Baku has something to suit everyone
On the shores of the Caspian sea lies a small yet vibrant city called Baku. The perfect combination of a nascent nation with the antiquity that dates back for millennia. This city has witnessed a history of an exodus of people that include the Turkic tribe, Shiite Muslims with Persian origins, and the Russians all of whom helped to forge the exotic and fascinating city it has become. Azerbaijan is also referred to as “the land of fire” which may be due to the large deposits of oil in the land but also due to the energy and intelligence of its people which made of Baku a very important commercial center on the Silk Route, the trading passageway from Europe to China.
Azerbaijan’s capital combines a medieval old town with 19th-century European palaces and today’s ultramodern skyline. Once notoriously expensive and now affordable, this relatively unknown travel destination has something to suit everyone, from history buffs to food connoisseurs.
Palace of the Shirvanshahs
“A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the palace is one of the oldest symbols of Baku and the biggest monument of the Shirvan-Absheron branch of the Azerbaijan architecture, situated in the Old Town. It was built in the 15th century.
Located in the Baku Bay, the Bibi-Heybat Mosque is a historical mosque in Baku. It is one of the most significant monuments of Islamic architecture, heritage architecture, enriching the culture and history of Azerbaijan. The existing structure, built in the 1990s, is a recreation of the mosque with the same name built in the 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II, which was completely destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1936.
In the heart of Baku’s vibrant center, Flame Towers are the tallest skyscrapers in Baku with a height of 190 meters (623 ft). Stand at Baku’s downtown seafront or in the Old City, and you’ll see them rising in the distance, three tapering towers reaching up, combining to form the shape of a vast fire. Fairmont Baku Hotel lies within one of the three Flame Towers, an extraordinary, award-winning hotel.
Zoroastrian Fire Temple (Ateshgah)
The Temple of Fire “Ateshgah” on the List of World Heritage Sites, UNESCO. It’s been a museum since 1975. The fires use to come out of the top of the 4 corners. This fascinating Fire Temple was a place of sacrifice founded above a natural gas vent. Marco Polo described the oil fields of the Absheron peninsula around 800 years ago: “Near the Georgian border, there is a spring from which gushes a stream of oil, in such abundance that a hundred ships may load there at once. This oil is not good to eat; but it is good for burning and as a salve for men and camels affected with itch or scab. Men come from a long distance to fetch this oil, and in all the neighborhood no other oil is burnt but this.”
The most majestic and mysterious monument of Baku is Maiden Tower, also known locally as Giz Galasi, rising in the south-eastern part of the fortress of Ichari Shahar and was built in the 12th century as part of the walled city. This unique building of the Azerbaijani architecture does not have any analogues in the East. The origins of the tower are shrouded in mystery, no one knows for certain when it was built or what it was built for. No written sources survive that record its construction or original function. As soon as you get to the top of it, you will be amazed with the spacious view of Baku and its all beauty.
Icheri Sheher (Baku’s Old Town)
Baku’s UNESCO-listed fortified old town was once the medieval capital of the Shirvan Shahs. Today, it’s the capital’s heart with Maiden Tower, traditional carpet weavers, bars and restaurants. Visiting traders in a bygone era often referred to Icheri Sheher as the Acropolis of Baku.
Named after former Azerbaijani poet, Nizami Ganjavi, the 3.5 kilometre-street forms the main shopping district. As you stroll through, pay close attention as the architecture changes from the baroque, neo-gothic, and neo-renaissance façades and to more mundane Stalinesque styles.
House of Government
The opulent baroque House of Government on Neftchiler Avenue was built in 1952 by the Soviets. Ministry offices occupy the space inside. The main attraction is the architectural beauty, especially when it lights up at night.
National Flag Square
National Flag Square marks the western end of Baku Boulevard. Officially opening in 2007, the square is a symbol of national pride. The giant flag measuring 70 by 35 metres on a flagpole standing 162 metres was once in the Guinness Book of Records. Tajikistan now holds the record.
Baku Boulevard, a 3.5 kilometre-promenade, hugs the Caspian Sea with an amusement park, bars and cafés along with a cacti garden, Mini-Venice, and the Baku Eye. Beginning at National Flag Square and ending at Freedom Square, this is the best spot for views of the Flame Towers and a relaxing stroll along the coast.
Teze Pir Mosque
Three years after the completion of Central Baku’s sandstone Teze Pir, the mosque with gold plated minarets fell victim to the 1917 October Revolution. Bolshevik-ruled Baku turned the mosque into a cinema and later a barn. It reopened as a mosque again in 1943.
The extravagant Venetian gothic palace has a sad story. Early 20th century oil baron Agha Musa Naghiyev lost his son, Ismayil, to tuberculosis. He hired world-class Polish architect Jozef Plosko to design the building in memory of his son, which opened in 1913. The baron paid for the project and then donated it to the Islamic Charity. It became a meeting and assembly hall, and is now the Presidium of the Academy of Sciences.