Things to do in Baku in 3 days – A complete guide

By Joan Torres 19 Comments Last updated on April 24, 2024

trip to Baku

Until very recently, Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, was a real off-the-beaten-track destination only known by the most intrepid travelers.

Pierce Brosnan, in the James Bond movie The world is not enough , was the first person who finally told us about its existence, when he showed images of some oil fields right in the desert plains around Baku.

Those images, however, didn’t really trigger any interest in the country, as people thought that, perhaps, Baku was not very different from the Arab Gulf monarchies, which was a really wrong approach.

Whereas it is true that Baku is an oil-rich city and, in fact, Azerbaijan was the top world exporter at the beginning of the 20th century, many years before the Gulf monarchies discovered the black gold, on the other hand, it is also a city with a very deep history, belonging to a region which has been inhabited for thousands of years, besides having an important role in the Silk Road , as well as, of course, being part of the USSR for nearly a century.

Nevertheless, thanks to exponential development, Baku today is an almost futuristic city that manages to combine both tradition and modernity, two elements that can be seen together all across the city.

After visiting Baku on two occasions, here is a complete Baku travel guide with all the best  things to do in Baku in 3 days, including plenty of travel tips.

For more places to visit in the country, read my complete itinerary to Azerbaijan

things to do in Baku

In this Baku travel guide you will find:

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Where to stay
  • How to move around
  • What to do in Baku
  • Where to eat
  • More information

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Introduction to traveling to Baku

From the end of the 19th century, Baku has been a global leader in oil exportation and has been growing at full speed, but it was only after the dissolution of the USSR and Azerbaijan’s post-independence, that this development was accelerated, Baku became a futuristic and modern city, perfectly comparable to European standards.

However, due to the obvious corruption, or preferably, bad resource management, this development has been exclusively focused on the capital, to the extent that its contrast with the second largest city, Ganja, where you can still find unpaved streets in the city center, is huge.

The capital of Azerbaijan is a luxurious city, a  Dubai -like-concept but with a real soul, meaning that, in the city center, you can find a Rolls Royce official store and the most luxury brand stores, along with buildings and mosques from the 12th century.

Going to Tbilisi? Check out my city guide to Tbilisi

Baku tourist guide

Baku is, definitely, the most developed city in the Caucasus (including Armenia and Georgia ) but, in my humble opinion, this development is economic, not social.

Whereas, in its neighbor Georgia , many young people are quickly learning European values, in Baku, even though they are a rich and supposedly secular city, people are much more traditional, and you will quickly realize when you only see men hanging out in most places, people not speaking English and, overall, people being more closed-minded.

However, visiting Baku is totally worth it and not only due to its eccentric composition but also because it is a real blend of Europe, the East, and the Soviet Union, so, so chaotic, that it’s practically impossible to define it, and that’s the most exciting thing about it.

What to do in baku

Visa for visiting Baku

From January 2016, you can  apply for an e-visa to visit Baku.

The visa costs 25 USD, takes 3 working days and is valid for 30 days.

For 50 USD, you can also apply for an urgent visa and get it on the same day.

All Western nationalities are eligible for the e-visa but you can check the full country list here .

baku trip guide

Where to stay in Baku

Backpackers Hostel – Sahil Hostel – The busiest hostel in town, as it is really cheap, plus everything is brand-new and very clean. A nice place to meet other travelers, it also has private rooms.

Budget Guest House –  Khazar Old City Guest House – If you want to stay in a traditional house, in the heart of the old city, this is the most highly recommended.

Mid-range Hotel –  Deniz Inn Boutique Hotel – The top well-rated boutique hotel in town is a traditional building in the old part of Baku.

Top-end – Four Seasons –  Located downtown, this is the best 5-star hotel in Baku. The building where is it built is a real landmark, by the way.

Transportation – How to move around Baku

Moving around baku by taxi.

In order to avoid bargaining with taxi drivers, I recommend you use Uber and short taxi rides costing around 2-3AZN (1.20 – 1.70USD), so moving around by taxi is also a feasible way to check all the places to visit in Baku. Apparently, Yandex isn’t available anymore.

Moving around Baku by metro

There are two metro lines and a single ticket costs 0.30AZN (18¢). However, first, you have to get a metro top-up card which costs 2AZN (1.20USD).

Alternatively, you can buy a single-use metro card, which you can only top-up once and costs 0.20AZN (12¢).

Moving around Baku by bus

There is a modern bus network but you will have to know where you are going. The price is the same as in the metro.

How to get from and to the airport

How to get from baku city center by bus.

There are buses going and coming to the airport every 20 or 30 minutes, all day long. They drop you off in downtown, in front of 28th May metro station. A single ticket costs 1.30AZN (75¢) and it also works with the metro card.

How to get from Baku city center by taxi

With Uber, a taxi ride costs around 10AZN (5.90USD).

For generic info about moving around the country, read the transportation section of this guide.

baku trip guide

Things to do in Baku in 3 days

In 3 days, you can cover most things to do in Baku, including a day trip to visit the mud volcanoes and the petroglyphs of Qobustan .

If you are interested in all the tours offered in Baku, as well as day trips from Baku, there is a large offer of tours that can be booked online. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Map of the places to visit in Baku

What to do in Baku on day 1

The first day Baku itinerary is quite optimistic but, if you plan well ahead, I think you can manage it.

Baku Old City

A UNESCO World Heritage site, the walls of the Old City mark the boundaries of where the city used to extend.

Its oldest building is claimed to date from the 11th century, although some historians think that it might belong to the 7th.

As in any old city, the best you can do is getting lost among its entangled streets but there are a few buildings which are must-visits, like Maiden Tower , one of the most iconic buildings in the country, which is even printed in one of their notes.

The tower contains a museum that shows the historical evolution of Baku and you can also climb to the top to enjoy some of the best views in the city. Going to the top costs 10AZN (5,90USD).

The other building which you can’t miss is the Shirvanshas Palace , whose main attraction is a stunning mosque from the 15th century. The  Shirvanshas is the dynasty that ruled the region for nearly 700 years, from the 9th to the 16th century.

From all the things to do in Baku, the Old City is, certainly, the most interesting one.

Do you want to visit the Old City of Baku with a professional guide? CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE

Best places to visit in Baku

The Carpet Museum

In my opinion, the cool part about the Carpet Museum is not getting in, as the outside is much more awesome than inside. Jokes aside. If you are interested in Persian carpets, just go ahead but, if not, the coolest thing is to take pictures at the waving walls that are trying to imitate a carpet.

Read: Everything you need to know to travel to Georgia

Visit Baku Azerbaijan

The Flame Towers

The Flame Towers are the three flame-shaped skyscrapers which managed to link Baku to the concept of futurism by themselves.

To be honest, they are only 182 meters high but, due to their position, in the upper part of Baku, they are visible from anywhere.

You can get there on foot through some stairs that go along a beautiful park. There is a funicular at the bottom of the park but I always found it closed.

The towers were finished in 2012 and, besides showing off, their main purpose is to accommodate pretentious businesses like Fairmont Hotel , one of the top hotels in the city, a Lamborghini dealer store, and I don’t know what other posh stuff.

Baku travel guide

The oil extractors

This place is off the main tourist trail but, if you are interested in checking out some perfectly functional oil drillers, this is your chance.

They are not very far and, actually, you can get there on foot from the Flame Towers. They are just behind the TV tower (you can see the exact location on the map), from where you can also enjoy pretty cool views of the city and the bay.

By the way, if you get down to the seaside, you will pass by a very poor neighborhood of Baku, which clearly shows the huge social inequality that rules in this country.

petrol extractors Baku

Taza Pir Mosque

A one-hundred-year-old mosque, even though it was built on a place that used to serve as a sanctuary from the 15th century.

To be honest, this isn’t an outstanding mosque but, for me, the most interesting part was to see the other face of Azerbaijan, which is the face of Azerbaijani men worshipping and showing their faith to Islam.

Like all the Muslim ex-Soviet countries, the Government of Azerbaijan is secular but, its main peculiarity is that, unlike the rest of the world, the most religious people are the young ones and not the elderly that lived in the Soviet Union, as Islam is only now coming into fashion. When I was traveling in Uzbekistan , I also observed a similar situation.

Places to visit in Baku Azerbaijan

Heydar Aliyev Center

Another pretty cool thing to do in Baku is visiting the futuristic building whose architect is the deceased Iraqi-British woman Zaha Hadid .

With its surrealistic and almost impossible curved walls, this building is a perfect sample of innovation and modern art.

Its surroundings are filled with super weird statues, like giant rabbits and snails, apart from the classic I Love Baku .

The building accommodates different types of temporary exhibitions. The entrance fee costs 15AZN (9USD).

Things to do in Baku Azerbaijan

Museum of Miniature Books

If you have the time, you can also visit the museum that has the World Guinness Record for the largest collection of miniature books, including the 3 smallest books ever, measuring 2mmx2mm, which can only be seen using a microscope.

Like me, you may be thinking that those mini-books don’t make a lot of sense, basically because you can’t read them, but they originate in an ancient Persian tradition.

Fountain Square and the rest of downtown

Composed of the most fashionable shops, restaurants, bars, hipster cafés, parks and so on, I recommend you finish your day in downtown, in the area around Fountain Square, the place where all the local people gather to hang out.

fountain square Baku

What to do in Baku on day 2

Yasil market.

I bumped into this market by mere chance and then I found out that it is very famous among locals, but I didn’t see any tourists.

Yasil is a traditional market which has been restored as per Baku modern standards. It is a typical fruit and vegetable market and everything sold is seasonal.

I was lucky enough to visit Baku in October, the pomegranate season, the symbol of Azerbaijan.

Almost all stalls were filled with pomegranates and they were selling freshly squeezed juice for just 1AZN (60¢).

10 things to do in Baku

Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain)

Did you know that Azerbaijan was formerly called The Land of Fire ?

From the 12th century, tales from travelers wandering this region mentioned the existence of several magic fires found across the area.

They thought those fires were magic because they burnt continuously without any wood but, what they didn’t know is that the fire was coming from natural underground gas fields.

Yanar Dag is one of those fires which is still burning, even though the fire is artificial today, as it was extinguished after they discovered an oil reserve next to it in the 19th century.

How to get there – Yanar Dag is outside of the city. To get there, you will have to catch the 147 bus from Azadliq metro station. Alternatively, you could also get there by Uber, which is easier, quicker and won’t cost you much.

Fire Temple Ateshgah

In the 18th century, a merchant traveler was so fascinated by one of those flames that he decided to build a worshipping temple on it.

How to get there – The temple is very close to the airport and the 184 bus passes close to it.

what to visit in Baku

What to do in Baku on Day 3

Day trip to qobustan to see the petroglyphs and the mud volcanoes.

During the Stone Age, around 15,000 years ago, when the Caspian Sea waters were higher and the region was completely green and fertile, a bunch of hunters decided to settle in some caves in the area.

These caves were decorated with their own art style and more than 600 petroglyphs were drawn, many of them still being in very good conditions. Today, these paintings have become one of the best places to visit in Baku.

For more information, read my article about the petroglyphs of Qobustan (it includes prices and how to get there).

baku trip guide

Moreover, if you are interested, you can also visit some volcanoes that expel mud , which have become a real tourist attraction. They are very close to the petroglyphs and you can only go by car.

If you want to make things easier and go with a guide, there’s this tour targeting the petroglyphs + mud volcanoes + an ancient mosque from the area. I think it’s worth it. CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TOUR

Where to eat in Baku

Here are my restaurant recommendations (all places are frequented by locals).

Budget – Xezer Restaurant – Local eatery serving traditional food.

Gourmet fast food – Gourmet Pendir & Chorek – The first national fast-food chain in Azerbaijan serves good quality local sandwiches and stuff like that.

Fine dining – Sumakh – A local fancy restaurant serving high-quality food and awesome service.

Azerbaijani food

More information for visiting Baku

📢 In my Travel Resources Page you can find the list of all the sites and services I use to book hotels, tours, travel insurance and more.

Tours – Here you can see a big bunch of tours in Baku, as well as day trips from Baku.

SIM Card – You will need one, especially to move around by Uber. I recommend Azercell. You can buy a SIM Card in many mobile stores but you should go to the official store of Azercell, as you will be charged the real price. There is a big one in Fountain Square.

All guides and articles for traveling in Azerbaijan destination

  • Azerbaijan Travel Guide
  • Best Hostels in Baku
  • Qobustan Petroglyphs and Sovietism
  • Reasons to Visit Azerbaijan
  • Azerbaijan Itinerary

Check more city guides

  • Tunis Travel Guide
  • Asmara Travel Guide
  • Travel Guide to Riyadh
  • Muscat Travel Guide
  • Travel Guide to Dubai
  • Beirut Travel Guide
  • Erbil Travel Guide
  • Tehran Travel Guide
  • Travel Guide to Astana
  • Tashkent Travel Guide
  • Tbilisi Travel Guide
  • Travel Guide to Minsk
  • Kiev Travel Guide
  • Travel Guide to Nouakchott
  • A City Guide to Mosul

These were my top recommendations for what to do in Baku. If you know of any other places to visit in Baku, kindly let us know in the comments section. 

places to visit in Baku

19 comments

I never went to the oil extractors and i wish i had thought about that! One thing i think you should have mentioned though is the beautiful designs of some of the metro stations 🙂

oh yes, the stations were pretty nice indeed 🙂

Hey Joan, I love this travel guide to Baku very much, very detailed, thank you 🙂 I have a question: is it safe to take photos of the petrol extractors? I mean, I am pretty sure that in some countries they would not like people to sniff around them, for several reasons. I have been living in several countries in the Arab Gulf, and I am pretty sure that you would not be allowed to take photos of them. I would not even try it! Thank you and keep up the good work!

Hey Marc, thank you for your email. You can’t really compare it to the Gulf because the Gulf petrol areas are very deep into the desert and they are in restricted areas. The ones in Baku are in the suburbs of the city, some of them located right next to houses, meaning that the area is not restricted at all. Does this mean that you can take a photo of them? Well, I don’t know, but I have been there twice and there wasn’t official surveillance at all. I only saw a few workers roaming around who didn’t really care about my presence.

I was in the oil field at Romanov, 40 minutes outside Baku a few days ago. There is surveillance and locals keeping an eye open. When we were about to leave the oil field a company car came at high speed and they men in the car screamed that taking photos was forbidden. They was quite aggressive. I had the camera under my jacket, else they probably would have demanded that I delete the photos. My Azerian father in law explained that the oil companies are concerned about making the pollution too exposed in these days of social media.

wow, thanks for sharing your experience, Michael!

Very useful information, keep up the good work ! very well done !

Hi, I am reading over and again – to prepare for our short visit coming up to Baku. Just so you know, the visa is now good for 90 days. Any thoughts on survival guide for vegetarians (no egg, fish, meat, chicken, in short no animal food of any kind) who can take milk, yoghurt?

Hi Vasu, the visa is valid for 30 days. I just re-checked the official e-visa portal and there are no changes. I think you are confused because it says that you can travel for 30 days within a 90 days period but you can’t exceed those 30 days.

I am not a vegetarian, so I can’t really give you many tips. They don’t have a very vegan cuisine but I remember that most menus had salads and some eggplant-based dishes.

I cannot see the map for places to visit in Baku.

Maybe it is a problem of your browser

Thank u very much for valuable informatin you prensent for us.Baku,s weather,s more pleasent and mild and than dubai.Baku is the capital of Azeebayjan, İt,s people are turk, it was colonized by soviet 101 years ago, but they,re not russion. Thank u every body★)

Joan – your guide has proved very useful while I have been in Baku. Just to say that Azerbaijan appear to have got on board with 2-tier foreign tourist / local prices for their main sites: Maidens Tower and The Palace now both 15 Manat to access; Fire Temple Ateshgah 4 Manat & Yanar Dag 9 Manat. The Quobastan Petroglyphs were 10 Manat – but as the museum staff picked me up in their bus to take me to the site from Baku I am quids in on that one 😀

Hey Andrew, glad you found it useful and thanks for the price updates 🙂

Hi, iam planning to travel with Family December first week,. Can you please advise us as we want to see snow filled area. Can we have one day trip from Baku to hill stations. Thank you

Hi Yes, you can go to the area around Quba

Hi Joan, thank you for the amazing work! I am flying to Azerbaijan in a few days and your guide is of great help. I wonder if you have ever visited Sumqayit polluted areas and/or poor neighborhoods (slums) in Baku? I know that “Shangai” has been demolished but I am sure there are still deprived areas of the same kind. Any idea about that?

Hi Isabelle. I did walk through some slums (by pure coincidence) when I was walking around the TV tower, very close to it, but I don’t know the name of those slums

“Wow, this guide on things to do in Baku is absolutely fantastic! I recently had the opportunity to spend 3 days in this vibrant city, and this blog provided me with an incredible list of activities and attractions to make the most of my trip. From exploring the historic Old City and its charming narrow streets to visiting the iconic Flame Towers for breathtaking panoramic views, there was never a dull moment. I especially loved indulging in the local cuisine and trying out traditional Azerbaijani dishes at the various restaurants recommended in the article. Thanks to this comprehensive guide, I had an unforgettable experience in Baku and would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an exciting destination to visit!”

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Shirvan shakir's Palace

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Azerbaijan’s capital Baku (or Bakı in Azeri) is the architectural love child of Paris and Dubai…albeit with plenty of Soviet genes floating half-hidden in the background. Few cities in the world are changing as quickly and nowhere else in the Caucasus do East and West blend as seamlessly or as chaotically. At its heart, the Unesco-listed İçəri Şəhər (Old City) lies within an exotically crenellated arc of fortress wall. Around this are gracefully illuminated stone mansions and pedestrianised tree-lined streets filled with exclusive boutiques. The second oil boom, which started around 2006, has turned the city into a crucible of architectural experimentation and some of the finest new buildings are jaw-dropping masterpieces. Meanwhile romantic couples canoodle their way around wooded parks and hold hands on the Caspian-front bulvar (promenade), where greens and opal blues make a mockery of Baku’s desert-ringed location.

Attractions

Must-see attractions.

Exterior of Heydar Aliyev center (designed by Zaha Hadid) at night.

Heydar Aliyev Center

Vast and jaw-droppingly original, this Zaha Hadid building is a majestic statement of fluid 21st-century architecture forming abstract waves and peaks…

The Maiden Tower in Old Baku, Azerbaijan

Maiden’s Tower

This tapering 29m stone tower is Baku’s foremost historical icon, with rooftop views surveying Baku Bay and the Old City. Possibly millennia old, its…

Yarat Contemporary Art Centre

Yarat Contemporary Art Centre

Yarat means 'create', a spirit that's in ample evidence in this centre's many thought-provoking installations that don't shy away from sociopolitical…

Flame Towers

Flame Towers

Completed in 2012, this trio of sinuous blue-glass skyscrapers forms contemporary Baku's architectural signature. The three towers range from 28 to 33…

Shirvan shakir's Palace

Palace of the Shirvanshahs

This splendid confection of sandstone walls and domes was the seat of northeastern Azerbaijan’s ruling dynasty during the Middle Ages. Mostly 15th century…

Fountains Square

Fountains Square

Ever-popular with strollers, this leafy piazza forms Central Baku’s natural focus. The fountains for which it is named include one topped by shiny…

MOMA

This joyous tailor-made gallery uses struts and tubing to create a wide variety of intimate viewing spaces, in many of which you can recline on bean-bag…

Carpet Museum

Carpet Museum

From historic flatweaves to modernist picture-rugs, this tailor-made museum displays and explains a superb collection of Azerbaijani carpets. It's housed…

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Wander-Lush

15 Captivating Things to Do in Baku, Azerbaijan

Famously described as the love child of Paris and Dubai, Baku is one of the most jarring yet fascinating cities I have ever set foot in.

At 28 metres below sea level, it is the world’s lowest capital. Arid and constantly battered by winds flying off the Caspian Sea, it’s a city that would never have existed if it hadn’t been for the discovery of one thing: Oil.

There was a time when half of the world’s oil supply came out of Baku. Even today, you get the feeling that this is a Boom Town through and through.

A view of Baku city with a historic 20th-century facade in the foreground and the three modern flame towers rising in the distance.

Yet behind the flashy architecture (sometimes quite literally!), it has a long and engaging history that goes back to the 8th century. Most of my favourite places in Baku date to this early period or to the turn of the 20th century, when Azerbaijan experienced its first oil boom.

I have been lucky enough to travel to Baku on three separate occasions, spending 3-7 days in the city each time and engaging different local guides to discover the many different sides of the Azerbaijani capital.

Based on my experience, 2-3 full days is the perfect amount of time to spend in Baku.

The Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku.

In this city guide, I will share my favourite things to do in Baku – from the UNESCO-lised Old City, the Icherisheher, to offbeat attractions in the suburbs and several points of interest around the Absheron Peninsula.

Also see days 1-3 of my suggested Azerbaijan itinerary for a list of activities organised into a logical order (coming soon!).

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.

Planning a trip to Baku?

Here are 6 essential resources that I recommend you check out.

  • Evisa for Azerbaijan: Apply via the official evisa portal or use an intermediary such as iVisa .
  • Private Baku airport transfer: Book a private transfer starting from $25 for groups of up to four people.
  • Where to stay in Baku: The Merchant Baku (high-end); Centric Baku (boutique); Utopia Hotel (mid-range); Cth Baku Hostel (budget).
  • Best city walking tour: Baku Old Town & Oil Heritage Free Tour with Azerbaijan Traveller.
  • Top-rated day trip: Full-day trip to Gobustan, Ateshgah Fire Temple & Yanardag with lunch (from $65 per person).
  • Azerbaijan car hire: Venturing beyond Baku? Find a budget-friendly rental car on the Local Rent website .

How to get to Baku

With Azerbaijan’s land borders still closed to inbound travellers, the only way to reach Baku is by flying into Heydar Aliyev International Airport.

Cross-border buses, taxis and the sleeper train from Tbilisi are not currently operating.

A panoramic city view of Baku, with mosques, Soviet-style apartment buildings and contemporary architecture.

Direct flights to Baku are available from Tbilisi, Istanbul and Dubai, plus a range of European cities including Milan, Paris and London Heathrow.

Baku airport is located 30 minutes from the city centre. To get in from the airport, I recommend using the Airport Express bus (hourly on the hour from 6am-11pm; 1.30 AZN per person) or pre-booking a private transfer .

The Bolt taxi app works well in Baku, but I do not recommend using it at the airport because scams do happen (my dad and I almost fell victim to this on our recent visit).

If you are planning a Georgia-Armenia-Azerbaijan itinerary , I recommend starting in Baku, transiting through Georgia , and finishing your trip in Armenia .

The best things to do in Baku

Here are 15 of my favourite things to do in Baku. You can find all these locations – plus my favourite Baku restaurants – pinned on the Free Baku Map linked at the end of the post.

1. Explore Baku Old City, the historic Icherisheher

An open-air museum inside Baku Old City, with cloisters and a sunken courtyard.

The Icherisheher or ‘Inner City’ is the historic heart of Baku and remains the nucleus of the city today. Cradling the waterfront on the south-western side of the city, it is a small area with a radius of around 2 kilometres.

As you enter through one of the old gates, you are walking into the oldest part of Baku, where the bulk of the city’s most important landmarks lie. Together, these monuments constitute the UNESCO-listed Walled City of Baku .

When it was first constructed in the 12th century, the restored city wall was initially devised as a wind break to protect the city from those harsh Caspian winds. To ward off enemies, an extra layer of protection was added: a moat that was not filled with water, but with oil.

There are a few things about the Icherisheher that make it particularly interesting. Firstly, it is built almost entirely from locally quarried stone, which gives  the buildings a uniform appearance that syncs perfectly with the surrounding terrain. 

Secondly, it is a ‘living monument’ with family homes, hotels and restaurants enclosed within. The narrow pedestrian-only lanes in the very centre of the Icherisheher are like a maze.

Street art in Old Baku depicting a lion's face with a mane of flower bushes.

The two most important monuments to look for within the Icherisheher complex are the Shirvanshah’s Palace and the Maiden Tower. The former lies at the highest point of the walled city, with streets cascading from its footings downhill towards the Caspian. I recommend starting here – both to get your bearings by looking out over the city from the elevated palace gardens, and to visit the museum.

Tip: Entrance to the Shirvanshah’s Palace costs 15 AZN. If you are planning to do multiple museums, there is a combo ticket that covers it plus three more (the Maiden Tower (15 AZN), Underground Bath (8 AZN) and Tahir Salahov’s House Museum) for 36 AZN.

The Palace of the Shirvanshahs is quite modest, likely due to the influence of Sufism on its benefactors, the Shirvanshahs who ruled this territory from 861 to 1538. Their Baku residence dates to the 15th century and is considered one of the most important monuments in the entire country.

For me, it pales in comparison to the lavishly decorated Khan’s Palace in Sheki . But its understated beauty, especially the gardens and the Shirvanshahs’ Tomb, make it worthwhile.

View of Baku city and the Flame Towers from the gardens of the palace.

The Maiden Tower was built in the 12th century atop much older structures that have been dated to the 7th-6th centuries BC. Its exact purpose is still unknown, but some theorise that its original function was as a Zoroastrian fire temple or a Tower of Silence used for excarnation.

Much like the Galata Tower in Istanbul , the Maiden Tower has museum displays arranged on different levels as you climb the stairs – but its main draw is the rooftop viewing platform. Unfortunately it has a high glass barricade that makes it tricky to take photos (and besides, the aspect is not that great). Read on for my alternative recommendations for where to get a city view in Baku.

The Maiden Tower, an ancient brick tower inside the Baku Icherisheher.

The Yeralti Hamam or Underground Bath Museum is personally my favourite place within the Icherisheher. I completely missed it on my first two trips to Baku – when I visited recently with my dad, he was the one who flagged it.

As the name suggests, it is an 17th-century hamam that has been retrofitted as a museum. Exhibits cover the history and ritual of bathing in Islamic culture – it is really fascinating! There will be an opportunity to participate in this tradition later (see #3 below).

The Yeralti Hamam, and underground bath museum in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Tip: There is a public restroom right next to the Bath Museum that costs 0.50 AZN.

Aside from these three museum-landmarks, other points of interest within the Old City walls include the Bukhara Caravanserai and the Juma Mosque . There are several Silk Road inns, madrasas and hamams dotted around. The Gasimbey Bath Complex at the southern entrance has a series of old brick domes that you can climb on.

The Gaimbey Baths, a series of raised brick domes inside Baku Old City.

I always enjoy getting lost down the narrow alleys and browsing the different carpet shops and antique stores here. The Museum of Miniature Books is a bit of fun, but do note the odd opening hours (I have not yet managed to catch it).

Antique samovars and coffee pots displayed on a carpet at a shop inside the Baku Old City walls.

Entrance to the Icherisheher is free if you are on foot, but there is a 2 AZN surcharge if you are entering by taxi. The gates are open 24/7. I recommend visiting in the early morning or evening.

Discover more things to do in Old Baku in my dedicated guide.

2. Find that photo spot

A historic view of Baku Old City with the modern Flame Towers in the distance.

Don’t leave the Old City without snapping a photo of one of Baku’s most iconic views. This scene of the Icherisheher with the stone arch of the Juma Mosque – beautifully carved with Arabic script – in the foreground and the ultra-modern Flame Towers rising up like a wisp of smoke in the distance perfectly represents the city’s ‘old meets new’ spirit.

You might not believe me, but I found this location completely by accident on my first trip to Azerbaijan in 2017. Now that it’s such a famous Instagram spot, I always make a point of coming back to try and get a ‘perfect’ photo free of people and parked cars!

Early morning and late afternoon are best for the light, but there are always cars parked here these days. You can always zoom in on the architectural details to crop the cars out.

A classic view of Baku with old buildings in the foreground and the Flame Towers in the distance.

Find ‘that photo spot’ by the Halq Bank ATM (see my map below for the exact location).

3. Enjoy a traditional hammam treatment at Agha Mikayil

The entrance to Agha Mikayli Hammam, a historic bathhouse in Baku.

This last thing to do in the Old City is best reserved for the evening, so I recommend returning at the end of the day.

You might notice that each of the Icherisheher’s five gates has a hammam bathhouse nearby. This was designed to encourage people (especially Silk Road travellers ) to wash themselves before entering the city.

The 18th-century Agha Mikayil Hammam (Aga Mikayil Hamami) is the only functioning bathhouse inside the Old City that I am aware of. Wash rooms with traditional domed roofs and a sauna branch off from a gorgeous central atrium. 

The signature treatment here is a soapy rub-down followed by a cold plunge and a pot of lemon tea – similar to a Turkish hammam treatment you might experience in Istanbul or even a Tbilisi-style sulfur bath kisi .

Old photos depicting hammam bath treatments.

Agha Mikayil’s manager, Orhan, is a very friendly chap who will explain the hammam’s various packages without pushing you into anything. He was so warm and welcoming when I dropped by to see how things work.

It’s very important to note that there are different bathing days for men and for women. On Mondays and Fridays, the hammam is open for women only. The other five days of the week, it is only open for men.

Outside the Old City walls, the more modern Taze Bey Bath is quite a spectacle, with an outlandish museum-like display of antiques, taxidermy and other ephemera in the entrance.

Antiques and other ephemeral displayed in the entrance hall to a bathhouse in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Unfortunately this bath is strictly for men only. I was told that women’s massages are available for 35 AZN – but honestly, the female staff here were so rude to me, I would never consider going back for a treatment!

4. Have your Ali and Nino moment in the Philharmonia Garden

A fountain surrounded by flowering gardens inside the Philharmonia Garden in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Exiting the Old City from the southern gate, you will find yourself inside one of Baku’s many manicured greenspaces. The Philharmonia Garden extends from the wall to the State Philharmonic, a gorgeous concert hall that was built in 1910 (see below for more architecture from this era).

The garden has a pretty fountain and in spring and summer, flowerbeds that brim with tulip bulbs and other blooms. In the past, all the plants for this plot were sourced from travellers who were passing through Baku as a sort of ‘tax in kind’ – thus a huge array of flora from all four corners could be found here.

The Philharmonia Garden was the inspiration for the Governors’ Garden in the novel Ali and Nino by Kurban Said . I cannot recommend this book highly enough – it is a must-read if you are visiting Azerbaijan and the Caucasus region .

Diehard fans of the Caucasian Romeo and Juliet can use this free map for a self-guided Ali and Nino walking tour of Baku.

5. Step back into 20th-century Baku

Details of the Ismailiyya Palace in Baku, with Gothic-style decorations.

Baku is commonly thought of as a juxtaposition between the extremely old and the ultra new (for more on the latter, see #12 below). But there is a whole lot that happened in between the foundation of the Icherisheher and the rise of modern Baku.

Some of the city’s most interesting architecture was erected in the early part of the 20th century on the back of Baku’s newfound oil wealth. These buildings form a ring around the Icherisheher and include both public services and, more intriguing to me, private mansion houses erected by the first oil tycoons.

Some reveal the original owners’ initials in metal or stone, and others feature a ‘Salye’ (Salve) inscription on the threshold – just like the houses in Old Tbilisi.

A mansion house in Baku with the former owners' initials engraved above the doorway.

Baroque, Rococo and Moorish elements can all be observed. The style shares many similarities with Tbilisi Art Nouveau, but it must be said that most of the buildings in Baku are in much better shape.

The Ismailiyya Palace is one of the most striking. It was built by the Baku oil industrialist Musa Nagiyev in 1913 using elements borrowed from the Doge’s Palace in Venice.

The Saadet Sarayi (AKA the Palace of Happiness) is another of my favourites. It was used as a Wedding Palace during the Soviet period and still functions as a wedding venue today.

Saadet Sarayi, a beautiful mid-century building in Baku.

Opera and Ballet Theatre (1911) was under restoration at the time of my most recent visit, but has since reopened. If you get a chance to see a performance here, the ticket price would be worth it to see the interior alone. Browse the playbill on iTicket .

The Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature off Fountains Square was originally built in 1850 as a caravanserai inn. In 1915 it became the Hotel Metropol, then it was a labour union building in the 1920s and 30s. The sextet of sculptures on the facade – each an important Azerbaijani writer or poet – were added later. If you look up at the painted arches from below you can see Soviet symbolism interwoven into the design.

Six statues of famous writers and poets standing in arched openings on the facade of the Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature.

Baku Railway Station (1880) was inaugurated after the Baku-Tbilisi railway opened. Domestic trains also depart from here. There is a small railway museum located inside.

The Fantaziya Hamam (1896) is a real gem. It was designed by city architect Nikolay von der Nonne and was the first electrified commercial building in Baku (there was no water supply until 1914, mind you, so all the water needed for the baths had to be manually carried in).

Fantaziya Hammam, an abandoned bathhouse in Baku.

Unlike the abovementioned buildings which have all been preserved and put to good use, the Fantaziya Bath is in a sorry state of disrepair.

6. Hunt for Soviet mosaics & sculptures

A Soviet-style sculpture on a wall in Baku showing a soldier carrying a child on his shoulder.

Normally when I write about this part of the world I dedicate a lot of space to buildings and monuments from the Soviet period. In contrast to Tbilisi and Yerevan , Baku is very much lacking in Soviet-era architecture. In fact, I would definitely say that Baku is the least ‘Soviet-looking’ of the three.

There are bits and bobs that you will notice around the place – including relief sculptures in and around the Old City, and this mosaic wall that is a tribute to the Baku jazz scene.

A Soviet-era mosaic in Baku that depicts different characters playing jazz instruments.

There are plenty more terrific mosaics in Baku that I haven’t managed to see yet – they are top of my agenda for next time. Mosaics of Azerbaijan is a terrific follow on Instagram if you are interested in this sort of thing. You can also find decorative mosaics inside the Baku metro (see #11 below).

7. Sign up for a walking tour with Gani Nasirov

A sculpture of Baku Old City on a wall in front of an apartment building.

If you’re looking for a guide in Baku, I can’t recommend Gani Nasirov highly enough. I have been on several walking tours of Baku and Gani’s itineraries and insights are head and shoulders above the rest.

As well as a free tour of the Old Town, Gani and his team offer several special interest tours including a food tour, an urban wine tasting and a Baku Soviet Architecture & Mosaics Tour (I need this one in my life!). Browse the full program on Gani’s Azerbaijan Traveller website .

Recently I joined Gani for a Baku Oil Heritage Walking Tour and loved every minute of it. He took me to some of the most charming mansion houses and we even got to go inside the Saadet Sarayi Palace.

If Baku’s oil past is a subject you are also fascinated by, then I recommend you visit the Baku Nobel Heritage Fund Museum (Villa Petrolea) in the White City.

8. Stroll along the Bulvar

View of the Caspian Sea and the modern Crescent Hotel.

Extending for three kilometres along the waterfront, the Bulvar is a wide promenade with picture-perfect views of the Caspian Sea. Not unlike the Old Boulevard in Batumi, Georgia , it has room for both pedestrians and cyclists, and is interspersed with pockets of parkland. I always like to walk along the Bulvar in the evening.

There are several points of interest along the way.

The Swans Fountain presents a nice photo opportunity – the birds’ craned necks echo the curves of the Flame Towers that appear in the distance from behind a handsome Style Moderne corner building.

Swans Fountain in Baku, a European-style plaza with a view of the Flame Towers behind a heritage facade.

The Mirvari Kafe (Cafe Pearl) by architects Vadim Shulgin, Anya Val and Irina Orlova-Stroqanova dates to 1961 and is one of the few Soviet-era buildings I saw up-close in Baku. Nearby, there is a long pier that you can walk out to for a city view.

At the southern end of the Bulvar you will find Mini-Venice , a very twee amusement park where you can board a gondola for a joyride along the man-made waterway.

The Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum, a textile museum shaped like a rolled up carpet.

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum – an iconic piece of architecture shaped like a rolled carpet and with an excellent exhibition on Azerbaijani carpet weaving inside – is also worth visiting if you are interested in regional textile traditions and culture.

