Welcome to Baku, Azerbaijan’s pearl and it’s capital city. Resting on the shores of the Caspian Sea, this city has a rich culture that you can never be bored with. Baku was born at the confluence of Persian, Arabian and Russian influences and you can see that in its architecture, art, culture and cuisine. But wait, are you here for a short stay? Here’s my list of top destinations you can visit in one day and still get the taste of the local life.
If you’re like me, you probably like to travel calmly without being rushed. This itinerary can be completed at your own pace, without feeling your feet numbed at the end of the day.
Ready, set, here are top must-sees you can fit in one day of visiting Baku:
1. Roam the streets of the old town
A walk in Baku’s old town will reveal an interesting mix of medieval fortifications, local souvenir shops, art galleries, and modern European-style cafes. Explore intimate cobblestone streets and wooden balconies, Baku’s old town is a traveler’s ideal maze to stroll around.
Right in the heart of the city you can see the old city walls with the Maiden Tower (dated at least to the 12th century) and the Palace of Shirvanshahs (15th-16th centuries), amongst the oldest symbols of Baku.
Walk alongside the city wall and you’ll find plenty of restaurants and cafes. But be warned, locals rarely speak English. If you’re really hungry, you’re very likely to get stuck in deciphering the menu before getting anything to your belly. Better bring your Russian conversation guide with you.
Time to explore: 40 min – 2 h
2. The Maiden Tower
The Maiden Tower is Baku’s landmark, a legendary place that has been guarding the city for over 10 centuries. Its origins are still a mystery to this day, but it’s believed to be dating back to the 6th – 7th century.
Old treasures bare their stories and the Maiden Tower is no different. This story begins with a king that fell in love with his daughter and asked her to marry him. Devastated by this, the princess tried to delay the marriage by requesting her father to build the tallest tower for her. Once the building was completed, the princess cast herself off the top of the Tower into the waves of the Caspian sea.
The tower can be visited and shows the evolution of the city throughout ages. Don’t know anything about Baku and the Azeri people? Visit the tower and you’ll get a decent glimpse at the local history.
And as a bonus, you’ll get to enjoy one of the most beautiful city views from the tower’s rooftop.
Entrance fee: 7 ANM / 4 EUR
Time to explore: 20 – 40 min
3. Milli Park
Traveler, meet the Caspin sea. Whether you’re in Baku for a couple of hours or more, you can’t possibly miss Milli Park. Enjoy a relaxing walk on Baku Boulevard alongside the Caspian sea, with a beautiful view, plenty of cafes and mini boutiques, there’s even a mall for the shopaholic (though, besides international fashion brands like Zara and Mango, you won’t find much in there.)
In for a chill walk and amazing scenery? Milli Park is for you.
Entrance fee: free
Time to explore: 30 min – 2 h
4. The Carpet Museum
Picture this: Alladin on a flying carpet. That was the first thing that came to mind when I thought about Azerbaijan. As silly as one may think, it’s not too far away from reality – the art of carpet making has been Azerbaijan’s signature craft. It remains in the memory of Azerbaijan people as an image of sacred forces, wise sayings, a companion in life’s most precious moments, from birth, weddings, celebrations, during the most bitter days, and until the very last moment.
The carpet itself is considered sacred, according to the legend, the spindle represents the Earth’s axis, the spinner waves her feminine destiny, loops and nodes applied to the surface of the carpet show strong ties, permanence and eternity. Moreover, various patterns are viewed as a talisman.
Located in the Milli Park, towards the Flame Towers and right next to the Ferris Wheel, you can easily recognize the museum’s building – it literally looks like a rolled carpet, covered in traditional motifs.
Entrance fee: 10 ANM / 5.7 EUR
Time to explore: 20 min – 1 h
5. Ferris Wheel
There’s nothing much to say about the Ferris Wheel other that you can enjoy one of the most breath-taking views of the city. You can find it behind the Carpet museum, in Milli Park.
Entrance fee: 7 ANM / 4 EUR
Time to enjoy: 15 min
6. Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center
It doesn’t get more science fiction than Zaha Hadid’s famous cultural center. An impressive building, almost taken out of a futuristic time, this piece of art is the perfect blend of modern architecture and local Azeri culture. The outside has a flowy shape, while the inside will cause you a temporary dizziness – the shock of white will feel overwhelming, but once you get used to it, you’ll start to notice how well it works for the eye.
The Cultural Center is not in the old town, you’ll need to take the subway or get a cab. Don’t even think about walking there. Baku is a city built for cars therefore, if you step out of the center you’ll notice no pavements for pedestrians and very few crosswalks. It took me two hours to reach the center by foot, and that meant chasing crosswalks and pedestrian passages.
Entrance fee: 15 ANM (exhibition included) / 8.5 EUR
Time to explore: 40 min – 2 h
Wow, no Flame Towers in this article
Precisely, and that’s because they’re not worth it. Sorry to break your heart, but the famous Flame Towers look wonderful from a distant view, they will surely fit in all of your pictures from the Milli Park, old town and Carpet Museum. But once you get closer you’ll see it as it is, mere glass buildings.
But I really want to see them! if you do want to get there, take the funicular from the Carpet Museum, it will leave you right in front of them and you get to enjoy a fun ride.
P.S. The view is wonderful from the funicular top station.
Funicular ticket: 1 manat
Time to enjoy: 5 – 10 min
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