Baku: the ancient faces of modern cities for curious tourists

Visitors arrived from abroad, what to show them in Baku? – 10 places

Guests from abroad came to Baku, what to show them?

We must admit: many of us are aware of the attractions of other countries better than the iconic places in their homeland, Baku. It is especially noticeable when you have to entertain a guest from abroad and introduce him to our capital.

Where to go, where to start a tour of Baku? We have compiled a list of the top 10 places of interest in Baku and if you haven’t visited them yet find time to go and see them.

Icheri Sheher (The Old City)

Icheri Sheher, also called the “Old City”, has slightly changed its historical image over the past decades. Although here and there appeared atypical for it high-rise buildings, in general, it is one of the three most visited tourist places of Baku, because there you can still feel the atmosphere of the ancient city.

This part of the city, which has been used as a settlement since the Paleolithic period, was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2000. In 2003 Icheri Sheher was recognized as one of the world heritage sites in danger of extinction. In the “cobbled streets” of the old town there is also a building dating back to Hellenistic history.

Entrance to Icheri Sheher is free.

2. SHIRVANSHAHS PALACE

This palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2000, is located in the Old City. Located at the top of the fortress walls, the building has been used as a museum since 1964. It is known that the palace was built by Ibrahim Halilullah, king of the Shirvanshah dynasty in the 15th century.

There are different views on the purpose of the palace. It is said that it was the abode of Sufis and religious meetings and divans were held here. In addition to the palace, the complex includes the Divankhana, the tomb of Shirvanshahs, Shah Mosque, palace bath, hunting lodge, the tomb of palace scholar Seyed Yahya Bakuvi and the remains of Keigubad Mosque. The recent restoration of the museum can not be considered successful, but it has not lost its historical value, because the old parts are preserved.

Cost of admission tickets:

  • Azerbaijani citizens: adults 2 manat, students 1 manat, children 0.20 manat. Entrance is free for pre-school children, soldiers, the disabled of the first and second groups, national heroes, the disabled and war veterans, families of martyrs.
  • Foreign tourists: Adults 15 manat, students 6 manat, children 0.20 manat.

Guide services 20 manat for foreign citizens and 10 manat for our citizens.

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3. THE GIRL’S TOWER

There are many unresolved historical-architectural questions regarding this rare tower-shaped monument. One suggestion is that it was built as an ancient temple during Zoroastrianism, while many researchers have emphasized its historical importance as a defensive fortification to watch danger from the sea or as a lighthouse for ships. The height of the Maiden Tower is 28 m, the diameter on the first floor is 16,5 m. The walls of the first floor are 5 metres thick. Inside the tower is divided into 8 floors. Each floor is built of hewn stones and covered with a domed ceiling.

The stone ceilings in the tower have round holes in the middle. The holes are in the direction of the vertical line. Thus, looking through the round hole in the middle of the 8th floor ceiling, one can see the floor of the first floor. The only entrance to the fort is on its west side, an arched opening 2 m high and 1.1 m wide above the previous surface.

Official sources say that it was built in the 12th century, but in the studies of some historians it was built in the 6th century, before the arrival of Islam in Azerbaijan. The tower was used as a lighthouse in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 2000, the Maiden Tower was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Ticket prices:

  • Azerbaijani citizens: adults 2 manat, students 1 manat, children 0.20 manat. Entrance is free for pre-school children, soldiers, the disabled of the first and second groups, national heroes, the disabled and war veterans, families of martyrs.
  • Foreign tourists: 15 manat for adults, 6 manat for students, 0.20 manat for children.

Guide services 20 manat for foreign citizens and 10 manat for our citizens.

4. ATESHGYAH

Ateshgah is one of the three shrines of fire worshippers in the world. Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest religions, originated in the territory of Azerbaijan. And the Absheron Peninsula, especially Surakhani, rich in oil and gas deposits, was inhabited by Zoroastrians around the II-III centuries BC, it was the most suitable place for them to build a temple, and the temple was called “Ateshgah”, that is “place of fire”, “worship of fire”.

At that time, thousands of fires were burning in the Azerbaijani land. Both in majestic temples, and in tombs of simple people “graceful fire” burned, spreading around fragrance of sandalwood and boxwood. Many travelers and scholars, including prominent British public figure, traveler and publicist of XVIII century Jonas Hanvey (1744), wrote about the existence around Baku of the whole complexes of ancient temples of fire of different types, built in different periods.

