Baku is lovingly called the Pearl of the Caspian. The Azerbaijani capital is certainly the architectural and developmental wonder of the region, with tons of futuristic building projects on par with Dubai. A few years ago, they even joined the ranks of cities hosting prestigious Formula One races.
Despite its rapid growth and development, the city never forgot where it came from. You can see traces of Persian, Ottoman, and Soviet influence sprinkled around the city, complementing each other perfectly. There’s even a bit of European inspiration thrown into the blend with a growing cafe culture in their bohemian district in the centre. Baku will more than likely be your starting point for Azerbaijan. Not sure what to do there? These are the best things to do in Baku.
- Baku, Azerbaijan
- 20 Things To Do In Baku
- 1- Marvel At The Contrast Between Old And New On A Walking Tour
- 2- Explore The Old Town
- 3- Climb The Historic Maiden Tower
- 4- Drink Azerbaijani Tea
- 5- Eat Plov And Dolma At Dolma
- 6- Visit The Carpet Museum
- 7- Stroll The Waterfront Promenade
- 8- See The Flame Towers
- 9- Visit The Heydar Aliyev Center
- 10- Take A Short Day Trip To Gobustan
- 11- See A Rare Zoroastrian Temple
- 12- Swim In The Caspian Sea
- 13- See The Eternal Flame At Yanar Dağ
- 14- Go To The Formula 1 Baku Race
- 15- Visit Massive Mosques
- 16- Relax In A Cafe In The Bohemian District
- 17- Take A Day Trip To A National Park
- 18- Shop At A Traditional Bazaar
- 19- Honour The Heroes Of Azerbaijan
- 20- Take A Ferry To A Caspian Island
Planning a trip to Baku?
Make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals. Book your hotel and tours early. Here are some recommendations.
- Baku Historic and Modern Baku Tour
- From Baku – 5 Days Incredible Azerbaijan
- From Baku: Full-Day Guided Tour of Gobustan and Absheron
- Panoramic Night Tour of Baku
20 Things To Do In Baku
1- Marvel At The Contrast Between Old And New On A Walking Tour
Baku spreads out along the Caspian Sea shoreline, but the centre is very walkable, and most of the attractions are in this area.
From any point in the city, you’ll notice stark contrasts with ancient architecture, Dubai-esque futuristic housing projects, and Soviet concrete apartment blocks all within sight of each other.
Join this tour to get to know Baku from all sides.
You’ll see important sights and hear about their history and significance from a local guide.
In a hurry? Get the essence of Baku’s city centre with a full-day city tour of Baku. They’ll take you around the important sights, provide lunch and give you a chance to see the best of the city in a day.
2- Explore The Old Town
It’s easy to overlook Baku’s old town amid the ultra-modern high rises, but it’s a place you should not miss.
Dating back to the 12th century and maybe even earlier, it’s some of the most well-preserved medieval towns in the world and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Baku has seen countless foreign forces occupy its city over the centuries– walk around this historic centre, and you’ll be mesmerised by a blend of Persian, Arabic, Ottoman, and Russian architectural styles.
The Shirvanshah’s palace will blow you away with its beauty and simplicity.
It’s the centrepiece of this walled community and the home of the Shirvanshahs – one of the many powers which ruled the region for centuries.
The Shirvanshah’s palace is at 9R8M+CCX, Baku, Azerbaijan. Book a walking tour of the old city here.
3- Climb The Historic Maiden Tower
The Maiden Tower is one of Azerbaijan’s most iconic symbols.
You’ll see it standing mighty, printed on Azerbaijani currency, press photos, and most importantly, watching over the old town.
Its ancient functions are still the subject of debate today, with some claiming it to be an observatory while some believe it’s a watchtower.
The mystery around it has led to several plays and stories being written about it over the centuries.
Today, the tower is open to tourists who can climb to the top and see a museum dedicated to Baku’s growth and development.
Read more about the tower and how to visit it.
The Maiden Tower is in the middle of Baku’s historic old town, just off Neftchilar Avenue.