9. Take the Funicular to Highland Park for sunset

Martyrs' Lane, a war cemetery in Baku, Azerbaijan with the modern Flame Towers high-rise buildings rising up in the distance.

Behind the Carpet Museum you will find the lower station of the Baku Funicular. The 455-metre-long line runs up the mountainside to a plateau overlooking Baku and the Caspian Sea.

Like Mtatsminda in Tbilisi , Baku’s Highland Park features a restaurant and several green spaces. While you’re there, visit the war cemetery, Martyrs’ Lane , and the Shahidlar Monument with its eternal flame.

Highland Park offers incredible views of Baku, particularly at sunset. The best vantage point is from the terrace in front of the restaurant – see the location on my map below.

View of Baku city at twilight from Highland Park.

From this point you can look back at the Flame Towers , which are perched on the hill above. After sunset, all three are illuminated with light displays.

When you’re done, there is a set of stairs at the end of the viewing platform that leads back down to the Bulvar. (If you don’t want to ride the funicular, you can also walk up via this alternative route.)

Baku Flame Towers silhouetted against a sunset sky.

Highland Park is open 24/7 and is free to visit. The Baku Funicular operates from 10am until 8pm (with a break from 1-2pm) daily and costs 1 AZN one-way.

10. Photograph the Heydar Mosque – one of the best things to do in Baku at night

The Heydar Mosque, a huge temple with a central dome and four minarets on the outskirts of Baku, Azerbaijan.

Islam is the predominant religion in Azerbaijan (with up to 95% of people identifying as Muslim, and almost an even split between Sunni and Shia) – yet it is widely to considered to be the most secular nation in the Muslim world .

Indeed, walking around the central part of Baku you will only encounter one or two mosques.

One mosque I do recommend going out of your way for is the Heydar Mosque. Located in the 6th Micro-Region on the northern outskirts of the city, it requires a 30-45 minute taxi ride (or a trip on the metro to Nasimi Station) – but it is very much worth the journey.

This is a new mosque, having been completed in 2014. Dedicated as it is to Azerbaijan’s former leader , it is particularly opulent both inside and out.

The main dome of the Heydar Mosque in Baku.

This mosque looks all the more impressive at night, which is why I recommend going towards the end of the day.

Groundskeepers turn on the floodlights around 20 minutes before sunset. The four minarets and stonework illuminated by brilliant warm lights is quite breathtaking.

They Heydar Mosque, an ornate mosque with four minarets in Baku illuminated at night.

I recommend you arrive around an hour before sunset – this will give you enough time to photograph the mosque during golden hour, pop inside, then watch as the lights come on. The call to prayer goes out shortly after for another memorable scene.

11. Ride the Baku metro

Inside the Baku metro.

While most of downtown Baku is walkable, you will need transportation to reach the Heydar Mosque plus the remaining attractions mentioned below. The Baku Metro is an efficient and affordable way to get around.

Inaugurated in 1967 when Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, Baku’s underground was the fifth subway system in the USSR . Its deep stations and decorated platforms are very much of that era, with mosaics and murals that are heavy on Azerbaijani imagery with Soviet flourishes here and there.

The most beautiful of the 27 stations are Nizami and 20 Yanvar . You can see photos from more of the stations in this blog post – but a word of caution, photography is strictly prohibited inside the metro, and guards take this very seriously.

I snapped a few sneaky photos on my recent trip, and I regretted it! I was approached by two guards who stood over me while I deleted the photos from my camera roll and from the trash (I did sneak one past them, though). They were friendly enough, but it was a nerve-wracking encounter.

The metro in Baku has a couple of quirks. Some stations serve multiple lines from the one platform, so you might be waiting for your train to arrive only to see the timetable switch and a different line pass through. It takes a bit of getting used to.

The Baku metro runs from 6am until midnight. A single fare costs 0.40 AZN, payable with a rechargeable transport card (BakiKART) that you can purchase from any of the automated machines. Note that every station has metal detectors and a security check.

12. Marvel at the ultra-modern Heydar Aliyev Centre

They Heydar Aliyev Centre, a white modern building with curved lines and glass walls in Baku Azerbaijan.

One of my favourite pieces of architecture in the world, the Heydar Aliyev Centre is a must-see in Baku. It is, in many ways, a complete contrast to the ancient monuments in the Icherisheher. Look closer and you will see that its form references traditional Azerbaijani designs.

Designed by the acclaimed Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the cultural and business centre opened in 2012. While the primary reason to come here is to walk around its expansive perimeter and photograph the curvaceous building from all angles, you can also duck inside to see whatever exhibition is on.

The Heydar Aliyev Centre, a contemporary building in Baku, Azerbaijan with a backdrop of apartment buildings.

I particularly love this perspective, where the curved facade appears to wrap around the apartment buildings behind it.

Read more about visiting the Heydar Aliyev Centre in my dedicated post.

13. Pop into the Yasil Bazar (Green Market)

Colourful jars of pickles and preserves at the Green Market Yasil Bazar in Baku.

The Yasil Bazar or ‘Green Bazaar’ is a 25-minute walk from the Heydar Aliyev Centre, thus I recommend doing both while you are on this side of town.

The huge undercover marketplace sells both fresh produce and artisanal products including spices, dried fruit, and pickles galore. Look out for loose-leaf Azerbaijani tea from Lankaran and muraba sweet preserves made from walnuts, seasonal berries and other fruits.

Baskets of spices and tea for sale at the bazaar in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Unlike some markets in Central Asia, photography is OK at the market in Baku. All the people I met on my visit were exceedingly welcome and many of them wanted to pose for a photo!

Vendors dressed in high-vis vests pushing carts pose for a photo inside the Yasil Bazaar, a covered green market in Baku Azerbaijan.

From the market, you can continue down the avenue to connect back up with the Baku metro at the main railway terminal (28 May Station).

14. Venture outside the city to Balakhani

A cobbled street with a low wall painted with street art murals in Balakhani, Baku, Azerbaijan.

If you have a spare afternoon, the satellite suburb of Balakhani (Balaxani) is an interesting spot for a walk. Styled to resemble a Greek village , the houses have all been whitewashed and beautified with creeping jasmine vines and street art murals. It is all very heavily curated, but I still enjoyed it.

The history of this area goes back to 1593 when an oil well was dug nearby. As you walk around you can still see tiny rigs bobbing below the earth like ducks on the surface of a pond. I think this is one of the only places in Azerbaijani where you can surreptitiously photograph oil infrastructure without being reprimanded.

A wooden door framed by creeping jasmine on a street in Baku.

There are several specific points of interest in Balakhani, including the cemetery and turbe (mausoleum), and the old hammam. There are a couple of boutique shops and cafes here as well. It’s a very small area that you can easily cover on foot in a couple of hours.

Gravestones and a beautiful mausoleum at the historic cemetery in Balakhani, Azerbaijan.

To get to Balakhani, first ride the metro to Koroglu then take bus 214. Buses wait in front of the kiosks near the Olympic Park metro exit. You can use the same transport card for both. It takes around 60 minutes to reach Balakhani from the centre.

15. Take a day trip to Gobustan, Ateshgah & Yanardag

Ateshgah, an ancient stone temple with a burning flame on a pedestal.

There are several attractions on the Absheron Peninsula near Baku that you should visit as a day trip from the city. I highly recommend a combined tour to Gobustan, Ateshgah and Yanardag.

When I was last in Baku with my dad, we joined this day tour that I booked through Viator . Although parts of the day were a little rushed, we both really enjoyed the trip and thought it was excellent value for money.

Gobustan (Qobustan) is located an hour southwest of Baku along the Caspian Coast. There are two things to see here: The State Historical and Cultural Reserve (i.e. the petroglyphs ), and the Gobustan mud volcanoes. All day tours incorporate both.

Azerbaijan is home to the vast majority of the Earth’s mud volcanoes (around 344 in total), including the biggest. The Gobustan landscape is a wild and rugged terrain blistered with bubbling craters that is really a lot of fun to wander around.

A bubbling mud volcano with more craters in the distance at the Gobustan Mud Volcanoes in Azerbaijan.

I first visited the mud volcanoes back in 2017. On my recent trip, I found it was exactly as I remembered – but in the near future it will be developed for tourism and fenced/ticketed. In the meantime, the only way to reach the area is with a local taxi. I really hope the Lada Army hangs around as travelling through the moon-like landscape in a retro car makes the experience all the more surreal and exciting!

Nearby, the Gobustan State Historical and Cultural Reserve is an open-air museum of petroglyphs and rock carvings. One of Azerbaijan’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites , there are an estimated 1,000 examples of rock art here, the oldest of which were created 40,000 years ago.

Tours start at the small museum and continue through the landscape via walking paths. The whole area is eerily beautiful, and both the marked signage and the guided tour are terrific. The petroglyphs here are some of the best I have ever seen – they are easy to spot and in great condition.

A series of figures carved into rock at the Gobustan petroglyph UNESO site near Baku.

Located back on the eastern side of Baku, Ateshgah (pictured above) is an ancient temple that is sacred to Zoroastrian , Sikh and Hindu worshippers. Constructed between the 17th and 18th centuries and used by traders moving along the Grand Trunk Road , it now houses a small museum.

The final stop, Yanardag , is Baku’s famous ‘flaming mountain’. It is much smaller than you might imagine (more like a tiny hillock), but the spectacle is impressive nonetheless.

As the story goes, in the 1970s a shepherd flicked his lit cigarette onto the ground and the hill caught alight. The flames, fed by natural gas oozing up from underground, have been burning ever since.

I could have sworn I saw a gas pipe in there amongst the silver coins people toss to the flames for good luck – but who knows!

Yanar Dag, a flaming hillside near Baku in Azerbaijan.

If you want my honest opinion, Ateshgah and Yanar Dag are both a bit overrated. The sites have been overdeveloped and are a bit naff. Gobustan was definitely the highlight for me back in 2017 and again on my last visit.

Read more about it in this dedicated Gobustan Guide , or use my round-up of the best day trips from Baku to explore alternative options.

Where to eat & drink in Baku

Passage 145 : This restaurant off Fountain Square has a couple of special dishes, including a Baku Salad – tomatoes, red onion, cornelian cherries and mint. Their balli tort honey cake was one of the best things I ate in Baku.

A colourful tomato salad with cherries served at Passage 145 in Baku.

Dolma : Every time I visit Baku I make sure to eat at least one meal at this underground restaurant. The dish of the house is dolma (recognised as part of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage ), and I especially love their plov (Azerbaijan’s national dish), which comes in all different flavour combinations and sizes.

Fisincan : This restaurant’s covered terrace is a nice setting for lunch. We had a decent Azerbaijani saj (mixed grill) here, but I wasn’t too fussed about the service.

A saj pan on a restaurant table in Baku, filled with meat, vegetables and lavash bread.

KEFLI : This cute wine bar serves Azerbaijani wines along with gourmet cheese and tasting boards. I love the retro posters. Be sure to make an advanced reservation if you are visiting on a weekend.

90’lar Cafe : This quirky cafe-restaurant is styled to be a throwback to the 1990s. Cocktails and light meals (mostly European cuisine and burgers) are available. If you’re interested in seeing live music in Baku, many of the city’s best Mugham jazz bars – including ETUD – are located in this area.

Coffee Moffie : My favourite cafe in Baku, Coffee Moffie has excellent coffee and sweets, with ample seating and WIFI for remote workers.

Map of things to do in Baku

Use this Google Map to plan your trip and navigate Baku .

Where to stay in Baku

If it’s your first time in Baku, I highly recommend choosing a hotel located inside or close to the walls of the atmospheric Old City .

A double bed in a mid-range hotel in Baku.

TOP CHOICE: Utopia Hotel (⭐ 8.5). Located within the Old Town walls, this hotel has simple, tidy rooms and a rooftop terrace with water views. Staff are helpful, and the complimentary breakfast is a nice bonus. It’s great value for Baku. I stayed here recently with my dad.

Breakfast at the budget-friendly Cth Baku Hostel in Azerbaijan.

BUDGET: Cth Baku Hostel (⭐ 9.4). Located in the popular student neighbourhood of Yasamal, west of the Old City and just footsteps from Nazimi Metro Station, this hostel has budget-friendly private rooms with shared bathrooms and comfortable communal spaces for socialising.

Centric Baku hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan.

MID-RANGE: Centric Baku Boutique Hotel (⭐ 9.4). Located just outside the Old City walls close to the National Museum, this modern, stylish hotel has chic rooms with city views. A terrific breakfast is included.

The Merchant luxury hotel in Baku, Azerbaijan.

HIGH-END: The Merchant Baku (⭐ 9.4). Located right on the old wall, 600m from the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, this opulent hotel has spacious rooms with private balconies and a gorgeous Silk-Road-inspired cocktail lounge.

Where to go next: More ideas for Azerbaijan

  • Explore more of the Absheron Peninsula with these 12 best day trips from Baku
  • Head north to the Silk Road city of Sheki , my favourite place in the country
  • Plan your journey from Baku to Sheki with plenty of stops along the way
  • Sleep inside a Silk Road caravanserai in Sheki , one of the coolest things to do in Azerbaijan
  • Visit the incredible Sheki Khan’s Palace
  • Travel east to meet the carpet weavers in Quba
  • Spend a morning in Lahic , a trade town known for its copper workshops
  • Experience alpine hiking and homestays in Xinaliq, Azerbaijan’s highest village
  • Plan your trip: The ultimate Caucasus itinerary or an efficient 10-14 day Azerbaijan Georgia itinerary

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The World Was Here First

The Ultimate 2 to 3 Days in Baku Itinerary

Last Updated on January 24, 2024

by Maggie Turansky

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.

Because Azerbaijan is something of an “off the beaten path” destination, finding the ideal information on how to plan a Baku itinerary can be difficult.

Though a small country, Azerbaijan boasts an incredibly diverse climate and a very interesting history dating back thousands upon thousands of years, however, most visitors to this oil-rich nation choose to visit the glitzy capital of Baku.

Not a lot is known about Baku and you would be forgiven for not knowing what there is to do in this grand and bizarre city. However, spending a couple of days in Azerbaijan’s capital is sure to be an experience you will look back upon for years to come and Baku is a city that’s worth visiting.

Aliyev centre in Baku

Table of Contents

How Many Days in Baku?

When planning your trip to Baku, it can be difficult to figure out just how many days you should devote to exploring the city. As a major capital and the biggest city in the Caucasus region, Baku is massive and has quite a lot to keep visitors occupied for at least a few days.

However, if you’re short on time or want to make sure you get the most out of the Azeri capital, I would say that it is worth spending at least 3 days in Baku.

This amount of time will allow you to see all of the highlights of the capital city in the downtown and Old City areas. It will also allow you to go on a day trip to some of the amazing sites surrounding the city.

If you’re short on time, spending 2 days in Baku is possible and worth it as well, it is just unlikely that you will be able to fit as much as you might like into your itinerary.

It is possible to pack the main sites of the Old City and downtown into the first day and then devote the second day to a day tour. Alternatively, you could simply devote two full days and explore Baku properly and really dig as deep as possible into the city (follow the first two days of this itinerary!)

Regardless if you plan to see Baku in 3 days or you only have 2 to spend, you are sure to be charmed by the cosmopolitan and modern vibes that this city of contrasts has to offer.

The walls of Baku's Old City

Getting To & Around Baku

First things first, it’s generally likely that you will need to apply for an e-Visa before entering Azerbaijan and visiting Baku. Check online to see if you’re required to apply for an e-Visa (citizens of countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the EU, the UK and the USA are all eligible for one). There are only a handful of nations whose citizens can enter Azerbaijan visa-free.

Plan to apply for your e-Visa at least three days prior to travelling to Azerbaijan, however, we recommend applying as early as possible to prevent any complications.

You will need to make sure that all of your information is entered in correctly and you must upload a copy of your passport.

Once your visa is approved, you will need to print it out and then present it to immigration along with your passport while at the border.

Though Baku is quite a large city, the majority of its main tourist sites are actually within very easy reach of each other on foot. If you’re not keen to walk all over the place while in Baku, the city is well-serviced by a great metro system that will get you where you need to go. You can purchase a single ticket from machines at every station.

Taxis are also affordable in Baku , but be sure to be aware of scams. To avoid being overcharged, it is best to call a taxi in advance. We recommend using the Bolt app, which operates prolifically throughout the Azeri capital.

Platform at the Baku train station

2 to 3-Day Baku Itinerary

Day 1 – old city highlights.

The first day of this itinerary for Baku sees you exploring the lovely UNESCO-listed Old City. This area of Baku sets it apart from the likes of other oil-rich cities like Dubai as the history here dates back centuries.

Explore the Old City

Arguably the best way to get started is with a free walking tour of the Old City and the surrounding monuments. Though the free walking tour craze hasn’t quite taken off here as much as it has in other European cities, the Baku Free Tour , run by the incredibly knowledgeable Gani, is an excellent way to get your bearings and learn about Baku.

The Baku Original Free Walking tour meets every day at 11 AM in front of the Pizza Hut/KFC in Fountain Square. Though the tour is free, because demand isn’t super high, you need to make sure to book in advance online.

The tour will take you all over the old city and explain all of the histories of the area along with some nuances of Azerbaijani culture that you may have not been aware of.

Some of the highlights include learning about the disputed history of the Maiden Tower , stopping by the thousand-year-old Muhammad Mosque , and even seeing the smallest book in the world in the Museum of Miniature Books , which holds the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of miniature books (who knew that was even a thing?).

Baku itinerary: miniature book museum

The tour will also take you by the Shirvanshahs Palace and allow you to admire the beautiful architecture of the Azerbaijan State Philharmonic Hall , which is modelled off of the Monte Carlo Casino in Monaco.

While we always recommend free walking tours in most cities that offer them, this one was easily one of the best we’ve been on and it will give you some invaluable information on the history and culture of Baku that you will not get from simply reading a guide — including this one!

After the free walking tour, head to lunch at Dolma , which will give you a great introduction to Azerbaijani cuisine and agreeable prices.

Baku Skyline

Maiden Tower

Though you will go by this on the free walking tour, it can be worth visiting one of Baku’s most famous monuments on its own.

The Maiden Tower, which was built sometime between the 4th and 12th centuries (a lot is unknown about this structure), is one of the most defining structures in Azerbaijan’s capital. Though the true purpose of the building is not completely known and there are over twenty legends and mysteries surrounding it, there is no doubt that it is an iconic part of the Baku cityscape.

Entry into the Maiden Tower includes a small museum about Baku and the tower within. The views from the top are fine, however, it may not be worth the entry fee to get in. It is also surrounded by glass, which makes it difficult to take good photos from the top.

Baku itinerary: maiden tower

Palace of the Shirvanshahs

Constructed in the 15th Century by the former king, Ibrahim I of Shirvanshah, this beautiful palace complex is one of the top attractions to visit on any visit to the Azeri capital.

Surrounded by a lot of fascinating history, it is worth going in to see the beautiful Persian architecture and learning about how the upper classes lived in Baku centuries ago.

The view of the city from the entrance to the palace is also one of the best in Baku, as it expertly combines the antique architecture of the old city combined with sights of the ultra-modern Flame Towers.

The back door is also one of the only examples of Ottoman architecture in the city, but here you can also find an interesting addition to Baku: the cat house. These houses are scattered around the city to provide shelter and a place for food and water to the city’s many stray cats. When we were there, there was a mother with four adorable kittens who had taken up residence there. .

baku trip guide

Day 2 – Explore Modern Baku

Day two of this Baku itinerary sees you getting outside of the old city and exploring the grand downtown area. Today is where you will get a better idea about how Baku has evolved over time and the influences it has had over the centuries.

Azerbaijan Carpet Museum

After spending time at the Taza Bazaar, head over to the seaside and visit the intriguing Azerbaijan Carpet Museum . Though this may sound like a peculiar concept for a well-curated museum, it is worth the 7 AZN entry fee to see.

Azerbaijan has an incredible history of carpet-making and this museum excellent displays some beautiful carpets, which are wonderful works of art, over three floors. It also includes local artisans who will demonstrate how these carpets are made by hand.

Our favourite part of the museum was on the top floor, which included carpets depicting images of stories and landmarks from Azerbaijan. It is truly amazing to see the amount of skill and detail that goes into these carpets and plan to spend at least a couple of hours exploring all of this museum.

Baku itinerary: carpet museum

Caspian Seaside Promenade

After learning about Azeri carpet making, it’s time to take a stroll along the lovely park lining the beautiful Caspian sea

If the weather is fine, you will see lots of people out and about enjoying the sea breeze and the pleasant vibes of this area of the city. There are a few cafes along the promenade and there is also a bizarre area known as Little Venice that is full of man-made canals and bridges.

For an excellent view, opt to take the funicular to Upland Park. From there, you can get a beautiful, panoramic view of the Caspian Sea and the modern Flame Towers.

After enjoying the views of the Caspian, head to lunch at Cezar, a local restaurant close to the gate of the old city.

The Caspian Sea in Baku

Explore Downtown Baku

After spending some time along the Caspian, it’s time to head inland and explore a bit more of the city’s downtown area.

If you want to have some great historical context, we recommend going on the Baku Downtown Free Tour , which meets in the same place as the old city tour (it is also necessary to book in advance for this one).

This tour will take you through Fountain Square , where you will learn its history, and along the pedestrianised and luxury-filled Nizami Street . You will also go past the ruins of the Armenian Church where you can learn a little bit about the history of the conflict between the two countries.

He will also take you to the Sahil Garden , where you will learn about why this lovely park is so controversial among locals.

The tour will also take you by a number of other sites and areas where you will learn about famous residents of Baku and some more history of this beautiful city.

Even if you’re not able to go on this tour, it’s well worth taking the time to explore this area independently or on a paid guided tour. For instance, this historic and modern Baku tour is a good option. Alternatively, you could opt for this old and modern Baku tour which offers both a day and night option.

A fountain in Sahil Garden

Day 3 – Mud Volcanoes, Gobustan, Aliyev Centre & More

If you are spending 3 days exploring Baku, then your last day should be spent seeing some sites outside of the city proper, along with one of the city’s most famous buildings.

Though it is possible to take a taxi to all of these places yourself or to hire a car a drive there on your own, getting there by public transport is nearly impossible. This is why we recommend taking an organised day tour.

We opted to book through Tes Tours , who have an office in the old city, and was well worth the per-person price. Alternatiely, this guided day tour is also a great option, though doesn’t include a stop at the Aliyev Centre.

We had a friendly and knowledgeable guide who was able to give us a lot of context and information about the things we were seeing and offered great insight into life in Azerbaijan today.

Mud Volcanoes

As one of the most popular sites to visit as a day trip from Baku, the mud volcanoes are located about 80 kilometres outside of the Baku city centre and are a truly fascinating place to see.

As some of the only mud volcanoes in the world that are powered by natural gas rather than geyser forces, these mounds of bubbling mud are reached by a bumpy dirt road. The landscape surrounding them will make you feel as if you’ve left Earth altogether and they are certainly worth the journey out there.

There is also no entry fee for the mud volcanoes, so you can enjoy this bizarre natural phenomenon completely free of charge.

Mud volcanoes outside of Baku, Azerbaijan

Gobustan Rock Art

Located not far from the mud volcanoes is another one of Azerbaijan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites – the ancient petroglyphs of Gobustan.

This historic site is filled with remnants of the prehistoric man, as evidenced by the thousands of years old cave drawings on the rock faces. Some of the petroglyphs are more than 15,000 years old and the area contains more than 6,000 rock paintings dating through tens of thousands of years.

The paintings depict the life and culture of the prehistoric humans who lived in cave areas and have provided archaeologists and anthropologists with much historical insight into the first humans.

gobustan rock art dancing men

Ateshgah Fire Temple

If you are curious to learn about religion in Azerbaijan before the country became predominantly Muslim, then visiting the Fire Temple of Baku is one of the best places to see in Azerbaijan.

This Zoroastrian temple has been in its place since the 17th or 18th centuries, however, it is an excellent place to learn about the world’s first monotheistic religion. This temple is equipped with a few flames that are powered by natural gas, so they will never be extinguished.

Zoroastrians believe that fire is the physical manifestation of God on Earth and therefore it is incredibly sacred for them. It is also the basis for the followers of the Lord of Light from Game of Thrones .

Ateshgah Fire Temple in Azerbaijan

Fire Mountain

Azerbaijan is known as the “land of fire” and nowhere does that become more evident than the fire mountain. This small bit of a hillside just outside of Baku is the sight of a natural gas fire that has been burning for decades.

While it might sound kind of cool to go see a burning mountainside — I was very excited to see this for myself — it might be worth it to lower your expectations and, honestly, it can be worth skipping altogether.

Because of how much Azerbaijan has drained its natural resources, the fire isn’t nearly as big as it used to be. It takes up about one metre of a hillside and, in all honesty, I have seen more impressive fires while camping.

If you do end up visiting, they do charge a small entry fee.

burning mountain outside of Baku

Heydar Aliyev Centre

As one of the most iconic buildings in Azerbaijan today, no visit to Baku is complete without a visit to the incredible Heydar Aliyev Centre.

Officially opened in 2012, this beautiful modern building designed by British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid is one of the most mesmerising works of contemporary architecture in the world today. The building won the 2014 Design Museum’s Design of the Year award, making Hadid the first woman in history to win.

The main enjoyment of the Aliyev Centre is outside of the building, where you can very much enjoy the gorgeous architecture and some of the outdoor temporary exhibitions. Inside, the centre boasts a massive auditorium, a museum, and conference rooms.

heydar aliyev centre

Where to Eat & Drink in Baku

Azeri cuisine takes influences from many of its neighbours and friends, including Iran, Turkey, Georgia, and Russia, making a diverse cuisine that is worth sampling. Though it is possible to get some vegetable dishes, the cuisine is meat-heavy so it may prove difficult to be a vegetarian here.

Dolma — Though tourist-friendly, this restaurant serves a range of traditional Azeri fare at agreeable prices. The service is quite good as well.

Xezer Kafe — Located close to the old city gates, this local place has a wide menu with Azeri favourites including delicious soups, dolma, and salads. They also have an English menu to make ordering easier.

Bir Iki — This is a great option if you’re after a quick but tasty doner or shwarma after a long day of sightseeing in Baku. They offer both eat-in and takeaway options.

Coffee Moffie — This is a fantastic cafe if you are looking for a good espresso drink, a cup of Azeri tea, or a glass of local wine. Set with a trendy vibe, this cafe also acts as something of a coworking space for Baku’s freelancers and has a great wifi connection as well.

Baku itinerary: Azeri cuisine

Where to Stay in Baku

Baku is trying to distinguish itself as a luxury destination, with ample choice for high-end hotels that will set you back a month’s salary. Despite this, however, there are a number of great budget and mid-range accommodation options available in the city as well. These are some of our suggestions:

Cth Hostel Baku – This small guesthouse offers a number of private single or double rooms at very affordable prices. There is a fantastic and hearty breakfast included and it is well-located within walking distance of most main sights. The staff only speaks limited English.

Sahil Hostel – A popular choice amongst backpackers and solo travellers in Baku, this hostel is a great choice in the city. Located closed to Sahil Metro and within easy walking distance of all the main sites, they have a range of private and dorm rooms available.

Seven Boutique Hotel – This boutique hotel is an excellent option for those looking for a little more comfort during their trip to Baku. Well located, they have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available and a helpful staff to make your stay a great one.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Baku hotels!

Carpets in Baku's Old City

Cultural Notes

Azerbaijan is a Muslim-majority country, however, it has been incredibly secular for some time and there is no state religion declared. Therefore, you will not see many local women wearing hijabs, consumption of alcohol is at a level consistent with Christian-majority countries, and in Baku, loudspeakers announcing the call to prayer are banned, though over 90% of the population identifies as Muslim.

Though there isn’t much religious adherence in Azerbaijan, the country is still quite culturally conservative and patriarchal, and traditional gender norms reign supreme, especially in more local joints in Baku. There are, for instance, cafes and bars where women might feel unwelcome and it may be unwise to wear anything too revealing.

It is also very much a more male-dominated society and it is rare to see many women working in most establishments, except for the more European-style cafes and shops.

Even the idea of men wearing shorts is a controversial topic in Azerbaijan. While the general consensus among locals is that it is okay for foreigners to wear what they will, you still might get some uncomfortable looks and glances.

I would also say it would be unwise to wear short skirts or shorts as a woman in Baku, no matter what time of year it is. Men can be a bit less cautious with their clothing choices, however, it’s worth noting that most Azeri men would not wear shorts. It is generally accepted for foreigners to wear what they desire, though.

Baku itinerary

Spending two or three days in Baku is an excellent way to see Azerbaijan’s capital and enjoy the fascinating history and unique culture of this rapidly developing city.

Are you planning to visit Baku? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

baku trip guide

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About Maggie Turansky

Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

Your blog is informative and helpful. I had good time earlier in Georgia and now planning Azerbaijan trip based on your blog. Thank You.

Thanks for the kind words! I’m so happy we could help you plan your trips 🙂

Hi Maggie, This is a very useful blog. I just have one question. How much tip do you think is enough for the free walking tour?

Happy you found this helpful! For the walking tour, it’s common practice to tip the amount that you believe the tour was worth 🙂

Hi..can you recommend where to buy carpets? does the museum sell carpets ? also is there an artisan market? local goods, crafts etc?

Hi, unfortunately, I don’t really know where or how to buy carpets in Baku. Hope you have a great trip!

Going there for 4 days in october for the international soccer. Looking forward.. Any more hints.. Is dining expensive

Hi Patrick, thanks for your comment! Have a look at our price guide for more tips and average expenses for Baku: https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/baku-azerbaijan-trip-cost/ Hope you’re able to plan a great trip!

Thank you great summary, will help me plan my trip next summer!!

Glad this helped, Sammie!

Thank you for sharing this itenary. We found it very useful since we made a 3-day visit to Baku on occasion of the Eid hols in UAE last weekend.

Thanks for your comment, Zajin. Hope you had a great time in Baku!

we are planning for National Day in December. 3 days was sufficient for you?

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One Day in Baku Itinerary – How to Spend a Perfect Day in Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku is the capital and the largest city of Azerbaijan. In addition, it is the largest city on the Caspian Sea and in the Caucasus region. Founded in the 5th century, it is revered as the historical, cultural, and business avenue of countries of West Asia. This grand and newly-emerged tourist destination has a population of 3.2 million and is also the sole metropolis of the country. In other words, your one day in Baku will be filled with some amazing things!

One day in Baku Itinerary

The name ‘Baku’ means ‘The City of God’ or ‘The Land of God’. The city is regarded as the architectural child of Paris and Dubai and has three prime divisions, i.e. the ancient city, the Soviet-built city, and the newly-built city. It is also 28 meters below the sea level, making it the lowest-lying country’s capital. Azerbaijan was annexed into the USSR in 1920, where it remained for decades but finally got its independent status in 1991.

So, are you excited for your one day in Baku? If the answer is yes, get your backpacks ready! There is a lot to see.

What’s The Best Time To Visit Baku?

If you’re planning on visiting Baku and exploring the deep history, culture, and eye-opening architectural views, you’ll love every second of your one day in Baku. But what’s the best time to visit the city?

‘Time flies; it’s up to you to be the navigator.’ (Robert Orben)

Planning always plays a pivotal role in any work you do! It is rightly said that an hour of preparation can save you 10 hours of doing. Have a look over the statistics presented here to evaluate and plan when the right time is to visit the mini-Dubai, Baku.

Baku

May and September are most likely to be the months of adequate and pleasant weather conditions with an average temperature between 20 degrees Celsius to 25 degrees Celsius.

The warmest months are July and August . Additionally, the weather remains dry in February, April, May, June. By far, the coldest month is January, when the temperature falls to 6 degrees Celsius. If you are a big fan of rain, then November is the month in which you should plan your visit as it is the wettest month.

Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku 2

Events and Festivals in Baku

Baku, the charming city of Azerbaijan, is a fantastic place for events and festivals. People enjoy them throughout the year, no matter if they focus food, culture, music, wine, and music.

There’s always something exciting and fascinating happening in the country, especially in its capital. Below are some of the famous events that you must see if you’re planning on visiting Baku.

International Baku Jazz Festival

The music festival forum is set up with 115 members from 34 different countries in Baku for this festival. It has several phases and follows with a competition for getting the ‘Best Jazz Performer’ award. This festival has been held since 2005.

Azerbaijan International Food Industry Exhibition

The food industry of Azerbaijan is so important not only because it meets the country’s demands but also because it exports to many other places. The goods include freshly-grown fruit, herbs, vegetables, and spices. Every year in May, an exhibition is held in which all the exports good are displayed.

Azerbaijan International Auto Show

Are you a car/motorcycle lover? If you nodded in agreement, then you really should travel to Baku because the city hosts an annual exhibition every year between March, April, or May.

Maiden Tower International Art Festival

International Art Festival at Maiden Tower has been held since 2010. It is an international environment that brings artists from diverse backgrounds under the same roof. The festival includes street art, workshops, exhibitions, and much more.

Baku Shopping Festival

If you are a shopaholic, then this gathering is for you. It is a seasonal shopping festival that happens twice a year and goes for as long as a month. What makes it unique? This shopping gala has special discounts and is Tax-free .

Baku International Tourism Film Festival (BITFF)

Every November, an annual cultural event is held to promote films on various subjects related to domestic and international tourism, which is viewed by a large audience.

A Few Facts About Baku

  • The name Baku is pronounced as ‘Baa-koo.’
  • The citizens of Baku take tea with jam. Yes! You heard that right; the drink is go-to for every occasion and every meet-up and is sweetened with jam.
  • The residents and citizens of Baku are known as ‘Bakuvians’ or ‘Azerbaijanis.’
  • The Currency of Azerbaijan is ‘Azerbaijani New Manat’, and 1 Azerbaijan Manat is worth about $0.60.
  • Baku has an exclusive and dedicated Museum for Miniature books. It opened in 2002 and is the finest of its kind in the world. It features over 6500 miniature manuals from 64 different countries.
  • Baku also has a Museum of Dedicated Carpets; with various designs and patterns.
  • The sport which is famous throughout Azerbaijan and especially in Baku is arm wrestling. Baku also hosts arm wrestling matches in bars and clubs.
  • Baku is located in close proximity to Mud Volcanoes.
  • Baku is full of exciting and famous tourist destinations like Little Venice on the Boulevard, Baku Flame Tower, Palace of the Shirvanshahs, and many more.
  • Baku derives its significance from its administrative functions and the oil industry.
  • Baku is indeed an enchanting place full of excitement. It has the ever-burning natural gas fire which burns throughout the year without ever stopping. It is called Yanar Dag.
  • Bakuvians love food. Azerbaijan’s national dish, which is also Baku’s most famous dish, is ‘Kutabi.’ These are filled and stuffed pancakes.
  • Baku’s literacy rate is 99%. Students are wise and do jobs too, but undergrads who face difficulties in managing job and studies take dissertation proposal writing service.
  • When it comes to weddings, Bakuvians are very meticulous. They have a great love for sugar – if there is no sugar, there is no wedding.

Baku Downtown

One Day In Baku Itinerary

Follow this guide and plan your trip accordingly, even if you are short on time. These are the top places you should visit during your one day in Baku. You can easily tour the city in a day by renting a car at low prices and riding around the city with ease. Just keep this in mind: wake up early and live the moment!

Visit Gobustan National Park

Exploring different landscapes has its charm, and when it comes to exploring Baku, some of its features will really make you say “Wow!”. Scientists have discovered prehistoric mud volcanoes in which you can put your hands. If you dare, of course. Just be careful – an eruption could cover you in mud. The scenery is quite surreal, and you feel very much like you’re on another world, but while you’re here you should also go see the fascinating rock art that can also be found on the national park’s premises.

Mud Volcanoes, Baku

Go and see the Heydar Mosque

Time for some architecture! The Heydar Mosque is a blend of modern and traditional as it has all the elements you’d expect from a traditional mosque, but it was only built in 2014. Nevertheless, it is exceptionally beautiful, with its minarets reaching 95 meters in height . It is an especially beautiful sight at night, when a white light illuminates the building from all sides.

