Baku, far more than just the capital of Azerbaijan, sits as the historical, cultural and business center of this West Asian country. Aptly nicknamed the City of Winds, Baku’s location on the western shore of the Caspian Sea subjects it to strong winds throughout the year while also gracing the city with gorgeous seaside views. With a population of over 2 million people, Baku is the largest city on the Caspian Sea and in the entire Caucasus region.

Baku offers attractions for everybody: Sunny beaches provide a prime spot to unwind, while elegant theaters and quirky museums will satisfy the cultured tourist. Modern architecture creates an otherworldly contrast with Old City quarters, while beautifully designed parks provide the perfect place to unwind in a serene environ.  Trendy cafes and nights clubs attract young people, and delicious cuisine will satisfy taste buds of every type. The city offers dozens of pedestrian-friendly streets and entertainment centers for the comfort of its residents and visitors. No matter your age or sphere of interest, Baku’s diversity and festive vibe are hard to resist. 

Come encounter this city of wind and flames, where eastern and western culture melds into one, with our Baku Travel Guide.

Brief History of Baku

The earliest records of the city of Baku date back to the early Middle Ages. Baku means “the city of God” or “the place of God” and was founded by the 5th century AD. The region’s early settlements were located along the crossroads of migration and trade routes along the Great Silk Road. The city was severely damaged during the Mongol invasion in the 1400s, but its economy was revived in the following century.  

In the 16th century, Baku became part of the Safavid Dynasty and was governed by the Iranian shahs until being conquered soon afterwards by the Ottoman Empire. At the beginning of the 17th century the Persians were able to regain power, which they retained until the Russian Empire conquered the land at the beginning of the 19th century. In 1920 Baku, along with the whole of Azerbaijan, was annexed into the USSR, where it remained until gaining full independence in 1991.

Today, Baku is the leading economic and cultural center in Transcaucasia.

Baku Highlights

Baku offers an enticing variety of attractions to satisfy travellers of every type:

  • Stroll down Baku Boulevard, a famous seaside avenue along the shore of the Caspian Sea and a must-see for first-time visitors to Baku. The huge embankment stretches over 25 kilometres and amazes visitors with its impressive displays of original architecture. (Baku dress code tip: No matter the time of year, have a jacket handy, as Baku Boulevard will put to rest any doubts in your mind as to why the capital is called the City of Winds!)
  • Get lost in the cobblestone labyrinth of Old Town, rich in history and Old World charm.
  • Feel like royalty at Shirvanshahs Palace, Baku’s medieval government headquarters where the famous Soviet movie “The Diamond Arm” was shot.
  • Climb Maiden’s Tower, a symbol of the city and one of the most mysterious buildings in the capital that provides a tangible history lesson and an amazing city view.
  • Chill out at Nagorny Park as you enjoy gorgeous views of Baku and the Caspian Sea from the highest point in the city.
  • Weave your way through the Carpet Museum, which tells the stories of Azerbaijan through the beautiful ornamentation and interwoven colors of traditional local carpets.
  • Increase your cultural IQ at the Heydar Aliyev Culture Center, sure to impress lovers of modern and contemporary art with its unique architecture and informative exhibitions. Be sure to stick around to appreciate the sparkling illumination of the center after sunset.

Baku’s surrounding vicinities offer additional opportunities for adventure: Immerse yourself in the beauty of ancient cave paintings at the Gobustan Museum of Petroglyphs, uncover the mystery of  the ever-burning fire of Yanardag or travel back in time with a visit to Ateshgah Temple, an object of pilgrimage for Zoroastrians for hundreds of years.

Baku can be experienced on foot or by metro, taxi or public bus. If you’re looking to visit as many places as possible in a short amount of time, renting a bicycle at Baku Boulevard is another fun alternative. See the section on Public Transport in Baku below for further information on how to get around the city.

Baku Museums

Baku is the historical, business and cultural center of the country, and travelers can find dozens of museums and art galleries here. The National Museum of the History of Azerbaijan, Gala Open-Air Museum and the well-known Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography are the most popular destinations for those who want to immerse themselves in the history and traditions of Azerbaijan.

For those looking for something more unusual, take a trip to the Baku Museum of Miniature Books, which includes the three smallest books in the world, or the Azerbaijan Carpet Museum, housed in a building designed to resemble a rolled-up carpet.

Theatres of Baku

Travel in Baku will bring you face-to-face with a diverse selection of concerts and plays that are sure to satisfy young and old alike. Among its most acclaimed cultural centers are the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall, which holds regular classical and traditional concerts in a spectacular early-20th century rotunda, and the Azerbaijan Drama Theater, where the country’s finest plays and performances are held. One of the oldest theaters in Baku is the Russian Drama Theater, which opened in 1920 and is well worth a visit. The Russian Drama Theater continues to amaze spectators with performances of classic Russian and Soviet literature, in addition to entertaining children’s plays.

If you’re looking to combine the outdoors with a unique cultural experience, the Baku Open-Air Cinema has summer showings of classic and modern films against the scenic backdrop of the Caspian Sea.

Parks of Baku

While it may be a large megapolis, you can still enjoy nature in the many lovely parks of Baku. City dwellers and visitors alike find respite among the fountains, benches and shady pathways of Baku’s well-kept gardens and parks.

In Officer Park you’ll find yourself immersed in a green oasis complete with charming footpaths and graceful poplars entwined with ivy. Cute statues and figurines of frolicking children, a photographer, a chess player, flower vendors and a master teahouse add to the park’s endearing atmosphere.

Baku can be experienced on foot or by metro, taxi or public bus. If you’re looking to visit as many places as possible in a short amount of time, renting a bicycle at Baku Boulevard is another fun alternative. See the section on Public Transport in Baku below for further information on how to get around the city.