Welcome to Baku!
Baku, Azerbaijan, is a city that might not be on many people’s “must-see” travel destination list, but truly, it should be. The city is one of the most important cities in the Caucasus region and has a lot to offer, that you won’t really find anywhere else. It has the classic appeal of the old world, with buildings from a generation long passed. With its position in the Caucasus, it really is a meeting place of east and west, and you’ll find those two worlds colliding here.
Baku might be missed by a lot of travelers, but a worldwide local knows the off-the-beaten-path places are usually the most interesting to visit. Interestingly enough, Baku is constantly rated as having some of the best nightlife in the world, and it is home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This guide will help you get started on your journey in the city of winds.
Where to Begin
It might seem obvious to some, but the best way to start your journey here is in the Old City of Baku, where time seems to stand still. This is a walled-in part of town where most visitors will congregate. Access to this part of town is easy, and simply walking through it will make you feel like you took a step back in time to a medieval fantasy world. Most of Baku’s Heritage Sites, like Maidan Tower and The Palace of the Shirvanshahs, are found here. Booking a tour with a local guide is a great idea for those who want to get acquainted with the city from the eyes of someone who lives there.
Worldwide Local Tip: Baku is very walkable, especially in the Old City. Taking public transit to get around will be your best option, as there are several metro stations in the old town that will bring you from most of the Baku hotels to the important landmarks. Or, put on some comfy walking shoes and get around town like the locals.
Visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site
While wandering around the old city, there will be a lot to experience. You’ll walk past several vendors peddling their wares, as well as locals hanging out, drinking their afternoon tea, and playing backgammon. One of the most symbolic landmarks of the city is the Maidan Tower. Built in 700 B.C.E, it was supposedly a Zoroastrian temple, but realistically, most people aren’t sure what its exact purpose was. It has been slightly modernized, with lights and even a gift shop, but it is one of the country’s most culturally relevant spots and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so do check it out.
Worldwide Local Tip: For about 6 USD you can climb to the top of the tower and take in the best view of the city. Get a glimpse of the old city walls and the narrow streets and alleys, and enjoy a bird’s eye views of the beautiful old city.
Take a Break in Fountain Square
So, now you’ve been walking around all day, enjoying the temperate Baku weather and checking out the beautiful sights of the old city. You might be ready to take a break and relax. Head to Fountain Square where you can sit back, enjoy a tea, and do a little people-watching. Fountain Square is a popular place for locals to come and meet. There are always families, groups of friends, and locals just sitting, hanging out, and enjoying the day. Stalls, shops, and some great Baku restaurants are also found around here. Tea is a big deal in Baku, and a worldwide local knows what it takes to fit in. So hang out in Fountain Square, order a tea and shisha, and blend in with the locals.
Worldwide Local Tip: Baku has an amazing nightlife scene, with clubs, bars, and everything in between. A lot of the places that cater to younger crowds can be found around the Fountain Square area. If you’re looking to party a little in the evening, get acquainted with the Fountain Square neighborhood.
Baku sits in a spot on the map where the East and West meet. As such, traditions from both ends tend to meet in Baku. The Bazaar is one of those traditions. Baku has some great markets in the city, where both locals and visitors come to pick up goods. The Taza Bazaar is over 70 years old, and it’s where you can pick up some locally grown food and souvenirs. It’s open daily from 8 am to 7 pm, and it’s where you can experience the daily life of a local.
Worldwide Local Tip: English is not commonly spoken in most parts of the city. Some locals might know a few words or phrases in English in the city center, but you’ll be better off bartering in the bazaars if you know a little Azerbaijani or memorize a few Russian phrases.
Enjoy Your Visit!
Baku is a beautiful old city with the charm and elegance of a world that is influenced by the many nations that surround it. Baku is definitely a city that should not be overlooked by any traveler. A worldwide local knows that sometimes those cities off-the-beaten path offer some of the best experiences.