Ancient culture and history seamlessly blend with modern life in Azerbaijan’s capital city of Baku.
Nestled on the shores of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan, the low-lying city boasts a cosmopolitan mix of age-old architecture and contemporary design and is one of the fastest changing cities in the world.
The city is home to a beautiful Medieval walled Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which features the vast royal complex known as the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, and the iconic stone Maiden Tower.
It also boasts a modern side with striking modern buildings like the Zaha Hadid–designed Heydar Aliyev Center, and the Flame Towers, and three-pointed skyscrapers covered with LED screens.
From exploring the 12th-century fortifications of Old City to soaking up the striking sight of the world-famous Flame Towers, here are some of the best things to do in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2023.
16 Best Things to Do in Baku
1. Visit a Mud Volcano
Azerbaijan is home to 30% of the world’s mud volcanoes, and Gobustan National Park is the place to see them.
The Gobustan National Park is the second of Azerbaijan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is a vast sprawling landscape of bubbling mud volcanos, sizzling lakes, and rich anthropological sites.
Visit the Gobustan National Museum to learn all about the history of petroglyphs and to see work tools from the Mesolithic period.
The best way to explore the park is to book a half-day guided tour which includes transport to and from the site, as well as a trip to the Bibi Heybet Mosque.
You can find more information here: Gobustan, Mud Volcano, and Mosque: Stone Age Tour from Baku
2. Walk the Old City
One of the best ways to soak up the history of the Old City (Icharishahar), one of Azerbaijan’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is to walk it.
Stroll through the winding cobblestone streets, touch the stones of the ancient walls, and admire the intricate art on the doors.
The Old City is built on a site that has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic period and has traces of:
- and Shirvani presence.
This cultural melting pot makes it one of the most culturally fascinating places in the region.
You can explore the city on your own or join a guided walking tour where knowledgeable guides elaborate on the main sightseeing points of Old City and delve into the fascinating history of the city.
Icherisheher, Baku, Azerbaijan
3. Visit the Bibi Heybat Mosque
The beautifully restored Bibi Heybat Mosque is one of the highlights of the city and worth visiting for its stunning architecture and interior décor.
The mosque has been rebuilt to resemble the original building which was constructed by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II in the 13th century.
For architecture-buffs, it is a classic example of the Shirvan architectural school and features three domes exquisitely decorated with turquoise and green mirrors, that are bordered with gilded inscriptions from the Qur’an.
Interesting fact – it was the only religious building that was destroyed by Stalin in 1936.
Absheron District, Baku, Azerbaijan
4. Explore the Palace of The Shirvanshahs
Taking center stage in the Old City is the Palace of The Shirvanshahs, which is a vital part of Azerbaijani history.
Built in the 15th century by the rulers of Shirvan, the magnificent sandstone complex is located just behind the fortress walls and emphasizes the striking architecture of the medieval Islamic civilization.
Stroll around the palace building, visit the mausoleum of the King Khalilullah who is buried there with his mother and sons. Also check out the ancient bathhouse where the royals were pampered and preened.
The Palace of The Shirvanshahs is open daily from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and admission is AZN10.
Sabayil, Baku, Azerbaijan, Phone: +994124921073
5. Climb a 29-metre 12th Century Tower
The Maiden Tower, or Giz Galasi as locals call it, is located in the heart of the Old City and is Baku’s most recognised landmark.
Surrounded by a hive of activity from locals and tourists alike, the tower is the centre of the city’s historical importance.
Built in the 12th century, the tower is known as Giz Galasi, which translates to “Virgin Tower“, so named because of its impenetrability.
Climb the Maiden’s Tower up the spiral staircase to the top of the 29 metre-structure for breathtaking views over Baku and its Old City.
The tower is open every day from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, and admission is AZN10.
Sabayil Baku, Azerbaijan, Phone: +994124923261
6. Visit a 17th-Century Fire Temple
The Baku Ateshgah, also known as the Fire Temple of Baku or the Ateshgah Fire Temple, is a castle-like religious temple in Surakhani town that was once a Hindu, Sikh, and Zoroastrian place of worship.
Named for the Persian word for fire, ‘Atash’, the temple was built by the Baku-based Hindu community in the 17th-18th centuries.
It was centered around burning natural gas outlets, a unique natural phenomenon of the region, which led people to believe the inextinguishable fire had mystic properties.
7. Wander Through the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum
Traditional carpet weaving has a special place in the history of the national culture of Azerbaijan, and there is no better place to see some of the intricate and incredible work than at the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum.
The museum is home to an array of the region’s beautiful carpets, as well as over 10,000 objects such as handmade ceramics, jewellery, and metal works from the Bronze Age.
