Baku Travel Guide

A Baku street © Mike Butler

The ancient city of Baku is situated on the coast of Azerbaijan, on the Caspian Sea. The city dates back to the 1st century AD and has a long and colourful history, including occupation by the Persians and Russians. Oil was discovered in the 19th century, making Baku a hotly-contested region during World War II and much of the 20th century.

In recent years Baku has embarked on a massive restructuring initiative that has seen ugly Soviet-style buildings torn down to make room for parks and gardens; improvements to services and infrastructure have been substantial and Baku is coming into its own as a modern, 21st century city and one of the most important tourist destinations in the Caucasus.

Despite the modernisation, Baku retains its sense of culture and history with the preservation of the Old City, a walled fortress designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can easily explore the maze of narrow cobbled streets on foot in a single day, seeing stunning medieval structures like the Palace of the Shirvan Shahs and the Maiden's Tower, as well as the public baths and dozens of mosques.

Outside the Old City, glass-shelled towers dominate the skyline and air-conditioned shopping malls replace markets and street-side shops. Baku is renowned for its restaurants and lively nightlife and is home to a number of excellent museums.

Travellers wanting to enjoy the sparkling Caspian Sea may be disappointed by the beaches within the city, however there are several beautiful stretches of sandy beach on the north coast of the Absheron Peninsula that offer excellent facilities, most notably Amburan and Bilgah.

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