Discover Baku’s Old Town
Enviably located on the coast of the Caspian Sea, Baku is easily one of the Europe’s most captivating capital cities. Oil riches have led to it being dubbed ‘the next Dubai’, but this cosmopolitan capital still retains its historic roots. Baku’s Old Town dates back to the 12th century, and its landmarks, narrow streets and medieval architecture provide a fascinating insight into the city’s treasured past.
Palace of the Shirvanshahs
Icherie Sheher, the native name for Baku’s Old Town, is often referred to as ‘The Walled City’. Its designs and architecture feature an eclectic mix of Arabic, Persian and Russian influences, resulting in a truly unique medieval town.
Simply strolling through the network of narrow streets and small courtyards will leave you with a sense of having travelled back in time. Wandering the charming streets is a great way for young couples to learn about the city’s past. The Walled City is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks in part to the Palace of Shirvanshahs.
Located on the highest point of the Old Town, Shirvanshahs is one of the country’s most treasured architectural masterpieces. Purchase a ticket and explore the artefacts within the museum, as well as the main building, remnants of the ancient bath-house, burial vault and quaint courtyard.
As you make your way through Icherie Sheher, the 28 meter tall Maiden Tower is guaranteed to grab your attention. Many aspects of the tower are shrouded in mystery, such as the origin of the name. Some believe it is named after an ancient King’s daughter who jumped to her death from the top of the tower.
You’ll discover plenty more captivating legends inside the tower, where you can climb the narrow stairs of this magnificent stone-built structure. It’s also well worth a visit during the evening when its exterior is lit up with an array of lights. It’s just a short distance away from the Park Inn by Radisson Azerbaijan Baku Hotel, the perfect route for a romantic walk along the Seaside Boulevard.
Familiarise yourself with local customs
Although Baku is seen as a glamorous and wealthy cosmopolitan city, it still bares the hallmarks of a traditional society. Culture, family and tradition play a key role in day to day life, with a particular focus on hierarchy. It is not uncommon for disputes, even at government levels, to be resolved by consulting respected individuals within the community.
During a short visit to Baku, however, a basic understanding of the most common local customs will keep you right.
Men commonly greet each other with a handshake and a kiss on the cheek, whilst women prefer a hug and a kiss on the left cheek. It’s also worth keeping in mind that younger people are expected to take the initiative when it comes to greeting older people.
If you happen to be invited to someone’s house for dinner, then removing your footwear upon entering and avoiding revealing outfits is recommended. Locals tend to take a relatively relaxed approach to punctuality on such occasions, so turning up half an hour late won’t ruffle too many feathers.
Food and drink
Traditional Azerbaijani cuisine is a blend of Eastern European and Middle Eastern influences. Kebabs are a firm favourite, as is fish and a wide range of vegetables. There is a strong emphasis on flavour, with most dishes containing a variety of herbs and spices.
Baku is awash with restaurants and bars, ranging from back street eateries to glitzy, high-end establishments. Try the Bibi restaurant for a warm welcome and some traditional Persian cuisine. Relaxing live music adds to the atmosphere of this popular eatery.
Black tea, meanwhile, remains one of the most popular beverages in Baku and is commonly served with dessert. To cool down, locals drink Sherbets; a sweet, cold fruit based refreshment.
And fear not, Baku also has a vibrant nightlife with an array of bars and clubs having opened in recent years. Check out the Hezz Club & Restaurant for beers, spirits and a live DJs playing into the early hours. The Brewery, meanwhile, is a funky basement bar serving light, medium and dark beers to a young, fun-loving crowd.