Experience the astonishing beauty of the Heydar Aliyev Centre

The Heydar Aliyev Centre is an impressive piece of architecture created by architect Zaha Hadid. It outshines all buildings in the city with its curves and flows and often hosts concerts and festivals.

Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku

On the second floor, there is a permanent exhibition called Mini Azerbaijan where you can take a look at all the most notable buildings in this country in their scaled-down version. They span from the Middle Ages to the current day, so it’s certainly interesting to see how far the country has come. Other exhibitions are also held here, so take a look and see what you can visit when you come here.

Inside Heydar Aliyev Centre, Baku

Have some delightful food at Sumakh Restaurant

If you’re hungry, have a delectable lunch at Sumakh restaurant, which is a favorite old-time eatery for locals and tourists alike. It has a modern interior, vibrantly colored walls, wooden elements, and couches ornamented with kilim cushions, all of which creates the perfect ambiance. Oh, and the food is innovative and flavorful, so you are bound to enjoy your meal here.

Walk the Baku Boulevard

Once you’re done with your meal, a nice walk is a great idea. Close to the aforementioned restaurant is the Baku Boulevard . This promenade goes parallel to the city’s coastline, and is usually considered to start at Freedom Square and go all the way to the Old City. Built in 1909, this stretch has been more than doubled in length in the last decade, but the original park is still a beautiful place ideal if you want some time for yourself and to just soak in the city’s vibe and appreciate the fact that you’re here.

Baku Boulevard

Explore Baku Old City

At the end of your walk a very special prize awaits. Baku Old City is the very heart of Baku and the very first place in Azerbaijan to become a part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

Old City, Baku

This settlement dates back to at least the 12th century and has been beautifully preserved with people still living there. The city walls are still visible, which makes for a great tour through this beautiful place.

City Walls, Baku

One thing you definitely mustn’t miss while you’re here is a visit to Maiden Tower , one of the symbols of Baku and Azerbaijan in general and another World Heritage Site. It houses a museum (which has a gift shop) dedicated to the city’s gradual development and is a part of many stories and legends. Climb to the top for a breathtaking view!

Maiden Tower, Baku

Relax on Fountain Square

End your one day in Baku, at least as far as sightseeing is concerned, on the beautiful Fountain Square (also known as Parapet). The locals absolutely love it, and its easy to see why: numerous fountains are surrounded with bars, restaurants and boutiques, plus there is a lot of wonderful greenery all around you. It certainly seems like a perfect day where you can rest and unwind after a whole day of walking and where you can do some people-watching to see what the local customs are when they have time to spare. Relaxing and very interesting at the same time.

Fountain square, Baku

Visit People Live Bar for a thrilling nightlife experience

Lastly, after visiting historical places and having some great food, you should visit People Livebar, a cheerful and stylish café. You can have drinks and listen to a live band while you mingle with the locals. The nightlife in Baku is genuinely astonishing, and the bar is open for 24 hours on Fridays and Saturday.

Where To Stay in Baku, Azerbaijan?

Baku is the largest city in the Caucasus region. Given its position as a significant gateway, it is a favorite choice of many tourists and many people from around the world have a lot of questions in their minds about where to stay in Baku. Getting a place which is in the city center and allows you to commute easily will be an excellent place for a foodie!

Deciding this without having an insight is the trickiest thing to do, so read this and thank me later.

Icheri Sheher Hotel, Baku

Icheri Sheher Hotel

Mammadyarov Street 1/34, Sabayil , AZ1001 Baku

Are you going to Baku for the first time ? If yes, then Icheri Sheher must be the place of your stay. This fantastic hotel is located right next to the walls of the Old City, so you’ll have quite a backdrop for your stay. Oh, and the view from the place where you have breakfast is absolutely spectacular.

BOOK A ROOM HERE

La Casa Baku

La Casa Baku

Zeynalabdin Taghiyev Street 15/3, Sabayil , AZ1005 Baku

Hotel recommendation in Baku is La Casa Baku , an attractive 4-star hotel in the Sibayil district of Baku with great features and affordable rates. It is located right next to Caspian Sea, about 300 meters from the shore. You can also rent bikes and enjoy numerous amenities, as well as a continental breakfast.

Oliva Inn & Hostel

Oliva Inn & Hostel

26 Həzi Aslanov Street Home 34, Yasamal , AZ1005 Baku

Best hostel recommendation is Oliva Inn & Hostel with great prices. Breakfast is available here every morning, the dorms are fairly big, and the kitchen is well equipped. On top of that, you are very close to many major attractions in the city.

Extra Tips For Visiting Baku

Things you must have in your mind before visiting Baku:

  • Do not speak about Armenia. Azerbaijan and Armenia are at war, and talking about Armenia can get you in real trouble.
  • Baku is a city that values cleanliness – don’t litter in Baku or you’ll be fined.
  • Women are highly regarded. Don’t be rude and arrogant to women.
  • Taxis and rent-a-cars don’t accept credit cards; they accept cash only.
  • Food and accommodation are cheap compared to other European countries. For a few dollars, you can eat a whole lot.

Pin for later!

If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Baku Itinerary, feel free to share it in the comments below!

Make sure you have everything you need

What to pack for your next trip.

Make your next trip as simple and as enjoyable as possible by packing smart. It’s amazing how much stress top travel items can save you, so choose carefully. Things like lightweight travel backpacks, for example, are ideal for short trips and allow you to move around with ease, and a passport holder will make sure you keep your documents safe at all times. Check our travel checklist guide for 2021 to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and travel to your next destination in style and with maximum comfort.

baku trip guide

Samantha Kaylee

Samantha Kaylee is currently working as a Planning Manager at Crowd Writer, an excellent platform to avail essay writing service in the UK. She has gained a reputation as a Planning Manager in her clientele. She enjoys traveling and loves to write about her travel experiences. She has shared her experiences and expedition to Baku.

I will save these useful tips. It was a really helpful and very informative blog. It really helps me a lot but if you want to also learn something new and interesting.

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Two Monkeys Travel Group

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Read our Baku travel guide to help you have an idea with your next journey to this wonderful capital in the country of Azerbaijan.

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

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  • Is Baku, Azerbaijan ready to host the Formula 1? A tourist’s point of view
  • List of the Best Luxury Hotels in Azerbaijan
  • List of the Best Budget Hotels in Azerbaijan

Table of Contents

Baku Travel Guide: Places to Visit in Baku, Azerbaijan

1. heydar aliyev cultural center.

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Suggested Tour:  Baku: 3-Hour Private Night Tour (Yanardag & More)

2. Baku Old City

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Suggested Tour:  Baku: Old City Walking Tour

3. Baku Boulevard

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Suggested Tour: Baku Panoramic Night Tour

4. Flame Towers

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

5. Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

6. Fountain Square

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Suggested Tour:  Full-Day City Tour of Baku with Azerbaijani Lunch

7. Highland Park

As elsewhere in Baku, it is striking in its ideal cleanliness, well-maintained area. The observation deck offers a wonderful view of the whole of Baku. Great place for photos of the beautiful scenery of the whole city at a glance. It’s near the famous Flame Towers.

8. Ateshgah – Fire Temple

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Suggested Tour:  Baku: Burning Mountain & Zorastrian Temple Private Tour

9. Maiden Tower

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Suggested Tour: Baku: Historic and Modern Baku Tour

Baku Travel Guide: Sample Weekend Itinerary to Baku, Azerbaijan

Day 1 – weekend guide to baku, azerbaijan.

Baku Old City –  Start your tour by wandering around the old city of Baku. Explore everything here, eat at any restaurants or cafes, you’d get to travel back in the ancient Baku.

Azerbaijan National Carpet Museum –  See how carpets are made, even the most expensive carpet of Azerbaijan.

Day 2 – Weekend Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center –  Be amazed and stunned with the amazing architecture of this center. Designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, it offers a lot of great photo opportunities.

Flame Towers –  You can go here by funicular or stairs. Anyhow, you’ll surely have a good time enjoying the view it offers from the observation deck.

Highland Park –  Since it’s near the Flame Towers, why not spend your time here as well?

Ateshgah – Fire Temple –  Discover and learn more about the interesting history of Zoroastrianism.

Day 3 – Weekend Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku Boulevard –  Rent a bike and stroll around this boulevard for a relaxing last day in Baku.

Maiden Tower –  Before you leave Baku, never miss the chance to visit the iconic Maiden Tower.

Baku Travel Guide: Where to Stay in Baku, Azerbaijan

*All prices are subject to change.

Where to Stay in Baku, Azerbaijan if you’re a Backpacker

Check-in Baku Hotel & Hostel

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Check-in Baku Hotel & Hostel provides accommodation with a shared lounge and private parking. The units come with air conditioning, a microwave, a fridge, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer, and a desk. At the hostel, every room has a seating area.

Price: Starts at $25 per night for Twin Room with Private External Bathroom, includes taxes and charges, free breakfast , and free cancellation.

Check-in Old City Aparts

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Check-in Old City Aparts features sea views and free WiFi. Every unit has a private bathroom and shower, air conditioning, a flat-screen TV and a microwave. A fridge and kettle are also available.

Price: Starts at $32 per night for Deluxe Apartment, includes taxes and charges, free breakfast , and free cancellation.

Drop Inn Baku

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Among the facilities at this property are a 24-hour front desk and room service, along with free WiFi throughout the property. All guest rooms come with air conditioning, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels, a kettle, a shower, a hairdryer, and a desk.

Price: Starts at $35 per night for Budget Double Room, includes taxes and charges, free breakfast , and free cancellation.

Where to Stay in Baku, Azerbaijan if you’re on a Budget

ATFK Hotel Baku

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

ATFK Hotel Baku offers a gym. Free WiFi and free private parking are also available on site. All rooms are air-conditioned and come with a flat-screen TV, fridge and electric kettle. The private bathroom includes free toiletries, bathrobes, slippers, and hairdryer.

Price: Starts at $32 per night for Standard Double Room, includes taxes and charges, add $6 for breakfast (optional),  and it offers a free cancellation.

Sahil Hostel & Hotel

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Units at the Sahil Hostel and Hotel are air-conditioned and soundproofing. Grand Prix Formula 1 Race track turn 4 and 5 are visible from some rooms of the hotel and from the main balcony. Guests can also find free toiletries and hairdryers for their comfort.

Price: Starts at $35 per night for Twin Room with Bathroom, includes taxes and charges, add $5 for breakfast,  and it offers a free cancellation.

Old East Hotel

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Old East Hotel boasts a restaurant, bar, and free WiFi throughout the property. Every room at this hotel is air-conditioned and comes with a TV. Guests will also find a kettle in the room. Each room has a private bathroom. The hotel also provides tour desk services and car hire.

Price: Starts at $72 per night for Standard Double Room, add $2 for taxes and charges , free breakfast ,  and it offers a free cancellation.

Where to Stay in Baku, Azerbaijan if you want Luxury

JW Marriott Absheron Baku Hotel

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

This 5-star hotel is located in the heart of the city, on the Freedom Square. The spacious, air-conditioned rooms at the JW Marriott Absheron Baku Hotel feature a flat-screen TV, iPod dock, work desk, and a laptop safe. Guests will find a bath, shower, bathrobe, and slippers in each luxury bathroom. WiFi is available at a surcharge.

Price: Starts at $156 per night for Deluxe, Guest Room, 2 Double, City View, add $2 for taxes and charges , add $22 for breakfast ,  and it offers a free cancellation.

Hilton Baku

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Featuring a revolving rooftop bar, a pool, and a gym, this seafront hotel is an 8-minute walk from Baku’s Old City. Air conditioning, hot drinks facilities, and a 32-inch flat-screen TV are featured in all rooms and suites at the grand Hilton Baku. Rooms are spacious and bright and feature king-sized beds. Cocktails and wonderful views can be enjoyed in the Hilton’s 360 Bar.

Price: Starts at $161 per night for King Guest Room with Mobility Access, add $2 for taxes and charges , add $19 for breakfast ,  and it offers a free cancellation.

Dinamo Hotel Baku – Adult Only

Travel Guide to Baku, Azerbaijan [with Sample Itinerary]

Dinamo Hotel Baku offers a unique experience with its spacious bedrooms, free WiFi, exquisite International cuisine, and classic afternoon teas. The rooms designed in Art Deco style feature exclusively commissioned fabrics, exceedingly comfortable beds, and marble bathrooms with designer toiletries. In-room mini-bar, cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres are available at a surcharge.

Price: Starts at $160 per night for King Guest Room with Mobility Access, add $28 for taxes and charges , add $18 for breakfast ,  and it offers a free cancellation.

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A Perfect Weekend in Baku: A Sample Itinerary

Discover how to spend a weekend in Baku with this handy guide. What to know before you go.

Baku is a city of juxtapositions. The Old City is sprawled out with the Baku Flame Towers in the background. Old Soviet buildings neighbor modern Azeri ones.

Azerbaijan has changed hands several time, but by international standards, it’s still a “new” country, finally gaining its independence from the Soviets in 1991. Baku is old and new, new and old. A weekend in Baku is enough to make your head spin.

But yes, we’re talking about the  good kind of head-spinning.

Directly translated as the “land of fire”, Azerbaijan is a natural resource-laden country whose main export is oil and gas. However, there’s a lot of cultural upheaval going on in this new-meets-old country that I found quite fascinating. This transition is especially prevalent in the capital city, Baku.

While the rest of Azerbaijan confused and challenged me, I distinctly remember how joyful and excited I felt while exploring Baku. There’s a lot to unpack here, from the old marvels of the city to the strange contemporary buildings that have only just been built there.

Throw in a slew of fascinating and unique natural attractions just outside the city limits, and you’ve got a well-rounded weekend in Baku ahead of you.

Throughout your 2 days in Baku, you can definitely experience the highlights of the city (although I  always recommend spending more time in a place!). See below for the deets.

2 Days in Baku Itinerary: Practical Information

Baku

Getting an Azerbaijan Visa

Traveling to Azerbaijan requires a visa for citizens of most countries, including the United States. The good news is that it’s a completely online process to obtain an Azerbaijan tourist visa.

If you’re planning on visiting Baku, you need to apply online for your eVisa, print it out, and submit it to the immigration official when you arrive at the airport. It’s not a very hard process – it takes anywhere from 3-7 days for online approval and costs $25 USD.

How to Get In and Out of Baku

Baku

Flight:  The easiest way to get to Baku from anywhere in the world is to fly into Heydar Aliyev International Airport. The airport has several flights a day, primarily from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. You can compare flight prices and search for the best deals on Google Flights, CheapoAir, and Expedia.

Overnight Train: If you’re coming in from Tbilisi, Georgia or Sheki, Azerbaijan, you can take an overnight train. These trains are exceptionally slow, but you can get a sleeper car and save yourself some money on a hotel.

Ferry/Boat:  If you’re arriving from certain destinations, like Iran or Turkmenistan, you may be able to take a ferry into Baku. However, most of the boats that operate in the Caspian Sea are cargo/commercial ships.

Overland:  There are buses into Baku from all over the region. Depending on where you’re coming from, it can take anywhere from a few hours to over a day. Within Baku, there are a few different bus stations where you may be picked up or dropped off – be sure to confirm which one you need to leave from!

Currency and Payments in Baku

For currency, Azerbaijan uses the Manat (AZN). Despite the fact that there are card readers in lots of places, most transactions in Baku are made in cash.

You can withdraw money from ATMs there, or simply exchange at one of the many exchange points throughout the city. Be sure to try and break your big bills when possible, as a lot of smaller restaurants and shops do not have much change.

Where to Stay in Baku

Sahil hostel & hotel (budget).

There’s no hostel in Baku that feels more like home than Sahil Hostel & Hotel . The dorm beds are comfortable and private, the property is squeaky clean, and there’s a relaxed but open vibe about it that makes it easy to meet other travelers.

It’s walkable from practically everywhere, and super close to the seaside boardwalk (which I loved). And, at just a few USD per night, it is an amazing deal.

Check Rates and Availability

Viva Boutique Hotel (Mid Range)

Whether you prefer a private room or simply want a comfortable, private place to stay, the  Viva Boutique Hotel is the perfect spot for you.

It’s affordable, the rooms are clean and cozy, and it’s a very central location – just a few minutes walk to the Old City and many other central areas.

Fairmont Baku Flame Towers (Luxe)

If you’re looking for a uniquely “Baku” luxury hotel, the  Fairmont Baku Flame Towers is the perfect choice.

It’s a 5-star property located in one of the iconic flame towers of the city – there’s also an incredible rooftop pool.

Getting Around in Baku

Baku

Walking:  Central Baku is an extremely walkable place, and you’ll be able to get to many places within the city center on your feet. Remember that Baku is in a desert, so in the spring and summer months, it can get pretty hot during the day. If you plan on walking a lot, be sure to stay hydrated, wear comfortable shoes, and bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.

Public Transportation: Baku also has a metro and bus system that’s ridiculously cheap to use. You can load them at Bakikart kiosks. First, you need to buy a card to use, which costs 2 AZN. Then, you can fill it with however much money you want. Rides on both the buses and the metro are 20 gopik (0.2 AZN) per ride.

Uber/Rideshare: Baku is the only capital city in the Caucasus to use Uber, and that makes getting around incredibly convenient. If you have access to Wi-Fi or cellular data, you can simply call an Uber like you would in the United States and charge it automatically to your designated credit card. Most Ubers within the central city area cost 2-7 AZN.

Taxi: Taxis are abundant in Baku and you can simply hail one from the street or have your hotel/restaurant call you one. However, this is the most expensive way to get around Baku, so keep that in mind if you’re budget-conscious.

Where to Eat in Baku

Surprisingly, there isn’t a huge food culture in Baku. You’ll find inexpensive kebab and döner shops – characteristic of the region – pretty much everywhere.

There are also some traditional Azeri restaurants, but you’ll find when you visit one, it’s mostly fellow tourists and foreigners eating there. Despite the fact that they are mostly catered to tourists, I still think it’s worth trying a couple of Azeri restaurants during your stay to experience the traditional dishes of the region.

With that said, the people of Azerbaijan are very proud of their traditional Azeri breakfasts, and I highly recommend trying one while you’re in the city.

For a traditional-style breakfast, I highly recommend trying Sehirli Tandir at least once. Yes, it’s a bit pricey for Azerbaijan, but the freshly-baked, tandir-style bread, the delicious cheeses and honey, and the historic atmosphere of the place are certainly worth it.

Another fantastic restaurant to try traditional Azeri food in Baku is Nargiz Restaurant . It’s an underground, centrally-located restaurant that has an extensive (I mean, HUGE) menu of traditional dishes and all kinds of variations on them.

Again, it’s a little more expensive than the average meal, but it’s worth sitting down here to sample some qutab , piti , and dushbara .

2 Days in Baku: A Weekend Itinerary

Baku itinerary: arrival, take a stroll at the seaside.

Baku Beach

Arguably one of the coolest things about Baku is that it neighbors the Caspian Sea. The Caspian Sea isn’t  really a sea, rather the largest salt lake in the world. Off the coast, you’ll see deep blue water, with oil rigs dotting the horizon.

When you first arrive in Baku, it’ll probably be evening time, which means the city will be nice and cool for a stroll. The best place to take a walk and experience the sights and sounds of the city is on the Baku Boulevard.

This beautiful, big walking area is full of both tourists and locals, and is a nice place to get a feel for the city.

While there, you can stroll for a bit and grab dinner, or simply sit on a bench and admire the calmness of the Caspian Sea. There are also great views of the old city and the Flame Towers.

After your walk, take it easy on your first night, because the next two days will definitely be packed with things to do.

Baku Itinerary Day 1: Exploring the City, Old and New

Baku

When I’m visiting a new city, I love spending a day just walking and wandering around its main areas. And luckily, Baku is a VERY walkable city.

On your first full day in Baku, I recommend making a list of things you’d like to see and tackling them one by one, or simply taking a free guided walking tour of the city. I ended up doing both. My free walking tour guide, Eldar, was awesome – explaining some of the history of the city as well as some of the strange and lesser-known facts about many of the sights we passed by.

Like with any weekend trip, you can’t accomplish everything in a couple of days, so I’d recommend choosing 3-4 priorities for the day and try to knock those out first. Some of the main attractions in Baku that you might want to check out include:

  • Baku Old City*
  • Palace of the Shirvanshahs
  • Maiden Tower
  • Fountain Square*
  • Philharmonic Hall*
  • Palace of Happiness *
  • Bibi-Heyat Mosque
  • Museums: Carpet Museum, Azerbaijani Literature, Art Museum, and National Museum of Azerbaijan
  • Funicular Car
  • Flame Towers
  • Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center (explore the inside museum AND the outside)
  • Upland Park (at sunset, see below)

*Sights included on the free walking tour. Bold means I highly recommend/would prioritize going here.

If you’re in more of a ‘sit back and relax’ kind of mood, you can also opt for an organized Baku city tour . I like taking these tours every so often because they typically give you an insider’s perspective on the city, and include some quirky facts or fun stories to boot (and I’m a HUGE sucker for quirky facts about a place!).

At sunset, end your day by heading up to the Upland Park viewpoint . Upland Park is arguably the best place in the city to watch the daily light show, which happens around 8:30 PM.

There’s also a magnificent view of the rest of Baku and the Caspian Sea down below. While there, you’ll probably share the space with wedding photographers, joggers, skateboarders, families, and other light show spectators. It’s a great place to do some sunset people-watching, too.

Baku Itinerary Day 2: Mud Volcanoes, Gobustan, and Lots of Fire

Gobuston

On your second day in Baku, I recommend actually getting  outside of Baku to explore some of the weirdest and most wonderful sights near the city.

The easiest way to do this is to book a full day Baku tour with TES Tour , which will take you to the mud volcanoes, Gobustan National Park, Ateshgah Fire Temple, Yanar Dag, and the outside of the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center.

You can also opt to hire a taxi and do this tour on your own, but it will be MUCH more expensive.

The Mud Volcanoes

Mud Volcano Baku

Baku is one of the few places in the world where you can see mud volcanoes. A rare phenomenon that only happens in certain areas, these naturally-formed bubbly mud pots look like mini volcanoes dotted across a flat area of dirt.

You probably won’t want to stay long here, but there are a few interesting things to note about these mud volcanoes:

  • They’re cold to the touch . In many places around the world, the bubbling mud is caused by heat. However, in Baku, the mud volcanoes are cold because they’re caused by gas pockets under the ground.
  • They’re not just in Baku . There are mud volcanoes in a bunch of different places around Azerbaijan! The Baku ones are simply the easiest to see, especially if you have a short time in the country.
  • Some people use them as mud masks . You’ll probably see such people when you visit. But I wouldn’t dare… I’m not sure there’s any scientific evidence to back these claims.

Gobustan Petroglyphs

If you’re a natural history or archaeology nerd, you’ll love Gobustan National Park. First of all, it’s naturally very beautiful, with giant boulders strewn about as if they were tossed into a pile by a child at play.

More importantly, on said rocks, there are ancient (I mean, 1,000+ years old) petroglyphs carved into the sides, depicting scenes from the daily lives of nomadic inhabitants of modern-day Azerbaijan.

Traditional Azeri Lunch Buffet

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the best meals I had in Azerbaijan, which was on my day tour of Baku.

Our tour group arrived at an Azeri lunch buffet which was full of every kind of food I read about when I googled “foods to try in Azerbaijan.” The kicker? The entire buffet only cost 10 AZN. That’s the equivalent of $6 USD, all you can eat!

I searched and searched the Interwebs and couldn’t figure out the name of the restaurant, so that’s all the most reason to go with a tour than on your own.

Ateshgah Fire Temple

Ateshgah Fire Temple

A pilgrimage site for people of the Zoroastrian faith, the Ateshgah Fire Temple was built sometime between the 17th and 18th centuries.

Here, you can learn more about the history of fire worship and the current practices and traditions around it, complete with somewhat creepy wax models and museum-like panels inside of the reconstructed historic site.

Of course, the actual fire is the main point of focus here. It sits in the center of the temple complex in a small shelter and burns perpetually.

Yanar Dag

Yanar Dag is a special place, and while it’s not one where you’ll linger for a long time, you’ll probably want to see it for yourself. While Azerbaijan is known as the land of fire, Yanar Dag is  actually the land that’s on fire.

You see, here, natural gas is so abundant that it causes a natural fire on the hillside that burns forever and ever. It looks like there’s burning charcoal leaking out the side of the hill…pretty cool if you ask me.

My only reservation about going here with a day tour is that you’ll usually end up here in the heat of the afternoon, which is mildly unpleasant and not as epic to photograph.

Ah well, beggars can’t be choosers. If I could do it again, I’d come back here at sunset or at night.

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center

Per my recommendation, you probably saw this yesterday more thoroughly. However, if you opt to take the TES day tour of Baku, you’ll visit here again as the last stop on your tour.

Pomegranate Wine

This one is not part of the day tour, but one I wanted to throw in here anyway. Whether you decide to take the day tour or simply rent a car or taxi and do it yourself, you’ll probably end your day in the early evening.

This gives you enough time to enjoy a traditional Azeri meal and a glass of the traditional pomegranate wine: a final toast to your amazing (and maybe exhausting) weekend in Baku.

If You Have More Time

Day trip to xinaliq.

If you’re itching to get outdoors, you can take a day trip from Baku to the highest-elevation village in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan Traveller offers a wonderful trip (they’re the same company that run the free walking tours).

The trip spans a full day (9 AM-9 PM+) and takes you to both Quba and Xinaliq. This is a great way to experience what life is like in Azerbaijan outside of Baku.

Day Trip to Gabala

Sometimes you just need an escape from the busy city, and Gabala can offer that to you. Gabala is a resort area popular with Azerbaijan’s locals, filled with lots of beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. You can take a day trip to Gabala with TES Tour .

2 Days in Baku Itinerary: Read Next

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2-Day Baku Itinerary

I’m Kay. I’m originally from small town Virginia, but have moved all around the East Coast and the United States for basically my entire life. I spent my childhood days blissfully wandering through the Blue Ridge Mountains, rolling in leaves, playing in creeks…you know, the usual overly adventurous 5-year-old stuff.

But those early years spent outside gave me a real problem: I’m now an adventure addict. Basically, if I’m not at my computer banging out articles or photos, I’m probably out hiking, biking, or camping somewhere beautiful.

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The 10 BEST Things to Do in Baku, Azerbaijan (2024 Guide)

Picture of Alesha and Jarryd

  • Last Updated: February 5, 2024

From exploring the 12th century fortifications of Old City to enjoying the sight of the world famous Flame Towers, these are just some of the  best things to do in Baku .

Flame Tower Things To Do In Baku

Azerbaijan’s capital, dubbed by Lonely Planet   as “the architectural love child of Paris and Dubai”, is one of the fastest changing cities in the world.

Dilapidated alleyways are now bustling with hipster cafes and international restaurants. The Flame Towers are a marvel of modern architecture. Millennials wander the streets dressed in the latest high-end fashion.

Yet Baku is not without its charm either.

At the centre of Baku lies the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Surrounding this time capsule are stone mansions and luxury boutiques. The blend of the old and new works effortlessly.

There are a lot of tourist attractions around the city. The city is rapidly expanding and you will find many things to do in Baku to keep yourself busy and entertained.

Cafe What To Do In Baku

Table of Contents

Do A Walking Tour Of The Baku Old City

See the bibi heybat mosque, climb up the maiden tower, visit the mud volcanoes at gobustan national park, check out the flame towers, wander through the azerbaijan carpet museum, don’t miss the palace of the shirvanshahs, admire the ateshgah fire temple, see the old city walls, pop in to the miniature book museum, where to stay in baku, our guide for the best things to do in baku.

We spent a few days in the capital of Azerbaijan after travelling across the Caspian Sea by cargo ship, and after so much time spent in Central Asia, the step into European style was quite dramatic.

If you’re planning on taking a trip to Azerbaijan, don’t miss these amazing things to do in Baku.

Old City or “Icharishahar”, is one of Azerbaijan’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites . It’s truly a unique, historical part of Azerbaijan and is located within the heart of Baku.

The Old City is very clean and recently renovated. It’s a very beautiful and very artful town, surrounded by fortressed walls, adding to the character.

Walk through its cobblestone streets, see and touch the stones of the ancient walls, zigzag through narrow corridors and admire the intricate art on the doors.

The Old City of Baku has a lot to offer. The town has a lot of aged buildings, a palace complex, mosques and the iconic Maiden Tower.

Across from the Maiden Tower you can book an audio tour that will elaborate on the main sightseeing points of Old City.

We always suggest a guided tour because we prefer to ask locals questions and hear the story of their hometown through their eyes.

It’s a great place to wander around. There are a lot of souvenir vendors, great tea shops and restaurants. With a beautiful view of the boulevard, picturesque moments of merchants playing chess or backgammon, interesting trinkets being sold – you won’t get tired even after hours of exploring.

It’s truly a place where time seems to have stopped.

No matter who you turn to for advice on what to see in Baku, Old City will always be the top recommendation!

Old City Baku

The Bibi Heybat Mosque is one of the most interesting things to do in Baku, and even non-Muslims will enjoy exploring this wonderful piece of architecture.

The present day structure is from July, 1998, and is a recreation of the mosque that was built in the 13th century by Shirvanshah Farrukhzad II Ibn Ahsitan II.

Today’s restored mosque is a classic example of the Shirvan architectural school. Interestingly enough, it is the only religious building that was completely destroyed by Stalin in 1936.

It has three domes, which follows the traditional iron shape of the old mosque and two minarets. The domes are decorated with turquoise and green mirrors, that are bordered with gilded inscriptions from the Qur’an.

The mosque includes the tomb of Ukeyma Khanum (Prophet Muhammad’s descendant), and present day serves as a spiritual centre for and a major monument of Azerbaijan’s Islamic architecture.

You are welcome to visit outside of prayer times.

To make the most of your day, book a guided 5-hour tour where you will go to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site – Gobustan before continuing on to Bibi Heybet Mosque and mud volcanoes!

  • Location: 6 km southwest from Baku
  • Opening hours: 24h/7
  • Price: Free of charge

While in Baku you cannot miss climbing on top of Azerbaijan’s most recognised landmark, and the centre of the city’s historical importance.

The Maiden Tower, or as locals call it Giz Galasi , is located in the Old City and is constantly surrounded by a hive of activity from locals and tourists alike.

It was built in the 12 th century as part of the walled city of Baku. The name Giz Galasi is better translated as “Virgin Tower”, so named because of its impenetrability.

The Maiden Tower is part of UNESCO’s world heritage listing, looped in with the Old City and the Shirvanshahs’ Palace.

Climb the Maiden’s Tower just before sunset and enjoy the panoramic view of the Azerbaijan capital and its Old City – it’s a Baku must see!

  • Location: in Old City district
  • Opening hours: every day from 9 AM – 6 PM
  • Price: 15 AZN

Maiden Tower Things To Do In Baku

The other of Azerbaijan’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites is the Gobustan National Park, that attracts thousands of tourists annually.

This otherworldly site is a sprawling field speckled with bubbling mud volcanos, anthropological sites and sizzling lakes.

In Azerbaijan there are around 300 mud volcanoes to be found at the shore, in the sea and on islands. That’s about 30% of the world’s total, and is a main reason people choose to visit Azerbaijan.

Grab the opportunity to visit the Gobustan National Museum and learn all about the history of petroglyphs, see ancient human bones or work tools from the Mesolithic period.

To get to Gobustan National Park from Baku head to the Maiden Tower and take bus number 88 or 120 to the ‘Field of 20’ stop, then change for bus number 195 the rest of the way.

Alternatively you can book a day tour with Viator, which is actually quite a good way to see the the mud volcanos.

Gobustan Mud Volcanos

The Flame Towers are located on a hill overlooking Baku Bay and the Old City. It’s an iconic trio of buildings that transformed the image of the city from a forgotten place to modern day Baku.

Not only does it transforms the city’s skyline, but it also pays respect to Baku’s history and predicts its strong future.

The design of the towers was inspired by Azerbaijan’s historical past of fire worship amongst locals. The buildings are shaped in a form of a flame, and are completely covered with LED screens that present movements of a fire.

From almost anywhere in the city you can see the Flame Towers, which dominate the new skyline.

Our tip is to visit the TV tower that is situated above – you will encounter the most stunning view!

  • Location: 1A Mehdi Huseyn 1A Mehdi Huseyn
  • Opening hours: every day from 10 AM – 1 PM, 2 PM – 10 PM
  • Price: free of charge

Flame Towers Baku

In Azerbaijan and nearby Central Asia, carpet weaving occupies a special place in the history of its national culture.

Definitively the most widespread folk art is carpet weaving. It was a part of everyday life of Azerbaijanis and turned into a national symbol.

The carpets have a high aesthetic and historic importance, so they’re also used to cover the walls and floors of homes, nomads’ tents, mosques and government buildings as well.

The Azerbaijan Carpet Museum was set up in 1967. Besides the obvious carpets, it also holds in possession over 10,000 objects such as ceramics, metal works, and jewellery dating from the Bronze Age etc.

The museum is primarily used for research, keeping and displaying carpets and carpet items, as well as applied art works.  

  • Location: 28 Mikayıl Hüseynov Prospekti
  • Opening hours: Tuesday – Friday from 10 AM – 6 PM, Saturday – Sunday from 10 AM – 8 PM
  • Price: 7 AZN

An important piece of Azerbaijani history is Shirvanhahs’ Palace, which was built in 15 th  century by the Shirvanshah kingdom.

The Shirvanshahs were the rulers of Shirvan, the name of the land that now occupies modern-day Azerbaijan. Being the leaders, they of course had to build an epic palace to call home.

Their Palace, alongside the Maiden Tower and the Old City, is bunched together in Baku’s UNESCO World Heritage listing.

The sandstone complex is significant for the situation inside the Old City, which is located behind the fortress walls that were built by the same kingdom in the 12 th century, right around the time Baku became the capital.

That is the main reason why the architecture of the Old City is similar in emphasising the art of medieval Islamic civilisation.

The Palace consists of a palace building, the mausoleum of the King Khalilullah buried with his mother and sons, two mosques, east gate (Murad’s Gate) , bath house (“hammam”) and Sufi philosopher and scientist Sayid Yahya Bakuvi’s mausoleum.

It was restored in 2003, and now you can enjoy couple of entertaining audio-visual surprises.

  • Location: Gasr, lane 1, 76, Sabail
  • Opening hours: every day from 10 AM – 6 PM
  • Price: 8.50 AZN

Old Streets Baku

Zoroastrianism and their belief in fire worship is a fascinating religion that can be found all over Asia, and their Temples of Eternal Fire are quite well known.

In a small suburb of Baku, one of their temples still exists today and is one of most popular Baku tourist attractions.

The temple in its present state was constructed around the 17th-18th centuries, and was built by the Baku-based Hindu community.

The area is known for a unique natural phenomenon – burning natural gas outlets. That means that the underground gas coming up to the surface lights up as it makes contact with oxygen.

For that reason the temple quickly became the holy place of Zoroastrians – the fire worshipers. They thought that the inextinguishable fire had mystic properties so they flocked to the temple to worship the relic.

In the early 19th century the Temple acquired its present-day appearance.

The Fire Temple has a pentagonal structure with a castellation and entrance portal. The altar is situated right at the natural gas vent, a well from which beat eternally burning gas accompanied by four smaller flames on the rooftop corners of the pavilion.

  • Location: 20 kilometres east of Icheri Sheher
  • Price: 2 AZN

The Old City Walls are built on a site that has been inhabited since the Palaeolithic period. The Old City of Baku reveals traces of Sasanian, Arabic, Zoroastrian, Persian, Ottoman, Russian and Shirvani presence in cultural continuity, making it one of the most culturally fascinating places in the region.

Today the walls still stand, and it’s very impressive to see how much of the Inner City’s 12 th  century defensive walls have remained.

Boasting a triple row of fortress walls, the Maiden Tower and other fortification facilities, the Old City was a magnificent stronghold.