4- Drink Azerbaijani Tea
In this part of the world, tea is king.
Walk down any street in Azerbaijan, and you’re bound to see one or two little cafes with local elders sitting around with little hourglass-shaped cups of “çay” (chai).
Sipping black tea with some sugar is one of Azerbaijan’s biggest pastimes, and chances are you’ll be invited to have some by a local if you stay long enough (Azerbaijani people are super friendly and love having guests!).
If you’ve been to Turkey, Iran, or Jordan, you’ll be familiar with their tea culture here.
Azerbaijan is a prolific tea-producing country.
You’ll be able to take home some of their world-famous Azerçay, which you can find in any store.
There are plenty of options around the city to get a cup of tea, and most restaurants offer some for free post-meal.
Summer Tea House is a good option, located in Huseyn Cavid Park.
In the touristy areas, just be careful – determine the price of a cup of tea before ordering since they don’t always have menus.
Summer Tea House is at 9RF9+53C, Alaskar Alakparov, Bakı, Azerbaijan.
5- Eat Plov And Dolma At Dolma
Dolma is one of Baku’s most famous restaurants for foreigners and locals alike.
It’s one of the country’s most beautiful, inviting establishments and its food can’t be beaten.
They offer the two quintessential Azerbaijani dishes you must try before leaving: plov and dolma.
While these two foods are common all over the Middle East and Central Asia, every country does them differently, and Azerbaijan does them the best.
Plov is a rice-based dish that’s simmered in a giant pot for a long time and filled with vegetables, spices, and meat.
Azerbaijan’s special twist? Lots of dried fruits for added notes of sweetness.
Dolma is grape leaves packed with rice, minced meat and spices.
The restaurant is at 53 ul. Istiglaliyat, Baku, Azerbaijan.
6- Visit The Carpet Museum
Looking for something to do near Baku’s waterfront? The carpet museum is an excellent choice.
If you get lost looking for it, it’s the building shaped like a giant carpet.
Once inside, you’ll discover a gallery of stunning patterns and colours with examples of Azerbaijani carpet-making from throughout history.
The museum has a collection of over 1,000 flat-woven and pile carpets from every corner of the country.
You’ll learn about the differences between the types and the history of carpet-making in the region.
Learn more and plan your visit here.
The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum is at 28 Mikayıl Hüseynov Prospekti, Bakı 1000, Azerbaijan.
7- Stroll The Waterfront Promenade
Baku has a few kilometres of highly-developed promenades perfect for a peaceful stroll along the shores of the Caspian Sea.
You’ll see local families, couples, and friend groups walking around, playing games, and having a wholesome good time.
Pass the afternoon by people-watching on a shaded bench or on concrete steps that lead to the sea.
A few tea cafes are spread throughout the area, but again ask for prices before ordering!
If visiting in the warmer months, you’ll have the chance to get Turkish ice cream, the infamous sweet treat that comes with a friendly dose of pranking and humiliation first.
You can access the waterfront from several parts of the city, but the main part is Dənizkənarı Milli Park, located at 92 Neftchilar Ave, Baku, Azerbaijan.
8- See The Flame Towers
It’s almost impossible not to notice the Flame Towers as these three high-rises are visible from nearly every corner of the city.
They symbolise Azerbaijan’s rapid growth and development as an oil-rich nation.
They serve a variety of uses, including a hotel, office spaces and luxury apartments.
It’s easier to get inside if you book a room at this hotel but it’s possible to convince the guards to let you in any way.
The top floors afford an incredible view of the city, but there are other viewpoints if you don’t manage to get in.
The real show is after dark. Every night the flame towers put on a free light show for the people of Baku, often with patriotic colour schemes.
The Flame Towers are at the intersection of Parliament Avenue and Mehdi Huseyn St. in Baku, Azerbaijan.
9- Visit The Heydar Aliyev Center
It’s difficult to determine the most striking example of modern architecture in Baku, but the Heydar Aliyev Center might be the winner.
