What to see in Baku over the weekend: Sightseeing in one or two days
Weekend in Baku

What to see in Baku over the weekend: Sightseeing in one or two days

The city of winds and contrasts, sunny Baku, has been gaining tourist popularity in recent years. There are direct low-cost flights to Baku from Moscow, and it is not a trivial option for an economical weekend getaway. Even if you previously perceived Baku as an intermediate point on the road to Tbilisi, the capital of Azerbaijan is worth a couple of days' stay.

The atmosphere of the old city, centuries-old walls, strolling streets neighboring skyscrapers, majestic mosques and delicious cuisine attract tourists from all over the world. The cultural heritage of the past centuries is intertwined with ambitious futuristic projects, creating an impression of constant time travel.

The local currency is the Azerbaijani manat ₼ (AZN). It is worth about 40 rubles, 0.53 € or 0.6 $.

Sights of Baku

Baku seaside boulevard

You should start your acquaintance with the city in a spectacular way: with the Seaside Boulevard, which the locals are very proud of. Sea air, wind, seagulls and a huge Azerbaijani flag symbolizing the power of the country. You can’t get close to it: once the flag has already fallen, the authorities have put a fence. Athletes go jogging here, fishermen fish, pensioners enjoy a well-deserved rest, and young people go on dates.

The old town of Içərişəhər (İçərişəhər)

The ancient quarter represents the cultural heritage of the country and the nation. Powerful fortress walls of the 13th century stand guard over the atmosphere. Carpets and samovars are sold in the streets of the oriental bazaar, and local cats stroll amiably. In 2000. Icheri-Sheher was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

This is where the shooting of «The Diamond Hand» took place. Russian tourists still take pictures at 8/1 Kichik-Gala Street, where the hero fell. The city authorities are even thinking of erecting a monument to Nikulin.

In addition to historical monuments and museums, the old town is home to numerous ethnic restaurants and several hotels. It is a good idea to stay in them if you want to experience the flavor of the city.

Store in the old town
Store in the old town

Maiden Tower (Qız qalası)

One of the most symbolic places in the old town. It is 28 meters high and has almost no windows. The exact date of the tower’s appearance is unknown, but an inscription on a stone slab places it in the 12th century.

There are several legends about the purpose of the tower. There are suppositions that it was the Temple of Fire: before the advent of Islam on the Azerbaijani land, locals worshipped fire. Others say that the tower was built in honor of the heroes of the poem «Layli and Majnun».

One can see 31 notches on the tower and 24 on the buttress. There is a version that these numbers symbolize male and female: 31 vertebrae of Adam and 24 ribs of Eve. No one knows exactly why the tower was actually built and what its architecture means.

The tower served as a lighthouse for the last centuries, but in the 20th century it was restored and became a cultural landmark. The top floor is now an observation room, offering a magnificent view of the city.

  • Opening hours: daily from 09:00 to 18:00.
  • Cost: 2 AZN.
  • Tower website.

Shirvanshahs Palace (Şirvanşahlar Sarayı)

This palace was built for four centuries: from XII to XVI centuries. Now the complex includes the palace itself, the tomb of Shirvanshahs — medieval kings of Shirvan state, mosque, mausoleum and courtyard Divan-Khane.

Despite the diversity of buildings, the ensemble looks very harmonious and integral: cubic forms, ethnic ornaments. Inside there is an exposition of household items of the past centuries.

  • Hours of operation: daily from 10:00 to 18:00.
  • Cost: adult 3 AZN, schoolchildren 0.4 AZN, students 0.8 AZN.
  • Complex Website.

Ancient baths

In the Arab world, bathhouses are not just places for hygienic procedures. They were entire social centers. Here people met, socialized, discussed news. Each quarter of Baku in ancient times was obliged to have its own bathhouse. They were located underground, which made it possible to regulate the temperature: to keep warm in winter and cool in summer.

Archaeologists have discovered several baths in Baku:

  • Baths of Shirvanshahs (located in the complex of the same name).
  • Hacı Qayıb hamamı (Hacı Qayıb hamamı). The building dates back to the 15th century and was found during excavations only in 1964.
  • Ağa Mikayil Bathhouse (Ağa Mİkayıl hamamı). It is located in the bathhouse quarter and dates back to the 18th century.
  • Qasım bey bath (Qasım bəy hamamı). It was built a little earlier than Agha Mikayil’s. It was famous for its tea and sweets, which is how it got its name.
Ancient baths
Ancient baths

Juma Mosque (Cümə Məscidi)

The Shiite mosque is located in the vicinity of the old city. The modern building is a restored architecture of the XVII century. There is a version that earlier on this place was a sanctuary of fire. Inside the mosque is decorated with quotations from the Koran and decorative tiles.