It’s very impressive to navigate within its walls and see how the urban pattern of the city acts as a maze. It’s stunning architecture makes it one of the more popular Baku attractions.

The large squares and wide length streets gradually narrow and shrink into a geometric design which in the past, allowed full involvement of residents in defensive activities.

Old City Walls Baku

The only one of its kind in the world, the Miniature Book Museum was opened in 2002 by Zarifa Saahova. The dedicated bibliophile opened the museum in hopes to inspire young generations to read more, and he’s doing a great job.

The museum holds thousands of miniature-sized books, including editions of works of Dostoyevsky, Pushkin, Chukovsky and Gogol.

The books are from all parts of the world, and are written in numerous languages, including Russian, Azeri, German and English.

The oldest book in the museum is a copy of the Quran, dating to the 17th century, while the smallest tome (6mm x 9mm) is the Russian book “The Most Miraculous Thing,” which can only be read by using a magnifying glass.

Don’t miss out on the Miniature Book museum as it’s one of the unique things to see in Baku.

  • Address: Icheri Sheher 67, 1-st Castle Lane, 67
  • Opening hours: every day from 11 AM – 5 PM (closed on Mondays & Thursdays)

Baku Travel Guide

Doing reading on what to do in Baku can be time consuming, as well as researching on what areas are best to stay in Baku.

We have created the list of places to visit in Baku as well as a guide where to stay, in order to aid you make the most out of your Baku sightseeing experience.

For many affluent visitors to the city, the best place to stay in Baku is the iconic Flame Towers , which is under the famous Fairmont umbrella.

It’s luxurious, unique, and if it fits in your budget well worth to stay, although they are a bit far from the centre of town. Still if you’re happy taking taxis, this is an excellent place to stay. Book it on Booking.com

If you want the absolute best accommodation in Baku then check out the Four Season s for unparalleled service and quality in the city.

More of a hostel kind of person? Then don’t miss the options on HostelWorld.

Backgammon Baku

DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means if you book accommodation, tours or buy a product, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us keep creating more free travel content to help people plan their holidays and adventures. We only recommend the best accommodations, tours and products that ourselves or our fantastic editorial team have personally experienced, and regularly review these. Thanks for your support, kind friend!

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Alesha and Jarryd

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Hello Alesha and Jarryd your article is really helpful. I am planning to visit Baku in the 2nd week of December this year. did you visit Guba and Gabala. how many days are enough to see all these places in Baku? kindly refer to hotel names that are pocket friendly and in range of center of city.

Hi Taz, so glad the article was helpful for you. Unfortunately we didn’t get to Guba and Gabala. We would like to go back to Azerbaijan one day and explore this country more. We feel maybe 3 days would be a great amount of time. As for hotels, we are not too sure with that one. Google would be your best friend with that one. There is a lot to see and learn. Have a wonderful time and happy travels.

Nice and helpful article. i am planning to visit solo next month from October 8 to October 13.

That is exciting. Have a great time in Azerbaijan. 🙂

This blog was extremely helpful. I’m planning a trip in two weeks and I have made a note of all the things listed here for things to do in Baku.

Just one question, is the day city tour good or the night city tour or should we do both?

Thank you !

So glad you found this article helpful. It can depends on your schedule or timing. Either is great. If you have the time do both and see two different sides of Baku. Happy travels

hi Alesha and Jarryd am visiting Baku on 28th May…I would like to know whether we can walk through the old city at night after 8pm?…We are 3…me my daughter(12yrs) and my son(21yrs)….is it safe?

Waiting for your reply

Best Regards,

When we were there we did walk around at that time to dinner and the long way back to the hotel. We felt fine and did not feel in danger at all. It is all up to you and your gut feeling. Ask your hotel when you get there and see what they think. Have a great trip.

I am planning to go on 17 may .

Have a great time. 🙂

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Thank you for reading

Thank you for great tips. We will be heading Baku the most likely at the end of this summer 🙂

Thank you for reading and have a great time in Baku. 🙂

I really love Icherishahr and carpet museum in Baku.It was so fantastic.

Glad you had a great time. It is a great city. 🙂

I seen your baku post, Its really amazing . Thanks for sharing.

Thank you 🙂

Mud Volcanoes At Gobustan are beautiful!

Hi Mina, we missed out on the mud volcanos. We were on the boat crossing the Caspian Sea too long and our visa days ran out. We will have to return one day. 🙂

Hi Alesha & Jarryd; Your article is extremely helpful in planning and deciding upon my list of things to do in Baku. We have just 5 days and your article helped me a lot to shortlist my sights. Thanks a lot. Stay happy and blessed.

Hi Sammina, thank you so much. So glad you found the article helpful. Have a great time there. Happy travels. 🙂

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baku trip guide

Baku travel guide

Baku tourism | baku guide, you're going to love baku.

On the fault line between East and West, Baku is unlike anywhere else on earth. Azerbaijan's capital offers a fascinating Soviet legacy, soaring towers that could have been transplanted from Shanghai, along with a beautiful ancient center. Contradictory it may be, but Baku is always a delight.

baku trip guide

Top 5 Reasons to Visit Baku

1. the unesco-listed historic center.

Baku's Old City dates back almost a thousand years. Ringed with an impressive set of walls, it sits atop a maze of tunnels and features countless historic sights, including the Maiden Tower.

2. The Caspian Coast

Baku sits on the Caspian Sea, the world's largest inland sea. Take cruises across the sea, explore beaches like Bilgəh or stroll along Baku's elegant seafront promenade.

3. Plenty of Museums to Explore

Baku is rich with museums, including a recently opened Carpet Museum, the National Museum of Azerbaijan History, and the Museum of Modern Art, which includes works by Picasso and Dalí.

4. Visit the Absheron Peninsula

Baku's hinterland is well worth visiting, from the Ateshgah Fire Temple to the spectacular natural gas vents of Yanar Dag.

5. World-Class Kebabs

If you are a kebab fan, Baku is the place to head. For a treat, try the liver kebabs from Sultan's, a local favorite.

What to do in Baku

1. palace of the shirvanshahs: the pearl of azerbaijan.

A historical monument that is breathtaking in its scale, the Palace of the Shirvanshahs is made up of stunning mausoleums, gran stone pavilions, intricate stone carvings, and mosque spires. It also includes a bathhouse. These are all the markings of the presence of the 15th-century Shirvanshah dynasty and the beautiful palace still stands tall and majestic, if a little dusty and characteristically worn with age, rising and visible from a distance. Anointed by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, an afternoon roaming its beautiful steps and terraces would be an afternoon spent whisked back in time.

2. Maiden Tower: Surrounded by Mysteries and Legends

So iconic and central to the Azerbaijani culture is it that the Miden Tower appears on the Azeri currency notes, stamps, and official letterheads. The Maiden Tower stands alongside the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and is also on UNESCO's World Heritage list. Once you look past its imposing and stalwart stone facade and climb up its stairs to the very top, it's easy to see why: besides being a monument dating back to the 12th century, the Maiden Tower gives visitors a unique, panoramic view of the Old City, Baku Boulevard and the sparkling waters of the Baku Bay. And what about when you're done delighting in the view? Head down to its mini museum, which marks the historical evolution of the city.

3. Fountain Square: The Heart of the City

Comprised of multiple fountains encapsulated within the main square, this area has an instantly calming effect on all those who gather at her steps. And, yet, it is also the place where the city hosts large public gatherings, cultural festivals and outdoor events. Once you've strolled around and taken in the beauty of the Fountain "Balls" at night or the glint of sunset off the fountain in the Governor's Garden, it's easy to see why. The modern passages and stylistic cobblestone streets create a distinctly mixed cultural experience: there are flourishes from Soviet rule, Mediterranean influences, Persian and Balkan remnants, and Arabian palm trees.

4. Gobustan National Park: A Natural Wonder

Lady Luck has blessed Baku with the history, culture and the desert beauty of the natural world. The Gobustan National Park is better known as Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape and, unsurprisingly, its historical significance along with its unique landscape has catapulted it to yet another UNESCO World Heritage site. The petroglyphs carved into the rockfaces date back at least to 10,000 B.C. and there are more than 6,000 of these markings made by early civilizations. Walking through its deeply-etched ravines and traveling up its rocky hills is an exploration in itself.

5. Heydar Aliyev Center: Modern Curves

Designed by the late, incomparable British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid, the Heydar Aliyev Center is a cultural point of attraction for visitors and locals alike. It houses an auditorium, a gallery, and a museum. It's fluid and flowing form are the mark of a rapidly modernizing and prosperous Baku.

Activities & attractions in Baku

baku trip guide

Where to Eat in Baku

If you want to enjoy some of the finest kebabs on earth, head to restaurants like Sultan's, Sehrli Tandir, or Şəki. There are also plenty of Chinese, Japanese, Italian, and French places as well. Expect good kebabs to cost around ₼5-10, but gourmet meals to come to far more, around ₼40-50.

When to visit Baku

High summer can be a little intense for some, so visit between April and June or September to October for the best weather. Winters tend to be chilly, and many attractions close for the season.

weatherbase

How to Get to Baku

Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD) is 15 miles out of town. To reach Baku, take the express bus, which costs ₼1.30 or take a taxi for around ₼60.

Baku has rail connections to Moscow and other Russian cities, as well as Kiev in Ukraine.

If you are driving north from Bilasuvar, take the E119. From Mingecevir and the west, take the E60 all the way to Baku.

Buses run into Baku from all of Azerbaijan's major cities, and there are international services from Russia and Iran as well.

Airports near Baku

Airlines serving baku, where to stay in baku.

Baku has some incredible hotel options, including the lavish Fairmont Baku, Flame Towers with its rooftop pool, and the Sheraton Baku, which is handy for the airport.

Popular Neighborhoods in Baku

İçərişəhər - Baku's old town, İçərişəhər is a UNESCO-listed gem. Don't miss the views from the 95-foot-high Maiden Tower.

Khutor - another old part of Baku, Khutor is full of flower-decorated lanes and buzzes with street life. Safe and charming, it's a great place to explore on foot.

Yaşıl Bazar - Baku's major market, Yaşıl Bazar is the place to go to find fresh, juicy pomegranates and locally made quince jam.

Where to stay in popular areas of Baku

Most booked hotels in baku, how to get around baku, public transportation.

NIIM runs buses and the subway in Baku. A single ticket costs just ₼0.20, so they represent excellent value. If you ride the subway, you'll need to buy a BakiKart for ₼2 before traveling.

Taxis are a cheap way to get around in general, charging about ₼1.30 for every mile.

Car rental options in Baku include AvtoRent, AzRent, and Aznur. Expect to pay about ₼35 per day.

The Cost of Living in Baku

Shopping streets.

Baku's bazaars include Yaşıl and Taza, and both are great places to shop for bargains. There are also huge malls at Park Bulvar and Port Baku, which are crammed with international brands.

Groceries and Other

Supermarket options include Makromart, Bizim, and Neptun, where you can expect to pay around ₼2.50 for 12 eggs.

JuliaSomething | Europe Travel Blog

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

If you decide to travel to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, you’re in for a treat. Baku has lots of architectural wonders to explore.

If you decide to travel to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, you’re in for a treat. 

Travelling to a new country is often like Kinder Surprise because you never know what you’re going to get. 

But if you decide to visit Baku, then rest assured, no unwanted travel surprises are coming your way. It’s quite the contrary. Baku is a wonderful palace to discover, with stunning architecture and history. It is super safe and the kind of place you might want to come back to in the future. 

As a digital nomad, I have already placed Baku on my shortlist of cities where I would like to spend a month in the future, and I don’t usually get convinced so fast. 

So here is all you need to know about travelling to Baku, Azerbaijan, for the first time. 

Important information for travelling to Baku, Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan evisa.

The first thing you need to know BEFORE travelling to Azerbaijan is that you need to APPLY FOR AN ONLINE VISA ! 

  • Time: The standard time to issue this visa is 3 (THREE) working days (not counting the day you apply). So if you apply today, your visa will be valid starting today + 5 days. 
  • Cost: 25 USD (20 USD visa fee + 5 USD service fee).
  • Travel conditions: This is a single-entry visa. You are granted a visa for 90 days, starting with 5 days after you apply for your visa. You can also choose the starting day of your visa. You can only stay up to 30 days after you enter Azerbaijan. 

There is also an option to get an emergency visa (Ugent e-Visa) , in case you forget to apply to the visa in a timely manner. 

  • Time: The urgent e-Visa is issued within 3 hours. 
  • Cost: 60 USD (20 USD visa fee + 40 USD service fee)
  • Travel conditions: Same as for the normal visa. 

You can apply for the Azerbaijan e-Visa here . 

Of course, I planned the most spontaneous trip to the Caucasus in October 2023. But the order of visiting these countries, as the last few in my quest to visit all European countries, was Armenia , Georgia and Azerbaijan. 

Obviously, I had plenty of time to apply for the Azerbaijan visa. But then it was cold in Georgia, I caught a cold, and 3 days before arriving in Azerbaijan (I already had a plane ticket), I realized that I needed 5 days to apply for the standard visa. 

I got super annoyed with myself (I call myself a travel expert) and cried for a bit. Then, I decided it was my own stupidity that got me into this situation and that I was lucky it was all solvable with money. So I got the emergency e-visa and paid an extra $35 (per person, as I was with my boyfriend). I can say for sure I got the Azerbaijan urgent e-visa in just 3 hours! 

The lesson here: The system works! Also, always check entry conditions when travelling to a new country and apply for an Azerbaijan visa in a timely manner. You know, I put myself in these situations so that you know what to do when you get in trouble. You’re welcome! Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk. 

Now, let’s get to the good part. 

baku trip guide

Safety in Azerbaijan

Baku, as in all parts that I’ve seen in Azerbaijan, is super safe. 

I didn’t know what to expect, and the internet wasn’t offering much info on the safety issue in Azerbaijan. 

But now I know why – because there isn’t any issue with the safety. I honestly felt completely safe, and much safer than in other much popular European cities (*wink wink* Barcelona, Paris, London). 

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

Getting around in Baku

Baku has public transport and a metro system, which is super cool. 

But if you’re not planning on crossing the city at peak hours, then you should also consider a taxi. Locals use Bolt or Uber, as both car-sharing services work in Azerbaijan. It’s also super affordable. 

However, the only big issue I encountered with getting a taxi was when I arrived at the airport. 

Because local taxi drivers know foreigners have no way to get to the city from the airport, they overcharge you. This is a common issue everywhere in the world, so be prepared for it. 

At the airport, no BOLT or UBER will come to pick you up if they see you’re a foreigner and want to pay with a card. So make sure to get some cash from the ATM before you get out of the airport. There are ATMs in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 (they’re both within walking distance of each other, and T2 is for shorter flights, such as the flight to Georgia). 

Then, prepare to negotiate. 

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

Internet data in Azerbaijan

As always, I chose to get an eSIM card for Azerbaijan using Air a lo . Note that it only works if your smartphone allows eSims (most iPhones and higher-end smartphones do). 

It worked really well. Just remember to install the eSim while you have a Wifi connection and then activate it. When you land in Azerbaijan, just switch over to the Azerbaijan eSim, and you’re online. So easy to use.

How to get to Baku, Azerbaijan

You can drive from Georgia, or get there by plane. 

I arrive in Baku by plane from Tbilisi, Georgia . If you plan the same trip, and it’s not a road trip, then I recommend you do the same. The border between Georgia and Azerbaijan can get congested, and you could spend a few hours there. 

However, if you decide to drive from Georgia to Azerbaijan, use the Red Bridge border crossing. 

Make sure you have your Visa before getting to Azerbaijan. The visa is a formality, but you need it. 

From the airport, you’ll need to get a taxi or a bus to get to Baku. 

Trip from the airport to Baku city centre

How much is a trip from the Heydar Aliyev International Airport (Baku airport) to the city centre? 

I was in Baku in October 2023, so these were the prices then. But this is half of what other big travel websites will tell you, which is a sign that most travel websites know nothing about real-life experiences from the locations they advertise. I was there, so who are you going to believe? 

Well, the taxi app will ask for about 10 AZN (Manat) (about $6). If you have some promo or there isn’t a lot of demand, it can even be around 6-8 AZN (Manat). Please note that all locals will refer to their money as “Manat”. 

But the taxies, after they arrive, the driver will ask for 50 Manat or more. Watch out for the London-style cabs, known as the pink cabs, which have a flat fee of 50 Manat or more. 

Some will simply call you in broken English (not making fun of anyone, just explaining a real-life situation so that you know what to expect in Azerbaijan). On the phone, they will ask you if you have cash! And then ask for how much (as in, how much you want to pay). 

Those more experienced taxi drivers speak English and will say this 10 manat is peanuts and that it doesn’t even pay for the gas (don’t be fooled, gas is very cheap in Azerbaijan) and will ask for 10  USD or more. 

There is also a bus you can take from the airport to the city centre; there is a frequent schedule during the day. But for that, you will also need cash. 

As I didn’t have any cash and didn’t want to pay, I got lucky that my Airbnb host was waiting for me and was able to car a taxi for me at the airport. Her request got through for only 10 Manat, because she was local. 

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

Where to stay in Baku, Azerbaijan?

Baku has plenty of nice hotels and apartments available for rent at very affordable prices. Here are some hotels I would choose based on location, price and amenities: 

  • Luxury hotels – Four Seasons Hotel Baku , Luxary Home VIP Grayton , Sapphire City Hotel
  • Apartment for family – 3 -bedroom Centre apartment
  • Mid-range hotel – Art Hotel , Shirvanshan Hotel
  • Budget hotel – Center Hotel Baku , Liman Hotel Baku , City Inn Nizami Boutique Hotel

I stayed in an apartment, super close to the old centre, and it was super nice. 

Tourism Baku

Tourism in Baku is flourishing. And that’s all to thank to their national effort to increase the percentage of the GDP coming from from non-oil activities, including tourism. The Azerbaijan government aims to increase the tourism industry’s contribution to the GDP by up to 10% by 2040 . 

To be honest, I love that, and it’s clear that everyone puts in some effort to bring in more tourists. 

Azerbaijan cuisine

Azerbaijan’s cuisine is known for its diverse flavours and rich traditions, offering a variety of unique dishes. Here’s a list of some must-try Azerbaijani dishes with concise descriptions:

  • Plov (Pilaf): A staple Azerbaijani dish made with saffron-flavoured rice, often cooked with meats, dried fruits, eggs, and various herbs.
  • Dolma: Vine leaves or vegetables stuffed with a mix of minced meat, rice, herbs, and spices, typically served with yoghurt.
  • Kebab: Grilled meat, usually lamb or beef, marinated with spices and onions, often served with grilled vegetables.
  • Qutab: A thin, crescent-shaped flatbread filled with ingredients like minced meat, greens, or cheese, then grilled or fried.
  • Dushbara: Small dumplings filled with minced meat and herbs, served in a clear broth.
  • Baliq (Fish): Fresh fish from the Caspian Sea, commonly grilled or fried, and seasoned with local herbs and spices.
  • Lavangi: A tantalizing stuffed chicken or fish dish, filled with a mix of walnuts, onions, and aromatic herbs.
  • Kuku: A type of omelette made with eggs and a variety of ingredients like herbs, potatoes, or meat.
  • Sheki Halva: A sweet, multi-layered pastry filled with nuts and syrup, originating from the town of Sheki.
  • Pakhlava (Baklava): A sweet dessert made of layers of filo pastry, filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup.
  • Shashlik: Skewered and grilled cubes of marinated meat, similar to kebabs, often served with onions and bread.
  • Saj Ichi: Meat, vegetables, and sometimes potatoes cooked in a unique way on a large, flat metal disc called a saj.
  • Badimjan Dolmasi: Eggplants stuffed with minced meat and cooked with tomatoes and bell peppers.
  • Choban Salati: A fresh salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and herbs, dressed with vinegar or sour cream.
  • Tendir Bread: Traditional Azerbaijani bread baked in a clay oven called a tendir, known for its crisp crust and soft interior.

These dishes reflect the rich culinary heritage of Azerbaijan, offering an array of tastes from savory and hearty to sweet and delicate.

Most restaurants in the centre of Baku have great options and can accommodate all tastes.

There, I found plenty of traditional restaurants but also an abundance of places with international cuisine and even Western places such as Starbucks, McDonalds, and Cinnabon. I usually don’t like the centre of the cities too much, but Baku has a nice selection. 

I just want to mention this really cool place for brunch – La Mia Colazione . 

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

What to see in Baku, Azerbaijan? 

Baku is surprisingly touristy, but just the right amount. 

Locals are friendly, carpet shop vendors are nice but not pushy (unbelievable, I know), and attractions are all around. So, where do you start exploring Baku, Azerbaijan? 

Well, here’s a list of must-see attractions and places in Baku just to get you started and bring in that appetite for more exploring on your own. 

  • Old City (Icherisheher). This UNESCO World Heritage site is Baku’s historical core, featuring medieval architecture, the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, and the iconic Maiden Tower.

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

  • Flame Towers. These three skyscrapers, shaped like flames, are a modern symbol of Baku, offering stunning views of the city, especially when lit up at night. You can get there via the funicular. 
  • Baku Boulevard. A promenade along the Caspian Sea, perfect for leisurely walks, with parks, a Ferris wheel, and splendid views of the city skyline. This was the first thing I did in Baku, as I arrived, and it totally blew me away. I mean, what a view for sunset!!! 
  • Heydar Aliyev Center. Designed by Zaha Hadid, this building is an architectural marvel known for its flowing, wave-like design, housing a museum and exhibition halls. This is the perfect spot for a photoshoot. It’s better in real life than what you see in pictures. But note that it is closed on Mondays. 
  • Maiden Tower (Qiz Qalasi). A mysterious and ancient tower located in the Old City, offering panoramic views of Baku and the Caspian Sea from the top. You’ll discover this as you walk around the old town of Baku. 
  • Azerbaijan Carpet Museum. Shaped like a rolled-up carpet, this museum showcases the rich history and artistry of Azerbaijani carpet weaving.
  • Fountain Square. A lively public square in the heart of Baku, surrounded by shops, cafes, and restaurants, popular for its relaxed atmosphere.
  • Palace of the Shirvanshahs. A 15th-century palace complex in the Old City, an excellent example of medieval Azerbaijani architecture.
  • Baku Crystal Hall. An indoor arena built for the Eurovision Song Contest, it’s an architectural highlight and hosts various cultural and sporting events.
  • National Museum of History of Azerbaijan. The largest museum in Azerbaijan, it offers extensive displays of Azerbaijani history and culture.
  • Nizami Street. A central street in Baku known for shopping, dining, and its bustling atmosphere, especially in the evenings.
  • Baku Eye. A large Ferris wheel on Baku Boulevard, offers breathtaking views of the city and the sea. It wasn’t working in October, but locals told me it’s open during summer. 

What to see around Baku, Azerbaijan? 

  • Gobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape. A UNESCO World Heritage site located just outside of Baku, famous for its ancient rock carvings and mud volcanoes. This is more of a half-day trip from Baku, but a must-see if you’re in the city. 
  • Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain). A natural gas fire that blazes continuously on a hillside is a unique natural phenomenon not far from Baku.
  • Ateshgah – Fire Temple. Located in the suburb of Surakhani, this temple was a place of worship for Zoroastrians, Hindus, and Sikhs, known for its natural eternal flame.

To visit these places around Baku, you’ll need to rent a car for a day or join a guided tour offering this trip. I chose this guided tour and it was really good value and I didn’t have to worry about driving. 

Note that I’ve mentioned a few different places because only after seeing all these different sides of Baku, you’ll get a unique glimpse into the rich history, culture, and modern development of Baku. 

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

Day trips from Baku (Places to see in Azerbaijan)

Taking day trips from Baku is a great way to explore the diverse landscapes and rich history of Azerbaijan. Here are some recommended destinations for day trips:

  • Gobustan National Park: Famous for its ancient rock carvings, mud volcanoes, and unique geological formations. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and provides insight into early human history.
  • Qobustan Mud Volcanoes: Located close to Gobustan National Park, these mud volcanoes offer a unique natural phenomenon, with bubbling pools and lunar landscapes.
  • Ateshgah – The Fire Temple: Situated in the village of Surakhani, this historic temple was a place of worship for Zoroastrians and Hindus, known for its natural eternal flame.
  • Yanar Dag (Burning Mountain): A natural gas fire that blazes continuously on a hillside near Baku, offering a unique sight, especially striking at night.

Luckily, you can see all these places in just one day trip from Baku – Full-Day Gobustan & Absheron Tour w/ Entrance Fees (I also did this day trip and was really nice)

  • Quba : A picturesque town known for its apple orchards, colorful houses, and the nearby Qechresh forest, offering a refreshing escape from the city.
  • Shamakhi : An ancient city with a rich history, famous for its historical Juma Mosque and the nearby Seven Tombs. Don’t miss the alpaca farm. 
  • Ismailli : A region with beautiful landscapes, offering opportunities for hiking and visiting traditional villages nestled in the mountains. You can combine this day trip with a stop in Shamakhi too. 
  • Naftalan: Known for its unique naphthalene oil spas, offering therapeutic treatments and a unique wellness experience.
  • Lahij : A charming ancient mountain village famous for its cobbled streets, copper craftsmanship, and traditional architecture.
  • Sheki : A city with a rich cultural heritage, known for its magnificent Palace of Sheki Khans, traditional Sheki Halva, and beautiful handicrafts.
  • Candy Cane Mountains : Located near Altiaghaj, these uniquely striped hills are a result of natural mineral deposits, creating a striking landscape.
  • Khinalug (Khinaliq): One of the highest and most ancient mountain villages in the Caucasus, offering breathtaking views and unique cultural experiences.
  • Gabala (Qabala) : A popular tourist destination with attractions like the Tufandag Mountain Resort, Gabaland amusement park, and beautiful nature.

Each of these destinations offers a different aspect of Azerbaijan’s rich culture, history, and natural beauty, making them perfect for day trips from Baku.

Note that most of these locations can be visited all year long, but note that it can be snowy during winter. 

Travel To Baku, Azerbaijan: Travel Guide And Itinerary

Baku 3-day itinerary (if you’re visiting the first time)

Day 1: explore the heart of baku.

  • Icherisheher (Old City) : Start your day exploring the ancient streets of the Old City. Visit landmarks like the Maiden Tower and the Palace of the Shirvanshahs.
  • Miniature Book Museum : If time permits, check out this unique museum in the Old City.
  • Lunch at a local restaurant, trying traditional Azerbaijani cuisine.
  • Baku Boulevard : Walk along this promenade by the Caspian Sea. Visit the Baku Eye (Ferris wheel) for panoramic views.
  • Fountain Square : Enjoy the lively atmosphere, perfect for dining and people-watching.
  • Dinner at a restaurant near Fountain Square.

Day 2: Modern Baku and Cultural Insights

  • Heydar Aliyev Center : Marvel at this architectural wonder and explore its exhibitions.
  • Baku Museum of Modern Art : For art enthusiasts, this is a must-visit.
  • Lunch at a contemporary Azerbaijani restaurant.
  • Nizami Street : Stroll down this shopping street, known for its boutiques and cafes.
  • Flame Towers : View the city from the observation deck.
  • Dinner at a restaurant with a view of the illuminated city.

Day 3: Leisure and Historical Exploration

  • Gobustan National Park : Take a short trip to see ancient rock carvings and mud volcanoes. (Note: This requires a few hours, so start early.)
  • Late lunch back in Baku.
  • Azerbaijan Carpet Museum : Discover the art of Azerbaijani carpet weaving in this uniquely designed museum.
  • Baku Crystal Hall area : Enjoy a leisurely evening by the Caspian Sea.
  • Farewell dinner at a seaside restaurant, savouring local flavours.

Ready to visit Baku?

When I planned this trip to the Caucasus, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t do a lot of research and only had some basic ideas about what to expect in each of these countries. 

But somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew Baku would impress me, and it sure did. 

To be honest, Baku is the most European-looking of the three capitals in the Caucasus area (the other two are Yerevan and Tbilisi). And that has a lot to do with the government and the effort put into the city since the local economy started flourishing in the 19th century, thanks to the oil industry. 

Today, the government of Azerbaijan is realizing that the oil era will come to an end, and they are putting a lot of effort into creating a lovely and liveable city, that will attract tourists for years to come. And I believe that the plan might work. I liked Baku very much, and it is one of the cities I would go back to. 

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Iulia Vasile

Iulia is a travel expert, blogger, engineer, freelance copywriter, and a curiosity-driven personality. She sees travel as the ultimate tool for self-improvement and personal growth, and that's the main topic of her blog, Juliasomething.com.

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The Hangry Backpacker

Go Alone. Get Lost. Eat.

Baku, Azerbaijan: Complete Solo Travel Guide

April 6, 2019 By Hangry Backpacker 3 Comments

Solo travel is one of the best ways to see Baku, the capital city of Azerbaijan. This fascinating city barely registers on most travel radars, and there are plenty of reasons, from food to history, to visit Baku.

Caspian Sea Baku Azerbaijan solo travel

Here is everything you need to know for a solo trip to Baku, complete with tips getting around, expenses, safety and what to do:

Practical Information for Solo Travel in Baku

Baku, azerbaijan.

Baku is a rapidly developing city. Azerbaijan is in the Caucasus region of Eurasia, with the Caspian Sea to the east, Iran bordering to the south and Armenia, Georgia and Russia forming borders to the north and west.

Travel to Baku primarily consists of foreigners visiting for work, with major international petroleum companies maintaining a presence in the area. The country has massive natural gas reserves that have fueled a boom in the capital city.

Baku Azerbaijan Hangry Backpacker

Solo travel to Baku and the rest of Azerbaijan has increased in recent years, with the city seeing an influx of independent travelers. Outside of Baku, the tourism industry in Azerbaijan remains in infancy. There is a lot of nature to enjoy, tons of great food and plenty of picturesque villages, but not a lot to offer for most tourists.

Heydar Aliyev International Airport

Baku’s Heydar Aliyev International Airport is Azerbaijan’s gateway of travel to the world. The airport is nice, shiny and new.

Entrance to Azerbaijan through Baku International Airport is fairly simple for solo travel. The process begins online, where you apply and pay ($25) for a visa. It takes about a week for confirmation. Upon arrival in Baku, immigration officials really have one concern: whether or not you’ve been to Armenia . After answering no, the official flipped through my passport to confirm, took my photo and fingerprints, then sent me on my way. Quick and simple.

Make sure to have a copy of your hotel booking. This is a visa requirement.

Before leaving the secure area, there is an ATM down the escalators, in the corner on the ground floor.

heydar aliyev international airport

Transportation to the city is easy. Solo travel on a budget in Azerbaijan will require a lot of public transportation, and the Airport Express to Baku city center is a deal.

DO NOT take a taxi. Prices for taxis are absolutely insulting. I was quoted no less than the equivalent of $50 for an official taxi to the city. Prices were not negotiable. This is legal robbery of unsuspecting visitors.

Instead, the Airport Express stops directly in front of the terminal. Tickets for the bus can be purchased at a small kiosk (cash only), outside the doors and next to a coffee stand. The bus departs every 30 minutes, heading to the city center with one stop along the way. The bus is air conditioned, clean and comfortable.

The Airport Express costs about 2 Azerbaijani manat (AZN). That’s barely more than $1. Don’t waste money on a taxi.

The bus unloads in the city center, at 28 May metro station, where you can take a subway, walk or find a more affordable taxi to your destination.

Baku, Azerbaijan Solo Travel Costs

While the rest of Azerbaijan lags behind, Baku is as incredibly expensive place to live, evidence by the designer shops and fancy high rise condominiums popping up across the city.

high rise condominiums Baku

For travelers, Baku isn’t the cheapest destination, but travel to “Little Dubai” can be done on a budget. There is not an abundance of hostels and guesthouses in the city center. Most foreigners, likely in Azerbaijan for business, wind up in one of the many luxury hotels of Baku.

Of the limited options available, travelers can expect to pay a per night average of 30-40 AZN (about $20 USD) on the low end. A room with air conditioning, which is not normally needed in Baku, will cost more.

However, in 2018, Baku experienced one of the hottest summers on record, with temperatures 20 degrees (Farenheit) above average. The surge in power demands caused massive blackouts in Baku and across Azerbaijan, even leading to the subway system losing power and shutting down.

Ride the Subways

Solo travel in Azerbaijan eventually leads to the subway in Baku. The Baku Metro is the best method for getting around the city. Riding on the Soviet-era subway trains is an uncomfortable, but fun ride. The trains are only about 50 years old, but you can feel every jolt, bolt, twist and turn as they blaze beneath the streets. Perhaps it is the rickety, old cars, but the Baku Metro feels faster than any other subway in my travel experiences.

Seriously, hold on.

The Baku Metro is typical of Soviet metro systems. Like others, it is incredibly far below city streets, effectively doubling as a bomb shelter. And it is beautiful. Despite everything else, the Soviets deserve credit for their subway systems. The detail and intricate design put into each station is impressive. There are also reminders on the walls of lessons learned about propaganda and communism, but that topic isn’t exactly cheerful.

28 May Station Baku Metro

The Baku Metro is good news for a travel budget. One ride on the subway is 0.2 AZN. A reloadable card is required, which costs 2 AZN. The card plus five rides will cost a mere 3 AZN. That’s less than $2 USD! Buses are even cheaper, making public transportation the easy choice for solo travel in Baku.

English is sparse in Baku, so plan your routes and know your stops before setting out for the day.

Solo travel in Azerbaijan is a thrill, but easy in Baku. Free from the constraints of prearranged group travel buses, solo travelers are able to go where they please on the speedy trains of Baku.

Safety in Baku

When hearing of solo travel to Baku, most people express confusion and concern that anyone would travel to Azerbaijan. In fact, many westerners are entirely unaware that Azerbaijan is a country.

That’s okay, though. What people lack in awareness of Baku is simply a better opportunity for off-the-beaten-path solo travel. With Baku off of most travel radars, the worry is that a solo traveler could be in danger in Azerbaijan.

Thankfully, there is no need to fear for safety in Baku. As long as you aren’t Armenian, Azerbaijan is a safe country. The two countries aren’t exactly best buds, and travel across the border is practically impossible.

Baku Azerbaijan Solo Travel Hangry Backpacker

Locals in Baku are out and about enjoying the city’s parks and are helpful to tourists. Any notion of being unwelcome is not apparent.

For visitors to Baku, the city is safe. Walking the wide, shiny promenades in the city center, it’s hard to imagine feeling any worry. Bakuvians enjoy their city and do not want any disturbance of the peace. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani government has worked hard – and done a great job – to eliminate any extremist groups that may hinder progress and harm a good reputation of safety.

How to Dress in Baku

The only area tourists should exercise caution in Azerbaijan is with clothing. Unlike some nearby Muslim nations, women in Azerbaijan dress freely. Baku is more liberal than the rest of the country, with women enjoying high fashion and dressing to impress.

Western women may encounter staring. Lots of uncomfortable staring. When it is warm out, it is tempting to wear a tank top and shorts, a skirt or something cooler. This is fine in Baku, and your safety is not at risk, but the stares can be uncomfortable. It is best to move along and ignore the onlookers.

For men, dress in Azerbaijan is peculiar. Men in several countries in the world wear long pants year-round. In Azerbaijan, men wearing shorts is particularly taboo. A few government officials have been outspoken about the issue. There are men in Baku bold enough to wear shorts, but not many.

Tourists get a pass on wearing shorts more than locals in Baku, but I recommend blending in as much as possible for solo travel anywhere.

Onward Solo Travel from Baku

Onward travel from Baku, heading elsewhere in Azerbaijan, is a simple, yet complex affair for solo travelers. If you’re going back to the airport, simply retrace your steps, starting where the Airport Express drops off at 28 May station. If further travel is via bus, travelers need to go to the main bus station.

The bus station is easy to reach from the Baku Metro. Take the Green Line from 28 May Station to Memar Əcəmi Station. There, switch to the Purple Line to Avtovağzal , which is one stop away. Avtovağzal means “bus station,” and that’s where you want to go.