The government built this wavy, white building from the future in honour of the late Heydar Aliyev, the godfather of Azerbaijan and the country’s first president after independence from the USSR.
Inside, you can find a museum dedicated to his life and accomplishments and a cultural centre housing exhibitions and live performances.
If you don’t have time to go inside, at least admire the building from the surrounding park.
Visit the centre’s website for information about upcoming exhibits and events.
The Heydar Aliyev Center is at 1 Heydar Aliyev Ave, Baku 1033, Azerbaijan.
10- Take A Short Day Trip To Gobustan
Just outside Baku’s city limits lies a landscape entirely different from its Dubai-Esque futurism.
Pulling out of the highway into Gobustan (aka. Qobustan), the terrain looks more like the moon.
The ground below this area is rich with natural gas, which shows in little mud volcanoes everywhere.
Azerbaijan has the highest concentration of mud volcanoes in the world, most of which are around here.
The word “volcano” may cause alarm, but these are little pools of mud that splash around as gas bubbles rise to the surface.
While you’re there, you can’t miss the Gobustan National Park, full of ancient petroglyphs, in an open-air museum.
Getting to Gobustan by public transport can be tricky. Taking a taxi as a foreigner is also not advised because they have been known to demand more money once they have you out in the middle of nowhere where they can leave you.
Tour packages usually take you to the volcanoes and the park since they’re so close. Official guides are more transparent and speak English. Find out more here.
11- See A Rare Zoroastrian Temple
On the edge of town lies an ancient temple that looks more like a castle.
The Atashgah Fire Temple has served as a place of worship for Zoroastrians and Hindus since it was built a millennium ago.
It’s one of the best examples of Zoroastrian religious architecture, a religion that has largely disappeared from the world except for a few pockets.
The site is huge and houses an eternal flame that has only gone out once in 1969.
This tour includes Atashgah, Gobustan and a few more hard-to-reach Baku attractions.
The Fire Temple is at Surakhani settlement Atamoghlan Rzayev street, AZ 1049.
12- Swim In The Caspian Sea
Baku may not come to mind as a seaside vacation destination, but its beaches are alive in the hotter months.
Keep in mind that many of them are private, but admission is cheap, and they are well looked after.
Most of them open around 31 May and stay open until September or October every year.
Shikh beach is an essential Baku seaside experience, offering a unique view of a Soviet-era drilling station off the coast.
Despite all the machinery, the waters here are safe for swimming.
Other beaches to visit are Crescent Beach, Bilgah Beach, Amburan Beach Club and SeaZone Beach.
13- See The Eternal Flame At Yanar Dağ
Not only does Baku have a fire temple on the city’s outskirts, but it also has a mysterious eternal flame burning on another side of town.
Yanar Dağ (fire mountain) started as a natural gas reserve that leaked out of the ground.
It was probably ignited by accident years ago and the 10m-long wall of fire has been burning ever since.
Those fascinated by Turkmenistan’s gateway to hell, the fiery crater created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, may find this an easy-to-reach alternative.
The natural flames of Azerbaijan are due to the massive gas reserves beneath the ground.
The fire mountain is in Digah, a Baku suburb.
While there are no direct public transportation options, taxis are affordable and tours can take you straight there.
It’s spectacular at night when you can view the fire from a nearby teahouse.
14- Go To The Formula 1 Baku Race
One of the most intense F1 races takes place every year in Baku.
It’s one of their many street circuit races, so ticketholders can see drivers barreling through downtown Baku rather than a traditional racetrack.
The race is one of Azerbaijan’s most significant events and sees huge peaks in tourist numbers.
It usually takes place in the spring or early summer, and there are lots of free events for the public happening at the same time, like concerts.
Get up to speed with all things Formula 1 Baku here.
15- Visit Massive Mosques
Azerbaijan is a Muslim nation, and Baku is home to a couple of impressive, prominent mosques around the city.
Some are within walking distance of the old town, and some are quite far but worth the journey.
Bibiheybat, a short journey from the centre right off the highway, is a replica of a 13th-century mosque destroyed by Bolsheviks.