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Russian orientalist Ilya Berezin wrote in 1842: “People worshipped fire, seeking protection from misfortune and oppression, praying for happiness and peace. Azerbaijan got its name “Land of Fires” because of these ancient fires. The city of Baku, located in the southern tip of Russia, consists of many things that deserve the full and deep interest of all kinds of tourists, but without a doubt, the unquenchable fires themselves are a unique event that attracts the attention of travelers more than anything else.

Ticket prices:

  • Foreign nationals – 4.00 manat. Locals – 2,00 manat. Students – 1 manat
  • Tour in Azerbaijani language – 3,00 manat, in other languages – 5,00 manat.

If you want to make a photo-video, the official price for one day is 240 manat.

5. BAKU BOULEVARD

The Baku Boulevard, opened in 1909, stretches along the Baku coast of the Caspian Sea. At the beginning of the century, this part of the city, where the residences of oil merchants living in Baku were located, was later named the Seaside National Park.

Boulevard, created by filling the seashore, after independence expanded and became a center of attraction with museums, monuments and entertainment centers. Here you can take a boat trip, take a boat ride through “Little Venice”. The prices for these entertainments vary from 10-20 manat for local and foreign tourists.

Entrance to the territory of the boulevard is free.

6. GOBUSTAN STATE HISTORICAL AND ARTISTIC RESERVE

On the southeastern side of the Caucasus Mountains there is an area with rock carvings created about 40,000 years ago. They are located 56 km from the city of Baku and occupy the territory of Beyuk Dash, Kichkdash, Yazili Tepe in Chingirdag, Shongar and Shikhgaya mountains. The season to visit this place is autumn and winter, because there are enough snakes in these rocks. There is a modern and very interesting museum in the reserve. In addition to ancient drawings, words written in Latin were discovered at the foot of Beyukdash Mountain in Gobustan. This inscription dates back to the I century BC and mentions the presence of Roman troops near Baku. About 5000 rock drawings have been found here. Gobustan State Historical and Artistic Reserve has been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2007.

Baku: the most interesting sights

Located on the shore of the warm Caspian Sea, the capital of Azerbaijan – Baku is becoming more and more attractive to tourists every year. Baku combines the spirit of the traditional Muslim east and the modern progressive trends.

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Baku. Old City

Baku. Old City

City should not leave anyone indifferent. After all Baku – and medieval fortresses, and historical residential quarters, palaces, religious buildings (mosques, minarets and even Christian temples) and post-modern Baku architecture, and striking and impressive. And of course, this is also majestic mountains, warm and gentle sea, sultry beaches. Among all this diversity, the most impressive are the main attractions of the Azerbaijani capital, such as:

  1. The Old City (IcheriSheher).
  2. The Maiden Tower (24 Asaf Zeynalli Street).
  3. Palace of the Shirvanshahs (76, Zamkovaya Street).
  4. Mohammad Mosque (42 Mirza Mansur Street)
  5. The Flame Towers (1a Mehti Huseynzadeh St)
  6. Heydar Aliyev Centre (1, Heydar Aliyev Avenue)

Old City of Baku

Almost every ancient city has its historical center, its “Old Town”. In Prague it is Stare Mesto, in Nuremberg and Dresden it is Aldstadt and in Baku it is IcheriSheher. This is where the future capital city began to take shape in the distant past. IcheriSheher, situated in the southwest part of the city, is a well-preserved historic residential quarter surrounded by medieval fortress walls.

Baku Old City

Old City of Baku

Today it is a historical-architectural reserve, which is not surprising. Because this complex is the only surviving example of medieval architecture in Baku. In addition to houses (in which, by the way, people still live) there remained the Maiden Tower and the Palace of Shirvanshahs, symbols of the city, about fifteen mosques, including the Mosque of Mohammed, dating back to the XI century, minaret buildings and utilitarian buildings. All the buildings are connected to each other by narrow, winding streets that have well absorbed the spirit of the medieval city.

Baku Old City

Old City of Baku

IcheriSheher is a unique complex captivating with its simplicity, monumentality and at the same time whimsical Muslim architecture. By the way, the famous shots from the popular Soviet movie “Brilliant Arm” were shot here.

Baku Old City

Old City of Baku

Maiden Tower (Giz Galasy)

The Maiden Tower (or Giz Galasy in Azeri) is perhaps the most famous landmark not only of the old city, but also of all Baku. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it can rightfully be considered a unique architectural monument. The Maiden’s Tower is interesting, first of all, for its unique volumetric-spatial and compositional solution. Erected on the ledge of coastal rock, the tower has an unusual cylindrical form, consisting of eight tiers covered inside by stone vaults.

