In the last century, it was called the Paris of the East, today, at the sight of Baku skyscrapers, Dubai comes to mind more and more — besides, both the former and the latter had and still have oil as a source of wealth. Baku, however, manages to acquire a modern look in an accelerated mode, without losing the charm of an ancient city that carefully preserves the heritage of antiquity. Here, modern architecture is harmoniously combined with medieval buildings. At the same time, Baku is still an eastern city, with a flavor inherent in the mysterious East. Here you can go to the bustling bazaar early in the morning and buy a hand-woven carpet, and in the evening go to admire the futuristic skyscrapers « Flame Towers”. Or, after tasting traditional Azerbaijani dishes in a heart-to-heart atmosphere, end the day with a glass or two at the trendy Bentley’s bar in the Four Seasons hotel.
Note: according to allcitypopulation, the population of Azerbaijan is 10.15 million (2021).
Districts of Baku
For more than a thousand years, Baku has turned from a small fortress that arose in the middle of the Great Silk Road into a large modern metropolis, while retaining its special oriental flavor. Today, the capital of Azerbaijan occupies an area of more than 2,000 square meters. km, and its population exceeds 2 million. The agglomeration is divided into 12 administrative units, including both Greater Baku itself and several urban-type settlements.
Most of the districts of the city were formed in the 20-30s. last century. The youngest administrative units are Nizami and Pirallahinsky, which appeared in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The first is rightfully considered one of the most beautiful districts of Baku, and besides, the famous oriental bazaar “8 km” is located here.
The most expensive part of the city, both for life and for tourism, is its center, which partially covers the Narimanov, Nasimi and Sabail districts. The cheapest housing, shops and cafes are worth looking for on the outskirts of Baku.
Fans of beach holidays should make a choice in favor of the Khazar and Garadagh regions. The latter stretches in a narrow strip along the Caspian coast.
In addition, the Garadagh region attracts the attention of tourists with many interesting sights, including the Gobustan archaeological reserve with its famous rock art. Another interesting part of the city from the point of view of tourist sites is the village of Binagadi, located in the district of the same name. Here you can see the Keireki mud volcano and a paleontological monument – a cemetery of flora and fauna of the 4th period.
Another unique natural attraction is located in the Khazar region. More than 7 sq. km of its area is occupied by the Absheron National Park, on the expanses of which you can meet goitered gazelle, marsh harrier, jackal, mute swan and other rare animals and birds. Tourists are attracted to the Sabail district by the architecture of ancient oriental buildings – the Old City of Icheri Sheher, the Juma Mosque, the Haji Gaiba bathhouse and other ancient buildings, as well as the modern Kempinski Hotel Badamdar water park with steam baths, massages and a hammam.
Communication and Wi-Fi
In Azerbaijan, the GSM 900 system, which is common to European states, is incompatible with Japanese and American-made devices. Russians are better off buying a SIM card from one of the local companies. Despite the fact that our operators work here in international roaming mode, calls from Azercell Telekom or Bakcell will cost a little less. The first operator is preferable for those who plan to visit other regions of Azerbaijan, the second works well only in Baku, but the cost of services is less. You can buy a local SIM card at the airport, at the railway station or in one of the specialized salons.
Internet connection works via 3G. It costs a little and catches well even in the subway. Most cafes and restaurants in the city have free Wi-Fi. It is better to clarify the conditions for the provision of such services in hotels and hotels in advance – some owners charge a small fee for using the Internet. You can also use the wireless network at the airport, libraries and parks.
Baku is surrounded by dozens of villages located at a distance of 10-15 km and, together with the city, make up the Baku agglomeration. Most of them are located on the coast of the Caspian Sea (Bilgah, Mardakan, Novkhany, etc.) and have their own sanatoriums, hydropathic centers, boarding houses and beautiful well-maintained beaches.
Due to the special geographical position, there are practically no pebble beaches on the Caspian Sea. Along the entire length of the Baku coast, the approaches to the water are covered with pure fine sand. The descent into the sea is gentle, in order to get to a great depth, sometimes you need to move away from the coast at a decent distance.
In some areas, for example, near the village of Zagulba, the sandy beach turns into a rocky seabed.