Baku International bus station

Navigating the Baku bus station can be a headache for solo travelers that don’t speak the language. Hopefully for you, my headache will help you avoid the same frustration.

Tickets can be purchased at the station, inside in the back of the building . On the 3rd level. The back of the building appears empty, but there will be a few ticket windows open. Say the name of your destination and the employees will direct you to the appropriate window.

This doesn’t sound complicated, but in a massive, four-story international bus station with hundreds of shops – and did I mention no one speaks any English? – finding the right ticket window can be a nightmare. Get there early and be patient. Also, good luck.

What to See & Do in Baku

Gobustan petroglyphs.

Gobustan is a site of prehistoric petroglyphs dating back thousands of years. The rock carvings include Viking ships, Roman markings, as well as depictions thousands of years older.

The visitor center and museum at this UNESCO-designated site is informative, interesting and modern. Entrance is cheap, at 5 AZN.

Gobustan Rock Art

There are thousands of carvings spread out among the barren rocks, with paths leading around many of them. However, the carvings are underwhelming. Truthfully, pictures are sufficient. Sure, the carvings are interesting and anthropologically important, but they’re much smaller than images suggest. It’s fairly difficult to even get a decent photograph without a high-powered lens.

Consider that the drive to Gobustan takes at least an hour and hiring a car is the only practical option. Time is better spent in Baku for most tourists. If you have a spare day and anthropology excites you, wandering Gobustan for a few hours is the perfect activity.

Mud Volcanoes of Gobustan

If Gobustan is alluring, make sure to save time for a more interesting site nearby. Also in the Gobustan National Park are the famous mud volcanoes. The area is home to nearly half of the world’s mud volcanoes.

Gobustan Mud Volcanoes Azerbaijan

If you’re thinking massive mountains spewing mud, scale down your expectations. Mud volcanoes are large mounds in a geothermally active area.  Mud bubbles up and slowly oozes out, over time building up to these mini “volcanoes.”

The Gobustan mud volcanoes are a fascinating thing to see in Azerbaijan, but require a tedious journey from Baku that makes solo travel to the spot almost impossible for non-locals. Theoretically, it is possible to catch a bus to the nearest town. From there, drivers may or may not be hanging out by the road waiting for passengers. But the bus takes a long time and runs inconsistently.

The route to the mud volcanoes – it is not a road – winds along a dusty, bumpy path. Drivers have a deep trust in their cars, careless and fearless of the terrain. They drive straight through bumps and obstacles at a blistering pace in their old Soviet jalopies. As for off-roading in an old Soviet Lada, it’s pretty fun. Wear sunglasses and bring a cloth, though. It’s dusty.

Gobustan Mud Volcano Lada car

The site is not developed – it’s just there . On the day I visited the mud volcanoes, there were no other tourists in sight. A few locals were soaking in one of the bubbling pits of mud, which is supposedly therapeutic.

The Azerbaijan mud volcanoes are pretty cool, but it is best to think twice about making the solo travel venture to Gobustan from Baku. It’s a long way out for a short wander. Although the next time I visit Baku, I plan to have a mud soak of my own.

Ateshgah of Baku

The Ateshgah of Baku is a temple that has been home to fire-worshiping Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians. The current complex is a few hundred years old, but there is evidence of use going back over one thousand years.

The temple is centered around a flame in the center that burned naturally from gas leaks for hundreds of years. The original flame finally burned out and the current flame is man-made, but the temple is still authentic.

Ateshgah Fire Temple Baku

The trip out to Ateshgah of Baku is like any solo travel in Azerbaijan – crowded buses and a lot of guessing, traveling on an indirect route to finally reach the destination.

With the cheap transportation mentioned above, and an admission cost of only 4 AZN, the Ateshgah of Baku is a great budget activity for a day. The best part of visiting the Ateshgah of Baku is seeing a side of the city few other tourists ever will. Bus 184 from Koroğlu metro station will (eventually) get you to the Fire Temple.

Yanar Dag is a another fiery attraction outside of Baku. This is an open, 50-foot-long flame coming out of the ground. There’s so much natural gas in Baku that it is literally leaking out of the ground. At some point, this gas leak ignited and has been burning for years.

Yanar Dag Fire Azerbaijan

Why Yanar Dag is often recommended to tourists is beyond me. It’s certainly intriguing, but to spend several hours bussing around Baku only to come upon a little bit of fire is a colossal waste of time.

The suburbs and towns the bus passes through are very different from the city. For window-watchers like myself, that is the cool part of this excursion. However, unless you are in need of some kind of solo travel day-challenge of navigation, stay in Baku.

Yanar Dag, it’s a fire. See the picture above. Save the time.

Exploring Old City Baku

Old City Baku is a real-life postcard before your eyes. The tiny, walled Old City is another UNESCO-designated site travelers can check off the list. The various buildings range from a few hundred to a thousand years old.

Old City Baku Azerbaijan

Among the narrow, winding streets of Old City Baku are mosques, museums, a palace and the iconic 12th century Maiden Tower.

The Old City may be small, but it is worth spending at least a day wandering the area. Oddly, the streets are calm and quiet, while thousands of people walk the streets beyond the walls. There are several shops for tourists as well, selling everything from gaudy t-shirts to beautiful handmade rugs.

Maiden Tower Old City Baku

Restaurants in the Old City range from touristy Italian to fast food. There are a few restaurants serving local food, too. The prices are inflated, owing to the location, but the food is fantastic and is a great starting point for a curious eater.

Shopping in Baku

Travelers in search of cool trinkets and souvenirs will find plenty in the shops around Old City Baku. The rugs are a tempting spoil for any traveler to the region. But before you go and drop serious cash on an antique rug, buyer beware.

Azerbaijan Rugs Old City Baku

There are strict laws regulating the purchase of rugs. Souvenir rugs will (probably) cause no issue. But authentic, especially antique, rugs are not easily (read: legally ) transported. Old rugs that are eligible for tourist export are subject to serious taxes, sometimes effectively doubling the price. If you’re caught trying to bring an antique rug out of the country, expect a lot of grief, including fines, visa revocation and possibly criminal charges.

Oh, and locals may ignore the laws and sell rugs anyway. Customs officials will not be sympathetic to your plight, and trouble will ensue.

The tip: when in Baku, travel light and leave the rugs behind.

Eating Cheap in Baku

Baku is not an expensive city. Aside from the accommodation costs mentioned above, solo travel to Baku can be done on a budget. Food is not expensive, either.

Azerbaijani food

There is a growing industry of fine dining and expensive restaurants in Baku, but you can still eat great food elsewhere. Piti, a simple mutton and vegetable soup, is an Azerbaijani national treasure that is worth eating at least once. Other common foods include various lamb dishes, dushbara (Azerbaijani dumplings), an assortment of yogurt-based dishes and great pastries.

If you’re looking for something quick and cheap, there are few places in the world with as many shawarma stands and shops as Baku. In Baku and the greater region, for any sort of solo travel on a budget, shawarma is your best friend. They do it right in Azerbaijan. Ayran, a popular salty yogurt beverage in the wide world of shawarma, is always the perfect pairing.

eating cheap solo travel shawarma Baku Azerbaijan

Local bakeries are also a great source of cheap food. Freshness is the norm in Baku, and you can grab a few pastries to eat for the day for a few manat.

Finding cheap food is an important part of travel , and Baku is an easy place to turn your cash into plenty of delicious local food.

Azerbaijani Beer & Cheese

Azerbaijanis love their beer and consume more booze per capita than any other Muslim country in the world. (Technically, Kazakhstan consumes slightly more, but it has a considerable population of non-Muslims.) Xirdalan, the de facto national beer of Azerbaijan, is a drinkable brew readily available in Baku. Xirdalan is a soothing relief from the dry, windy air.

Xirdalan beer cheese AZN

Azerbaijanis eat cheese when they drink beer. The cheese is braided when made and served in strings. The chewy cheese comes in long, thin strings and has a slight smokiness to accompany the high saltiness. It may not be endemic to Azerbaijan, but it pairs perfectly with beer. And locals eat it, so join in!

The best part about beer in Baku is that it is really cheap. A giant mug of that delicious ice cold golden nectar from the gods can be yours for 1-2 AZN, about a dollar.

Baku is a destination barely on the radar of most tourists. Azerbaijan is often lumped in with the turmoil of surrounding areas, but the country is peaceful and safe. Foreigners are welcome and locals in Baku are receptive to tourists.

City Center Baku Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is changing, and Baku is at the forefront. Head-turning skyscrapers are just the beginning. Fortunately, Baku has a strong hold on its culture and visitors can enjoy the best of the city’s food and culture.

Despite a few expensive aspects of visiting Azerbaijan, it is generally an affordable destination, and solo travel in Baku is a wonderful experience.

Reader Interactions

baku trip guide

May 2, 2019 at 9:24 am

Hey I just wanted to say that I saw your recent collab on The Ninja Gypsy’s blog and just wanted to say that I am so glad to see other bloggers have the same positive sentiments about this country that I do! I’ve visited four times myself and fallen in love a little more each time. This country truly is one of the most underrated in the world.

baku trip guide

May 2, 2019 at 3:57 pm

Hey, thanks for checking it out! I couldn’t agree more. It’s a beautiful country and definitely underrated. Four times? That’s awesome! I can’t wait to go back myself.

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Small Group Caucasus Tours 2024-2025

Old & New Baku City Tour

Old & New Baku City Tour will give you lots of bright impressions and emotions. The capital of Azerbaijan is like a panorama reflecting the entire beauty of the "land of fire".

Maiden Tower, Shirvan Shahs’ Palace, Caravanserai, Memory Alley Shehidler Khiyabany, Nizami Street, Fountain Square, Nizami Ganjavi monument, Rasul-Zade Street, National Carpets Museum

1 Day | All year round | from US$ 90 per person Details

Baku, Azerbaijan

Baku, Azerbaijan

Tours, Attractions and Things To Do in Baku

Baku travel guide.

  • 1. Brief History
  • 2. Highlights
  • 4. Theatres
  • 5. Parks and shopping
  • 7. Public Transport
  • 8. How Do You Get to Baku?
  • 9. Spoken Languages in Baku
  • 10. Currency
  • 11. Is Baku Safe?

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

Old Town, 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

Attractions of baku.

Maiden’s Tower, Baku

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 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

National Museum of the History of Azerbaijan, Baku

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

Azerbaijan Drama Theater, 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

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.

Escaping the rays of the sun on a hot summer day is also possible in Central Botanical Garden, which contains a collection of more than 2000 species of trees, shrubs and flowering plants.

Another beautiful, shady green getaway is Nizami Park in Old Town. One of the oldest public parks in Baku, Nizami Park offers a chance to unwind and escape the bustle of the big, windy city.

Shopping in Baku

Green Market (Yasil Bazaar), Baku

Like most modern capitals, Baku boasts of seemingly endless opportunities for shopping. For those wondering if Baku is expensive, rest assured that there are shopping opportunities to accommodate every type of budget.

One of most popular shopping areas among both locals and tourists is Green Market (Yasil Bazaar), which is filled with seductive aromas and a huge assortment of brightly colored clothing, spices and souvenirs. Far more than just shopping, Yasil Bazaar is an experience in itself, a chance to learn about the long-held traditions and lifestyle of local Azerbaijanis. As you shop for seafood, meat, spices, nuts, cheese, fruit and vegetables (all at affordable prices), you can chat directly with local merchants, learn about the variety and types of products available and hone your bargaining skills.

If you’re looking for brand name clothes, shoes, accessories or jewelry, head to one of Baku’s many shopping malls. Each mall houses countless stores, satisfactory food courts and amusement venues sure to provide hours of entertainment for the whole family. The most popular ones are Port Baku Mall, Ganjlik Mall and 28 Mall. Equipped with spacious walkways, shops stocked with world-famous brand clothing and indoor comforts, Baku’s shopping centers are just the remedy for anyone wishing to return to the 21st century after a few days of historical sightseeing .

Baku Cuisine

Baku Baklava

No Baku travel guide would be complete without mentioning the city’s delectable cuisine! For tasty and unforgettable memories of Azerbaijan, look no farther than the fresh local cuisine. The rich taste of Azerbaijan’s food, prepared according to old traditional recipes, is sure to delight your taste buds and impress you with its vibrant flavors, delicate combination of ingredients and fragrant Azerbaijani spices.

Staple ingredients of Baku culinary specialties include lamb, beef, poultry and fish, plus locally grown fruits and vegetables. Fresh greens act as an integral component, enriching and infusing each dish with a light and natural taste. Once in Baku, be sure to try bozbash minced meatballs served in broth, dovga sour-milk soup, mouth-watering Baku baklava and shah-pilaf, a flavoured rice dish cooked in a paper-thin flatbread. The peculiar Azerbaijani qutab, a flatbread stuffed with cheese, herbs, pumpkin or meat, is a cheap and tasty snack that will revolutionize your idea of fast food.

Learn more about Azerbaijan cuisine here .

Vegetarian Restaurants

Baku has a few exclusively vegetarian restaurants, plus a selection of European and Indian cafes, pizzerias and upscale restaurants that can provide customers with a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes. Although local cuisine tends to be meat-heavy, options such as fresh salads, vegetarian qutab and dovga are good options for vegetarian travellers wishing to experience the authentic tastes of Baku.

Coffee Shops in Baku

Cafe in Baku

In central Baku are many cozy cafes and teahouses serving up famous Azeri tea, various types of coffee and irresistible pastries. Many teahouses are quite affordable so that even budget travelers can enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee or fragrant tea in the cozy atmosphere of central Baku. Starbucks and other world-famous coffee shops can also be readily found.

Public Transport in Baku

Travel in Baku has never been easier, as the capital offers several types of affordable and highly developed public transportation that make it possible to move from point A to point B in a quick and comfortable manner.

Buses in Baku run from 06:00 to 20:00. On average, expect to wait for your bus for 5-15 minutes. Bus travel in downtown Baku costs only 0.2 manat (0.12USD), and you can travel to the outskirts of the capital for 0.35 manat (0.21USD). Older types of public transport, including minibuses, were substituted with modern, comfortable buses in 2009, and the city continues to provide advanced public transport for city commuters.

Baku Metro

The Baku Metro includes 26 stations divided into the red, purple, yellow and green lines. You will need to purchase a special card to use the metro – a one-use metro card can be used for a single ride, while a reusable plastic pass can be refilled as needed and used repeatedly. The plastic card costs 2 manat (roughly 1.2USD) and may be used for the bus as well. Regardless of the length of the trip, each time you swipe to get on the subway, 0.3 Manat (0.18USD) is deducted.

Baku travel has never been easier thanks to the city’s well-developed taxi system, with dozens of different taxi companies operating in the city. You can easily order a taxi with a quick phone call or an app on your phone. Keep in mind that in bad weather or during rush hour, fares may increase. Most apps or taxi call centres also offer services in English.

Car Rental Services

Many local and foreign companies offer car rental services for those who prefer to explore the city in a private car, and who are brave enough to figure out Baku’s traffic regulations!

You’ll need a valid driver’s license and insurance in order to rent a car in Baku. Please note that it is not necessary to have an international driver’s license; one issued in your home country will be sufficient. The rental price depends on the make and model of the car. Payment is accepted in cash or by credit card.

A highly developed network of bicycle rentals makes Baku accessible on two wheels and is a particularly convenient option if you wish to explore the 25-kilometer-long Baku Boulevard. Often the rental price includes a bike lock so that you can easily leave it on the street if you decide to head indoors. Active development of bike paths and the installation of bicycle parking spots began in Baku in 2019 .

How Do You Get to Baku?

Interior of the Heydar Aliyev International Airport, Baku

The fastest and most convenient way to get to Baku is by plane. Heydar Aliyev International Airport receives aircrafts from all over the world, and the planes of Aeroflot, UIA, S7, AirBaltic, Air France and other large airline companies regularly land in Baku. In 2015 the airport terminal received an honorary 4-star category. The airport provides free Wi-Fi, luggage lockers, cafeterias, waiting areas and a VIP room, a pharmacy, first-aid post, mother-and-child room and a Duty Free zone, in addition to many other services. You can get from the airport to the city either by taxi or by a comfortable bus that runs frequently.

You can also get to Baku by land using buses or long-distance trains. It is very convenient to travel to the capital of Azerbaijan from Tbilisi, the capital of neighboring Georgia. The distance between Baku and Tbilisi is covered in 15-16 hours, including time spent at border control .

Spoken Languages in Baku

The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani, a Turkic language which you will hear widely spoken on the streets. However, since citizens of many CIS countries also reside in Baku, it’s not uncommon to come across speakers of Russian, Ukrainian and other languages. Since Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union, most of the older population can also speak fluent Russian.

In restaurants and cafes, particularly in downtown Baku, the menus are almost always in English. Many waiters and servers are usually proficient in English, as well. Likewise, you’ll be able to easily communicate in English in the city’s large shopping complexes, offices and firms.

Currency in Baku

The national currency of Azerbaijan is the Azerbaijani Manat, which maintains a solid rate against the US dollar at approximately 1.7 AZN to 1 USD. Manat is represented by 7 denominations of banknotes and 6 denominations of coins, called kapiks. You can easily exchange money at local banks, as well as at small exchange offices located on the territory of the airport, bus stations, railway stations and in the city centre. Keep in mind that credit cards are not accepted in small shops and cafes, so it’s advisable to keep some cash on hand (preferably smaller notes) to avoid the hassle of needing to find an ATM at the last minute .

Is Baku Safe?

Baku may be a large, modern metropolis, but the government maintains strict public order and seeks to maintain necessary safety measures to ensure that Baku is safe for visitors. The city is known to be calm and peaceful. Azerbaijanis are famous for their hospitality, which extends to tourists, who are respected and protected as very important guests.

As a precautionary measure, simply keep an eye on your valuables while in crowded places, only ride in certified taxis and be aware of your surroundings after dark. We also recommend that you don’t drink the tap water in Baku if you’re only traveling in the city for a short time. Nonetheless, travelers the world over report feeling safe and comfortable while in Baku.

To learn more about the city attractions you’ve discovered in the Baku Travel Guide, read on for further information!

Attractions

Miscellaneous.

Journal of Nomads

Things to do in Baku – a budget-friendly guide to Azerbaijan’s exquisite capital city

What are the top things to do in Baku? If you’re on a tight budget and want to explore Baku without breaking your piggy bank, here is a list of the cheapest and most fun activities to do in Baku.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

Baku, it sounds like a species of parrot but in reality, it’s the name of the bustling capital city of Azerbaijan . I’m not very fond of big cities and I prefer to sleep in my tent somewhere in the woods rather than being cramped up in a dorm room in a city, but I gladly made an exception for Baku!

This lively metropolis is a world on its own. The Lonely Planet describes it as “the love child of Paris and Dubai” and once you visited the city, you’ll understand why.

small streets Baku Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

I would also describe it as the big brother of Batumi , an odd but beautiful Georgian city on the coast of the Black Sea. Baku has a beautiful boulevard on which you can walk for hours and it’s particularly beautiful at sunrise or sunset.

The city also has many little parks where you can hide between the green bushes, an old historical city with the neo-Ottoman Shahidlar mosque, a museum of miniature books, incredible eye-catching architecture such as the Heydar Aliyev Center, and of course, the iconic Flame Towers towering above the city.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

I always feel lost whenever I enter a huge city, especially during the first days. There’s a chance you’ll see me sitting on a bench dazed by the heavy traffic and crowds of people, not really knowing where to go or what to do.

That’s why I put together this guide with things to do and places to stay in Baku so you won’t feel as lost as me and you won’t need to break your piggy bank.

It can be an expensive city if you don’t watch out so it’s good to know a few useful things about Baku before you go. I would still recommend you to sit on a bench and observe the people and the surroundings. It’s always a fun thing to do, especially while sipping on a coffee.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

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Read more about the visa requirements and registration in Azerbaijan !

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A short introduction to Baku

The name ‘Baku’ can be interpreted as ‘city of winds’. After a walk through the streets, you quickly understand why. Azerbaijan’s capital city is located on the western Caspian seaside and you can often feel the harsh sea breeze blowing through the city’s streets and messing around with your hair.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

Baku is the largest city in the Caucasus and is the political, scientific and cultural center of Azerbaijan. The city is hip, modern, chaotic and multicultural with architecture that spans multiple generations and styles that neighbor in interesting ways.

For example, the futuristic Flame Towers are placed right behind the centuries-old city walls. One moment you find yourself walking in the hypermodern shopping streets and a few streets further you can come face to face with grand old 19th century styled apartment blocks or wooden houses with hanging balconies that evoke the spirit of the Silk Road.

Kind of a crazy mix but it works. It creates a unique atmosphere and your camera will love it!

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

Baku is also the industrial center of Azerbaijan. The city lies on the Apsheron Peninsula which is rich with underground sources of oil and natural gas.

That’s why Azerbaijan is historically called the Land of Fire. The many oil rigs on the coast are visual proof of that. Unfortunately this contaminates the seawater with oil so Baku isn’t exactly the place to go on a beach vacation (except for Bilgah beach ).

But do not fear, you won’t get bored here as there are plenty of other (free) things to do in and around Azerbaijan’s metropolis.

city center of Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

Is Baku safe?

Before traveling to a new city, we often wonder if it’s safe. You might be asking yourself if Baku is safe for students or expats or if the Azerbaijan capital is safe for solo female travelers.

My take on it is that Baku is a very safe city. Crime level there is extremely low compared to other big metropolises around the world. Foreigners feel very comfortable in this city and the whole atmosphere of Baku is quite peaceful.

Even if you’re a solo female traveler, you can wander around the parks of Baku without worrying about being bothered or harassed by men.

streets of Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

The streets are very clean and with the creation of a new tourist police service Baku is safer than ever.

Now does that mean that nothing bad ever happens in Baku? Of course not. Like in all big cities, small crimes such as pick-pocketing are not unheard of.

Use common sense when traveling in crowded areas in the city center or late at night.

To avoid being a victim of pickpockets keep your wallet in your front pocket or carry a money belt . Another great option is to travel with a slash-resistant and lockable anti-theft bag . I would also recommend getting good travel insurance that covers theft .

Top things to do in Baku – 14 places worth visiting

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

1. Icheri Sheher

Icheri Sheher or “Old Town” is the heart of the city and is located right in the center of Baku. It’s the place where ancient Baku was founded and has a history of thousands of years.

Icheri Sheher was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2000. The town is surrounded by fortress walls and is a historical ensemble of numerous unique monuments such as the Shirvanshah’s Palace complex, the Maiden Tower, mosques, minarets and the ruins of caravanserais (old inns where travelers could rest) and bathhouses.

Walking around in Baku’s Acropolis feels like walking back in time. There’s a cozy atmosphere, especially at night when the locals are preparing food, playing backgammon or just sitting around and drinking tea in the streets.

Entrance fee : Free

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

2. The Palace of the Shirvanshahs

Shirvanshahs literally means “the kings of Shirvan”. Shirvan was the main territory of the Shirvanshah kingdom and the palace was built in the 15th century in the center of Icheri Sheher.

The architectural style is very exquisite and it emphasizes the art of medieval Islamic civilization.

The Palace complex contains the palace building, the Royal mosque, the Key Gubad mosque, the Divankhana mausoleum where king Khalilullah is buried with his mother and sons, Sufi philosopher Bakuvi’s mausoleum and the ruins of bath houses.

Entrance fee : 10 AZN 

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

3. Discover the city with the Hop on Hop off bus tour of Baku

If you just arrived in Baku and want to get a quick tour of the city for cheap, why not try a hop on hop off bus? This is a great activity to get a quick sense of the city and it brings you to so many of the places mentioned in this guide.

You can get on board at any of the 15 stops along the circuit and buy a 24-hour ticket from the conductor for only 20 Manat. If you have only a few days to spend in Baku and want to see as many places as possible, this is definitely an activity I would recommend!

The bus ticket includes earphones for the audio-guide, a city map, and extra information about most of Baku’s touristic attractions.

At each stop, the bus will stop for two minutes allowing some time to take pictures. You can also hop off the bus to explore the different sights and hop back on again when the next bus comes along, an hour later.

The first stop is across the road from the Hilton Hotel in Azadlig square.

This is where you can find the bus at the beginning of its loop:

The bus runs from 10 AM to 7 PM daily and the ticket is valid for 24 hours.

Bus fee : 20 AZN but the ticket is valid for 24 hours

4. Museum of Miniature Books

This museum, located in Icheri Sheher, is the only one in the world that is dedicated to miniature versions of books. This library is the private collection of Zarifa Salahova and contains thousands of tiny books that originate from all around the world and are written in numerous languages, including Azeri, Russian, English and German.

It’s definitely worth visiting this unique museum!

Entrance fee : Free, donations are welcome

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

5. Stroll around Taza Bazaar

One of the things we love to do while we travel is to visit local bazaars. They give a glimpse into the daily life of the local people, they are a sensory experience and usually very photogenic.

The Taza Bazaar is one of the largest markets of Baku and was opened more than 70 years ago. It’s actually one of the oldest bazaars in Azerbaijan. It is located in the center of the city on Samed Vurgun street.

If you want some amazing pictures of the bazaar, try getting there in the early morning when the light is just perfect. If you’re staying in a hostel and you feel like cooking, you can buy fresh vegetables, herbs, oriental spices and Caspian sea fish there.

6. The Workshop of Ali Shamshi

While you’re wandering through the narrow lanes of the Old City, you’ll suddenly come across a psychedelic looking wall. This is the exterior of Ali Shamshi’s studio, who is a talented artist.

His tiny studio is filled with colorful paintings and quirky installations. Pop in his studio while you’re visiting Icheri Sheher.

Entrance fee : free

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

7. Sunbathe at Bilgah beach

If you want to swim and spend some time working on your tan, Bilgah Beach is the perfect place to do so. While many of Baku’s beaches are spoiled because of oil pollution, Bilgah beach is a clean sandy beach and a great spot to enjoy the sea.

It’s just 35 kilometers northeast of Baku. Admission is free and we’re sure you’ll end up staying there sunbathing for hours. You can get there by taking Bus 185 from Koroghly Metro. The bus stops at Bilgah Sanatorium.

The bus stop where you need to wait is located close to this intersection:

8. Maiden Tower

The Maiden Tower is probably one of Baku’s most famous landmarks. There are a lot of different theories about the purpose of this tower but none is confirmed.

One theory is that the tower was part of the Shirvanshah’s defense system and served as a beacon. People sent alarm signals from this tower to other towers, using smoke by day and fire by night.

Maiden tower in Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

Another theory is that this tower used to be a Zoroastrian temple of fire worship and that with the changing times in the Middle Ages later functioned as a defense tower.

A local friend also told us another legend about this tower: The Shah’s (king) daughter fell in love with a guy whom her father refused her to marry.

The king built this tower to lock her up and the daughter became so desperate that she jumped from the tower and killed herself.

inside maiden tower Baku - Journal of Nomads

One tower, many stories. You can go inside the tower, visit the interactive exhibits and climb the spiral stairs to the top and be rewarded with a nice view of the city.

Entrance fee : 10 AZN

9. Upland Park

Another place where you will be rewarded with an amazing view is Upland Park. The park summarizes the architecture in Baku – a blend of Ottoman, Soviet and ultramodern architecture.

It’s a nice place to walk around. I would definitely recommend you to go there at sunrise or sunset as you’ll have a fantastic view of the harbor and the Caspian Sea. It’s a fairly comfortable climb up the stairs but you can also get there by taking the funicular.

Entrance fee : 2 AZN if you take the funicular, free if you walk

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

10. Flame Towers

The Flame Towers are the tallest skyscrapers in Baku, with a height of 190m. This iconic trio of buildings marks the city’s skyline and is evidence of the country’s oil wealth.

The towers also promote its historic identity as they are inspired by Baku’s history of fire worship.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers

The three flame-shaped towers are set in a triangular shape and each tower has a different function. The tallest of the three is a 39-story residential luxury apartment building.

Imagine the views from your kitchen while having breakfast in the morning! The second tower is a hotel and consists of 318 rooms spread over 36 floors.

The third one is an office tower that provides many commercial office spaces. Not a bad place to work if you ask me! I reckon that those offices definitely come with a nice view!

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers

The towers provide a spectacular light show once the sun goes down. The facades of the three Flame Towers function as large display screens which uses more than 10.000 high-power LED lights!

The light show makes the towers look like they are burning as it depicts a beautiful array of red flames going towards the sky. The display of lights is also arranged to show the Azerbaijani flag in all its glory.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers

Entrance fee: The towers are not open for public visits, unless you’re a resident, office worker or hotel guest. The price of one night in the hotel costs around $170 per night , not exactly a budget-friendly price.

You could always try to become friends with someone who lives in the residential tower or give your best smile at the security guards…

11. Heydar Aliyev Center

The Heydar Aliyev Center is an architectural masterpiece! This cultural center is named after Heydar Aliyev, the first secretary of Soviet Azerbaijan and later president of the Republic of Azerbaijan (2993 – 2003).

The building is considered as one of the main attractions for tourists and became a symbol of modern Baku.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Heydar Aliyev Center

The cultural center was opened in 2012 and was designed by the Iraqi-British award-winning architect Zaha Hadid. The overall shape of the building resembles a wave-like ascension from the ground towards the sky followed by a gradual descent down to the earth.

The center received an award in 2014 for Design of the Year.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Heydar Aliyev Center

The Heydar Aliyev Center houses a conference hall, the Heydar Aliyev museum and multiple exhibition halls. The museum presents the history of Azerbaijan and different stages of Heydar Aliyev’s life and work.

One of the exhibition halls demonstrates all the periods of the history of Azerbaijan and displays items related to different areas of Azerbaijani culture.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Heydar Aliyev Center

Entrance fee: Admiring the architecture of the building is free but if you want to go inside the center, you can buy a ticket for 12 AZN.

This ticket provides you access to the museum and the “Azerbaijan Treasures” exhibition within the Center. You can also buy separate tickets for the other exhibitions that are held.

Heydar Aliyev center - Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

12. Baku Boulevard

The Baku Boulevard is a 3 km long promenade which runs parallel to Baku’s seafront. It was established in 1909, in a time when the Baku oil barons built their mansions along the Caspian shore.

At the beginning of the Soviet period, the boulevard’s area was mismanaged and the situation became worse as the sea began to rise so high that many of the trees and shrubs in the park started to die because of the salinity of the water.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads -Flame Towers - Baku Boulevard

After a big clean-up and a huge renovation and reconstruction work, the boulevard became a popular place for locals and tourists to stroll and relax.

There are now many small parks, fountains, and restaurants. There’s even a weird little Venice setting where you can rent tiny gondolas.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Little Venice

13. Get lost in the streets and get surprised

It sounds cliché but the best way to visit Baku is by picking a random street, start walking and getting lost. You’ll find interesting little shops, exquisite buildings, colorful mosques, beautiful parks, and odd monuments.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

14. Enjoy the sunrise over the Caspian sea

Last but not least on this list of cool things to do in Baku: Enjoying a beautiful sunrise from the pier of Baku. Baku has a long pier that extends far out into the sea. some of the sunrise scenes I captured in this video are from that location.

It’s the perfect place to witness the sun rising above the sea in all its glory. You’ll hear the sound of the waves gently splashing on the peer while feeling the sun gradually warming up your skin.

What are the best day trips from Baku?

Azerbaijan is known as the Land of Fire due to the huge amount of underground oil and gas sources. The natural gas in Azerbaijan’s bowels is so much that it comes to the surface over and over again.

In some places a match dropped accidentally can ignite the gas, which will keep on burning until it fully exhausts. No wonder that Azerbaijan became a pilgrimage destination for fire-worshippers, followers of the Zoroastrian religion.

They believed that the fire sources were the manifestation of divine power so they built altars and temples to worship them. In the suburbs of Baku are some very interesting and unique places where you’ll learn more about the history and richness of the Land of Fire.

1. The mud volcanoes of Qobustan

There are about 1000 mud volcanoes in the world and Azerbaijan is home to one-third of them because the country is a big source of oil and natural gas. The mud volcanoes are formed in places where pockets of underground gas find a weak spot in the earth and force their way to the surface.

That starts first with a big explosion, then a huge flame but instead of magma, there will be a big eruption of mud. Interesting enough the mud is cold so you can touch it without hurting yourself.

The substance contains a lot of minerals so sometimes people come here to take a mud bath in the volcanoes. The mud volcanoes in Qobustan were formed in 2001 and they are definitely a very interesting phenomenon worth visiting!

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan mud volcanoes

How to get to the mud volcanoes from Baku by public transport:

Take bus 125 or any other bus that goes to the Bina Mall. This trip costs 0.50 AZN and you can buy the bus ticket in the ticket machine at the bus stop.

Get off the bus at the mall (it’s the end station anyway) and take bus 195 towards Qobustan and Alat. Don’t get off at Qobustan unless you want to visit the museum .

Although the mud volcanoes are referred to as ‘the Qobustan mud volcanoes’, they are actually located near Alat. Ask the driver to stop at the bus stop in Alat.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan mud volcanoes

It’s a tiny little bus station near a small village. The journey from the mall to Alat is about 55 minutes and costs 0.80 AZN which you pay to the driver once you get off the bus.

You’ve got two options when you’re in Alat. You can take a taxi to the volcanoes. Don’t worry about finding a taxi, the taxi drivers will definitely find you!

They will give you ridiculous prices but don’t give in. Don’t pay more than 15 AZN for a roundtrip! Start walking away and they will lower their price.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan mud volcanoes

The second option is to walk. Walk for about 50m towards the village, take the first road to the left and follow this road for about 2km until you come across train tracks.

Cross it and keep walking. You’ll be up for a long walk in the desert – about 5km one way. Keep following the dirt track and you will see a sign that says ‘volcanoes’. Follow that sign up the hill and you’ll suddenly see the hidden mud volcanoes appear. Take plenty of water with you as it can be super hot in summer!

Check out our vlog about the mud volcanoes:

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2. Qobustan National Park

The National Park of Qobustan is cut up with numerous ravines (in Azerbaijani Qobu), so it’s clear where the park got it’s name from. Qobustan is home to thousands of rock engravings spread over 100km.

The engravings display hunting scenes, people, ships, constellations, and animals. The oldest petroglyphs are 12.000 years old!

UNESCO included the Qobustan Rock Art Cultural Landscape in the World Heritage List in 2007.

It’s considered to be of “outstanding universal value” for the quality and density of the rock art engravings, for the substantial evidence the collection of rock art presents and for the cultural continuity between prehistoric and medieval times that the site reflects.

There’s also a museum on the site that presents a lot of background information about the history of the area and the rock engravings.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan

Entrance fee: 2 AZN, entrance to the museum is included in this price

How to get to Qobustan from Baku by public transport:

Get off the bus at the mall (it’s the end station anyway) and take bus 195 towards Qobustan and Alat. The journey from the mall to Qobustan takes about 40 minutes and costs 0.80 AZN which you pay to the driver once you get off the bus.

You’ll know when to get off because you’ll see a sign with ‘Qobustan’. You can always ask the bus driver in advance to stop there.

The museum and rock engravings are at about 6km from the bus stop in the direction of the hills. You can walk the distance if you’re up for it but make sure that you’re prepared as it can be very hot during summer.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Gobustan

The walk is partially uphill. You can also opt for a taxi, which will be very easy to find but less easy to bargain with taxi drivers. Don’t pay more than 20 AZN and maybe you can make a deal to include a visit to the mud volcanoes for this price (see the section above). The museum is open from 9 am until 5 pm.

3. Atesghah Temple of Baku or Fire Temple of Baku

The Ateshgah Temple of Baku (‘Atash’ is the Persian word for fire) is a religious temple in Surakhani, a suburb of Baku. The pentagonal complex was constructed in the 17th – 18th centuries. In the middle of this complex sits an altar with a natural gas vent, which is known for its natural “eternal flame”, a phenomenon of burning natural gas outlets.

This flame went out in 1969, after the exploitation of petroleum and gas in the area but it’s now lit by gas pipes from the nearby city.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads - Ateshgah Temple - Fire Temple

The temple was founded as a pilgrimage and holy place of Zoroastrians – a group of religious people who worship fire – who were involved in the Silk Route Trade.

