The capital and largest city of Azerbaijan, Baku is one of the Caucasus’ premier travel destinations. Incorporating cultural influences from Europe, Russia and the Middle East, Baku has a wide variety of architecture and attractions, plentiful shopping facilities and nearby sandy beaches on the Caspian sea, making it an excellent destination for anyone seeking a bit of variety in their holiday.
This guide outlines a few of Baku’s most popular tourist facilities – if you’re checking in to one of its excellent luxury hotels (such as the Kempinski Hotel Badamdar) in the near future, be sure to check out a few of the following:
Built over the tomb of a descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, this mosque is an important Islamic monument and one of Baku’s most beautiful sights. The original 13th-century mosque was destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936, but it was carefully restored in the 1990s in the Shirvan architectural style. It’s best viewed when lit up at night.
Azerbaijan State Museum of History
The largest museum in the country, located in an Italian Renaissance-style mansion, this is well worth a visit for anybody interested in Azerbaijan’s modern and ancient history. The museum houses over 2,000 exhibits including pottery, coins, artwork and jewellery, and is the centre of underwater archaeological research for the Caspian Sea.
This is one of the highlights of Baku: the walled region of the capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back to at least the 12th century, and probably much earlier. It’s home to the incredible Palace of the Shirvanshahs, an extensive complex that was once the seat of the city’s government. The Maiden’s Tower, a mysterious structure that historians argue could have been a Zoroastrian temple or astronomical observatory, is another must-see of the district.
This three-kilometre seafront promenade is the best way to view the Caspian Sea while in Baku, beginning at National Flag Square and ending at Freedom Square. Attractions to see along the way include a musical fountain and amusement park, and the impressive multi-storey shopping centre Park Bulvar is also on the route.
Also known as the “Fire Mountain”, this is one of the natural oddities that can be found near Baku. A natural gas fire that burns continuously and seemingly rises out of the ground, the colourful flames are a great sight to watch from a teahouse at dusk. It’s believed these naturally-occurring flames, which can be found all around the region, may have inspired the Zoroastrian preoccupation with fire.