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Maiden Tower in Baku

Maiden Tower in Baku

The height of the tower is 28 meters, which makes it the dominant feature of the Old City. Erected during the early Middle Ages, the Maiden’s Tower raises a number of disputes about its original purpose. The fact is that it used to be located directly in the sea, and probably could have served as a lighthouse. This is also the explanation of the projection in the east part of the tower, which might have served as a breakwater.

Maiden Tower in Baku

Maiden Tower in Baku

There is also an opinion that the tower was of a cultic and ritual character. It has been suggested that it could be an incarnation of a Near Eastern temple of fire. Anyway, the Maiden Tower, being a museum since 2000, is an outstanding work of Azerbaijani architecture.

Shirvanshahs Palace

Another important landmark of the Old City is the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, the rulers of the medieval feudal state of Shirvan. This grandiose complex, belonging to Shirvan-Absheron school of architecture was built in XIII-XVI centuries. Today it is UNESCO World Heritage along with Maiden Tower.

Shirvanshahs Palace

The Palace of the Shirvanshahs

The ensemble includes the palace itself, the divan-khaneh courtyard with a rotunda pavilion, the mausoleum of Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, a palace mosque with a minaret, a tomb, an eastern portal and a bath. Despite the large number of buildings, included in the complex, the palace of Shirvanshahs looks like a stylistically and compositionally unified ensemble, combining in itself the features typical to the Apsheron school of architecture – strict cubic forms and motives of decorative oriental arcades, particularly brightly manifested in the rotunda diwan-khan. The palace now houses a museum with a magnificent collection of national household items, jewelry and weapons.

Shirvanshahs Palace

The Palace of the Shirvanshahs

Mohammed Mosque in Baku

The most ancient surviving structure in Azerbaijan is the mosque of Muhammad, built in the 11th century. The mosque with its minaret is a typical example of Islamic religious architecture. The two-tiered, laconic building is covered by a lancet arch; the interior is richly decorated with ornamental floral patterns. The mihrab (a kind of analogue of the Christian apse), extending beyond the main line of the wall, is a distinctive feature of the construction. In the beginning of the XVII century after the unsuccessful siege of Russian troops, the mosque received its second name, Synyk-kala, which means “damaged tower”. The mosque at the moment is functioning, and guided tours are even allowed for male tourists.

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The Flame Towers

Despite the conservatism and austerity of the East, Baku is a fairly modern city. And the symbol of such a city to date is an ultramodern skyscraper complex called “The Flame Towers”. This complex, built recently – in 2007 – 2012, has already received worldwide fame.

Flaming towers in Baku

The Flame Towers in Baku

Three skyscrapers of different heights (which, by the way, can be seen from anywhere in Baku) by their architectural shape really resemble tongues of flame, especially this impression is enhanced at night, when stunningly designed lighting turns the skyscrapers into a burning fire. It is said that this form was not chosen by chance – the architects wanted to embody the spirit of the “Land of Fire” – as Azerbaijan is sometimes called.

Flaming towers in Baku

The Flame Towers in Baku

At least, many have already noticed that these towers seem to echo the tongues of flame depicted on the city’s coat of arms.

Baku embankment

Beautiful, wide, blooming embankment of Baku was laid in 1909. The length of the embankment is more than 10 km – agree, it is difficult to walk on foot. Today it is one of the favorite places of citizens.

Baku embankment

Baku quay

Baku embankment

Baku quay

Heydar Aliyev Center

The second symbol of modern Baku worthy of attention is the Heydar Aliyev Center, bearing the name of the third president of Azerbaijan. Designed by architect Zaha Hadid, it was built in the same years as the Flaming Towers, between 2007 and 2012.

Heydar Aliyev Center

Heydar Aliyev Center

The Center was established to thoroughly study and promote Azerbaijan’s history, culture and art, as well as to consistently develop areas such as philosophy and urban planning, economy and politics. The facility is interesting mainly due to its unique architectural design. Zaha Hadid, often called the postmodernist genius of Azerbaijan, created a striking by design and implementation project.

The wavy flowing form of the building, according to the author’s idea, is designed to implement a symbolic transition between past and future. The white color of the facades, in addition to its ideological function as an embodiment of the desire to move forward, is a means of expressive form: the play of light and sunlight on the snow-white facades emphasizes convex and concave elements, creating a sense of a fantasy space structure. This complex includes the Heydar Aliyev Museum, exhibition halls with expositions on Azerbaijani history and culture, a congress center and various office rooms.

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