They attributed a mystical significance to the inextinguishable fire and came here to worship the relic and practice fire rituals. The temple altar is surrounded by a number of small cells, which accommodated the ascetic worshipers and pilgrims.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

The temple ceased to be a place of worship after 1883 with the installation of petroleum plants and the complex was turned into a museum in 1975. It was also nominated for the List of World Heritage Sites in 1998.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

Entrance fee : 4 AZN

How to get to Ateshgah Temple from Baku by public transport:

Take the metro to Koroghlu. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines in the metro stations and costs 0.50 AZN. Get out at the metro station called Koroghlu.

Walk out the station and to the buses that go towards the suburbs (there’s a sign that will tell you ‘towards Baku’ and ‘to suburbs’). You’ll also see a lot of taxis but you can ignore the drivers who will call out to you.

Take bus 184 towards Amirjan settlement. The last stop of this bus is directly next to Ateshgah temple. All you need to do is cross the train tracks.  

The ride takes about 16 minutes. Pay the driver 0.40 AZN once you get off the bus. 

Walk towards the big walled complex. Chances are that you’ll see a few buses parked there. Enter the gate, go to the right and purchase your entrance ticket at the little kiosk right next to the entrance of the temple.

4. Yanar Dag (Fire Mountain)

One of the most famous tourist places of the “eternal flame” in Azerbaijan is the mountain of Yanar. Well, the word mountain is a bit exaggerated as it’s rather a hill but it’s still quite a fascinating place.

It reminded me a lot of Mount Chimaera in Turkey – which can be properly called a mountain. Both places have natural gas burning in its slopes since ancient times.

Perfect place to have a campfire if you ask me! Yanar Dag has a 10m long wall of fire that is burning continuously alongside the edge of the hill.

The best time to watch it is in the evening when the sight of the blazing hill is most effective. The legend goes that it was a shepherd who actually ignited the fire in the 1950s by tossing a cigarette and that the hill has burnt ever since.

Yanar Dag is declared a state-protected conservation area since 2007.

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

Entrance fee : 3 AZN

How to get to Yanar Dag from Baku by public transport:

Take the metro to Koroghlu. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines in the metro stations and costs 0.50 AZN.

Get out at the metro station named Koroghlu. Walk out the station and to the buses that go towards the suburbs (there’s a sign that will tell you ‘towards Baku’ and ‘to suburbs’).

You’ll also see a lot of taxis but you can ignore the drivers who will call out to you. Take bus 217 towards Yanardag qorugu. This is also where you have to get off the bus. The journey takes about 30 minutes from Koroghlu and you pay 0.45 AZN to the driver when getting off the bus.

Where to stay in Baku

Baku is a city that is worth taking the time to discover, so you will want to stay there at least a night or two. It is a city rich in traditional architecture but it also blends in modern elements.

Baku also offers a wide selection of hostels for budget travelers who want to save money to explore during the day and swap stories with fellow backpackers in the shared kitchen or bar in the evening.

Maybe you’re asking yourself What are the best and cheapest budget hostels in Baku? Here are some hostels where we stayed that we absolutely recommend:

Mr. Hostel Baku

This is a very colorful and cozy hostel right in the city center. It’s the perfect place to relax after a backpacking adventure around Azerbaijan. The staff speaks perfect English and will help you with your registration if needed.

The old city is just 10 minutes away from this hostel so it’s a location where a lot of backpackers end up staying. Freedom Square and the flame towers are less than a 20-minute walk from Mr. Hostel.

Although this establishment is right in the city center of Baku, it feels really calm and quiet inside. There are plenty of desks and cozy couches to work from in the main lobby and the internet connection is super fast.

When we were there, the receptionist helped us get our ferry ticket to cross the Caspian sea and they showed us tons of cool activities we could do in the city. We can’t recommend this place enough.

Click to check out rates and availability for “Mr. Hostel Baku”

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

Freedom Hostel

The living room of this hostel reminded us more of a luxurious home than a budget accommodation. Freedom hostel is a very spacious establishment and the kitchen is huge!

There is also a nice terrace where Cynthia and I spent our evening relaxing in the setting sun.

Baku metro station, as well as the subway station, are not far and can be reached in a few minutes.

Click to check out rates and availability for “Freedom Hostel”

Cheeky Carabao Backpackers Hostel

This hostel has some really cool features. It has a ping-pong table where you can play in the evening with other backpackers, cool walls covered in graffiti and massive rooms. We loved chilling in the lobby and meeting kindred spirits.

The dorms of this hostel are very spacious, and clean and they have very big windows. If you like to cook, there are a few corner stores nearby in Baku where you can get vegetables. The kitchen of the hostel comes fully equipped with pans, dishes and a working stove and oven.

Click to check out rates and availability for “Cheeky Carabao Backpackers Hostel”

What to do in and around Baku – a complete budget guide to Azerbaijan's exquisite capital city - Journal of Nomads

What are the best and cheapest restaurants in Baku?

Baku has a really wide range of restaurants. There are options for all kinds of travel budget. Whether you can’t wait to try local dishes at a great price or you crave international cuisine, eating in Baku won’t disappoint you.

Here are a few budget restaurants that we recommend you check out while in the Azerbaijani capital:

This small cafe became one of our favorite places to eat out when we stayed in the Azeri capital. Araz Cafe is a cozy place with fantastic food almost right next to the fountain square on Nizami street.

For being an Azeri cafe, Araz has some of the best Plov I ever had. It’s as delicious as the rice dishes I ate in Uzbekistan . If you don’t like meat, there are different good options for vegetarians in this restaurant.

Araz Cafe is also a great location to smoke shisha while listening to some live music. If you don’t like the smoke of shisha (how can you not love that perfume?) the cafe has a huge terrace where you can also eat and enjoy a great time.

This is where you can savor the delicious meals and experience the ambiance Araz Cafe offers:

Dolma Restaurant

This restaurant is also located near fountain square close to the old city. The establishment owes its name to a dish famous in Azerbaijan; the dolma.

It’s a dish made of rice and meat stuffed inside grape leaves. This restaurant is probably the best place in Baku to enjoy the typical Azeri dish.

If you’re very hungry, this is the place where you should eat, the portions are humongous and you’ll leave the place absolutely stuffed. If you enjoy wine, you should try out the local pomegranate wine and finish your meal with a shot of strong Raki.

This is where you’ll find Dolma Restaurant in Baku:

This is the restaurant I recommend if you’re looking for a quiet and romantic venue. Eating in Sumakh feels like eating in a five star Michelin restaurant, both for the high quality of the food and for the beautifully decorated dining room.

From the quality of service to the food, design, and atmosphere of the restaurant, in Sumakh everything is at the highest level.

This restaurant has very traditional and authentic Azerbaijani dishes as well as some savory European options. To accompany the meal, Sumakh also offers a fine selection of Azerbaijani wine.

This is where Sumakh is located:

How to get to Baku and travel around the city

How to get from the airport of baku to the city center.

If you fly to Azerbaijan, you’ll be landing at Heydar Aliyev international airport in Baku. Getting from Baku’s international airport to the city center is not very complicated. The airport is located just 21 km away from the city center and you can there by taxi or by city bus.

I explain everything you need to know about reaching the city center from Baku’s international airport in this article .

ferris wheel Baku Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

How to get a taxi in Baku

Taxi drivers in Baku tend to ask exorbitant prices if they see you’re a foreigner. For Azerbaijan as for Central-Asian countries like Uzbekistan or Kazakhstan , it’s better to download the Yandex app on your phone.

Yandex works as a cab-hailing app meaning you won’t have to negotiate directly with the driver and you can avoid being ripped off.

If you use Yandex in Baku, the taxi rides become extremely cheap. Short taxi rides with this app cost 2-3 AZN which is the equivalent of 3 USD.

If you don’t travel with a phone or can’t download Yandex, getting a taxi in Baku might be a bit more complicated. Most official taxis in Baku don’t have a taximeter and drivers typically charge around 15 AZN for rides around the city.

If you don’t speak Russian or Azeri they might even ask more. Taxi drivers generally don’t accept foreign currency so make sure you have some manats with you.

As in Russia it’s quite common to flag down private cars and agree on a price for the ride, this might seem strange, but you’ll see plenty of locals doing it.

Traveling around Baku by city bus

Baku has a very good city bus system. Buses are quite modern and rival city buses you would find in Europe. A bus ticket inside the city costs around 0.20 AZN while buses to the suburbs will typically charge from 0.30 AZN to 0.50 AZN.

Here is a map of all the bus stops in Baku.

Taking the metro in Baku

Traveling around Baku by metro is very practical and you can easily reach a lot of interesting sights around the city. There are two main metro lines in Baku, one going around the city center and another roughly in a northwest-southeast axis. Twenty metro stations are currently opened in the Azerbaijani capital.

A single metro ticket costs 0.30 AZN and the metros are operating between 6 AM and 1 AM the next day.

Top things to do in Baku - Azerbaijan - Journal of Nomads

I hope you will enjoy your stay in Baku as much as we did! In case you have to wait multiple days to catch the boat to Kazakhstan , and have some time to kill, you’ll know what to do in Baku!

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase a product through one of the links, we get a commission at no extra costs to you! See it as a small donation to keep this blog going. Thank you!

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Have a look at our videos of Azerbaijan . Hope we can inspire you to visit this beautiful and off-the-beaten-track country!

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO – AZERBAIJAN TRAVEL TIPS:

  • The Ultimate Travel Guide to Backpacking in Azerbaijan
  • Visa, registration and border crossing in Azerbaijan
  • Traveling from Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan across the Caspian Sea by cargo ship

7 thoughts on “Things to do in Baku – a budget-friendly guide to Azerbaijan’s exquisite capital city”

“Wow, this blog post on ‘Things to Do in Baku’ is an absolute gem! It beautifully captures the essence of Azerbaijan’s exquisite capital city and provides a comprehensive guide for budget-friendly explorations. The author’s attention to detail and personal experiences truly make this article stand out. From exploring the historic Old City to indulging in mouthwatering local cuisine, this guide offers an impressive range of activities to immerse oneself in the vibrant culture and charm of Baku.

Hello Can I use the photos of your site by mentioning the source on my Instagram page?

Hi Rozi, could you send me a direct email concerning your question? You can contact me at [email protected]

Your photos are gorgeous! I’m impressed, this is a wonderful place! Thanks for sharing.

Thank you! Happy to hear you like my photography 🙂

I have read your it’s very informative for readers.Thanks for sharing your valuable knowledge.Keep writing.

Thank you for reading! Happy to hear you appreciated our guide to Baku!

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baku trip guide

Baku, a hidden gem and the capital of Azerbaijan, is seemingly a beautiful concoction of the East and West in all its architectural glory. Sitting attractively on the Caspian coastline, Baku is modern and fancy yet has that medieval magic laced within. The old part of the city is steeped in historic buildings, mosques and heritage edifices while the other side is etched with stunning architecture, futuristic buildings and a hint of luxury. Since it’s the largest city in Azerbaijan it reels tourists in with its metro and rural features that are astonishing as well as entrancing. Baku has a little bit of Europe, a little bit of Asia and of course the Middle-East, making it a massive culture-hub that is undiscovered but a growing rage amongst all travellers.

Location: The country of Azerbaijan is bounded by the Caspian Sea and shares a border with Russia, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia and Iran.

What to expect: As I set foot into Baku, it instantly teleported me to Turkey and Russia, being a great mix of both but with it’s own charm. Laced with a great vibe, tons of sheesha joints, amazing local restaurants, a mysterious old town and futuristic buildings, this destination is a paradise for tourists. With an old world charm yet a modern vibe, Baku offers the best of both – luxury and archaism.

Here’s what you can expect: Marvelous architecture, tall fun shaped buildings, a modern boulevard with the most beautiful hues of greens and blues, high end stores, luxury shopping, a mixed crowd, vintage cars and oil rigs around. All of this borders the Icheri Seher, the old town, the heart of the city which is a medieval village with bricked walls, cobbled lanes, carpet shops, small souvenir stalls, hidden markets and smiling Azeri locals. Both of these sides of Baku blend so seamlessly with a lot of Soviet touches.

baku trip guide

Ideal for: A short getaway I enjoyed the five nights I spent here and might go back some day to explore the country side. So if you reside in the Middle East, Russia or anywhere close to Baku then you should definitely check it out for a weekend getaway but if you’re coming all the way from India or anywhere further, especially for this, I would say club it up with some other country or do it when you come to the Middle East. If you haven’t seen Turkey and Russia, I’d say do those first and then explore Azerbaijan.

Where to stay in Baku: Baku is home to some amazing hotel brands making it easier to pick an accommodation option here. However, it is smart to choose one which is closer to the old town. I spent four nights in the Art Gallery Hotel and I highly recommend it. We had the fountain square to the left, old town to the right and Baku Boulevard opposite us. All the tourist spots were in good proximity, in walking distance to us. The rooms were so beautifully designed; the entire property was very artistic and quirky. It was a hotel seemingly exhibiting supreme artwork with an aesthetic that is to inspire. The breakfast buffet was just as inspiring; there were trolleys rolled out every single morning with fruits, cheese, nuts, cold cuts, etc, while the hot dishes were made to order, instantly. I loved the idea since there was no wastage of food and hot breakfast was accessible and available at all times. The number of rooms were limited and the service was outstanding. Fairmont, Four Seasons, Marriott and Hilton (in the mentioned order) are other great alternatives to stay at.

baku trip guide

Restaurant recommendations in Baku: Baku and food are more or less, synonymous; there is an unending bond between the Capital and its culinary delights. If there is one thing Baku is famous for, then it’s definitely the food. Here, one can find the most profound restaurant set-ups. From underground caves serving local food to lavish fine dining restaurants, Baku has it all! Although, it is a suggestion to steer clear of the buzzing typical tourist spots and instead go to these few recommendations.

Azerbaijan is perched beautifully between the Middle East and Europe hence that reflects in their cuisine too. Expect lots of meat with fresh vegetables, pomegranates, cheese, bread and tons of sheesha spots. Although finding vegetarian food can be tricky, it can be managed in a few restaurants, if one is not too finicky.

Highly recommend these restaurants: 1) Sirvanshah Museum Restaurant – Book a table in advance for dinner and watch their live dance performances (check the dance timings and then book) Loved their food especially, the eggplant rolls and qutab. Make sure to check your bill properly here, they can goof up at times. 2) Chinar : Dined here two nights in a row. If you love Asian food and you’re looking for something fancy then this is your spot. They serve sheesha too! 3) Chayk i: A great lunch spot on the boulevard. 4) Dolma : A must visit when in Baku. Their underground set up is so mesmerising. 5) Firuze: Didn’t get a chance to try this but heard it’s as good as Dolma. 6) Sumac : Highly recommend this spot for a fantastic local fine dining experience. Loved everything we tried here, especially the honey cake. Book a table in advance. 7) Sehrli Tendir : One of my favourite spots in Old Town. Head there for breakfast and order the eggs with tomato, hot bread, labneh, cheese and salad- you will thank me later. 8) Cay bagi 145 : A great spot in the Old town with bricked walls and a medieval vibe. Loved the place for tea and sheesha. Didn’t get a chance to try Nakhchivan, Mugham Club and Sahil Bar and Grill but they were on my list too.

The locals love their tea time and take it too seriously. Make sure to have a good tea experience where they serve you a tea set with jams, chocolates, nuts, local sweets and local tea. Their jam is made out of a fruit and you’re supposed to keep a piece of that in your mouth and then sip tea so that you don’t find it bitter. An experience by itself! Most of the spots serve the set, enjoy it with some sheesha.

* Avoid the restaurant Il Patio on the main square, it was horrible!

Local Dishes to try: 1. Pilaf/ Plov: Rice with meat, dry fruits, apricots, spices, herbs 2. Dolma- Vine leaves stuffed with meat and vegetables 3. Qutab- Local paratha with a stuffing of meat/cheese/greens 4. Kebabs 5. Dushbara -Meat dumplings in a broth 6. Pakhlava- Dessert 7. Saj- Meat and veggies on a copper pan 8. Azeri Breakfast: Tandoor bread with cheese, jams, honey, butter 9. Tea with jam- Locals prefer their tea with a jam fruit

Nightlife If you are looking for a good nightclub then Pacifico is your spot. It gets packed only after 2am and goes on till the wee hours of morning.

Left: Cay Bagi 145; Right: Chayki

baku trip guide

Left: Dolma at Sumac; Right: Honey cake at Sumac

baku trip guide

Sirvanshah Museum Restaurant

baku trip guide

Sehrli Tender

baku trip guide

Left: Paul; Right: Dolma

baku trip guide

Things to do in Baku: The best way to explore the city is by foot.

1. Old Town – Walk around and get lost in the magical cobbled streets of the Icheri Seher. Check out the Maiden Tower, Palace of the Sirvanshah and the entire area around it. 2. Fountain Square 3. Flame Towers 4. Heyder Aliyev Center 5. Upland Park – Take the furnicular up and hang around the park around sunset. Also as you keep walking up you will get the best view of the flame tower. 6. Nizami Street 7. Indulge in good local meals, tea and sheesha

Optional sightseeing: Museum of Miniature Books Carpet Museum Little Venice

Day trips from Baku For this we booked a car and driver through our hotel concierge. We opted for a private tour and it was great- Emil =0552220422 (Couldn’t speak English too well but he was fun to hang out with and knew all the local spots) 8. Gobustan National Park: You will have to hire a car and driver as this spot is an hour away from Baku but definitely visit it. It’s a half day tour from Baku 9. Mud Volcanoes: The mud volcanoes are right in the Gobustan region and a delight to watch.

– You could also tour the famous Ateshgah. Please skip Yanar Dag, I found it a bit hyped and a waste of time. – The candy cane mountains in Khizi Rayon and Siyazan Rayon are also worth exploring. – Places like Shamakhi and Diri Baba were on the list too but didn’t get a chance to visit. -There are also some interesting wine tours from Baku. You could try out the Chabiant Winery

**I would recommend opting for a guided tour outside Baku as language can be a barrier. You can book it from companies like Experience Azerbaijan, Pasha Travels or through your hotel concierge.

Tours Outside Baku The regions of Qabala, Sheki, Ganja, Khizi district and Lahij are definitely very interesting. If you have extra days in hand then hire a car and spend a few days around.

baku trip guide

Left: Flame Towers; Right: Nizami Street

baku trip guide

Left: Baku Boulevard; Right: Baku Old Town

baku trip guide

Left: Gobustan National Park; Right: Mud Volcano

baku trip guide

Don’t leave without: – Eating breakfast at Sehrli Tendir – Taking the local Sumac spice home – Buying their famous mountain honey – A local rug or a carpet – Eat the honey cake at Sumac – Exploring the region of Gobustan – Taking a picture with the flame towers – Eating qutab with greens – Buying local ceramics (Check out Nargis in Old Town) – Walking around aimlessly around Old Town – Sitting in the cute local cab (the one that looks like a London Taxi)

Note: – You can buy a SIM Card at the airport – From the airport hire one of these cute purple and yellow taxis. – Table reservations are required for fancy restaurants. – Opt for tour guides if stepping out of Baku because language can be a barrier.

Things I loved: – I was happy with how cheap the prices at all restaurants are. Everything we ate was so delicious and affordable. Imagine even the best restaurant had an item on the menu which was 0.5$ – Baku is quite safe for everyone. At no point will you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Of course you have to be vigilant and not walk in dark empty lanes late at night.

Important things to know about Baku/ Things I didn’t like: – Scams are extremely common in Azerbaijan so be extremely careful. While we were being dropped to the airport at the end of the trip, the driver demanded an extra amount for parking which he didn’t really have to pay. Of course we didn’t fall prey to it but make sure you demand a bill and be smart. – SIM Card scams are also quite huge. I suggest buying a sim card from the Azercell stall at the airport before the exit. – Always check your bill in the restaurants. They do throw in a few extra things here and there since you won’t understand the names of the dishes. Don’t be afraid to ask about each and everything mentioned in the bill. Also they might charge extra for breads and salads that they bring to the table without asking. – If you’re ordering an UBER make sure to verify the car and driver. Normal taxi guys also yell UBER when they just want some clients. If you’re opting for a normal taxi then please don’t sit in a dingy soviet car, make sure it is a real taxi. -I was a very disappointed with the departure airport staff. They were so rude at the check in and at immigration. Also the airport doesn’t have too many eating options. – Before taking a cab discuss the price to avoid disappointment.

Shopping in Baku: From luxury brands like Dior, Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi etc to high street brands like Zara, Bershka, Baku has most of it. I wouldn’t say the prices are lower than Dubai but the collection is a bit different. You could also head to the Baku Mall for more options or else hop on to the pedestrianized Nizami street for some local buys. I bought some beautiful ceramics for my home (from Nargis Porcelain), local scarves and honey from Old Town.

Budget Overall I found Baku quite cheap as compared to other European places or the Middle East.

Sim Card – 46 Manat (the only thing that was a bit steep) Taxi from airport to the city (purple yellow cab) – 30 Manat Entry to the Sirvanshah Palace – 30 Manat Ceramic shopping – 45 Manat( for two things) Gobustan Tour- 225 Manat (includes pick up from hotel, gobustan national park, mud volcanoes, yanar dag and ateshgah followed by a drop back to the hotel for two adults in a private car) Dolma lunch- 33 Manat (for two) Sirvanshah Museum Restaurant- 80 Manat (for two including wine) Starbucks coffee- 5 Manat Paul lunch- 50 Manat (for two) Chinar- 224 Manat (meal for two including wine and sheesha) Chaiki lunch – 65 Manat(for two) Sumac – 125 Manat (for two with wine)

Best time to visit to Baku: I went in the month of September and absolutely loved the weather. It was 20 to 25degrees, very pleasant. May to August is usually dry and warm. I would recommend anytime between September to March is good.

Number of nights required in Baku: Ideally, four nights are just enough to explore Baku and the Gobustan area at ease. If you want to do other parts of Azerbaijan then you could add a few nights. In three nights you can experience all of Baku and keep one full day for Gobustan.

Getting around Baku: The city is best when explored on foot. I would not recommend renting a car if you plan to spend time only in Baku. But if you want to explore the countryside then I recommend hiring a car and guide. Buses and metros are safe to use but their taxis (London looking cabs) are the cutest. Luckily Uber is also available.

What to pack: Unlike other neighbouring countries, Baku is not so conservative. People are modern and dress like it. But due to the extreme climates you might want to be prepared for any kind of weather. Baku is quite windy and can go from extreme hot to extreme cold in a few hours. If you’re visiting mosques or any religious spots, cover your legs and shoulder. I suggest pack comfortable walking shoes, avoid flashing brands too much, pack a thick jacket and scarves, dresses (avoid shorts) and comfortable pants.

baku trip guide

Language Spoken: The main language spoken is Azerbaijani but the locals also speak a bit of Russian. Most people do manage to speak English as well. Unless you’re in the countryside, language shouldn’t be a problem.

Currency: The local currency is Azerbaijani Manat. Check the exchange rate www.xe.com

Did you know? – Azerbaijan is called the Land of Fire. It was invaded by the Achaemenids aka The Persian Empire and this brought Zoroastrianism which is why you will find the fire worshipping temples in the country. – It is also called as the city of winds. Due to its location on the Caspian Sea you will often find the place very breezy

Fly : Direct flight from Dubai to Baku with Fly Dubai (3 hours) Take a taxi from the airport to the centre (distance is 30km approx).

Visa: Most citizens need an E-visa to enter Baku. It is easy to apply. Check the link here-  evisa.gov.az/en/

With a ravishing coastline and a medieval feel, the city sure did lure me in. Baku is almost enchanting with equal doses of antiquity and modernity, something that you should experience! If you have any other questions about Azerbaijan then do leave them below and I’ll be happy to answer 🙂

baku trip guide

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baku trip guide

2 comments on “Baku-Azerbaijan, Travel Guide”

Thank you for the recommendation! Absolutely loved Sehrli Tandir. Those eggs with tomato… sigh! Would love to explore more of the countryside next time.

Glad you enjoyed it! We landed up ordering two portions of those eggs 🙂 Same here.. Would definitely go back to explore the countryside someday!

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baku trip guide

Insider Tips to Explore the Azeri Capital – Baku Travel Guide 

Last Updated: August 24, 2021

Skyscraper Baku

what to do in Baku

As per a ballpark figure, over a quarter of residents live in the capital city of Azerbaijan. Baku features a dramatic landscape — an architectural mix that reminds one of the graceful Paris and innovative Dubai. Add to this its unequalled cosmopolitan urban charm with well-cobbled streets, recently built subway and fast Wi-Fi. All of this is nestled up together in a clean, beautifully laid out city.

Embracing both tradition and modernity, it is a beautiful city that fits right in your bill. Thanks to the city’s groundbreaking development which manages to entertain all ages and interests. While couples can meander through the wooden parks holding hands, families can relish mouthwatering food at restaurants overlooking the sea.

Useful Things to Know Before You Visit Baku

Most people are aliens to Baku’s lifestyle. In fact, you may have many questions about this destination, such as: Is Baku cheap to travel to? Is Baku safe for travellers? How do we reach Baku? Do locals speak English? This Baku travel guide will answer all your queries in the simplest terms.

Best Time to Visit

Although the temperature is mild all year round, April-June (spring) and September –October (autumn) are the best times to visit Baku. You can have a whale of a time as the city is in full spring. It is dry and warm — the streets turn into a burst of colours and mountains wrapped in sunshine. The city fires up for celebrations and cultural explorers can sightsee their favourite destinations. Then from September to October, marvel at the sandstone and green landscapes with magical transformations of nature.

Get to Baku

Baku Azerbaijan Coastline Caspian

Now, since your holiday is planned, and things are booked, everything depends on how you reach this undiscovered gem of a city. It depends on several factors like budget, time and preferences.

To reach by plane, book tickets to Heydar Aliyev International Airport (GYD), which is located 15 miles out of town. There are no direct flights from the US and Asia, but you will have no issue finding a flight via Turkish or Middles Eastern Airlines. There are direct flights to Moscow, Frankfurt, Kiev and Minsk, while flights from other European cities may have one/ more stopovers. From there, you can hop on the express bus to reach Baku or hire a taxi that could be a tad expensive.

The train ride is an experience on its own. It will whiz you past the scenic fields and verdant landscape. There are cars that will offer comfort and privacy at higher budgets. You can pre-book to avoid delays. Alternatively, you can buy tickets for a public bus that connects Baku with the major cities and costs you less. There are international services from Russia and Iran as well.

Get Around Baku

Baku-eye-Ferris-Wheel

One of the useful things to know before travelling to Baku is the mode of transportation that runs within the city. There are buses and subways that work in a widespread network to carry you to your desired places. Taxis are cheap with 1.30 for every mile, while car rentals can unsettle your budget by demanding 35 per day.

Religion and Language

Islam is the predominant religion in the country. There are other residing communities as well, such as minority Jewish and Orthodox Christians. Most people in Azerbaijan can’t speak English, so it comes in handy to know a phrase or two in their native language for easy conversations. The widely spoken languages are Azerbaijani and Russian.

Oil-Rich City

The history of Azerbaijan is revolved around oil and gas reserves. The second oil boom in 2006 brought another revolution that raised some of the exemplary architecture. Due to the cutting edge technology and unique vision, you get the opportunity to marvel at jaw-dropping masterpieces.

Major Tourist Attractions

city-skyline-azerbaijan-baku

The blue-glassed Flame Towers, the residence of the ruling dynasties Palace of the Shirvanshah, MOMA museum with bean-bags, tailor-made Carpet Museum, waterfront promenade Bulvar, the World Heritage Site of İçəri Şəhər, vantage point at Maiden’s Tower and the leafy piazza Fountains Square are must-visit tourist attractions in Baku. Then tick off Heydar Aliyev Centre, explore Yashil Bazar, visit Mud Volcanoes, and pay homage at Bibi-Heybat Mosque.

Currency Exchange

  • Another significant thing that you should know is that the official currency of Azerbaijan is manat (code: AZN; symbol:).
  • Exchange the foreign currency with the national currency for seamless transactions. The restaurants, shops and markets may accept the US Dollars but are hesitant about accepting the old banknotes issued before 1992.
  • It is handy to carry money in small denominations while shopping.
  • Always exchange the currencies in banks, airports or hotels, and do not deal with private individuals to avoid fraud.
  • Discuss the money with taxi drivers in advance, as they request you to pay in national currency.

Law and Order

  • The traffic on the roads is organised and scrutinised by the police all around. They help to maintain peace and order. So, it’s better to carry an identification card in case of any misunderstanding or problem.
  • Wear decent clothes that are not transparent or revealing to stay away from unwanted attention or fine. Wear walking/ hiking shoes for a comfortable excursion. It could get hot outside, so get those breathable shirts and dresses.
  • Being drunk on the streets is highly prohibited and could result in a punishable offence.

Accommodation in Baku

There is no dearth of fancy hotels and low-priced accommodations in Baku. It stands up to the expectations of being the luxurious capital city of Azerbaijan. You can let your hair down when you prefer to stay in the popular neighbourhoods of Baku, such as the UNESCO-recognised İçərişəhər, flower-crammed Khutor, and the buzzing market ofYaşıl Bazar.   The best-rated, contemporary hotels are Fairmont Baku offering 5-star services, Flame Towers with its rooftop pool, and the Sheraton Baku located in the vicinity of the airport. You are welcomed with warm hospitality and world-class facilities.

It does not harm to tip when eating in any of the restaurants of Baku. A tip of 10% looks friendly. Moreover, in a few restaurants and open-air cafes, if you tip in advance, you can enjoy some real fast services.

Baku is absolutely safe for tourists. Petty thefts are almost negligible. No brownie points for this — stay vigilant in a new destination and use local apps for navigation, to avoid any scam by taxi drivers.

As you browse the local markets and souvenir shops, haggling is encouraged to get the best prices.

Q1. What is BAKU?

BAKU is the capital city of Azerbaijan, a country located in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia.

Q2. What is the perfect time to explore BAKU?

The perfect time to explore BAKU is between April to June and September to October.

Q3. Name some key attractions in BAKU.

Some popular tourist attractions in BAKU include the Old City (Icheri Sheher), the Flame Towers, the Maiden Tower, the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, and the Heydar Aliyev Center.

Q4. Is BAKU a safe city?

Yes it is generally a safe city.

Q5. What languages are spoken in BAKU?

The official language of Azerbaijan is Azerbaijani, which is the most widely spoken language in BAKU. Russian and English are also widely spoken and understood, especially in tourist areas.

Baku is a city that will leave an incredible impression on your heart. All you got to do is to know a few things and follow these tips for a butter-smooth vacation.

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Shaheen Taj

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Shaheen Taj is a freelance travel writer by profession. She is particularly fond of traveling and loves to jot down her experiences and cultural diversities of different countries.

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How To Plan A Trip To Azerbaijan: Itinerary For A Week

Why did we enjoy our week-long trip to Azerbaijan SO much?

In the day and age of the mighty internet, it is hard to find surprises while travelling. Every little attraction has been documented or photographed by someone or the other. Perhaps that is why we enjoyed our trip to Azerbaijan so much – it was after a long time that we visited a country where there were surprises at every corner . We went expecting high-rises in Baku and historical treasures in the countryside. But we met amazing people, saw natural wonders, visited the northernmost villages of Europe, and had some of the best meals we’ve had in a while travelling. The best part? A week-long trip to Azerbaijan is affordable and offers a variety of experiences in one short trip!

As a former member of the USSR, Azerbaijan has a fraught history. The capital Baku has undergone a huge resurgence over the past 10 years. Shopping malls, high-rises, luxury hotels, and a picture-perfect promenade – you’ll find it all here. But driving out of Baku is like stepping back into time. You will find historical treasures without another tourist in sight, natural wonders untouched by tourism, and charming little mountain villages that seem to have walked out of a postcard. Here’s a detailed guide to Azerbaijan and a day-by-day itinerary for a planning your week long trip to Azerbaijan. THIS is Azerbaijan through our eyes!

Candy cane coloured mountains in Azerbaijan

Jump Straight To

Visas and arriving in Azerbaijan

Citizens of most countries need to apply for an Evisa prior to visiting Azerbaijan. This is a seamless and straightforward process but it helps to have hotel bookings and a rough itinerary before applying for a visa.

You will fly into Baku international airport. Most international flights land at the brand new terminal, which makes for an amazing first impression. We flew on AZAL, the national carrier, and the flight as well the service was excellent. The airline operates direct flights to Baku from New Delhi and London. The airport is about 30 kilometres from the centre of the capital and it’s best to take a taxi to your hotel. There are many other airlines that now have good connectivity to Baku. We suggest comparing prices and booking here .

Baku airport

Getting around in Azerbaijan

If you’re planning to stay in Baku and do a couple of day trips around Baku, we would not suggest renting a car. That’s because traffic in Baku can be nightmarish. Moreover public transport is decent and taxis are readily available. You can also use Uber to get from one place to the other.

For day trips and even 2-3 day trips, we would suggest opting for a tour guide. This is because English is not widely understood, especially in the countryside and exploring independently can be a bit challenging. Tour guides will rent a car with a driver for you and pick you up and drop you back at your hotel. This makes it really seamless to explore places. One day trip from Baku that we would highly recommend is to Shamaki (details below)We lucked out and found an amazing tour guide in Baku. Roman is knowledgeable, flexible, and extremely punctual. He also has amazing knowledge of local food joints and historical treasures. We would highly recommend him if you want to plan a short or long trip around Azerbaijan. He doesn’t have a website but you can drop him a WhatsApp message on +994 70 367 51 39 and he is extremely prompt to respond.

If you’re there in Azerbaijan for more than 5 days and enjoy independent and travel, then we would recommend renting a self-drive car after you’re done exploring Baku. We did this on our last 3 days. Read our experience below:

baku trip guide

Suggested itineraries for Azerbaijan

Explore Baku Day trip to Shamakhi half-day trip to Ateshgah and Yanardag

Explore Baku Day trip to Shamakhi half-day trip to Ateshgah and Yanardag 3 day trip to Quba and Xinaliq

Explore Baku & everything it has to offer Day trip to historical treasures of Shamakhi half-day trip to Ateshgah and Yanardag 3 day trip to mountainous villages Northern Azerbaijan – Quba, Xinaliq, Laza Explore Sheki Visit Ganja and Lake Goygol

Budgeting for a trip to Azerbaijan

The amount of money you spend in a country depends heavily on the kind of hotels you stay in, the type of restaurants you visit, and the amount of shopping you do. However Azerbaijan is an extremely affordable country in general.

You can find nice luxury hotels for less than $100 per night. Hostels can be hit or miss, so

Food is incredible everywhere you go. You can get delicious street food for $2-$5. Sit down meals at nice restaurants cost approximately $15 per head.

Renting a car with a driver costs approximately $100 for 1 day. You can negotiate cost of excursions with tour agents or guides. Rates are competitive and affordable. For a self-drive rental, expect to pay around $30-$40 per day for an economy car.

baku trip guide

Food – what to eat in Azerbaijan

I feel like I was to pen poetry for Azeri food. To say it’s good would be the understatement of the year. Make sure you try local drinks such as Ayran (yogurt-based drink), Feijoa juice (pronounced fek-ua, the local fruit is used in drinks all over Azerbaijan), and aerated pear juice. Don’t forget to stop at one of the many supermarkets along the way to sample local fruits and vegetables. Most of the fresh produce in Azerbaijan is organic and tastes incredible.

If you eat meat, you’re in for a treat in Azerbaijan. Try the Lyulya/Lule kebabs (mince-meat skewers), dolmas (steamed grape leaves stuffed with minced meat), and chicken kebabs. Stick to local specialities and avoid ordering fish as it is expensive and not the best.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, there are lots of options for you too. Try vegetarian dolmas, qutab (flatbreads stuffed with spinach), fresh curd, vegetarian piti (soup), local cheeses, and pilaf (rice, seasoned with local flavours).

baku trip guide

Best time to visit Azerbaijan

The best time to visit the country is between March and June and then from September to November. This is because it gets very hot during peak summer months (July and August) and a lot of the mountainous roads are blocked or snowed under during winter months (December- February). However if you want to visit just Baku and Shamakhi, then December is also a good time to visit as the roads in this area are good and you can witness snow-laden panoramas.

