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.

Baku Baku Free Tour


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