Discover Baku: A blend of tradition, modernity in just half a day

On a recent trip to Azerbaijan, we managed to do a quick five-hour tour of the capital, Baku; and were amazed at what the city had to offer…
Heydar Aliyev Centre
Heydar Aliyev Centre

Azerbaijan’s picturesque geography is crisscrossed by the Caucasian range and on a recent wellness trip, we hardly had any time left to explore the exotic country properly. But with half a day left to ourselves before we caught the flight back to India, we decided to make the most of it by navigating across the famous parts of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. If you too are anywhere in and around the country and have a couple of free days in hand, we’d suggest you not miss Baku — a melting pot of tradition and modernity.

Baku, known for the still waters of Caspian Sea and its historic Inner City is fast becoming a popular destination for tourists from across the globe and the city will constantly remind you of Dubai and Paris in equal parts. A modern, vibrant and bustling city, with state-of-the-art modern architectural marvels and skyscrapers dotting the roads, Baku is also known for its historic monuments and settlements that date back as far as 4th Century BCE. Looking around and moving through the city centre, one is bound to find the broad crossroads and beautifully decorated lanes to be similar to the landscapes in Paris. The equally fashionably dressed locals add further to the feeling.

With only five hours in hand, we decided to amble around the main city centre and began our adventure with Icheri Sheher or the famous Inner City, which covers a small radius of about two kms. As we walked through one of the old gates, we could immediately feel the difference in architecture with cobbled pathways and centuries old but well-maintained houses sprawling across the area.

Palace of Shirvanshahs
Palace of Shirvanshahs
Maiden Tower
Maiden Tower

The charming monuments together constitute the UNESCO-listed Walled City of Baku. What we loved the most about the old city is how some of the ancient heritage structures now house famed hotels and boutiques thronged by foreigners and locals alike.

The whole time, this area was crowded with people, young and old, having a good time over great food and drinks served at the inviting diners within the complex. We too decided to have a taste of the local delicacies at one the most renowned restaurants inside the complex, Shakh Garden, located a stone’s throw away from the Maiden Tower. Housed inside a building that has the nature reserve status for its historical significance, the diner has an enormous caravan setting with a huge tree stump adorned with life-like red flowers taking centrestage.

This iconic food mecca with a trendy ambience is bustling with chattering guests at any time of the day and we loved the live music and had our portraits sketched by a local artist while waiting for the food to arrive. A big warm bowl of local meatball soup served with an assortment of bread, spices and a sprig of zesty spring onions that rejuvenated our tired limbs and readied us for the second leg of our quick walk around the city.

The two main monuments to look around while inside the Old City are Shirvanshah’s Palace and the Maiden Tower. A combo ticket of about 36 manat will give you access to the Palace, Maiden Tower, Tahir Salahov’s House and an Underground Bath. Baku has a lot to offer and so don’t miss a chance to check out the beautiful city, even if it is for a few hours.

Nizami Street
Nizami Street

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