Baku Azerbaijan Travel Guide A Vagabond Life
Baku Azerbaijan Travel Guide
Baku is the capital of Azerbaijan and the largest city in both Azerbaijan & the Caucasus. Baku sits on the Caspian Sea in the lowlands of Azerbaijan. Heavily influenced by the Soviet-era Baku really does have an East meets West culture.
At the heart of Baku is the UNESCO listed old city or Icari Sahar, an ancient walled precinct with winding lanes and alleyways that was once part of the Silk Route.
Today Baku is the fastest growing city in the region with oil wealth funding Dubai style towers and Parisian like grand pedestrian boulevards.
If you re in Baku for few days it is a good idea to get a Bakicard which can be used on both the metro and buses. Bakicards can be purchased at ticketing machines at metro stations for 2AZN and then can be topped up as needed. The 2AZN is refundable when the card is returned.
Bus routes are available at gomap.az Click the arrows in the top left-hand corner to expand the menu and select English. From there you can search the menu for the information you are looking for. We also found Google Maps route planner a great tool
Baku has an excellent Metro system built in Soviet times. It connects the old city with a number of suburban stations and Baku’s main bus station – Avtovghzal – where buses depart for ll corners of Azerbaijan.
Eating In Baku Azerbaijan
The Baku Old Town has a plethora of restaurants all doing similar types of food. We found it to be overpriced and after eating in the Old Town once we opted to eat outside the old town and had some excellent well priced meals.
Baku is full of tiny hole in the wall places doing delicious pastries stuffed full of cheese or meat for a few pennies.
Pilaf – Plov
Popular across much of the middle east Azerbaijan Plov is saffron infused rice cooked with aromatic herbs, meat and vegetables. The recipe varies from town to town and cook to cook.
Popular across the entire region a Kebab is (usually) seasoned meat on a skewer cooked over a BBQ or open flame often served with a salad and rice.
A traditional workers dish Piti is lamb or mutton with vegetables and chickpeas cooked in an earthen pot in the traditional way. Piti will often have a piece of mutton fat on the top.
Similar to Greek Dolmadies Dolma is minced lamb and rice infused with herbs and spices wrapped in either cabbage or vine leaves usually served with yoghurt.
Dovga is a soup traditionally made from plain yoghurt and herbs. It is delicious on a hot day.
Cucumber, tomato and fetta with olive oil. You will eat a lot of this dish while in Azerbaijan, it is served with just about every meal.
DELICIOUS… A type of pancake stuffed with minced lamb, cheese or spinach.
A specialty of Sheki, Azerbaijan Halva is different to the Halva of other middle eastern countries. Azerbaijan Halva comprises of chopped nuts sandwiched between thin layers of fried dough, normally eaten with tea.
With the huge growth happening in Baku there are new hotels popping up all over town. AirBnB also now has a strong presence in Baku.
Old Town Baku
There are numerous guesthouses and min-hotels in Baku’s old town. Prices vary greatly and deals can often be had if you turn up and knock on a few doors particularly out of the main season.
Being right on the Southern Boulevard sounds nice however crossing the insanely busy coastal highway can be a nightmare.
Near Heydar Aliyev Centre
Lots of new hotels in this area many of then aimed at the business traveller. Be aware this area is over 3 km for the Old City.
The Old Town Of Baku is a beautiful historic town with an interesting history BUT it is full of touts all trying to sell you their, shop or restaurant, goods or tour. The are persistent and at times will follow you up the street continuing to push their product. I tend to just ignore them and continue on.
Outside the walls of the Old City is different and you will not be bothered.
Baku Old City
Baku Old City
Baku Historical Centre
The Baku Old City is believed to date back to the 12th century and is totally enclosed by defensive walls. It is the historic centre of Baku. In 2000 the Old City of Baku along with the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and Maiden Tower was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the first in Azerbaijan.
The Old City of Baku was divided into neighbourhoods and often the resident’s occupation or by the names of the Mosques.
List of main neighbourhoods;
- Seyyids, a quarter of clergymen.
- Aghshalvarlilar, a quarter of city nobles, literally “those with white pants”.
- Bozbashyemeyenler, a quarter of “those who do not eat meat”.
- Gemichiler, a quarter of shipbuilders and sailors.
- Hamamchilar, a quarter of public bath workers.
- Arabachilar, a quarter of wagoners and cart-drivers.
- Noyutchuler, a quarter of oil workers.
- Juhud Zeynallilar, a Jewish quarter.
- Lezgiler, a quarter of Dagestani armourers and blacksmiths.
- Gilaklar, a quarter of merchants from Gilan.
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs is a 15th-century UNESCO listed palace built by the Shirvanshahs that has been described by UNESCO as one of the pearls of Azerbaijan’s architecture.
The Palace of the Shirvanshahs along with the Maiden Tower, forms an ensemble of historic monuments inscribed under the UNESCO World Heritage List of Historical Monuments.
Palace of the Shirvanshahs contains;
The building of the palace commenced in 1411. The octagonal central part of the building is the oldest part of the building. The palace once consisted of 52 rooms with only a few now remaining. The western facade was added later and then came the Eastern and Southern facades.
Divan – khane
Believed to have been a court or reception room of the palace. The Divan – Khane is a small closed courtyard that is located on the north side of the palace garden. The western facade is decorated with arabesques and the elliptical cover is slightly domed and protected by a faceted stone.