View this post on Instagram Hello from Azerbaijan ??? We’ve wanted to explore the country for ages and promised we would do it in 2019! The windy capital, Baku, is full of glittering high-rises, and shopping malls. But we spent our first day walking around the old centre of Baku where cobbled alleys and carpet shops set the tone, with the aroma of freshly-baked sweets & flatbreads wafting from hole-in-wall eateries. That might have tempted us into having baklava for breakfast – don’t judge ?? ✨ ✨ #bruisedpassports #love #travel #ExperienceAzerbaijan #azerbaijan A post shared by Travel & love : Savi and Vid (@bruisedpassports) on Oct 14, 2019 at 5:31am PDT

Packing for Azerbaijan

This is tricky. We visited Azerbaijan in October and got everything from bitterly cold and windy days to scorching heat. I would suggest packing at least one light jumper and one jacket, irrespective of when you visit. Pack more if you’re going during winter months. It can get really windy in Baku as well as the countryside so carrying a light windcheater definitely helps.

Azerbaijan is a fairly progressive country, so you will see locals wearing short skirts and sleeveless tops, especially in Baku. However conservative clothing is preferred in the countryside. We would recommend packing at least a few dresses and trousers that cover your knees and arms, especially for trips to the countryside and visits to mosques.

baku trip guide

Some tips and warnings for exploring Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan is a super safe country to explore. Azeris are friendly and while English isn’t widely understood, they are always willing to help

However do keep a couple of things in mind. Restaurants often tend to overcharge tourists by bringing “specials” to the table or including caviar in a mixed platter of kebabs etc. For this reason, we would recommend ordering only off the menu and taking a screenshot of the menu for reference in case there is a discrepancy in the bill

Similarly, always set a fixed rate with taxi drivers before you get into a local taxi or they might overcharge you for the shortest of distances. You can also avoid this altogether by using Uber or moving around with a tour guide.

Day by day breakdown of a trip to Azerbaijan

I’ve never really seen a city like Baku. One minute you’re surrounded by glittering high-rises and luxury hotels, the next you have tiny eateries and colourful carpet shops in a local market. You could think of it as a mix of Abu Dhabi & Marrakech. We suggest spending at least 3 days in the city.

Accommodation in Baku

We stayed at Intourist Hotel in Baku . The luxury hotel has spacious rooms and a great location, right opposite the Baku Eye. Service and breakfast buffet is mediocre. So you might want to choose another hotel such as Fairmont Baku (located in one of the flame towers) or Four Seasons Baku if you enjoy your luxuries.

baku trip guide

There is no dearth of nightclubs, restaurants, and sightseeing opportunities in Baku. But here are some things you should definitely do in Baku

  • Walk along the waterfront promenade to acquaint yourself with Baku. From here you can see a glimpse of the iconic Flame Towers, Baku Eye, the Caspian Sea, and many other prominent landmarks of the city
  • Spend a morning at Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre and admire the gorgeous architecture
  • Go on a walking tour to the carpet museum, and Little Venice. Drop by Nizami Street for a spot of shopping and lunch. You will find high street shops, designer boutiques, cafes, and restaurants in the area.
  • You should also spend a few hours walking around the Old City – admire the colourful carpet shops, pick up a souvenir or two, sample Baklava from a hole-in-the-wall eatery, visit the Maiden Tower, and the Shirvanshah Palace
  • Pack a shawarma and take the funicular to Highland Park at sunset or once it’s dark. It offers an amazing view of the the city’s skyline and the Flame Towers.
  • There are dozens of amazing restaurants in Baku but 2 mid-range restaurants we really recommend for scrumptious Azeri Meals are Shirvanshah Museum Restaurant and Qaynana restaurant. A meal at either of these will cost you around $15 per person and it’s well worth it. Both restaurants are beautifull, so expect walls adorned with carpets and rooms dotted with traditional artefacts. You will definitely want to take your camera along for these meals.
  • Visit Hyder Mosque (a bit of an offbeat gem at the moment), especially at night when it’s all lit
  • Take a half-day tour to Ateshgah and Yanardag. At Yanardag, trapped gas deposits ensure a . Ateshgah is a temple of great significance to the Zoroastrians.
  • You could also take a day trip to the dramatic cliffs and mud-volcanoes of Gobustan. While this isn’t a particularly scenic part of Azerbaijan, it’s a great place to observe natural phenomena such as spitting mud volcanoes and Palaeolithic carvings. We will forgive you for thinking you are on Mars.

heydar aliyev cultural centre in Baku Azerbaijan

If there is one day trip we recommend from Baku, it is to Shamakhi. You don’t need to start too early from Baku and can easily leave after breakfast. Stop at the shrine of Diri Baba , a Sufi dervish, who spent his life in a cave, carved into a rock. The fascinating site dates back to the fifteenth century.

Next, stop at the magnificent Juma Mosque. Make sure you are wearing something that covers your elbows and knees. Women also need to carry a scarf to cover their head. The intricate and gorgeous Mosque is a photographer’s delight and the best part is, there are rarely more than a handful of people around.

You could also head to the neighbouring Yeddi Gumbaj, a cemetery overlooking the city of Shamaki. But this is easily skippable as it isn’t anything special.

At this point, you can start your drive back to Baku. But if you have an extra night, we’d really recommend spending a night in Tufandag or Shamakhi, surrounded by mountains on all sides. Shamakhi Palace Hotel is an opulent luxury hotel, as the name suggests. But it is quite affordable coming at under $90. Rooms are spacious and boast of gorgeous views overlooking mountains. Don’t leave without sampling their incredible breakfast spread – you will find everything from fresh fruits and pastries to Azeri style eggs and potato cakes on the menu.

mountain view rooms at Shamakhi Palace hotel

Drive back to Baku

Spend a night in Baku as your trip to Northern Azerbaijan starts next. We’d suggest just relaxing but if you’re up for it you can always walk down to the waterfront promenade or even the highland park.

baku trip guide

Quba and Xinaliq

You can book a 3 day trip to Guba and Xinaliq with any travel agency or tour guide.

However after exploring the surroundings of Baku with a guide on our first 4 days in Azerbaijan, we decided to rent a car for this part of our trip. Roads in Northern Azerbaijan (especially between Guba & Xinaliq) can be quite hit and miss with lots of dirt tracks and mountain bends, so we would suggest doing this only if you are an experienced driver. We rented with Avis and the process was seamless. Car rentals start at around $40 per day and fuel is really cheap In Azerbaijan (around $0.5 per litre – perks of being an oil stronghold!).

Quba is a 3 hour drive from Baku. However set aside at least 5 hours for the drive because you definitely need to stop at Candy Cane Mountains on the way. The scenic spot is just an hour away from Baku and comprises of these gorgeous mountains, ideal for a hike and some photographs. The stripey mountains are a unique site but you might have them all to yourself, especially if you go on a weekday. Please beware that there are only 8-10 striped mountains at this spot, so keep a lookout for them while driving

You can stay in an apartment or hotel in Quba. We suggest Shahdag Hotel Guba . You could think of it as a clean 3-4 star hotel, which is the best you’ll get in the city centre. It is affordable, rooms are spacious, and WiFi is good. Breakfast is passable and it even has a terrace restaurant for lunch and dinner. In case you want to venture out for a meal, there are a handful of restaurants in Guba. Of all the restaurants we tried in Guba, a doner shop opposite our hotel and restaurant Sarin (10 minute walk from the hotel) were the best.

baku trip guide

Xinaliq is the highest village in Europe and a must stop on your visit to Northern Azerbaijan. It takes an hour and a half to drive to Xinaliq from Quba. But keep lots of time for stopping along the way because the scenery and mountain roads are absolutely spectacular

If you enjoy truly local experiences, then we suggest spending 1 night at a home stay in Xinaliq. They’re extremely humble rooms in locals’ houses, so this is ideal for solo travels and couples. We don’t suggest doing this if you’re travelling with family or have too much luggage. But if you do, you’ll be greeted warmly. Do not expect elaborate meals but there’s no shortage of Azeri tea and flatbreads stuffed with spinach.

If you’re not staying in Xinaliq, just drive back to your accommodation in Quba for the night. The couple of days we spent driving in the Northern part of Azerbaijan made for a special road trip through the Azeri countryside.

road trip in Azerbaijan to village of Xinaliq

Sheki and Ganja

If you have some more time we would highly recommend continuing onto Sheki and exploring the surrounding of Ganca city, especially Lake Goygol National Park. We couldn’t cover this part on this trip owing to paucity of time but can’t wait to return to explore these beautiful parts of Azerbaijan.

Couple on road trip in Azerbaijan

I hope this answers all your questions about planning an incredible trip to Azerbaijan. If you have any other questions, leave them down below and we’ll definitely answer them soon 🙂

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90 thoughts on “ how to plan a trip to azerbaijan: itinerary for a week ”.

Hey … how about Lankaran and qabala in Azerbaijan.. also how is lagich.. is it worth visiting ?

Qabala is very nice and you can easily see it if you stay overnight in Shamakhi. However the hotel we’ve suggest in Shamakhi has similar views to the ones you’ll find it Qabala. Also, Lankaran and Lagich are decent put stops but would suggest prioritising places like Shamakhi, Xinaliq and Goygol if you have limited time as they are prettier and have more to offer 🙂

Thanks for the detailed itinerary shared. Can u guys tell me if the chargers from India works with Azerbaijan sockets ?

Most sockets in Azerbaijan are type c and f – basically the 2 round pin ones. we always carry a travel adapter just in case. the indian chargers for small devices might work, but for laptops and all are usually 3 pin ones (type d), so you should carry an adapter just to be safe

Hi you both 🙂

My husband and I are planning to visit Azerbaijan with our son who’ll be 15 months when we want to go. Is it OK to travel with a toddler that age? Will the place interest and keep him occupied too?

Hi Gayathri,

Yes we don’t see a reason why your toddler won’t enjoy it 🙂 Most of the hotels have kids’ clubs

Hi Guys, We are traveling next week and I am wondering what is the best way to take a simple card. Heard it’s really expensive at the airport. Thank you

Hey do you mean a SIM card? If so, the easiest way is to buy it on arrival itself. However if you’re there for a short time, then you might not need it as most hotels and restaurants have good wifi 🙂

Guys your detailed itinerary suggestion was very helpful for my 8 day trip. Based on my experience would suggest a few things. 1. You can do a full day trip from Baku which covers 7 attractions including Qobutsan Rock Museum, Mud Volcanoes, Yanardagh & Ateshgah. 2. Sheki is very highly recommended. For me it is a MUST VISIT in Azerbaijan. 3. Qabala was great and a stay at the Tufandag Mountain Resort is very much recommended along with the ski lift rides up the mountain. 4. The road to Lahij goes through a canyon and is absolutely breath taking. Can easily be done on the way from Qabala to Sheki as a stop. For me the journey to Lahij was more interesting than Lahij itself.

I immensely gained from Bruisedpassports post and thought could add a few things that might help others …

Glad to hear you had an amazing trip to Azerbaijan and that our itinerary was helpful 🙂

Thank you so much for your suggestions – they’ll definitely add to the information for someone planning a trip to Azerbaijan in the future.

We were planning a 4 day trip to Baku. Our agent suggested a place called Gabala instead of Shamaki. Which one should we go for? Please suggest. TIA

Hey Rachna,

Yes you could drive further up to Gabala instead of Shamakhi. You won’t go wrong with either option 🙂

Hi Savi, Your itinerary is such a great help! I’m not worrying anymore about my upcoming trip to Azerbaijan. As I’m doing it myself I probably will do some guided day tours in Baku. Is it easy to book while in Baku? And are they cheaper than online ones? Thanks Josh

Hey Josh – It is easy to book tours upon getting to Baku. However you will find the most competitive rates only 🙂

I recently embarked on a remarkable journey to Azerbaijan, and I must say that it exceeded all my expectations. From the moment I landed at the airport until my departure, Roman, our knowledgeable guide, was an invaluable companion, ensuring that every aspect of our trip went smoothly. With his expertise, we explored the fascinating landmarks, savored the local culture, and created memories that will last a lifetime.

On the first day of our itinerary, Roman greeted us at the airport with a warm smile, making us feel instantly welcomed and at ease. Our adventure began with a visit to Highland Park, where we were rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of Baku’s stunning skyline. Roman’s insightful commentary added depth to our experience, allowing us to truly appreciate the significance of the landmarks that stretched out before us.

Next on the list was the iconic Flame Tower, an architectural marvel that symbolizes the modernity and progress of Azerbaijan. Roman’s explanations about the design and significance of the building brought a new level of appreciation to its grandeur. We continued to the Heydar Aliyev Center, a masterpiece of contemporary architecture, where Roman’s passion for the country’s rich history and culture shone through his explanations of the exhibits and the center’s purpose.

One of the highlights of our trip was exploring Little Venice, a charming and picturesque area in Baku. Our visit to the Carpet Museum was equally captivating, as Roman’s deep understanding of Azerbaijan’s artistic heritage brought the intricate designs and craftsmanship to life.

The second day took us to Gabala, a scenic region outside Baku. Roman ensured that our journey was comfortable and enjoyable, and we were enthralled by the beauty of Nohur Lake. The picturesque surroundings, coupled with Roman’s fascinating stories about the region’s history, made it a truly enchanting experience. The visit to the Waterfall and the Cable Car ride were exhilarating additions to the day, offering breathtaking views that left us in awe of Azerbaijan’s natural wonders.

On the third day, Roman guided us through Gobustan, an archaeological treasure trove that left us awe-inspired. The Art Rock Museum showcased ancient rock carvings that vividly depicted the life and customs of early civilizations, and Roman’s deep knowledge and passion for the subject enriched our understanding of this historical site. The exploration continued with a visit to Mud Volcano, a unique phenomenon that fascinated us, and the Fire Temple and Burning Mountain, which held spiritual and mythical significance.

Throughout the journey, Roman’s attentiveness, professionalism, and genuine care for our experience were evident. He ensured that we were comfortable, answered all our questions with patience, and went above and beyond to make our trip unforgettable. His expertise and passion for Azerbaijan’s history, culture, and natural beauty were infectious, igniting a deep appreciation within us.

As our trip came to an end, Roman organized our airport transfer seamlessly, relieving us of any logistical concerns. We departed Azerbaijan with a newfound love for the country, thanks in large part to Roman’s impeccable guidance and assistance.

I wholeheartedly recommend Roman and his services to anyone planning to explore Azerbaijan. With his expertise and unwavering dedication to providing an exceptional travel experience, you can trust that your journey will be filled with unforgettable moments and cherished memories. He can be reached at +994 70 367 51 39

I have been trying to reach Roman since the last one week but his number is not in service. I am planning to go for 3days to azerbaijan. I know it is extremely short but this is the maximum leave I could manage. I have few doubts. 1. What is the possibility of taking car on rent and the prices for 3 days. 2. How to book the cable car at Tufandag? 3. Which places would you suggest to try local food?

Hi, I am Roman. You can reach me in mentioned phone number. +994703675139

Hello.. How much did Roman charge for each day?

Heyy guys Just back from beautiful Azerbaijan. Planned a sudden week long trip to Azerbaijan without doing any research and then stumbled upon your article. I was hesitant travelling alone with kids sans husband, but I Can’t thank you enough for the guide recommendation. Roman was a gem. He was there right from the time we landed at the airport till we departed. He was punctual and very very helpful. Not only did he take us around, he became a great companion for my kids. I would recommend him to anyone I know who is travelling to Azerbaijan. Thanks Roman for making the trip so memorable for us.

So happy to hear that 🙂 Glad you had an amazing time with Roman in Azerbaijan.

Hi, You your whole itinerary seems very exciting for me to visit Azerbaijan for atleast 10days.But will this itinerary be suitable even for solo female travellers?

Thanks Shiba! Very useful !

The last photograph on the beautiful road atop the car is which place?

That’s on the way to Khinaliq/Xinaliq 🙂

Hey, Thank you for sharing!!!

I’ve Canceled my trip to Azerbaijan last year because of the pandemic and I plan to visit it this year, and this guide will help me a lot. Thanks again

Hey, I was just looking up the airlines you mentioned to fly directly from new delhi to Baku. But there isn’t seems to be any. Did you fly from Delhi to Baku or from London?

Hi Srav – there are usually direct flights from both Delhi to Baku & London to Baku via Azerbaijan Airlines. But I believe they are currently suspended due to the pandemic

This is fab!

hi its easy drive to baku

I have visited Azerbaijan in jan 2020 with my wife. Our tour guider was ROMAN he was so Cooperative and know the historical information about Azerbaijan really enjoyed. It feels like he was my childhood friend. Highly recommended from my side.

Can we drive in Azerbaijan with Indian DL (english) or will need IDP

Hello an IDP is preferable though some local car rentals also accept Indian DL 🙂

Thanks for the detailed description its is both interesting and enriching.

We are going to be based out of Baku. Does it make sense to various short trips from Baku or take a longer trip and cover the places that you covered. Thanks.

Hey not all these can be covered on day trips but most can 🙂

Hello, Do you recommend renting an economy car for exploring the countryside or a 4×4? Thinking if I could pack some light trails while exploring. Any recommendations on where to recommend from? Thanks.

Hey Adil – a 4X4 is not compulsory for a road trip in Azerbaijan. You can pick something that is budget-friendly, no problem 🙂

It would be really helpful if you could give recommendation for where to take cars on Rent.

Hey you can compare prices and book car rentals for Azerbaijan here https://kayak.co.in/in?a=kan_148771&lc=en&url=%2Fcars

Hey, Would you suggest visiting Azerbaijan in winters to experience snow?

hey guys.. Awesomely explained 🙂 Just a question how about last week of October to the mountain of Xinaliq for a self driving road trip? Will it be snow and bitter cold?

Hey Nisar – yes I believe so but it’s still gorgeous 🙂

Ohhh what to say about Azerbaijan.. breathtakingly Beautiful country with amazing people .. But we personally cannot imagine Azerbaijan without our guide and friend Roman .. pure hearted soul .. Guys if you are planning to visit Azerbaijan please book Roman as your guide .. He will make your trip 100 times better .. never seen anybody as punctual as Roman .. He knows every nook and corner of Azerbaijan.. he will take you to the best food joints ..He will show the best of Azerbaijan.. Roman was with us throughout our stay ( 11 days ) in Azerbaijan.. he made everything soo easy and smooth for us with 2 toddlers in hand..he even bought jackets foods tea and what not for us .. he became a family.. I am really greatful for Savi and Vid for recommending this gem of a person .. even we loved spending time with his wife wasifa .. booking Roman was the best decision we have made while visiting Azerbaijan.. Thanks again guys ❤️❤️❤️

So so lovely to hear this Rameeza 🙂

Can you please give an idea about the charges

Hey did you visit Xinaliq during end of October, planning to go myself in few days from now. How was the weather and road conditions? Pls do share

Hey road was absolutely fine. Weather was cold, so do pack some woollens, especially a warm down jacket 🙂

Thanks for your detailed explanation. I am planning to travel from Saudi for 7 days with my family in December. I arrive from riyadh to baku and how about the return, should it be from Baku itself or is there any other airport to fly back from? for the ticket purpose.

Hey there – returning from Baku itself is most convenient 🙂

We just returned from our 10 day trip to Azerbaijan and I am really glad I found this blog before we left. We booked Roman as our guide during our stay there and we couldn’t be more grateful for him.

From taking us to breathtaking landscapes, to feeding us delicious local food, Roman helps you get a truly wholesome experience. He recommends and takes you to places based on your interest and is very mindful of your comfort, safety and budget. We particularly enjoyed our two day trip to quba and xinalig village in the mountains where Roman arranged warm azer chai,delicious jam and a home cooked meals for us. I would highly recommend Roman for anyone considering a holiday in Azerbaijan as having him around makes your experience stress free and relaxing.

Hey so happy to hear you enjoyed this guide to Azerbaijan and had a good time on your travels 🙂

Thank you for your detailed description. It is both interesting and informative.

How can we reach Roman? Thank you

Hey – the phone number is in the article above 🙂

I have been trying to reach the number, but it is sadly out of service :/

Hi I am Roman. My mobile is active. You can reach from +994 70 367 51 39

Thanks for sharing your experience in such detail. This is a huge help for those planning to travel to Azerbaijan. I have a question regarding the local currency Manat. Is forex card widely accepted there? Or do you recommend to carry more local currency in cash?

Forex cards are accepted in most of the places. We usually just withdraw a small amount of local currency from ATM when we land in a new place. Carrying Manat from India is not necessary.

hi…planning a 5 day trip to Baku in october…should we stay overnight at GABALA or a day trip is good enough. Any other place near Baku for overnight stay can also be recommended. Thanks in advance

The pictures said it all. Very beautiful captures.

I wanted to understand if we need the driving license for the country in case we opt for car rental and what is the process?

Hey Ananya – if you have an Indian driving licence in English, that will work 🙂

Hi Savi&Vid, The article is really insightful. Thanks for including each and every detail. I just wanted to know how safe it will be for a solo female traveller? Do share your thoughts. One of your ardent followers, Neeraj

Hey Neeraj – it is safe, don’t worry 🙂 However would recommend sticking to the more popular/bigger cities 🙂

Hi Savi& Vid,

your artical is very helpful. we are travelling to Azarbaijan i, on 25th of this month. our next destination is Georgia on 1st Oct from Baku. So we have exact 5 days in hand for exploring Azarbaijan. We are travelling with Family of 5 members(all are pure vegetarians)(Mom-Dad-Sister-in-law and two of us). How to plan the days so that we can explore maximum of Azarbaijan. Can you help? We have booked the flight tickets and visa. No bookings has been made for Azarbaijan. Any tips you will give as we are travelling with family. would you suggest self-driving?

Hello – you can plan based on the article! You should spend all your time in Baku with a day trip to Shamakhi and half-day trip to Ateshgah and Yanardag. Baku has a number of vegetarian restaurants but in remote places like Xinaliq, vegetarian food is harder to find

We are travelling- all adults to Azerbaijan for 5 days in October and were deciding between staying for 2 nights either in Gabala or Quba ? Which one would you guys suggest?

Hey it’s so hard to choose but we love Quba 🙂

The whole itinerary is exciting and helps to plan an efficient trip. Wanted to check if IDP is required or Indian licence would work here and in Georgia both.

Hey Aditya – you can use your Indian licence to drive in Georgia as long as it is in English 🙂

I’m planning on going with my boyfriend to Azerbaijan beginning of November for 10 days. Now we’re backpacking and lifting. Is it safe? We would sleep in hostels 🙂

Is there beautiful nature as well?

Yes it is very safe – we had a great time. Yes there is beautiful nature outside Baku – if y ou want, you can go to the northern village of Xinaliq -it’s very beautiful

Hi Savi and Vid,

You people are gems.Like seriously one in million.I have been following you since my college days and always wanted to plan the whole trip just like yours.

You people carry a pocketful of sunshine wherever you go, brightening the lives of those lucky enough to know you.

I wanted to follow your itinerary to Baku for 7 days.Can i plan in December?Is it worth going

Thank you so much for your kind words Sanya 🙂

Yes Baku should be nice in December but it will be a bit cold, which can always have its own magic 🙂 hope you have an amazing trip

Hi Savi & Vid, we have planned a trip on 15 Dec for a 5-day tour to Baku & Azerbaijan and close tourist attraction, we are vegetarians if you could recommend good veg restaurants.

Hi is end March a good time to visit? Loved ur blog. Keep it up.

Yes March end should be nice 🙂

Do you think AirBnbs (apartments ) are good/safe instead of hotels? We are 3 families and i think it will be economical if we just book a 3bedroom apartment via airbnb?

Rest i am trying to follow you iternaty as well as suggestions in comments.

Yes, they are safe. Go with the ones that have previous reviews and are hosted by superhosts

Hi ! Loved the itinary ‘. can I fly into Baku to visit Georgia and then fly back into Baku on the e – visa and back to mumbai or would have to book one way flights to each destination ?

You can do that theoretically, however make sure that your e-visa for Azerbaijan is a multiple entry one. To be honest, given the good direct flight connections with both baku and georgia from India, we’d do Mumbai-Baku-Georgia-Mumbai

Hello..We are travelling on 23rd March for 10 days. 1) Could you suggest a good travel insurance. 2) Also we are planning to use ThomasCook One Currency Forex card. Hope its accepted in Azerbaijan like every other country. 3) And we are staying in Shahdagh Mountain Resort for 2 nights. Will we get a taxi from Baku to drop us and pick us back after 2 days, or should we book another taxi from Shahdagh to Baku separately. How easy is it to get a cab from Shahdagh back to Baku.

1) We use HDFC ergo and Bajaj Allianz. Thankfully, never had to make a claim till now, but have heard that both these are good with claims 2) You should check that with ThomasCook. 3) I think your hotel should be able to arrange a taxi back from Shahdagh to Baku.

I have used TATA AIG in the past and had made medical claims as well. It was an easy process. I have explored a lot and find this policy to be the best.

Thanks for the amazing description and itinerary details. Also, would connect with Roman for our trip. thanks for recommending him.

I wanted to know:

1) if Azerbaijan is good for restricted mobility residents. I am asking because I have a heart condition due to which I can’t climb stairs and walk on difficult terrain.

2) Is June end a good time to travel. will it be too crowded because of vacations etc.?

Thanks a lot

Hey, any apps / website you would recommend for car rentals for self drive (Automatic) and can you guide on the procedure for international license?

We usually use an aggregator like Skyscanner or Kayak. In Azerbaijan we rented from Avis, and used an Indian license without any problem

Hello, regarding forex, I checked with a couple of forex agencies and they all told me to carry either usd or euros in my forex card because very few of them deal with Manat. Is it ok if I travel with usd or euros in my forex card? From your experience, do you think that’s a good idea or should I get Manat in my forex card?

Doubt that you’ll be able to get Manat added on your forex card. you can get EUR or USD added. You can withdraw Manat on reaching Baku

Hi Savi and Vid

I have followed numerous suggestions on your blog but your recommendation of Roman is completely off. He is a cheat and you should seriously think about removing his suggestion from your website. (I have proof of all that I have written below and am happy to provide you the same to take your decision).

I’d just like to provide my feedback about Roman who has been highly recommended here on this forum. I trusted it blindly as I have followed many suggestions on this website and all so far have been positive but it has been an appalling experience with him.

I asked for a quote for 8 people from the onset and got a quote from him which I agreed to. Just 10 days or so before my arrival suddenly he changed the price saying that we need a bigger vehicle. Again my requirement did not change at any point.

Even though this was a red signal I agreed to the cost revision not wanting to spoil my plans.

Then suddenly on the day before my tour planned by him I was told that the tour is without a guide. Now why would anyone contact a guide for a tour (2 months in advance as well) – take the itinerary suggested by him and go in just a car without a guide. Then he says he was booked out 3 months in advance (I had booked through him 2 months in advance).

I am still in Baku and honestly it has been an appalling experience with him. If after this warning you still plan to contact him please negotiate with Roman like you would a LEGAL contract not assuming anything and EVERY word should be mentioned and vetted and checked again because it will be conveniently used against you when required. Even if any punctuation is missing get it added as that will be used as an excuse later to cheat you and change the agreed to terms. I have proof of all this and am happy to show anyone interested so you do not face the same situation as me.

I have travelled to just about every country in North America, Europe and most of Asia, Austraila and many in Africa – so pretty much the world and nowhere have I seen such blatant volte face as I have right now.

BE careful and safe travels to all.

Hi! Thank you for sharing your experience and insights! It’s of immense help to those planning a visit to Azerbaijan. I am visiting Azerbaijan in May with my daughter. I would love to rent a self drive car as I’ve done many road trips in India including in the Himalayan region. I had some concerns though. How safe would it be for 2 women to drive in the country side by themselves? Does Google Maps work well in the country side? Is there good network for mobiles to work to be able to navigate your way? If you could please help clarify the above concerns it would be a great help. Thanks.

It should be safe provided you follow all normal travel precautions. We had an amazing time driving in Azerbaijan and exploring the remote villages. Google maps and network both worked well. Have a great trip 🙂

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Welcome to Baku

Cosmopolitan and at times chaotic, Baku has a bit of everything. On the western shores of the Caspian Sea, Baku is the largest city in Caucasus and it’s developing at a rapid pace.

Explore the old, the new and everything in between – and learn a bit about Azeri culture and cuisine along the way.

Top things to see and do in Baku

  • Learn about Azeri rug-making on a guided tour of the Carpet Museum.
  • Catch a show at the Azerbaijan State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre – or simply admire the building’s stunning facade.
  • Wander through the old walled city ( Içeri Seher ) and get lost in the magnificent maze of narrow alleyways.
  • Step back through the ages at the Azerbaijan History Museum and be awed by the building’s extravagant interior.
  • Take an afternoon stroll along Baku Boulevard, followed by a spot of twilight shopping at Fountain Square.
  • Treat yourself to some sweet nut pie ( shekerbura ) – one of Azerbaijan’s many culinary delights.

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For a panoramic view of the capital, scale the spiralling stairs of Maiden’s Tower in the old walled city.

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You can get around Baku by bus or taxi. The average city bus journey will cost you about half a dollar. Although the older buses accept cash payments, you will need a BakiKart to pay for your ticket on newer buses. There are also several buses connecting Baku to other major cities in Azerbaijan. These are run by Mtrans and are inexpensive. Taxis are generally not metred and you will need to agree a faree with the driver beforehand. You can also hire a car from one of many international car hire firms in downtown Baku. You have to be at least 21 years old to hire a car in Azerbaijan.

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Felucca boats sailing on the River Nile, at Aswan. Trees are dotted among the buildings in the background.

A practical guide to travel in Egypt, from tipping culture to independent touring

From packing tips to advice on haggling, here’s everything you need to know while planning your trip.

Whether you want to sail down the Nile on a felucca, explore ancient temples, browse the museums of Cairo or go trekking in Sinai, there are a few things to bear in mind when planning your trip to Egypt. Here’s what to be aware of when it comes to visas, tipping, guides and more.

Do I need a visa?

Almost all travellers, including visitors from the UK and the EU, need a visa to travel to Egypt. While it’s possible to get a visa on arrival, it saves time at the airport if you apply online in advance. A single-entry tourist visa costs US$25 (£20). If you plan to stay in the resort towns in Sinai for fewer than 15 days, you do not need a visa. Instead, you receive a ‘permission stamp’ in your passport when you land at Sharm el-Sheikh International Airport. While this option is a money saver, the list of places you’re permitted to visit is quite limited — even Ras Mohamed National Park at the southern tip of Sinai is off limits without the full visa.

What should I pack?

Egypt is a majority Muslim country, so it’s respectful for travellers to dress modestly. For all genders, this means covering everything between your shoulders and knees. You will likely be asked to cover up more if you visit a mosque or church.

The tap water is not safe to drink here so bring a water bottle with a filter, such as those from Lifestraw .

Wi-fi ranges from infuriatingly slow to nonexistent across the country, even at five-star hotels. Get mobile data through your service provider at home or buy an Egyptian SIM card when you land at the airport.

Can I pay by card in Egypt?

Cash reigns supreme but you can use a card at some higher-end hotels and restaurants. Take some Egyptian pounds out of a cash machine when you arrive, but be mindful of the fluctuating exchange rate and don’t take more out than you need. For bigger expenses, consider bringing US dollars, the most — and sometimes only — accepted foreign currency.

Tipping, called baksheesh, infiltrates almost every interaction you’ll have. It’s customary to tip nearly everyone you come in contact with, even for services you don’t want or require. Keep small change on hand for toilet attendants, porters, mosque caretakers and guards at temples and tombs.

Should I join a tour or travel independently?

Egypt has been a package-tour destination since the days of Thomas Cook, who first led a group to Egypt in 1869. The country is well set up for tour groups, and many first-time visitors find this option easiest, with guides and transport logistics arranged for you. Egypt’s historic sites have little signage, making a tour guide a necessity for deeper understanding.

Nile cruises generally run between Luxor and Aswan in both directions, but a few make the long journey from Cairo. Trains, planes and buses connect cities along the Nile, and buses or internal flights can take you to the Red Sea coast.

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Reader's Digest

Reader's Digest

Your Guide to a Florida Keys Road Trip: Key Largo to Key West

Posted: March 12, 2024 | Last updated: March 13, 2024

<p>One of the <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/best-states-road-trip/" rel="noopener noreferrer">best state road trips</a> in America has to be the sun-kissed drive from Key Largo to Key West in the Florida Keys. This road, known as the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, takes you through a 125-mile island chain that begins just south of Miami. It hopscotches over 42 bridges and five islands, and has turquoise waters stretching in every direction into the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico.</p> <p>So if you're looking for the perfect <a href="https://www.rd.com/article/atlantic-coast-road-trip/" rel="noopener noreferrer">Atlantic Coast road trip</a> or <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/best-budget-friendly-beach-destinations/" rel="noopener noreferrer">cheap beach vacation</a>, look no further than this <a href="https://www.rd.com/article/the-ultimate-american-road-trip-guide/" rel="noopener noreferrer">road trip guide</a> from Key Largo to Key West. And if you'd rather travel from Key West to Key Largo, rest easy—the route works either way. There are shuttles that run from Key Largo to Key West, but keep in mind, you'd be missing out on all the fun in between.</p> <p>By the way, once you embark on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, you'll notice that many sites along the way use mile markers (MM) in their address. We use those mile marker points in this story to help you navigate the drive.</p> <p><strong>Get <em>Reader's <b><i>Digest</i></b></em><b>’s</b> </strong><a href="https://www.rd.com/newsletter/?int_source=direct&int_medium=rd.com&int_campaign=nlrda_20221001_topperformingcontentnlsignup&int_placement=incontent" rel="noopener noreferrer"><strong>Read Up newsletter</strong></a><strong> for more travel, humor, cleaning, tech and fun facts all week long.</strong></p>

Your road trip guide to the Florida Keys

One of the best state road trips in America has to be the sun-kissed drive from Key Largo to Key West in the Florida Keys. This road, known as the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, takes you through a 125-mile island chain that begins just south of Miami. It hopscotches over 42 bridges and five islands, and has turquoise waters stretching in every direction into the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and Gulf of Mexico.

So if you're looking for the perfect Atlantic Coast road trip or cheap beach vacation , look no further than this road trip guide from Key Largo to Key West. And if you'd rather travel from Key West to Key Largo, rest easy—the route works either way. There are shuttles that run from Key Largo to Key West, but keep in mind, you'd be missing out on all the fun in between.

By the way, once you embark on the Florida Keys Overseas Highway, you'll notice that many sites along the way use mile markers (MM) in their address. We use those mile marker points in this story to help you navigate the drive.

Get Reader's Digest ’s   Read Up newsletter for more travel, humor, cleaning, tech and fun facts all week long.

