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Book a flight to Baku and you’ll become one of the growing number of people discovering that Azerbaijan isn’t the backwater it’s perceived to be. Once you arrive at Baku you'll discover that the city is a flamboyant fusion of glass and glamour – and an ideal place to take a well-earned break.
You can fly to Baku with Qatar Airways, and be introduced to a city that offers much more than the apparent opulence that first strikes you.
Your trip to Baku ought to take in Maiden’s Tower. This is a much-loved landmark in the city and also serves as the symbol of Azerbaijan. No one knows exactly how old it is or what it was for, although recent thought suggests it dates back to the 6th Century and may have been used as an observatory. Other attractions located in the Old City include Shirvanshakh’s Palace, Kervansarays, Mosques, Bathhouses and Medreses located inside the walled medieval part of the city. Just within 40-60 minutes drive outside Baku you can enjoy Gobustan Rock Carvings museum, Yanardagh – (the Burning Mountain) and Ateshgah – the Hindu Temple of Fire.
Martyr’s Lane offers insight into some of Baku’s more recent and bloodier history. The Lane is a cemetery dedicated to those who died in the January Massacre of 1990 at the hands of the Soviet Army. The place, which once was a Hillside Park, now offers a magnificent panorama view to Baku bay with its medieval, soviet and modern architecture, which is best observed from this point.
Although art might not be the first thing that comes to mind on a trip to Baku, many artists have made it their home and you can see examples of their work in the Museum of Contemporary Art. Here, you’ll find paintings, sketches and sculptures from some of Baku’s most prominent artists of the last 70 years, including Altay Sadigzadeh.
With its feet planted both in the past and the future, there are many things to see and do on a trip to Baku. A boat trip on the Caspian Sea will allow you to see the city from the water. Alternatively, you might want to pay a visit to the newest addition to Baku’s skyline: the Flame Towers. These three tapering towers symbolise the fire that represents Azerbaijan. Apart from the £350 million price-tag, what’s even more incredible is what they house. One of the towers is set to play host to offices, complete with an atrium and a sky garden!
If you like music, then you should factor in a visit to the Museum of Vagif Mustafa-Zadeh. Vagif is widely recognised as the master of mugham jazz and the museum itself is set in the flat where he worked and composed.
With a culture influenced by both Turkey and Asia, it’s no surprise to find that much of Baku’s cuisine is meat-based and heavily spiced. The main meat consumed tends to be mutton, although many restaurants cook beef and chicken. Shashlyks are a popular dish throughout the city and the air is often heady with the smells of braised fennel, fragrant pilaffs and grilling fish. Liver kebabs, threaded with from lambs’ tails is a speciality. If you want to eat with the locals, seek out the smaller restaurants inside the Old City with authentic atmosphere, where you can indulge in their rustic, sumptuous mezzes.
If you want to eat out, you’ll find plenty of street food vendors, their hot-plates sizzling with fresh flatbreads, ready to wrap spiced meats and vegetables. However, if you want to dedicate part of your trip to Baku to fine dining, then look for larger places, for great food and live, traditional folk music, or Park Bulvar, where the restaurants have some of the best views of the city and the sea, along with generously-sized Azeri dishes.
A large chunk of the population of Baku are expats. While street markets, mainly selling leather goods, silk and hand-crafted items, are to be found throughout the city, it is also well served by impressive shopping centres.
It’s worth setting some time aside on your trip to Baku to visit the street markets, but you might also want to look up the TsUM Shopping Store, which is the city’s largest department store, where you’ll find locally-crafted goods. However, if you’re really looking to do some serious shopping, get down to Fountain Square, where you’ll find high-end designer shops, amidst restaurants and cafés. Nargiz Mall, 28 Mall, and Park Bulvar are recent malls opened in Baku. The handcrafts and souvenirs can be found on the city’s most popular walking street Nizami Street, more commonly known as torgovaya.
Flights to Baku will take you to Heydar Aliyev International Airport, about 20kms north of the city. Taxi cabs are plentiful although, should you want to drive yourself, there is a good selection of hire-car facilities on offer.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Baku please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Azerbaijani Manat (AZN)
Voltage: 220 V 50 Hz
Plugs: Type C / F
International dialing code: +994