Situated on the coast of the Caspian Sea, Baku is a quickly changing city boasting an exuberant blend of East and West. The medieval fortress wall surrounding Old City is offset by swanky new restaurants, a vibrant nightlife and a distinctly cosmopolitan skyline. To help make the most of this city of contrasts, we decided to share our recommendations for the best things to do in Baku, from must-try authentic restaurants to the city’s most famous landmarks.
INNOVATIVE ARCHITECTURE ON THE RISE IN BAKU
As Baku continues to develop, cutting-edge design is an increasingly prominent part of the city. Outside the historic area that has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site, striking modern structures are becoming the new icons of Baku. The Flame Towers, the tallest buildings in the city, dominate the Baku skyline. At night, the three towers are illuminated by LED lights—truly a sight to behold.
An impressive display of modern architecture, the Heydar Aliyev Centre was built without a single straight line. Its undulating walls and roofline house a three-floor museum commemorating the life and work of the famous Azeri leader.
Not a single straight line was used in the construction of the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, which began in 2007. Completed in May 2012, it is now an architectural symbol of the city.
Photography courtesy Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Crystal Hall doubles as a concert hall and stadium and accommodates more than 23,000 people. The unique structure, which resembles cut crystal, is covered with close to 9,500 LED lights that make the building sparkle at night.
SHOPPING BAKU’S OLD AND NEW
Along with Baku’s rapid growth, its shopping scene continues to develop and flourish. The Old City is packed with vendors selling authentic carpets and souvenirs. Iconic names from the fashion world have found a place on Neftchiler Avenue; you don’t have to venture far from the Hotel to browse the latest fashions from designers such as Versace, Dior, Burberry and Ermenegildo Zegna.
Souvenirs abound in the Old City’s shopping district. Shoppers will find authentic carpets and other local trinkets to take home as keepsakes.
Here, you will also find the malls of Park Bulvar and Ganjlik Mall. Park Bulvar has boutique shops, delectable restaurants and a planetarium, while Ganjlik Mall consists of shopping and dining options within its five storeys.
VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS IN BAKU
Located in the heart of the Old City, YAY Gallery displays works by established and emerging contemporary artists from Azerbaijan and around the world. The cosy, three-room gallery hosts rotating exhibitions.
On display at the YAY Gallery are immaculate works of art from local and international artists. Visit the official website to see which exhibitions will be on display during your visit.
Photography courtesy YAY Gallery
The Azerbaijan State Museum of Art houses a larger collection, with more than 15,000 works displayed in two adjacent buildings—one dedicated to European art, the other to paintings by Eastern artists and native Azerbaijan painters. Also worth visiting, the Baku Museum of Modern Art holds a collection of more than 800 works by Azeri painters and sculptors.
For Azerbaijani and international music, check the events at the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic, or music festivals and performances in a variety of genres at the Mugam Centre. The magnificent edifice of the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre shows a commitment to those arts as well.
EXPLORING BAKU BY BOAT AND RAIL
Discover two drastically different yet equally beautiful perspectives on the city. View Baku from the water during a boat tour of the Caspian Sea. As the boat cruises away from shore, take in the ever-changing skyline of Baku. Ferries typically run during clement weather only, so be sure to plan accordingly. Or travel by funicular to Highland Park, where travellers will find some of the most beautiful views of the city.
BAKU’S FAMILY-FRIENDLY FUN
Azerbaijan’s capital city is home to a number of attractions for kids and families. The Museum of Miniature Books will delight children and adults alike with thousands of fairy-size books. Or visit the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum—in addition to showcases of woven carpets from the 17th to early 20th centuries, it features a children’s museum.
For evening fun, enjoy a show at the Baku Puppet Theatre. Built in 1910, the theatre offers performances with puppets ranging from miniature (just a few centimetres) to twice the height of a human.
UNWIND AND RECHARGE AT THE SPA
A PERFECT DAY IN BAKU
Also known as the Pearl of the Caspian Sea, the Complex of Shirvanshahs Palace has excursions, lectures, exhibitions and musical performances for visitors to enjoy.
Start the day with an Azeri breakfast at authentic, family-style restaurant Sehirli Tendir, named after the traditional bread the restaurant serves. After breakfast, spend the morning touring Old City and the many interesting sites within the former walled fortress. The medieval Palace of the Shirvanshahs, located on the highest hill in the area, is a must-see due to its rich history and rare collection of ancient art and artefacts.
Before leaving Old City, be sure to take a tour of The Maiden Tower. Believed to have been used as a lookout post, a fire beacon, an astronomical observatory and a Zoroastrian temple, the tower is a symbol of Baku.
Once the sun goes down, Baku becomes a city of lights. In the evening, stroll through the city centre and take advantage of the budding urban nightlife scene: Clubs like Enerji Club and Eleven Club bring life to this growing city.
Lovers of cultural activities and good music will not be bored in this city. Concerts by stars of the world music scene are regularly hosted at the Crystal Hall and the Heydar Aliyev Palace. You can enjoy classic and symphonic music at the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Society and the State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. The founder of professional classical music, U. Hajibeyov founded the national opera “Leyli and Majnun” which is the first opera in the Muslim East.
The International Mugam Centre is a beautifully designed venue that celebrates the mesmerising sounds of Azeri folk music. Azerbaijani music is an integral part of country’s culture and traditional improvisational music. Mugam is the main branch of Azerbaijani classical folk music. Mugam’s roots go back many centuries and it is the traditional music of Azerbaijani people. Mugam is never composed by a single individual, but rather created by the folk.
When it comes to folk music, there are two that are most popular. Ashiq music is one of the symbols of Azerbaijani culture and considered the guardian of the Azerbaijani language, both literature and music.
Azerbaijani jazz covers a broad range of styles and often features a blend with traditional Azerbaijani music. Jazz fans are advised to attend concerts which are held regularly at the Baku Jazz Centre. In addition, a traditional Jazz Festival is held in Baku every autumn.