  • Hours of operation: vary from religious holidays.
  • Cost: free of charge.
  • Non-Muslims are allowed to enter.

Mountain Park (Dağüstü park)

The highest vantage point can be reached by cable car, cab, public transportation or on foot. The hill is home to Shahid Alley, the eternal flame, and a Turkish mosque. From here you can go straight down to the Flame Towers.

  • The park is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • The funicular operates from Tues to Wed, from 10:00 to 22:00 every 15 minutes.
  • Cost: park free of charge, cable car 1 AZN.

Flaming Towers

This postcard view with skyscrapers in the form of tongues of flame has become a symbol of Baku. The highest buildings of the city can be seen from almost all districts. Especially photogenic cards are obtained from the old city: ancient houses and skyscrapers. The towers are 190, 160 and 140 meters high. There is no point in climbing them: inside there are only offices, hotels and restaurants (although the view should be fantastic). But outside, be sure to see the light shows on the facades in the evening.

View of the flaming towers
View of the flaming towers

Fountain Square (Fəvvarələr Meydanı)

The locals love this place for its special atmosphere: walking streets, restaurants and cafes, sculptures and fountains. In winter, New Year’s fairs are organized on the square, and in summer the children splash in the cool water. Here they are not persecuted for this.

Heydar Mosque (Heydər Məscidi)

The construction of the mosque in honor of the first president was completed in 2014. The facade is faced with special stone and imitates the style of Shirvan-Absheron architecture — structures built during the reign of the Shirvanshahs.

  • Hours of operation: vary from religious holidays.
  • Cost: free of charge.
  • Non-Muslims are allowed to enter.

Heydar Aliyev Center (Heydər Əliyev Mərkəzinin)

The First President’s Cultural Center is located on the street of the same name. The complex is very important for the ruling family, so they invited not just an architect to design it, but one of the best futurist architects, the greatest woman architect of our time, also of Arab origin. The Heydar Aliyev Center was one of Zaha Hadid’s last buildings. In 2014, the building received the Design of the Year Award.

The complex includes exhibition halls, conference halls and offices. The exterior and the surrounding area are very futuristic, like all Hadid’s projects: large multicolored snails on green lawns and a facade in the form of snow-white waves.

  • Opening hours: weekdays from 11:00 to 19:00; weekends from 11:00 to 18:00, Monday off
  • Cost: 15 AZN
  • The Center’s website
Wave façade
Wave façade

What else to see in Baku

According to statistics, tourists come to Baku on average for three days: to eat dolma and baklava, sunbathe on the beaches and swim in the Caspian Sea. If there is time left, you can go to a museum or drive outside the city.

Carpet Museum (Lətif Kərimov adına Azərbaycan Xalçası və Xalq Tətbiqi Sənəti Dövlət Muzeyi)

Archaeological excavations show that carpet weaving has always been widespread in Azerbaijan. The museum hosts exhibitions, conferences and symposiums. The exposition contains works of art, carpets and household items (dishes, clothes, craft tools) of the past centuries from all regions of the country.

  • Hours of operation are 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Mondays off.
  • Museum website

Museum of Modern Art (Müasir İncəsənət Muzeyi)

The museum’s collection contains more than 800 pieces by local (and not only) artists and sculptors. One of the museum’s principles is complete freedom and absence of frames. Already from the outside, the building hints at the inner content: futuristic metal figures are installed near the entrance.

  • Opening hours are from 11:00 to 20:00, Mondays off
  • Museum website

TV Tower (Teleqüllə)

At the top of the tallest building in Azerbaijan there is an observation deck and a restaurant with a magnificent panorama. The restaurant slowly rotates around the axis: in about an hour the tables make a full circle. The whole city is really as if in the palm of your hand.

Baku is famous not only for its sights, but also for its national cuisine. Don’t forget to try real pilaf, kutabs, lula kebab, dolma, soups and oriental sweets. For example, you can buy juicy baklava right on the boulevards.

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