28 Mikayıl Hüseynov Prospekti, Bakı 1000, Azerbaijan, Phone: +994 12 497 20 57
8. Worship Fire like the Locals
The Flame Towers is an iconic trio of buildings located on a hill overlooking Baku Bay and the Old City that add a modern touch to the ancient city.
Inspired by Azerbaijan’s historical past of fire worship amongst locals, the towers were designed and built in the form of a flame and are covered with LED screens that present movements of fire.
Top Tip: Visit the TV tower situated above the Flame Towers for the best views!
Sabayil, Baku, Azerbaijan
9. Explore the Miniature Book Museum
The Miniature Book Museum is well worth a visit because it’s the only one of its kind…. in the world!
Established to inspire young generations to read more, the museum holds thousands of miniature-sized books from all over the world, including editions of works of Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Chukovsky and Gogol.
The smallest book in the museum measures 6mm by 9mm and is a Russian book titled “The Most Miraculous Thing“, which can only be read by using a magnifying glass!
The oldest book in the museum is a copy of the Quran, which dates back to the 17th century.
The Baku Museum of Miniature Books, 67, Baku 1000, Azerbaijan, Phone: +994 12 492 94 64
10. Admire the Architecture of the Ultra-Modern Heydar Aliyev Center
The Heydar Aliyev Center is another of Baku’s iconic pieces of architecture and worth a visit to admire the amazing architecture.
Designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the 57,500 m² building complex is world renowned for its flowing, curved, and organic style that eschews sharp angles.
The innovative and impressive won Zaha Hadid the prestigious Design Museum’s ‘Design of the Year Award’, making her the first female architect to win the coveted prize.
Head inside to escape the heat of the day and check out some of the art on display, which includes works by Andy Warhol. Entrance to the museum is 15 AZN.
1 Heydar Aliyev prospekti, Bakı 1033, Azerbaijan
11. Relax with the Locals
Fountain Square, formerly Parapet, is a popular meeting spot for locals and their families and it’s a great place to relax and people watch in the evening.
The pedestrianized area has dozens of fountains between Nizami Street and the eastern walls of Icheri Scherer, as well as several bars, cafés, and restaurants with outdoor terraces.
Grab a bite to eat at Fisincan, which overlooks the square and serves traditional Azeri cuisine in a casual and laid-back setting.
Fevvareler Meydani, Baku, Azerbaijan
12. Visit the History Museum
The Museum of History of Azerbaijan is worth a visit if you are interested in history and culture and a great spot to learn more about the city and it’s rich past.
Based inside in a beautiful Italian Renaissance-style mansion, the museum is home to over 300,000 artefacts and features excellent exhibits covering ancient to modern history and ethnography.
The museum is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm and admission is AZN5.
4 Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev Street, Sabayil, Baku, 1005, Azerbaijan, Phone: +994124932387
13. Go Shopping
Nizami Street forms the central shopping district of the city and is alive with life.
Named after former Azerbaijani classical poet, Nizami Ganjavi, the 3.5 kilometre-street is lined with beautiful buildings in various architectural styles ranging from Baroque, Neo-Gothic and Neo-Renaissance to Stalinesque.
You’ll find everything along this hip and bustling pedestrianized avenue, including small outlets, souvenir stores, and supermarkets, as well as high-end brand stores, expensive and stylish restaurants, and hotels.
Nizami Street is an excellent spot for a night-time stroll when the area is brightly illuminated by lights and decorations.
Nizami Street, Baku, Azerbaijan
14. Stroll Along Baku Boulevard
If you are in need some entertainment in Baku, head down to Baku Boulevard.
The 3.5 kilometre-promenade hugs the Caspian Sea and features several cafés, bars and restaurants, an amusement park, Mini-Venice, and the Baku Eye.
Beginning at National Flag Square and ending at Freedom Square, the seaside boulevard is perfect for a relaxing stroll along the coast against a backdrop of beautiful city views.
92 Neftçilər Prospekti, Sebail, Baku, Azerbaijan, Phone: +99 412 404 9596
15. Cruise the Caspian Sea
What better way to see the city than from the water!
Cruises into the bay of the Caspian Sea run every day and offer some spectacular views of the city and its iconic buildings like the shimmering Flame Towers and the palaces.
Cruises depart from the main terminal in the centre of Baku Boulevard, cost around 6AZN and last approximately one hour.
Baku Boulevard, Baku, Azerbaijan
16. Touch a 12th Century Fortress Wall
After exploring the Palace, take a closer look at the Old City Walls, which date back to the 12th century and are still standing strong.
Boasting a triple row of fortress walls, the Old City was a magnificent stronghold, and it is fascinating to see how the winding streets of the city create a maze within the walls.
The large squares and broad streets gradually narrow and shrink into a geometric design which allowed full involvement of the city’s residents in defensive activities throughout history.