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About city Gallery Where to stay

The capital of Azerbaijan is one of the world’s most beautiful harbour cities. Baku is situated on the Southern part of the Absheron Peninsula, or the western coast of the oil-rich Caspian Sea. It’s a large industrial and cultural centre of Azerbaijan, home to most oil extraction and processing, automobile, building materials, electrical engineering, ship repair and other companies and manufacturers. The city is known as an important railway node and a harbour in the Caspian Sea. Baku has 11 higher education institutions, 3 universities, 30 museums, 7 theatres and many other science- and culture-oriented establishments.

During the last century, this city was known as the Paris of the East. Now, seeing all the high-rise buildings, one is more often reminded of the capital of the United Arab Emirates – after all, both Baku and Dubai owe their prosperity to oil.

The modernization of Baku, however, seems rather forced. The entire city now looks like a construction site. The competition between Dubai and Baku in realizing futuristic architectural ideas is out in the open – both cities hire the same architects and pursue very similar projects. New avenues, parks and skyscrapers are being built day and night.

As the evening comes, the Flame Towers building complex, comprised of three highest skyscrapers in the city, lights up like three giant flames. These buildings are now considered to be the symbol of the three-million-strong capital of the country.

Azneft square during evening hours in Baku
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Azneft square during evening hours in Baku

The city’s modern, multifunctional arena (host of the Eurovision Song Contest three years ago) was built with lightning speed. The building is located near the National Flag Square, which boasts a flag of the country that’s in the Guinness Book of World Records. Its size is comparable to that of a football stadium – it weighs 300 kg and is 162 m high. The flag can be seen from anywhere in the city and looks especially impressive at night when illuminated by powerful floodlights.

Many tourists also like the modern Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre, named after the former president of Azerbaijan who died over a decade ago. It is said that when looked at from above, the building resembles the signature of the late head of state.

Heydar Aliyev Center
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Heydar Aliyev Center

Luckily, the new construction projects are respectful of the most valuable ancient architecture, as Baku was and still is an oriental city with characteristic occult colour. The old part of Baku has the last remaining ruins of Azerbaijan’s khans – the palace of the powerful 15th-century Shirvashan Khanate. The nearby Maiden Tower, built sometime in the 12th century, is deemed an unofficial symbol of the city.

Baku also has many other architectural monuments including fortresses, palaces, caravan inns, and more. Many of them are located within the bounds of the Icheri Shekher Fortress – here you’ll find more than 10 ancient mosques and madrasas.

Colorful art sculpture in the middle of the square in Baku
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Colorful art sculpture in the middle of the square in Baku

At some point in time, every visitor of Baku heads for a long stroll on the boulevard that stretches along the Caspian seashore. This beloved recreational zone is full of palm trees, rhododendrons, platans, fountains, scores of small outdoor cafés, movie theatres and other cultural and entertainment venues.

Even though the fruit- and vegetable-rich Azerbaijani cuisine is excellent, make sure you speak with the locals before heading out, as without proper knowledge, you may simply miss the plain-looking little buildings that serve the best food.

Since most Azerbaijanis are Muslim, the majority of dishes here contain sheep, beef or chicken. As many diners here have no menus, be sure to state exactly what you want, otherwise the waiter will probably just list all of the traditional dishes and start bringing tons of snacks you didn’t order. If you fail to specify the ones you do not want, you’ll have to pay for them all, even if you didn’t touch them. Such are the local traditions. You don’t have to give up on snacks altogether, though – just remember that Baku is an expensive city, and eating out is doubly so.

Where to stay

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