Its glorious, sandstone-coloured minarets and domes stand proudly over the sea in the background.
A few historic mosques are in the old town, including the Juma Mosque.
Though modest in size compared to Bibiheybat, the interior is covered floor-to-ceiling with ornate patterns.
Bibiheybat is on the Bibiheybat highway heading south of Baku.
Juma Mosque is located in Baku’s historic old town, less than 100 meters from the Maiden Tower.
16- Relax In A Cafe In The Bohemian District
Walking around certain parts of Baku will make you feel like you’re in Moscow, Istanbul, or Tabriz, but just north of the old town is an area with a more Parisian feel.
The neighbourhood spreads out around a park called Malakan Garden, and you can find it by riding the metro to the Sahil stop.
The streets are full of European embassies, cafes and museums like the National History Museum.
It also serves as the perfect meeting place with tons of options for coffee and sweets.
United Coffee Beans make every coffee beverage you could imagine and has several floors of chill spaces for their guests.
- Malakan Garden is at 6 Uzeyir Hajibeyov St, Baku 1000, Azerbaijan.
- The National History Museum is located at 4 Haji Zeynalabdin Taghiyev St, Baku 1005, Azerbaijan.
- United Coffee Beans is located at 6 Yusif Mammadaliyev St, Baku, Azerbaijan
17- Take A Day Trip To A National Park
Azerbaijan is a small country.
Leave the city in any direction and the landscape changes drastically, from the sea to mud volcanoes and desert, to rocky, snow-capped peaks in the north and humid, jungle-like conditions to the south.
If any of those places sound like a place you’d like to go on an adventure, you’re in luck.
The country has many beautiful national parks that are a short drive from Baku.
As previously mentioned, there’s Gobustan just outside the city, but go a little further south and you have Shirvan National park.
It’s a huge expanse of wetlands and forests with tons of wildlife.
If you’re drawn to mountains, head north to Gabala and Shamakhi, which are in the high North Caucasus mountains stretching across Russia and Georgia.
This tour will take you out and show you the best spots with a guide.
18- Shop At A Traditional Bazaar
Bazaars are alive and well in post-Soviet countries.
Most big and small towns have them, and even fancy, modern Baku has a couple of them.
The Yaşıl (green) bazaar has all the fantastic produce you want.
It’s located outside the central train station and has seemingly endless stalls of whatever fresh fruits and vegetables are in season.
If you come from a western country with factory-farmed produce, you’ll be blown away by how much flavour something as simple as a cucumber or plum could have.
Some stalls will have nuts, dried fruits, traditional sweets, and meat at extremely low prices and higher quality than you can find back home.
The Yaşıl bazaar is at Khatai Ave, Baku, Azerbaijan, just outside the train station. Try this shopping tour in Baku.
19- Honour The Heroes Of Azerbaijan
Baku’s quietest, most solemn place has the most beautiful panoramic view of the city.
Go uphill from the flashy city centre towards the flame towers, and you’ll find Highland Park and Martyrs’ Lane.
This place memorialises Azerbaijanis whose lives were lost at war, and here, you’ll find the best panoramic view of Baku.
Due to the solemn nature of the area, it’s one of the quietest, most peaceful spots in Baku.
Martyrs’ Lane is at Mehdi Huseyn St, Baku 1006, Azerbaijan.
20- Take A Ferry To A Caspian Island
There are a few islands off Baku’s coast that you can reach by boat.
Transport companies are fairly active in the Caspian Sea, with ships connecting Baku with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan across the way.
You probably won’t have time for that, but what you can do is visit Boyuk Zira Island.
This is the biggest island and the easiest to reach, thanks to ferries from Baku’s city centre.
The island is a popular site for birdwatchers.
There are a few small nature preserves and guest houses for those who want to stay the night.
If you have a chance to get out there, don’t miss the lighthouse and ship cemetery.
When in Baku, visit the Yacht Club on the promenade for information about the island ferry. You can find the pier at 131 Neftchilar Ave, Baku, Azerbaijan.