48 hours in Baku, Azerbaijan
This contemporary city criss – crossed with history is a “ must do “ on anyones bucket list. The
landscape features modern elegance like the Flame Towers to the old medieval city that is full of
life. Baku is the architectural love child of Paris , albeit with plenty of Soviet genes floating half –
hidden in the back ground.
Here East and West blend seamlessly or maybe chaotically, in the heart of the city, is the Unesco –
Listed Old City that lies within an arc of the fortress wall.
The second oil boom for the country started around 2006, and turned the city into an architectural
experiment of some of the finest, jaw dropping masterpieces one could see when looking at the
These are some of my recommendations on where to stay, what to do and what to look out for.
Comfort, luxury and location, the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Baku has it all covered. Located on Izmir
street this 5 star premium hotel is strategically located close to the city’s shopping malls, and
business district. It has an indoor and outdoor pool and free , unlimited wifi. Not far from all tourist
attractions like the carpet museum and boardwalk its ideal for any traveller.
Day or night the trio of iconic buildings completed in 2012 is spectacular. Looking up at them during
the day I had that queasy feeling that they were swaying because of their sheer height. These
towers are the WOW factor of Baku, having transformed the skyline of Azerbaijan’s capital.
Designed to symbolise the element of fire, they are a reference to Azerbaijans nickname “ The land
of fire “, historically rooted in a region where natural gas flares emit from the ground.
Also known as Alley of Martyrs this area was formally Kirov Park, now a cemetery and memorial
dedicated to those killed by the Soviet Army during Black January 1990 and the first Nagorno –
Karabakh war from 1988 to 1994. Just a 3 minute walk from the Flame Towers it over looks the
Caspian Sea. The Eternal Flame monument situated at the end of Central avenue is massive, you
can feel the heat a few metres away. From the location one gets the best views of the bay curving
to the horizon to the east.
The Caspian Front Promenade
As with any modern boulevard in the world there is a ferris wheel that lights up the night sky on the
coastline of the Caspian sea. “ can you smell the wealth ? “ was the first question I was asked as I
got close to the calm waters, the answer was ‘ yes “ . Azerbaijan is known for its wealth emanating
from the oil below the ground. Strolling along the water front there is something for everyone from
carousels and parks for children, shopping malls , cafes , cycling and more. The biggest park in
Azerbaijan, it is 26 km long and starts from the Port of Baku on one side and ends at the National
Flag Square where there his the biggest flag of the world.
Known as the king of fruits, the distinct bright, juicy fruit from Azerbajian is recognised as one of the
best in the world due to the country’s unique microclimate and fertile soil. The only country in the
world where all varieties grow, because of the diverse climate the tasty pomegranate is enjoyed as
a drink or in an edible form.There is even an annual festival celebrated in Goychay that cerebrates
the fruit and its traditional uses and symbolic meaning.
This 12th century monument located in the Old City forms part of a group of historic monuments. A
much loved symbol of the old city it looks dark and enigmatic, looking out onto the sea. Climbing
the stairs is well worth the view from the roof where one can take in the alleys and minarets of the
Old City and a wide vista of Baku Bay. In 2011, the tower participated in the “ Earth Hour “
campaign against climate change when large buildings go dark for an hour.
The old city
Referred to as Icherisheher this is the historical core of Baku, the humble heart of the capital it is
one of the most important historical places and must do’s when visiting the city. An oval shaped
pocket of curving roads, one can imagine the trading of carpets, silks and wares over the centuries.
Sunken ruins and restaurants add to the bustle and vibe, while walking I found a delightful little art
shop where the artist took great pride in showing me her art. Cats laze in the sun while people go
about their daily rituals. This is not a visit that should be rushed, the enjoyment lies in the relaxed
The largest pedestrian and shopping centre street in downtown Baku it is named after classical
Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi. Locals love to shop here in the glamorous brand shops and enjoy
dinner in a local or international restaurant. Others just enjoy the walk while taking pictures . There
is something here for everyone be it the random statues, fountains or the night life like the Hard
Burning for 4000 years non stop, through all types of weather be it rain, snow or wind. This
incredible phenomena is worth the drive out of Baku city centre. The flames jump as high as 3
metres into the air from a thin, porous sandstone layer. There is also a small museum that is worth
the walk through where ancient pots are on display as well as other interesting sties to visit in the
Cute and cozy coffee shops have a special type of appeal to them. Kose coffee is just that. Maybe
it was the whiff of coffee as we walked past or the country style decor that pulled us in. Whatever it
was, this coffee shop is well worth the find for a morning cup as one wonders the city’s streets and
alley ways soaking in the rich culture and admiring the magnificent architecture of the buildings.
Leaving the city and heading towards the country side, one sees fields and fields of cotton.
Referred to as the “ White gold “ of Azerbaijan, cotton has a long history of production in the
country. In 2020, the county exported $132 million in raw cotton, making it the 13th largest exporter
of raw cotton in the world.
Need to know:
* South African passport holders require a visa. The application is done online and costs 25 USD
* Health certificate proving vaccination for COVID is required when arriving in Baku
* Qatar airlines is a good option, flying from Johannesburg to Doha then connecting to Baku
* Most people speak English so communication is not difficult
* There are taxi cabs, Uber and Bolt all reasonably priced and accessible
* The plug points are European so best to carry an adaptor
* There is no difference in dress code, stylish and modern clothing is worn with all major luxury
brands and known brands available.
* WIFI is easy to access and getting a sim card for a phone valid for 30 days is another
* Retailers accept bank cards for payments and cash (local currency only called the Manat)
by Marion Kate