<p><strong>Mile marker:</strong> 108–90</p> <p>The first of the Florida Keys you'll hit after driving about an hour south from Miami en route from Key Largo to Key West is, well, Key Largo. Often referred to as the Dive Capital of the World, Key Largo includes one must-see stop: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102.5), the first underwater preserve in the United States.</p> <p>Experienced and novice snorkelers and SCUBA divers will be enthralled by the teeming marine life that lives just below the water's surface, like parrot fish, barracudas and sea turtles. More experienced divers enjoy exploring the USS Spiegel Grove, one of the largest ships ever intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef where pretty fish can thrive.</p> <p>Back on dry land, travelers can wander nearly six miles of trails at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, home to more than 80 species of plants and animals. You can also peruse the work of local artists at myriad galleries.</p> <p><strong>Best beach:</strong> Cannon Beach, found within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, has shallow waters that are perfect for wading. You may even spot cannons and anchors on the beach that remain from a 1715 Spanish shipwreck.</p> <p><strong>Where to eat: </strong>Dig into the catch of the day at The Fish House, Key Largo Conch House or Snook's Bayside Restaurant & Grand Tiki Bar, some of the best <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/traditional-restaurant/">traditional restaurants</a> in the area. If you'd rather turf than surf, check out Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill.</p> <p><strong>Where to stay:</strong> If you can't get enough of the underwater world, stay at <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34344-d218568-Reviews-Jules_Undersea_Lodge-Key_Largo_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Jules' Undersea Lodge</a>, the world's first underwater hotel. If you'd rather keep dry, try the adults-only <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34344-d13980722-Reviews-Bungalows_Key_Largo-Key_Largo_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener">Bungalows Key Largo</a>.</p> <p class="listicle-page__cta-button-shop"><a class="shop-btn" href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34344-d218568-Reviews-Jules_Undersea_Lodge-Key_Largo_Florida_Keys_Florida.html">Book Now</a></p>

Mile marker: 108–90

The first of the Florida Keys you'll hit after driving about an hour south from Miami en route from Key Largo to Key West is, well, Key Largo. Often referred to as the Dive Capital of the World, Key Largo includes one must-see stop: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (MM 102.5), the first underwater preserve in the United States.

Experienced and novice snorkelers and SCUBA divers will be enthralled by the teeming marine life that lives just below the water's surface, like parrot fish, barracudas and sea turtles. More experienced divers enjoy exploring the USS Spiegel Grove, one of the largest ships ever intentionally sunk to create an artificial reef where pretty fish can thrive.

Back on dry land, travelers can wander nearly six miles of trails at Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock Botanical State Park, home to more than 80 species of plants and animals. You can also peruse the work of local artists at myriad galleries.

Best beach: Cannon Beach, found within John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, has shallow waters that are perfect for wading. You may even spot cannons and anchors on the beach that remain from a 1715 Spanish shipwreck.

Where to eat: Dig into the catch of the day at The Fish House, Key Largo Conch House or Snook's Bayside Restaurant & Grand Tiki Bar, some of the best traditional restaurants in the area. If you'd rather turf than surf, check out Jimmy Johnson's Big Chill.

Where to stay: If you can't get enough of the underwater world, stay at Jules' Undersea Lodge , the world's first underwater hotel. If you'd rather keep dry, try the adults-only Bungalows Key Largo .

<p><strong>Mile marker:</strong> 90–63</p> <p>Next up en route from Key Largo to Key West is the fisherman's paradise known as Islamorada. Considered the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, it's where backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly-fishing got their start. Countless seasoned boat captains are ready for hire to take you out to catch the wahoo, marlin, mahi-mahi and tuna that swim in these waters.</p> <p>There's an even quirkier way to interact with fish here: hand-feeding the tarpon off the docks of Robbie's Marina (MM 77.5). Since 1976, countless Keys visitors have stopped to feed them, and more than 100 kinds of fish gather at the docks for their daily snacks. Feeding the fishies there is so popular, it's been named the No. 1 activity in all the Florida Keys.</p> <p>Islamorada is also a terrific spot to kitesurf, stand-up paddleboard, <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/best-hiking-trails/" rel="noopener noreferrer">go for a hike</a> or take a bicycle ride. Stop by the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, where injured or displaced birdies now make their homes. Or visit the History of Diving Museum, which boasts one of the world's largest collections of diving helmets.</p> <p><strong>Best beach:</strong> Anne's Beach is popular with families (and dogs) because of its shallow waters and lack of waves. Take a walk along the boardwalk or enjoy a picnic at one of the covered tables.</p> <p><strong>Where to eat:</strong> For a quintessential casual Florida Keys meal, go to the Hungry Tarpon. If you want more elegant fare, make reservations at Chef Michael's for creatively inspired local dishes.</p> <p><strong>Where to stay:</strong> When it's time to lay your head for the night, check in to one of the new oceanfront suites at <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34346-d84610-Reviews-Cheeca_Lodge_Spa-Islamorada_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cheeca Lodge & Spa</a>, or your own cottage at <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34346-d113464-Reviews-The_Moorings_Village-Islamorada_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener">The Moorings Village & Spa</a>.</p> <p class="listicle-page__cta-button-shop"><a class="shop-btn" href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34346-d84610-Reviews-Cheeca_Lodge_Spa-Islamorada_Florida_Keys_Florida.html">Book Now</a></p>

Mile marker: 90–63

Next up en route from Key Largo to Key West is the fisherman's paradise known as Islamorada. Considered the Sport Fishing Capital of the World, it's where backcountry sport fishing and saltwater fly-fishing got their start. Countless seasoned boat captains are ready for hire to take you out to catch the wahoo, marlin, mahi-mahi and tuna that swim in these waters.

There's an even quirkier way to interact with fish here: hand-feeding the tarpon off the docks of Robbie's Marina (MM 77.5). Since 1976, countless Keys visitors have stopped to feed them, and more than 100 kinds of fish gather at the docks for their daily snacks. Feeding the fishies there is so popular, it's been named the No. 1 activity in all the Florida Keys.

Islamorada is also a terrific spot to kitesurf, stand-up paddleboard, go for a hike or take a bicycle ride. Stop by the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary, where injured or displaced birdies now make their homes. Or visit the History of Diving Museum, which boasts one of the world's largest collections of diving helmets.

Best beach: Anne's Beach is popular with families (and dogs) because of its shallow waters and lack of waves. Take a walk along the boardwalk or enjoy a picnic at one of the covered tables.

Where to eat: For a quintessential casual Florida Keys meal, go to the Hungry Tarpon. If you want more elegant fare, make reservations at Chef Michael's for creatively inspired local dishes.

Where to stay: When it's time to lay your head for the night, check in to one of the new oceanfront suites at Cheeca Lodge & Spa , or your own cottage at The Moorings Village & Spa .

<p><strong>Mile marker:</strong> 63–40</p> <p>Marathon is the island chain's top boating destination—and for good reason. The area boasts nearly 2,400 boat slips and plenty of facilities to accommodate sailors passing through. But you don't need your own boat to enjoy Marathon and its waters.</p> <p>For a truly different experience, hop on over to Cruisin' Tikis and have a floating tiki bar adventure. Sunset, mangrove and harbor cruises are all available, as is a swim-stop cruise for a chance to jump into the water.</p> <p>While you're here, you should also visit Pigeon Key, an island that is accessible by boat, trolley or walking the 2.2-mile Old Seven Mile Bridge. It has a museum to explore, either on a guided tour or on your own. The Bridge is open for walking, running, bicycling, rollerblading and, of course, watching the killer sunrises and sunsets.</p> <p><strong>Best beach: </strong>Sombrero Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in the Florida Keys—not to mention one of the <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/best-florida-beaches/">best beaches in Florida</a>. And it's not just popular with humans; sea turtles nest here between April and October.</p> <p><strong>Where to eat: </strong>For any meal, stop by Castaway, which has been serving guests for more than 70 years. Or make a night of it at Hide Away Café, which has an extensive wine list.</p> <p><strong>Where to stay:</strong> The <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34347-d6784786-Reviews-Faro_Blanco_Resort_Yacht_Club-Marathon_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club</a> is set on the waterfront and gives you a taste of marina life. <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g11962583-d113469-Reviews-Lime_Tree_Bay_Resort-Layton_Long_Key_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener">Lime Tree Bay Resort</a> on Long Key has spacious townhomes for rent.</p> <p class="listicle-page__cta-button-shop"><a class="shop-btn" href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34347-d6784786-Reviews-Faro_Blanco_Resort_Yacht_Club-Marathon_Florida_Keys_Florida.html">Book Now</a></p>

Mile marker: 63–40

Marathon is the island chain's top boating destination—and for good reason. The area boasts nearly 2,400 boat slips and plenty of facilities to accommodate sailors passing through. But you don't need your own boat to enjoy Marathon and its waters.

For a truly different experience, hop on over to Cruisin' Tikis and have a floating tiki bar adventure. Sunset, mangrove and harbor cruises are all available, as is a swim-stop cruise for a chance to jump into the water.

While you're here, you should also visit Pigeon Key, an island that is accessible by boat, trolley or walking the 2.2-mile Old Seven Mile Bridge. It has a museum to explore, either on a guided tour or on your own. The Bridge is open for walking, running, bicycling, rollerblading and, of course, watching the killer sunrises and sunsets.

Best beach: Sombrero Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in the Florida Keys—not to mention one of the best beaches in Florida . And it's not just popular with humans; sea turtles nest here between April and October.

Where to eat: For any meal, stop by Castaway, which has been serving guests for more than 70 years. Or make a night of it at Hide Away Café, which has an extensive wine list.

Where to stay: The Faro Blanco Resort & Yacht Club is set on the waterfront and gives you a taste of marina life. Lime Tree Bay Resort on Long Key has spacious townhomes for rent.

<p><strong>Mile marker:</strong> 40–4</p> <p>After crossing the Old Seven Mile Bridge out of Marathon, you'll find yourself in the Lower Keys, where natural habitats and wildlife refuges thrive. It's no wonder this part of the Florida Keys is known as the Natural Keys. You might even want to consider taking an <a href="https://www.rd.com/article/ev-road-trip/">electric vehicle on this road trip</a> so you don't disturb the animals.</p> <p>Your best chance to spot a native Key deer, a subspecies of the Virginia white-tailed deer that somehow made its way south, may be in the National Key Deer Refuge, comprised of 9,200 acres stretching from Bahia Honda Key to Sugarloaf Key on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. More than 20 endangered and threatened plant and animal species can be found within the refuge. Take a quiet walk at dusk or dawn for your best chance to glimpse a Key deer, or join a ranger-led tour to learn more about the area.</p> <p>Aside from all the eco-friendly fun, Stock Island is well worth a stop. Their maritime history goes back generations, and the marina is filled with shrimping and fishing boats. Artists have been flocking to Stock Island, too, and share their works in galleries dotted across the small island.</p> <p><strong>Best beach: </strong>The shallow, clear water and white sand at Calusa Beach make it a locals' favorite. The beach is a perfect spot for snorkeling too.</p> <p><strong>Where to eat: </strong>In addition to the freshest of seafood, Big Pine Rooster serves up ribs and a special-recipe meatloaf. Or sip like the locals at No Name Pub, located on Big Pine Key.</p> <p><strong>Where to stay:</strong> Consider the waterfront <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34659-d603177-Reviews-Sugarloaf_Lodge-Sugarloaf_Key_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sugarloaf Lodge</a>, stay in an Airstream at <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34085-d113460-Reviews-Big_Pine_Key_Resort-Big_Pine_Key_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Big Pine Key Resort</a> or pop a tent on one of the reserved campsites at Bahia Honda State Park.</p> <p class="listicle-page__cta-button-shop"><a class="shop-btn" href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34659-d603177-Reviews-Sugarloaf_Lodge-Sugarloaf_Key_Florida_Keys_Florida.html">Book Now</a></p>

The Lower Keys

Mile marker: 40–4

After crossing the Old Seven Mile Bridge out of Marathon, you'll find yourself in the Lower Keys, where natural habitats and wildlife refuges thrive. It's no wonder this part of the Florida Keys is known as the Natural Keys. You might even want to consider taking an electric vehicle on this road trip so you don't disturb the animals.

Your best chance to spot a native Key deer, a subspecies of the Virginia white-tailed deer that somehow made its way south, may be in the National Key Deer Refuge, comprised of 9,200 acres stretching from Bahia Honda Key to Sugarloaf Key on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. More than 20 endangered and threatened plant and animal species can be found within the refuge. Take a quiet walk at dusk or dawn for your best chance to glimpse a Key deer, or join a ranger-led tour to learn more about the area.

Aside from all the eco-friendly fun, Stock Island is well worth a stop. Their maritime history goes back generations, and the marina is filled with shrimping and fishing boats. Artists have been flocking to Stock Island, too, and share their works in galleries dotted across the small island.

Best beach: The shallow, clear water and white sand at Calusa Beach make it a locals' favorite. The beach is a perfect spot for snorkeling too.

Where to eat: In addition to the freshest of seafood, Big Pine Rooster serves up ribs and a special-recipe meatloaf. Or sip like the locals at No Name Pub, located on Big Pine Key.

Where to stay: Consider the waterfront Sugarloaf Lodge , stay in an Airstream at Big Pine Key Resort  or pop a tent on one of the reserved campsites at Bahia Honda State Park.

<p><strong>Mile marker:</strong> 4–0</p> <p>You've made it to the end! Closer to Cuba than Miami, Key West is known for its nightly sunset celebrations, party atmosphere and laissez-faire vibe, but it's really so much more.</p> <p>If you're a writer or bookworm, you'll certainly want to make plans to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, where you should keep an eye out for the famous six-toed cats. Then wander through Key West's Bahama Village, a 12-block area of historic homes and restaurants.</p> <p>Consider a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, where you'll find some <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/states-hidden-gems/">hidden gems</a>. The island, accessible by boat or seaplane, is popular for snorkeling and feeling like you're on your own private island, not to mention touring the Civil War–era fort.</p> <p><strong>Best beach: </strong>Fort Zachary Taylor Beach—or Fort Zach, as locals call it—predates the Civil War and boasts the island's very best sandy stretch.</p> <p><strong>Where to eat: </strong>No visit to Key West is complete without a meal at Blue Heaven, where you can dine with wandering roosters for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or snag a spot on the tiny balcony at Santiago's Bodega for tapas and flowing wine.</p> <p><strong>Where to stay:</strong> The boutique <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34345-d227346-Reviews-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gardens Hotel</a>, the adults-only Kimpton Hotels <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34345-d296023-Reviews-Kimpton_Ridley_House-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ridley House</a> or the new <a href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34345-d21408966-Reviews-The_Capitana_Key_West-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html" rel="noopener noreferrer">Capitana Key West</a>, to name a few. Wherever you stay, you're sure to find your place in Key West, and it's likely you'll follow so many others' lead and start planning your return visit before you even leave.</p> <p class="listicle-page__cta-button-shop"><a class="shop-btn" href="https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g34345-d227346-Reviews-The_Gardens_Hotel-Key_West_Florida_Keys_Florida.html">Book Now</a></p>

Mile marker: 4–0

You've made it to the end! Closer to Cuba than Miami, Key West is known for its nightly sunset celebrations, party atmosphere and laissez-faire vibe, but it's really so much more.

If you're a writer or bookworm, you'll certainly want to make plans to visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, where you should keep an eye out for the famous six-toed cats. Then wander through Key West's Bahama Village, a 12-block area of historic homes and restaurants.

Consider a day trip to Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico, where you'll find some hidden gems . The island, accessible by boat or seaplane, is popular for snorkeling and feeling like you're on your own private island, not to mention touring the Civil War–era fort.

Best beach: Fort Zachary Taylor Beach—or Fort Zach, as locals call it—predates the Civil War and boasts the island's very best sandy stretch.

Where to eat: No visit to Key West is complete without a meal at Blue Heaven, where you can dine with wandering roosters for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or snag a spot on the tiny balcony at Santiago's Bodega for tapas and flowing wine.

Where to stay: The boutique Gardens Hotel , the adults-only Kimpton Hotels Ridley House  or the new Capitana Key West , to name a few. Wherever you stay, you're sure to find your place in Key West, and it's likely you'll follow so many others' lead and start planning your return visit before you even leave.

<p>Road-tripping from Key Largo to Key West, it's easy to appreciate all the natural beauty. That said, the Keys aren't just a terrific destination for <a href="https://www.rd.com/article/what-is-ecotourism/">eco-travelers,</a> but artists and history buffs too.</p> <p>It's easy for artists to find inspiration throughout the Florida Keys. Fortunately for road-trippers, there are many spots to stop and admire their work. One of the largest artists' communities in the Florida Keys is Stock Island in the Lower Keys, just about three miles from the commercial area of Key West. What was once a shrimping boat marina is now a blend of fishermen and painters, sculptors and other artisans who have created an energetic and supportive community.</p> <p>For history buffs, in addition to Pigeon Key in Marathon and the Civil War–era Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park, other must-stops in Key West include the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens, Harry S. Truman Little White House and the Southernmost Point in the continental United States.</p>

Art and history in the Florida Keys

Road-tripping from Key Largo to Key West, it's easy to appreciate all the natural beauty. That said, the Keys aren't just a terrific destination for eco-travelers, but artists and history buffs too.

It's easy for artists to find inspiration throughout the Florida Keys. Fortunately for road-trippers, there are many spots to stop and admire their work. One of the largest artists' communities in the Florida Keys is Stock Island in the Lower Keys, just about three miles from the commercial area of Key West. What was once a shrimping boat marina is now a blend of fishermen and painters, sculptors and other artisans who have created an energetic and supportive community.

For history buffs, in addition to Pigeon Key in Marathon and the Civil War–era Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park, other must-stops in Key West include the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens, Harry S. Truman Little White House and the Southernmost Point in the continental United States.

<p>Now that you're inspired to hit the road, it's time to start planning. After <a href="https://www.rd.com/article/road-trip-cost/" rel="noopener noreferrer">budgeting for a road trip</a>, your next step is to decide whether you will travel south from Key Largo to Key West, or north from Key West to Key Largo. Or maybe you'll opt for a roundtrip.</p> <p>If you're starting off in Key Largo, it's important to note that the Florida Keys Overseas Highway begins at the Miami-Dade/Monroe County line. So if you're flying to Florida, Miami International Airport (MIA) is the way to go. If you begin in Key West, the airport (EYW) is on the island.</p> <p>If you're already driving one of the <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/best-road-trip-cars/" rel="noopener noreferrer">best road trip cars</a> to get to Florida, you're all set. But if you need a loaner, choose one of the <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/best-cars-to-rent-for-a-road-trip/" rel="noopener noreferrer">best cars to rent for a road trip</a>. Consider packing these <a href="https://www.rd.com/list/road-trip-essentials/" rel="noopener noreferrer">road trip essentials</a> and download some of the <a href="https://www.rd.com/article/best-podcasts-for-road-trips/" rel="noopener noreferrer">best podcasts for road trips</a> to make the miles fly by.</p>

Planning your Florida Keys road trip

Now that you're inspired to hit the road, it's time to start planning. After budgeting for a road trip , your next step is to decide whether you will travel south from Key Largo to Key West, or north from Key West to Key Largo. Or maybe you'll opt for a roundtrip.

If you're starting off in Key Largo, it's important to note that the Florida Keys Overseas Highway begins at the Miami-Dade/Monroe County line. So if you're flying to Florida, Miami International Airport (MIA) is the way to go. If you begin in Key West, the airport (EYW) is on the island.

If you're already driving one of the best road trip cars to get to Florida, you're all set. But if you need a loaner, choose one of the best cars to rent for a road trip . Consider packing these road trip essentials and download some of the best podcasts for road trips to make the miles fly by.

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I n 1961, future West German chancellor Willy Brandt declared: “The sky above the Ruhr must be blue once more.” His words were greeted with what sounded like applause but was actually his audience falling off their chairs. Because the Ruhrpott, or Ruhrgebiet, an agglomeration of industrial cities that includes Gelsenkirchen (where England will play their opening match of the European Championship this summer), Dortmund (which hosts group matches as well as a semi-final), Essen and Duisburg was a place where the chimneys of the coal, iron and steel industries poked up above the smog like candles on a giant grey birthday cake. You were more likely to slip in unicorn droppings than breathe clean air in the Ruhrpott.

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Today the notion of the Ruhr as a tourist destination may provoke as many German sniggers as Brandt’s prophecy back in 1961. But while this region of more than 5 million people may lack the fairytale castles of Bavaria or the coolness of Berlin, there’s plenty to divert the thousands of fans who will pour into the region in June and July. And that’s even if you leave aside the rich football heritage of the mighty Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04, and perennial battlers such as Rot-Weiss Essen, Bochum and Duisburg.

The deeds and personalities of the region’s great players are commemorated everywhere with wall plaques and massive murals. One is devoted to Dortmund’s 1950s hero Max Michallek, a title-winning veteran defender whose curt reply to Hamburg star Uwe Seeler’s crack about his age, “Even when I’m 70 I’ll stop you!” is the stuff of local legend.

The Ruhrgebiet is accurately described as the industrial valley of the kings. Everything here was built on an epic scale, whether it’s the steel and brick edifice of Zeche Zollverein, once the biggest coalmine in Europe and now a Unesco world heritage site; or Villa Hügel, 19th-century industrialist Alfred Krupp’s 399-room mansion; or the glowing “U” that tops the 75-metre high tower that housed the Dortmunder Union brewery.

Even the Lichtburg, Essen’s classic 1920s cinema (such a model of pre-war German movie-star elegance it’s a surprise not to find Marlene Dietrich propping up the bar) is the largest in Germany.

Schalke’s Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen.

Much of the heavy industry has gone (the last coalmine closed in 2018), but there’s still an impressive amount left. From the Alsumer Berg (like most of the mound-like hills that dot the Ruhr, it’s a former waste dump), where on a fresh spring morning snowy blossom drips from blackthorn trees and thrushes trill beneath a sky which – fulfilling Brandt’s prediction – is as clear and blue as a baby’s eyes, you can look down on the ThyssenKrupp iron and steel plant. It’s a metal metropolis of rolling mills, cooling towers, conveyors and serpentine lengths of pipework wide enough to drive a car through.

On the swirling Rhine, huge barges push up towards the works from Rotterdam, humping coal and iron ore. Railway trucks laden with limestone rattle over bridges and viaducts. Periodically the coking plant is fired, then doused. Clouds of steam spew and excess gas combusts in flare stacks. The sulphurous dragon-breath whiff tickles your nostrils. All this effort is to feed the monstrous appetites of a pair of blackened blast furnaces known locally as “the two dark giants”. To those for whom heavy industry is wreathed in romance and mythology, ThyssenKrupp is a hard hat Middle-earth.

The 24-sided Oberhausen Gasometer is now an exhibition centre.

An hour after descending the Alsumer Berg, I’m standing on top of another massive blast furnace, the decommissioned behemoth at the centre of the Duisburg-Nord landscape park. Below, families sit beneath the cherry trees eating currywurst with chips and dollops of mayonnaise. This spicy, sticky mix is one of the Ruhr’s great culinary delicacies. The Dönninghaus in Bochum claims to make the best bratwurst in the world.

Duisburg-Nord is a masterpiece of imaginative repurposing. The gasometer is now a scuba diving pool and the great concrete storage bins have become climbing walls. More surprisingly, it has become a popular photographic backdrop for those with more niche interests. During my visit I saw a man dressed as an intergalactic warlord brandishing a ray gun, a couple decked in full rubber fetish gear and a manga-style schoolgirl being menaced by a mutant creature with chainsaws for arms. It’s not the sort of thing you’d come across at, say, Beamish Open Air Museum on a Saturday morning, but it suggests that the public have embraced the place.

The same holds true – albeit without the cosplay – of the Oberhausen Gasometer. Standing close to 120 metres in height, the 24-sided steel tower once stored coal and blast furnace gases. Today it’s an exhibition centre that attracts up to 100,000 visitors a day. For all of 2024 the halls are given over to a show about the oceans. On the 40-metre-high projection screen that lines one wall, giant luminous jellyfish float upwards into the darkness.

Lichtburg, Essen’s elegant 1920s cinema

Further east is Duisburg’s inner harbour, where rows of towering Victorian grain stores and flour mills once supplied workers’ daily bread. Now they are art galleries and restaurants. I survey canvases by Anselm Kiefer and Gerhard Richter before demolishing a big slab of sour-sweet plum streusel cake on a terrace overlooking the water.

West along the canal and outlined against the grassy mounds of spoil heaps (all topped by works of art, including Genth and Mutter’s vertigo-inducing rollercoaster staircase the Tiger and Turtle – Magic Mountain) is the pale, rounded outline of the Veltins-Arena in Gelsenkirchen, home of Schalke. The stadium is named after the sponsor, a brewery whose beer is pumped directly into the stadium via a three-mile pipeline.

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Schalke left its original ground, the Glückauf-Kampfbahn ( Gl ück auf was the traditional miners’ greeting) in 1973. It’s still standing, preserved for its elegant 1920s entrance and main stand, and is a pre-match meeting place for fans. At one time many of the players were pitmen at the city’s Consol mine, whose winding tower is a monument. The teams used to go for post-training beers to Bosch, the atmospheric bar next to the Glückauf: its walls are decorated with photos of greats of the past, including scoring phenomenon Ernst Kuzorra.

Inside the Oberhausen Gasometer.

A greater measure of the place Schalke holds in the local imagination can be found in St Joseph’s church. No longer used for services, its altar is decorated in the royal blue and white Schalke colours, and scarves are plastered across its walls. A stained-glass window features Saint Aloysius dressed as a renaissance prince, except for his sturdy football boots. His cloak is blue and white; a ball rests at his feet. He appears ready to run on to the field, though even in the rumbustious 1950s it’s hard to imagine the referee would have allowed him to play while carrying such a big dagger.

Franz Beckenbauer called the Ruhr “the beating heart of German football”. (It’s a measure of regional influence that Toni Turek from Duisburg was the goalkeeper when West Germany won their first World Cup in 1954, Manuel Neuer from Gelsenkirchen when they won their fourth.) So it’s fitting that the national football museum is up the road in the home of Schalke’s rivals, Borussia Dortmund. Here fans of a certain age can get a sweet, misty-eyed hit from vintage Adidas shirts, pose beside the giant photo of Helmut Rahn from Essen (goal-scoring hero of West Germany’s surprise World Cup final victory in 1954) and vote on whether Geoff Hurst’s infamous goal in 1966 (the keeper, Hans Tilkowski, came from Dortmund) actually crossed the line.

Eating out in Duisburg.

In nearby Bochum, a revitalised quarter is clustered around the imposing 1920s Heilig-Kreuz church. Now a performance space, it’s entered through doors designed to resemble the entrances of pit shafts. The massive, pillar-less interior feels like the belly of a whale. In the streets around it are artists’ studios, cafes, vintage stores, restaurants and bars including the excellent Trinkhalle Am Flöz.

Like football, beer is integral to life in the Ruhrpott. In Frohnhauser Sudwerkstatt, a microbrewery and one-room bar in Essen, owner-brewer Peter is an evangelist for British ale. He opened his doors in February uncertain of what to expect. “I didn’t know if people here would like my beer, but you see …” he gestures to a bar whose every square foot is occupied by a German glorying in their first experience of chocolate porter or dark mild.

Later, in Essen’s Holy Craft Süd, drinking unfiltered export pilsner made by brewery Mücke (named after a heroic pit pony from the Zollverein mine), a local bemoans the changes he has seen over his lifetime. “Young people now, they don’t know how it was. When the blast furnaces were working here in the city, at night they turned the whole sky orange.”

Where heavy industry is gone, nostalgia is sure to move in. But it doesn’t have to be all that is left. Rebuilding is tough, but in the Ruhr, a land filled with the skeletons of industrial giants, maybe there are growing signs that a compromise can be reached, that you can merge tradition with modernity, pairing currywurst with a hazy IPA beneath a smokeless sky.

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America's Best Small Beach Town Is an Old Florida Gem With Crystal-clear Waters and a Scenic Bike Path

Old Florida meets laid-back island living in elegant Boca Grande.

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  • The Best Times to Visit

Things to Do

Where to stay, where to eat and drink, where to shop, how to get there.

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While the state of Florida welcomes almost 140 million visitors each year, only a small portion of them make their way to serene Gasparilla Island and its main hub, Boca Grande. This upscale yet down-to-earth community on the Gulf of Mexico is just the right amount of under-the-radar, except when it comes to its role as “tarpon capital of the world."

In the words of Nikki Heimann, manager of The Pink Pony — an island-favorite ice cream shop opened in 1988 by her grandfather — the stoplight- and franchise-free community is “like stepping back in time.”

“Our beaches are stunningly clean and our water is usually clear and sparkling, with a bountiful variety of sea life,” she says. “A big allure is game fishing in our deep-water pass for tarpon. We have two well-maintained historical lighthouses with a museum and state park on the south end, and a smooth bike path that runs the whole length of the island, so many people enjoy renting a golf cart or bicycle to spend the day cruising around. It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for peace, tranquility, and quiet time.”

Beyond its looks, Boca Grande is resilient. Along with much of Southwest Florida, especially Sanibel and Captiva islands to the south, it was devastated by Hurricane Ian in September 2022. The Pink Pony reopened soon after the storm, but other establishments were not so fortunate. “Many iconic features of our landscape are gone forever," Heimann says. "Everyone around here has their story and struggle that they’re going through. We are just thankful we didn’t get washed out.”

Back in action, Boca Grande remains a captivating place to visit — a tranquil respite from the frenetic pace of our modern world (and many parts of Florida) with a beachy, small-town allure. In fact, Travel + Leisure rated it the best small beach town in the country in 2023. Find out why for yourself by exploring the village by golf cart, bike, or your own two feet.

Nikki Heimann, The Pink Pony

It’s a great place to visit if you’re looking for peace, tranquility, and quiet time.

Ben Krut/Getty Images

The Best Times to Visit 

Like many beach towns in Florida , Boca Grande is a seasonal destination. “Most people enjoy coming to the island during our busy ‘social season’ when the town is bustling with activity and the Florida sunshine is a delightful reprieve from the winter snow up north,” Heimann says. This period lasts from approximately Thanksgiving to spring break.

“Then, we roll into tarpon season, when the fishing families come to town and enjoy the island through summertime,” she continues. “Many downtown businesses close during August and September, so that’d be the time to come if you like to sweat in solitude.”

While mid- to late summer is a crowd-free, quieter time in Boca Grande, you may have trouble securing a stay, as the Gasparilla Inn closes annually from mid-July to early October. However, other hotels stay open, and there are assorted vacation rentals available. When planning your visit, remember that the best time to visit Florida , in general, is spring and winter as hurricane season lasts from June 1 through Nov. 30 each year, so there’s always a chance of storms during the summer and fall. 

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As one might expect of America’s best small beach town, the best things to do in Boca Grande are in, around, or on the water — namely, fishing, shelling, boating, beaches, and biking. Heimann says the number one thing she recommends is not so much an activity but an experience: enjoying a sunset either on the beach or a paddleboard. Other things to do include climbing the Gasparilla Island Lighthouse (known locally as the “range light”) and heading to Gasparilla Island State Park for swimming, snorkeling, or fishing. Keep an eye out for the tarpon that often jump and roll in the deep waters of Boca Grande Pass. Or, for more tarpon time, go during the annual World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament , a tradition dating back to the early 1980s. Thousands of dollars in prize money is on the (literal) line.

You can see much of what Gasparilla Island has to offer on the Boca Grande Bike Path . The island is only seven miles long and a half-mile across at its widest point, and this 6.5-mile path runs past highlights like Banyan Street, the Boca Grande Historical Society , and the pretty-in-pink Johann Fust Community Library . The north end is close to Glass Bottom Rentals , where Heimann recommends renting a clear kayak to paddle around the old railroad trestles nearby.

Try to score an invite to the members-only Useppa Island ; otherwise, a day trip to Cayo Costa should scratch the island-adventure itch. It’s accessible only via boat or kayak, with a ferry service available from several mainland locations.

Courtesy of The Gasparilla Inn & Club

Gasparilla Inn & Club 

The Gasparilla Inn & Club represents old Florida at its finest, striking the perfect balance between ritzy and relaxed. The inn has a variety of accommodation options, from rooms and suites in The Main Inn to private cottages and two- to four-bedroom villas. Guests can take part in a range of activities, from golf to croquet, fitness classes, and spa treatments. The inn has four eateries — just be sure to pack with the dress code in mind.

Boca Grande Hotel

The quaint Boca Grande Hotel offers more laid-back accommodations on the north end of Gasparilla Island, near Uncle Henry’s Marina , but the closest public beach access is three miles away. The property has an outdoor pool, loungers that you can rent out and bring with you to the beach, and a guest laundromat for cleaning up before you repack your suitcase. Next door, you can grab a deli sandwich or ice cream from Kappy’s Market .

The Palmetto Inn

A sister to the Boca Grande Hotel, The Palmetto Inn is located in the Downtown Boca Grande Historic District and just a short walk from the beach. Built as a private residence in 1900, it’s now a charming inn with seven suites and some of the lowest in-season rates on the island.

The Innlet on the Waterfront

Located on the waters of the Boca Grande Bayou, The Innlet on the Waterfront is an unfussy charmer with about 30 waterfront and courtyard-facing rooms. Amenities include a pool, on-site restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, plus a full-service marina if you BYOB (Florida-speak for "bring your own boat"). Be on the lookout for manatees as you enjoy your breakfast on the patio of The Outlet.

Gasparilla Inn

Guests of the Gasparilla Inn will be delighted to find that its restaurants are some of Boca Grande’s best. It has an elegant main dining room (open for breakfast and dinner), the casual Pink Elephant (open for lunch and dinner), and the atmospheric BZ’s, where the public and guests alike can enjoy beverages and snacks while taking in views of The Gasparilla Golf Club and Charlotte Harbor. The Beach Club is another favorite for poolside beverages and lunch but is reserved for inn guests and members only.

The Temptation Restaurant 

To experience Boca Grande like a local, order the fish of the day at The Temptation Restaurant . Signature dishes include crab cakes served with roasted shrimp sauce and pan-fried lemony-garlic snapper, while the daily special might be blackened tripletail or chargrilled pompano. The wine list is equally impressive.

Scarpa’s Coastal

Sister to the beloved, family-owned Scarpa’s Italian in Lakeland, Scarpa’s Coastal serves fresh Florida seafood with an Italian flair. It also offers an extensive wine menu with bottles imported from Napa Valley and Italy. Patrons rave about the crab cakes, pasta, and chicken dishes.

Eagle Grille and Miller’s Dockside at Boca Grande Marina

The Boca Grande Marina is home to two restaurants, Eagle Grille and Miller’s Dockside . At Eagle Grille, you’ll find a quieter setting with second-floor waterfront views, while Miller’s Dockside has a sports bar atmosphere right on the water. They have the same menu, full of fresh coastal cuisine like oysters, Gulf grouper, and shrimp.

Sisters Restaurant

It’s not vacation unless you go out for pizza at least once, and Sisters Restaurant is the place to do it. This homey spot offers classic Italian comfort foods to eat indoors or out — and, yes, it really is owned by twin sisters.

The Pink Pony

What’s a beach day without a stop for ice cream? The best place to grab a sweet treat is The Pink Pony, the kind of hometown ice cream shop that once rented out movies on VHS and developed photo film. Things are different now, but visitors can continue at least one generations-old Boca Grande tradition and stop in for hand-dipped Amish ice cream, sorbets, specialty sundaes, shaved ice, all-fruit smoothies, açaí bowls, and coffee drinks. The Pink Pony also has snacks, beer, wine, bagged ice, and souvenirs. And don’t miss Tortuga , the outdoor walk-up window serving authentic Mexican food behind the storefront.

Boca Grande has local, family-owned shops selling souvenirs, art, clothes, and more. Heimann recommends Fugate’s — “a classic island gift store that has a little bit of everything,” she says. Or stop by Barbara Anne’s for a special piece of jewelry to commemorate your trip. 

At the family-owned Smart Studio Art Gallery & Shop (which has another location in Maine), you’ll find stunning local art, including original paintings, prints, driftwood sculptures, gifts, and home decor. Or, if you’re in the market for light tackle or outdoorsy clothing and accessories, stop by Boca Grande Outfitters .

Samuel Foster/Getty Images

Aside from the private Coral Creek Airport, which is less than 10 miles from Boca Grande, there are several public airports nearby. The closest is Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), about an hour away, which is serviced by Sun Country and Allegiant Air with nonstop flights from about 50 cities.

There’s also Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) and Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW), both of which are about an hour and a half away, and Tampa International Airport (TPA), which is about two hours away by car. Boca Grande is over three hours from both Orlando International Airport (MCO) and Miami International Airport (MIA). No matter where you fly into, there’s just one road onto Gasparilla Island: the Boca Grande Causeway.

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