie Facebook

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.

Drinks from 3 azn. Islam Safarli street 9. +994509641880. Open Mon-Sun: 8:30am-12am. Live music on Fri.

Etud Cafe&bar: Jazz from Basement

Photo: Etud Cafe and Bar Facebook

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.

Drinks from 3 azn. Islam Safarli street 23. +994507666690. Open Mon-Sun: 4pm-2am. Live music on Tue&Wed.

The Pheonix Pub: Rock Ballads of 80s and 90s

Photo: Pheonix Pub Facebook

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.

Drinks from 3 azn. Yusif Məmmədəliyev street 10. +994507431751. Open Mon-Sun: 4pm-2am. Live music on Fri&Sat.

Moon Blue Jazz Club: Everyday is Jazz

Photo: Moon Blue Jazz Club Facebook

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.

Drinks from 7 azn. Icheri Sheher, Kichik Qala 26 +994504645113. Open Mon-Sun: 1pm-10pm. Live music everyday.

Open Mic Baku

Photo: Open Mic Baku Facebook

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.

Le Chateau Music Bar: Hipsters’ music

Photo: Le Chateau Music Bar Facebook

An 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.

Drinks from 2 azn. Islam Safarli steet 10. +994557243954. Open Mon-Sun: 4pm-10pm. For live music see the Facebook page.

In Club: Underground techno club

Photo: iN Club Facebook

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.

Drinks from 5 azn. Jeyhun Salimov 18A. +994506880813.

updated: 11 March 2020


Baku City Guide: What To Do & What To See

Baku is increasingly becoming a famous tourist destination. Recent international sport events such as Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, or 2019 UEFA Europa League Final in Baku, or UEFA EURO 2020 will bring more popularity with more tourists visiting the city. Therefore, here we list top mainstream things to do and see in downtown Baku.

Reclaim the Hammam traditions of Baku

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.

Visit eighteenth century old Aga Mikayil Hamami for oriental experience of hammam traditions. And ream more about how to hammam like a local on CNN insight.

Have your Ali and Nino moment at Governors Garden

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?”
-“Yes, Nino.”
-“Congratulations, 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)

Tea-set. Photo: Pakhlava Tea House

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 (aka barbecue 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.

Join our Baku Original Walking Free Tour to explore best of the Icharisheher.

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 site)

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 in front of her collection

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.

Locates in Shovkat Alakbarova street. Open 10am-10pm; Tue-Sun. Closed Mon; Lunch break 1pm-2-m. Entry fee 1 AZN.

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.

Locates in Heydar Aliyev Ave 1. Open 11am-5pm; Tue-Sun. Closed Mon. Entry fee 15 AZN.

Hope on Metro for sightseeing of underground city

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.

Locates in 28 May, Central Station. Open 6am-midnight. Entry free 0.30 AZN.

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About Baku

Once was a small town (as large as the Old City) on the shore of the Caspian Sea, Baku is now the capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city in South Caucasus. Sometimes it’s been labelled as “New Dubai” or “the City Built by Oil”. Baku offers beautifully contrasting, perhaps, contradicting experiences stemming from the background of Oriental Medieval, Tsarist Russian, Soviet and Modern Independent periods. It’s also a peaceful home for diverse ethnic and religious groups.

Check Baku’s official tourism portal: Baku Tourism Information Center

Where to Stay?

Baku has a lot of space for incoming tourists and traveller even during peak months. But the issue is that they are mostly 4 or 5 star hotels in Baku which is not the first preference of middle class or budget travellers. However, there is a recent trend of budget hotels and hostels emerging every day in city centre. This allows travellers to find a decent place to stay for moderate prices. This ongoing tendency establishes hosting culture and friendly environment for tourist gradually. Therefore you should keep your expectation low when staying at those mid-range hotels and hostels

For hotel&hostels, have look at or Lonely Planet’s selections.


Azerbaijani Cuisine: Shah pilov, uch-baji dolma, lavangi. Photo credit:

Azerbaijani cuisine is heavily typified by the ingredients of beef, lamb and pastry. But you can still enjoy fresh and light food varieties, too. Azerbaijani cuisine is not based on quick cookery. Foods that are uniquely Azerbaijani may take an hour to prepare, which would require you ordering food you want to eat in advance at the same time reserving a seat. To name some of national food that you’d like are pilaf, dolma, lavangi and of course kebabs:

Kebab. Photo credit:
Dolma. Photo credit:

Baku is also a cosmopolitan city and most of the restaurants and cafes in Baku downtown offer European and Asian cuisines along with Azerbaijani. If you cannot make you mind, always remember that there is McDonald’s right in the city centre or you may like eating in the world’s biggest KFC nearby the Central Train Station.


Despite the fact that Azerbaijan is Muslim majority country, alcohol consumption is allowed. And you can purchase any type of alcohol from markets. However Azerbaijan is one of the least alcohol consuming countries in Europe, it makes up to the-top-ten-list in Muslim World.
Devaluation of the local currency hit the prices to cause inflation. But still the nightlife is not that expensive in Baku. Local beer, Khirdalan, costs around 2-3 AZN pub to pub. However, the prices will be around 4-6 AZN in those luxury places.
You can find out pub and cafes with nice atmosphere and vibes in walking distance from city centre, Fountains Square. Əbdülkərim Əlizadə and Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev streets are famous for their English and Irish pubs. Islam Safarli street is becoming an alternative pub and cafe street recently. Those are not just new pub-and-cafe markets but also a new kind of culture emerging under roofs of those underground places.

Use following platforms to access information about cafes and restaurants:

Souvenir and Gifts: What to Buy?

No wonder like all tourists and traveller you also want to buy souvenir or gifts to take home for family and friends from Baku. But you might have difficulty to decide what to buy that reflects the best of local culture and tradition.

Also note that bargaining is an essential part of buying those souvenirs and gifts in shops of Baku. You should always remember that prices differ from shop to shop. Therefore you are better try couple of shops to get some sort of favourable deal if you are not good at bargaining.

Icherisheher (Old City) is full of those souvenir and gift shops and just wandering along the streets of the Old City will take you there randomly.
Just couple of ideas for gifts and souvenirs:

Azerbaijani Kelaghayi (headscarf). Photo credit:
Crude oil painting ‘neft painting’. Photo credit:
Ceramics. Photo credit.


It could be quite a struggle to involve in events taking place in Baku. The most important events that are observed with large masses and crowds are the New Year Eve and Novruz Holiday.
Novruz Holiday is the one you would definitely want to attend if you are interested in local traditions, cultures and food. People start festivities of Novruz a month prior to actual date which is March 21.
Besides, there are lot more parties, concerts and all other kind of events taking place throughout years
Aside from these traditional events, Tallinn’s always busy. Parties and concerts are aplenty and the city has plenty of funky venues catering to the more alternative crowd. – Events in Baku

Useful phone numbers:

Taxi reservationCall
Uber or BoltiOS or Android App
London taxi*9000
Public Services 
State Migration Service919
Long distance telephone communications107
Exact Time106
In case of emergency 
Emergencies Ministry112
Fire Service101
Ambulance (specialised therapeutic center)110
First aid in case of car accidents113