The most visited beaches in Baku are located in Novxani – Barbados Beach, Crescent Beach, Sahil Beach and Palm Beach. Most of them have a developed infrastructure – there are changing cabins, sunbeds and umbrellas, plastic tables and chairs, storage rooms, a shower and a toilet. Most of the beaches belong to the owners of hotels, inns and boarding houses. Some charge a fixed entrance fee (usually in the range of 15-40 AZN), which also includes the use of all the benefits of civilization. On others, you will have to pay for umbrellas, sunbeds and car parking separately. On the coast there is coarse sand mixed with shell rock, and the seabed is sometimes covered with algae.
Rest on the coast of Baku combines clean picturesque beaches and a European level of service.
Near the village of Mardakan there are some of the cleanest and most comfortable beaches in Baku. It is worth highlighting “Jazzy Beach”, “Moon Light Beach” and “Khazar Golden Beach”, “Amburan”, “Dalga”, “Sea Breeze”. In addition to the standard set of services, there are swimming pools and water parks, and numerous cafes and restaurants offer dishes from different nations of the world. Entrance – 20-50 AZN.
- Is the sea clean in Baku
Diving and kitesurfing in Baku
Although the city is located on the very shore of the Caspian Sea, and the seabed near the Absheron Peninsula hides a huge number of secrets and mysteries, diving in Baku is not very well developed. The first specialized clubs began to appear here only in the early 2000s. Local explorers of the depths are trained in an indoor pool equipped for this purpose. The course consists of 10 lessons and an exam, which will cost 380 AZN along with equipment rental. Having received the coveted certificate, you can safely go to Pirallahi Island, where local divers dive.
For those who like to dive the bottom of the Caspian Sea, this area is interesting primarily for sunken ships. Over the years, there have been many shipwrecks here, so you can stumble upon both old sailboats and modern ships. There are also legends about the underwater city and Stenka Razin, whose gold was buried on the seabed.
Fans of kitesurfing and those who just want to master it are welcome to visit the Blueplanet resort in the village of Shorabad near Baku. This is the first kitesurfing center where you can fully experience the power of the famous Baku winds. The center offers specialized lessons and courses, it is possible to buy or rent kites, boards and other necessary accessories. Having mastered the basic skills of kitesurfing in shallow water, daredevils will certainly strive to go to the open sea. If you don’t want to surf, a modern beach club and a restaurant serving international cuisine make the center a great place to relax.
In the new part of the city, there are many shops and boutiques selling world famous brands. To shop in them, you need to have a tidy sum in your pocket. There are several large shopping centers where you can buy shoes and accessories from Italian manufacturers for 200-300 AZN.
Real Baku-style shopping is far from fashionable boutiques. To feel the whole flavor of this city, you should go to the oriental bazaars and local “flea markets”. Merchants offer buyers everything – from clothes and shoes to antiques, and you can and should bargain with them. In the markets you can find local souvenirs – armuds and tablecloths with a buta pattern. In the food parts of the bazaars, spices and the famous white cherry jam are sold. Carpets are a separate issue. Their choice is huge, prices start from 900 AZN.
When buying a carpet, it is necessary to issue a certificate, otherwise there may be problems with customs at the exit.
- What to buy in Baku stores
Cafes and restaurants in Baku
It is impossible to leave Baku without trying the famous Azerbaijani dishes, the recipes of which are passed down from generation to generation. Throughout the city, there are a lot of inexpensive cafes offering their guests all kinds of kebabs, shish kebabs and the famous “kutab” – pita bread with various fillings. You can have a bite to eat in such establishments for 5-10 AZN. There are many restaurants in the old town, interesting not only for the local traditional cuisine, but also for the authentic atmosphere. It can be seen in the interiors and the attitude of the staff towards visitors – true oriental hospitality. Lunch will cost 10-20 AZN.
For 8-12 AZN you can have a delicious breakfast in one of the European-style cafes, or even better – in a local restaurant to feel like an old-timer. The menu includes pancakes, croissants and scrambled eggs with bacon, and from the local cuisine – the famous scrambled eggs with tomatoes – yumurta-tomato, which is served with freshly baked bread in a tandoor, honey and delicious tea. If you need a bite to eat on the run, feel free to head to the kiosks with shawarma, donuts and other pastries. They cook here quickly, tasty and at the same time keep the workplace clean. Turkish shawarma from local merchants is even tastier than the Turks themselves.
In restaurants of national cuisine, you can taste unusual dishes and plunge into the atmosphere of oriental hospitality.
The city has several respectable bars, restaurants and nightclubs. The average price tag in them is much higher than in other institutions of the city, the cost of dinner starts from 40-60 AZN. However, you can pay for the luxurious interior, European service, skillful presentation of dishes and excellent views of the city and the sea.