Baku is easily the most cosmopolitan city in the Caucasus. There are few cities that are evolving as quickly as the Azeri capital, where East and West blend beautifully. There, you will see glitzy Mercedes rush past stone mansions, grey Soviet apartment blocks sitting next to shiny glass towers and tree-lined streets lined with posh expat pups and teahouses. This enchanting combination makes Baku one of the area’s brightest gems.
The soul of the capital really comes alive in the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage site separated from the urban sprawl by stone walls dating from the 12th century. Over its long history, the Old City has been home to Zoroastrians, Arabs, Ottomans, Persians, Sassanians, Shirvants and Russians, and today it still retains many of the characteristics of the medieval town. The narrow streets form a labyrinth, snaking by tiny courtyards and congested buildings.
At the southeast corner of the Old City lies the Maiden Tower, whose foundation was laid in the 6th century BC. The eight-story tower was completed in the 12th century, when it was used as a fire temple or astronomical observatory.
Just a short walk away is the Shirvanshah’s Palace, constructed in the 15th century when Baku was made the capital. Although a Russian naval attack seriously damaged the building in the 18th century, it has been largely restored to its original glory. Visitors today can walk through the residential section of the palace, its mausoleum and the mosque of Key-Gubad. The complex rests on one of the highest points in the city, offering extraordinary views of Baku and the sea.
The southwest corner of the city is dominated by Martyr’s Lane, a sombre memorial to the locals killed in 1990 by the Red Army. A Turkish-style mosque and extensive gardens are open to the public, but the police are always nearby looking for vandals, especially since a controversial memorial to the British troops killed during the first World War opened nearby.
The city has a few notable museums, and a favorite of both tourists and locals is the Latif Karimov Carpet and Applied Arts Museum. Housed in the former Lenin museum, the collection celebrates the tradition of Azerbaijani craftsmanship and contains more than 10,000 items. The most captivating are the colorful handwoven carpets, copper goods and jewelry dating back to the early Middle Ages.
Another favorite is the House and Museum of Jafar Jabbarli, dedicated to the life and work of one of Azerbaijanís most celebrated playwrights. More writers are celebrated at the nearby Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature. The massive museum showcases over 3,000 artifacts, including sculptures, manuscripts, illustrations, rare books and more.
Once the sun sets, head to Fountain Square, where locals relax after a long work day and soak in the sun on the weekends. The square is lined with many boutiques, cafes and restaurants serving up both traditional dishes and international fusion cuisine. The nightlife is still evolving, but there are plenty of places to have an inexpensive but strong drink and dance until the sun comes up.
Baku Geographical Location
Baku is located on the Absheron Peninsula on the central easternmost side of Azerbaijan facing the Caspian Sea.
The population of Baku is approximately 2,080,000.
Azarbaijani is the official language of Azerbaijan and is the most commonly spoken language while Lezgi, Russian, and Armenian are also spoken in lesser numbers.
Baku Predominant Religion
- 93.5% Muslim
- 2.5% Russian Orthodox
- 2.5% Armenian Orthodox
- 1.5% Other
The majority of Azerbaijanis are Muslim although Azerbaijan does provide religious freedom.
The official currency of Azerbaijan is the Manat.
Baku is known to be a windy city and experiences warm summers with cold winters occasionally accompanied by snow.
Baku Main Attractions
- Maiden’s Tower
- Bail Castle
Other Attractions in Baku
- Icheri Sheher
- Cathedral of the Holy Myrrh-Bearers
- Mud Volcanoes
- Shirvanshah Palace Complex