Seyid Yahya Bakuvi’s Mausoleum.
In the southern courtyard next to the palace is the mausoleum of the ‘dervish’ that was built in the 15th century. It is the burial place of Khalil Ili Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, who was a scholar of medicine, mathematics and astrology.
The Palace Mosque
Next to Khalilullah’s mausoleum and water reservoir was used for pre-worship ablution.
Eastern Portal – Gates of Murad.
Built during the time Baku was occupied by the Ottormans this is a more simplified and less ornate structure.
Close to the Mosque is the Shirvanshahs burial vault.
In the lower courtyard and built in the 15th century it is believed this bathhouse belonged to the palace.
Near the bathhouse is the Ovdan which was one of the largest in the Fortress of the Ovdans supplied drinking water to the palace. Water came to the Ovdan from a pipe system channel water from a distant intake.
The tickets for adults cost 2 AZN, but if you are a student or have a student card (even outdated one), one ticket will cost you 0.60 AZN.
Maidens Tower - Gyz Galasy
Maidens Tower – Gyz Galasy
The Pearl of Baku or Maidens Tower faces the Caspian Sea and Baku Boulevard and is symbolic of Baku. The Maidens Tower is believed to date back to the 12th century the exact purpose of the tower is unclear although it is thought to have possibly been a temple of Zoroastrism. In the 12th century it was used as a defensive fortress of Shirvanshahs.
A favourite legend about this Tower is, a long time ago a king wanted to marry his own daughter. His daughter, ashamed of her father’s intention, asks him to build a tower and agrees to marry as soon as it will be completed. Upon completion, the girl committed suicide by jumping from the top of the tower.
The Maidens Tower is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site.
Opening Hours: Everyday from 10:00 to 18:00
Entrance Fee: 8 AZN for foreigners, 2 AZN for citizens of Azerbaijan, 0.60 AZN for students (foreign student cards are also applicable)
Synyk Gala Mosque (Muhammed Mosque)
Synyk Gala Mosque (Muhammed Mosque)
Said to be the oldest building in Azerbaijan with Arab inscriptions above the mosque entrance dating to 1078AD.
The name Synyk Gala Mosque got its name in the 18th century when Baku was conquered by the armies of Peter 1 The city was heavily bombed by shipborne cannons. One cannon-ball destroyed the upper part of Mohammad Mosque minaret but the structure itself survived. The people gave the mosque the name Synyk-Kala which means Destroyed Tower.
Today tours are given of the Mosque however due to Muslim laws only men are allowed in the Mosque.
Caravanserai of Baku
Caravanserai of Baku
Caravanserais were resting places for the trade caravans on the ancient silk route. Caravanserais come in all shapes and sizes from humble single storey structures to more elaborate stone buildings usually set around a central courtyard. Caravanserais usually had stables, tea shops, restaurants and farms to cater to travellers.
Multani Caravanserai is in the oldest part of town – Icherisheher. The Multani Caravanserai was built in the 15th century for Indian merchants, fire worshipers, who came from the city of Multan in India which is now in present-day territory of Pakistan.
Bukhara Caravanserai also in Icherisheher and opposite Multani Caravanserai . It was built late in the 15th century on the trade route passing through Shemakha gates. It was a place to stay overnight for the merchants and travellers from Central Asia, in particular from Bukhara, so people called it Bukharian caravanserai.
Heydar Aliyev Centre
Heydar Aliyev Centre
The Heydar Aliyev Centre is a huge building dating from 2007. It is known for its distinctive architecture and flowing, curved style that eschews sharp angles.
The centre is named after Heydar Aliyev, the first secretary of Soviet Azerbaijan from 1969 to 1982, and president of Azerbaijan Republic from October 1993 to October 2003.
The Center houses a conference hall (auditorium), a gallery hall and a museum. The project is intended to play an integral role in the intellectual life of the city. Located close to the city center, the site plays a pivotal role in the redevelopment of Baku.
Address: Heydar Aliyev Avenue, 1/1, Baku 1033, Azerbaijan
Cost: From 9:25 Euro
Martyrs' Lane Baku
Martyrs’ Lane Baku
Martyrs’ Lane is also know as Alley of Martyrs or Şəhidlər Xiyabanı is a cemetery and memorial in Baku, Azerbaijan dedicated to those killed by the Soviet Army during Black January 1990 and in the Nagorno-Karabakh War of 1988–1994.
It is estimated that approximately 15,000 people are buried in the cemetery. It is located on a hill in the south of the city overlooking the Caspian Sea. It is considered a shrine to those who have given their lives for Azerbaijan’s independence and attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Mehdi Huseyn St, Baku 1006, Azerbaijan
Open 24 hours
Milli Park Promenade - National Park
Established in 1909 the Milli Park Promenade runs along the shore of the Caspian Sea. The promenade was built when the oil barons of Baku built their mansions along the waterfront. Today it is a pleasant place to stroll along.
The new next to the ancient, the Flame Towers are a stunning sight. The height of the tallest tower is 182 m. The Towers representing flames symbolize fire as a sign of Ahura Mazda in Zoroastrianism by Azerbaijanies and Azerbaijan as a birthplace for the prophet Zoroaster.
Baku has a wonderful shopping precinct just outside the Old City with wide boulevards and beautiful stone buildings.
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