Azerbaijan’s capital boasts ancient architecture, modern developments, a beautiful coastline off the Caspian Sea, and much more…and it’s about time the whole world knew about the city of Baku. Bidding to host the World Expo in 2025, Baku is ready to be front and center on the main stage. From UNESCO World Heritage Sites to exciting cultural events, you’ll never have to wonder what to do in Baku. There’s more than enough fun to be had here, but these are some of the best things to do in Baku.
1. Old City
Azerbaijan’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to the 12th century. Even though there are some contemporary homes mixed in, it’s almost like time has stopped when you get a glimpse of the ancient buildings, which include the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Maiden Tower. The walled Old City, also called Içərişəhər, shares a medieval and modern feel that makes it one of the most interesting places to see in Baku. Wandering through the cobblestone streets will yield beautiful alleys decorated with wooden balconies, diverse architecture, and bustling market squares where you can enjoy a delicious meal, discover your new favorite tea, and purchase some souvenirs.
2. Palace of the Shirvanshahs
Began in 1411 by the Shirvanshahs, this sandstone palace complex is one of the great architectural masterpieces in Azerbaijan. In addition to the main building of the complex, other structures include a stone pavilion, mosques, and the remains of a bath house. It also houses Seyid Yahya Bakuvi’s mausoleum and Sultan Murad’s Gate. Declared a museum in 1964, the exhibits are fascinating, and the artifacts include everything from swords to musical instruments. As you admire the complex buildings, be on the lookout for the intricate and impressive Arabic carvings throughout.
3. Maiden Tower
While there are many things to see in Baku, the one you absolutely cannot miss is the Maiden Tower. This national icon houses a lovely museum that gives an in-depth look into the evolution of the city…but that’s not even the best part. Visitors have the opportunity to climb to the top of the nearly 100-foot tower and get gorgeous views of the bay, Baku Boulevard, the Old City, and even the former residence of French president Charles de Gaulle. Admiring the sunset from the top of the tower is most definitely one of the best things to do in Baku.
4. Flame Towers
Overlooking the Old City and Baku Bay, this trio of skyscrapers dominate Baku’s skyline. Opened in 2013, Flame Tower 1 boasts the title of the country’s tallest skyscraper at 597 feet. The buildings are shaped like flames as a tribute to Baku’s history and are covered with LED screens to put on a nightly light show that alternates between flames and the flag of Azerbaijan.
5. Fountain Square
Get a taste of the modern and lively part of Baku in Fountain Square. Home to many upscale restaurants and a luxe shopping district, there’s always something going on here. It is very popular with tourists, but with the many shows, festivals, and celebrations happening here, you can still hang out and learn more about Baku and Azerbaijan.
6. Baku Boulevard
Dating back over 100 years, this promenade used to be home to the mansions of the oil barons in Baku. Today, it’s a lovely walkway along the Caspian Sea where you can relax and admire the views, take your pick of their open-air or 5D cinema and enjoy a movie, take a ride on the 197-foot Baku Ferris Wheel, or enjoy a host of other activities. This is another place in Baku that regularly hosts cultural gatherings, parades, concerts, and other fun events…it’s also the best place to be if you’re celebrating New Year’s here.
7. Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
When you’re strolling along the seafront and see a building that looks like a rolled up carpet, go inside. That’s the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, and along with housing the largest collection of Azerbaijani carpets in the world, it also displays more than 10,000 other pieces that include Bronze Age jewelry, 14th-century metal works, ceramics, and more. Because of the past significance of carpet weaving in Azerbaijan, these carpets have become a national symbol and are frequently on display in homes, tents, government buildings, and mosques. Instead of haggling for carpets in the Old City, it’s probably a good idea to visit the souvenir shop here where the staff can tell you the authentic history and significance of the rug and issue you a certificate for it on the same day.
8. Heydar Aliyev Center
Named after the former president, this landmark is known for its innovative architecture and wavy design. The wavy lines are even more impressive when you go inside of the building. Inside there’s a museum, a 1,000-seat auditorium, exhibitions, and more to enjoy. Some of the best Azerbaijani culture, crafts, and customs are highlighted here, both inside and out. Outside, waterfalls and fields of flowers complement the modern art sculptures throughout the complex.
9. Museum of Miniature Books
Open to promote and inspire childhood literacy, this is the only miniature book museum in the world. Thanks to Zarifa Salahova, the sister of painter Tahir Salahov, the collection has more than 6,500 books from 64 different countries. Home to many rare and unique books, some of the most noteworthy include the three smallest books in the world and a 17th-century Quran.
10. Bibi-Heybat Mosque
Wrecked by the Bolsheviks in 1936, the current building is a recreation of Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II’s 13th-century mosque. A wonderful example of Shirvan-style and Islamic architecture, this impressive site is the spiritual hub for Muslims in this region. The mosque has three domes, two minarets, and a mausoleum that separates the men’s and women’s prayer rooms. The tomb of Ukeyma Khanum, one of Muhammad’s descendants, is also housed here. This example of magnificent architecture is frequented by Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
With a variety of museums, galleries, eateries, parks, and more, this dramatically progressing capital city is perfect for all types of trips whether solo or with a group. Now that you know what to see in Baku, all you have to do is book your ticket :)
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