Basking in Baku

Let’s be honest. Until a few years ago, you would be failing the question ‘where is Baku?’ on a quiz but now, thanks to social media, the hype it creates and the little knowledge it provides sometimes can help us educate ourselves a little. For example, now everyone knows Baku is in Azerbaijan and that is a country in Asia. If it is on your travel bucket list (if not, put it on there), then here is what you must do and see when in Baku.

Nizami Street

Nizami street is one of the main streets in Baku. Locals love shopping in fancy and glamorous brand stores, have dinner in fast food joints or local/international cuisine restaurants, or finally, just take a stroll. And during this walking time take aesthetically pleasing pictures. In Baku, this is a must-see. The most common name of Nizami Street among locals is Torgovaya, which means “Trade” in Russian. The street was named as this during the Russian Empire era. The service in the shops and restaurants in this street is higher than in other parts of Baku.

Little Venice – A little bit of Europe

"Little Venice" in Baku Boulevard is a small town built in 1960. It was expanded up to 10.000 square meter in 2012. The town has two large and several small islands, which are connected by decorative stone bridges, and gondolas can be seen travelling in the channels of still and clean water. Located near the Caspian seashore, you get those Venice feels that are down on everyone’s bucket list. The restaurants located in the 'islands' offer various meals of the different cuisine, including Azerbaijanian tasty dishes.

If you don’t happen to make it to Venice before it sinks, this is a pretty good alternative.

Old City – For the history geeks

Baku sprang in the womb of the Old City, hence the name. Think of it as a city within a city and the locals have high regard of this place, making it one of the biggest tourist attractions in Baku. Serenity and eternity peace among the ancient walls attract everyone. Old City is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The residents of Old City still continue their daily livelihood. By visiting Old City you may observe both how people live today and lived centuries ago in this area. The history of Old City dates back to the Bronze age. Mosques, hammams, karvansarays, divans, palaces and of course symbol of Baku – Maiden tower, will welcome you during your trip here.

Heydar Aliyev Center – Sticking to clichéd tourism

Thanks to the exposure social media gives us, this one architectural masterpiece is easy to spot and name. The architect of the building is world renowned Zaha Hadid, who created several exciting buildings. Here in Baku the center reminds you of a wave or sail. People visit several exhibitions about Heydar Aliyev (to whom the center named after), Azerbaijan and various topics. The place is very unique and has cosmic feelings making it front and center of the Baku tourism experience. The building locates several temporary and permanent museums and exhibitions. Therefore, always you can find a reason to visit the Center, in case architectural appreciation isn’t enough.

Bilgah – Beach vacay vibes

If you are looking for the cleanest beach along the Caspian Sea in Absheron, then Bilgah is the place you want to visit. Labelled as the best, you’d find beaches crowded with people of all ages and background. However, sometimes it is inevitable that those crowds leave a mess behind them and is there a bigger turn off than a dirty beach? The Caspian Sea itself still offers one of the best summer experiences in Baku. You can spend all day there. The best time to avoid crowds would be early morning till six in the evening. Although it is free for public access, they will charge you for facilities you use such as umbrella or chairs. The fare to rent facilities ranges from five to 15 AZN. Everything aside, this is where you can bask under the Baku sun.

Maiden Tower – Symbol of Baku

This is a unique eight floor structure with majestic four to five meter thick walls built on a rocky promontory overlooking the Caspian Sea. Maiden Tower has been included into UNESCO’s World Heritage List. There is an amazing view of the city and the Caspian Sea from the top of the Tower. Only by visiting Maiden Tower you are allowed to claim that you have indeed been to Baku. It operates as a museum as well. The tower’s unusual shape which is unique in the East testifies to the archaic nature of the building. Some researchers suggest that the tower used to be a chapel for fire-worshipers and refer its construction to the VIII-VII centuries BC.

History Museum – Honouring the roots

Established in 1920, Azerbaijan History Museum is one of the oldest as well as biggest museums in the country. The collection and exhibits show the development of the material and spiritual culture, originals of the documents of political history and social-economic life of Azerbaijan from ancient times to present day. The museum is located in the house of Taghiyev, the oil magnat lived in the early XX century. By visiting the museum you will face the conditions how the elite of the time lived.

Qobustan - Raw historical heritage

Located 60 km from Baku, the State Historical-Artistic Reserve “Qobustan”, is an open-air museum. It's listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List as an "outstanding universal value" for the quality and density of its rock art engravings – more than 6,000 drawings on 1,000 rocks, more than 100,000 artifacts and others to marvel upon. There you’ll see a lot of rock art pieces – petroglyphs reflecting the culture, economy, philosophy, customs and traditions of ancient people. In addition to this, there is a Latin inscription dating back centuries, which testifies to the presence of Roman legions near Baku. The oldest of the images belongs to the Mesolithic era.