If you have never thought about visiting the city of Baku, after reading this article maybe you will change your mind!
Let's start immediately by telling you that Italy is well connected with a low cost airline, we took a Rome-Baku for €49 per person (we only bought one way because we continued the journey towards Georgia and Armenia).
Please note: a visa is required to enter the country, but don't worry!
It is obtained easily on line al costo di 24USD.
From the information gathered, I expected a state-of-the-art country, but the reality far exceeded my expectations.
Already the airport makes you raise your head to look at its architecture... and it's just the appetizer of a very rich menu.
After taking the usual photo of the Azerbaijani flag, having withdrawn some money from the ATM (in fact we recommend withdrawing it directly when you arrive in Azerbaijan), we go out and find a group of English-style black-red taxis waiting for us.
We bargain to get to the center (18 euros is a good price). Enjoy the ride because the taxis have giant glass on the sides and on the roof, you will feel like you have been catapulted into a city that is sometimes futuristic and sometimes gently ancient.
But the question you will ask yourself several times during this stay will be: why didn't we come earlier?
We decided to stay in a hotel that I recommend Maajid Hotel, is located in the historic center but a stone's throw from the wonderful Boulevard.
The rooms overlook the alleys of the citadel (old Town) and from the rooms on the fourth floor you will enjoy a beautiful view of the Flame Towers, the undisputed symbol of Baku, in fact from every corner of the city you will see these three skyscrapers soaring into the sky which light up in the evening with LEDs reproducing the flag of Azerbaijan and various advertisements. Definitely very impactful.
But let's go step by step, taken possession of our room and after a quick shower we are ready to enjoy this afternoon. Our hotel is 300 meters from the metro and from Nariman Narimanov, in 4 stops, we arrive at Icherisheher (ticket cost 20 cents).
So we decide to go and see the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, a must of 21st century fluid architecture. This building by Zaha Hadid draws waves and peaks that blend into each other and if you look at the structure with a touch of irony, the relationship with Marilyn Monroe's skirt is easy, really fun to do live!
I advise you to go for a tour even inside (ticket cost 7 euros).
In fact, it hosts a lot of exhibitions, concerts and different exhibition spaces. It seems to enter a different reality, all white, immense and rounded.
After having a bite to eat, we head towards the Boulevard. The walk on the long park overlooking the bay is truly beautiful. The lights of the sky line, the fountains, the avant-garde buildings make this place unique.
To cross the busy intersections use the underpasses to avoid accidents and fines, consider that in many streets there are no pedestrian crossings but vertical blue signs where it says that it is a pedestrian crossing.
The next day we dedicated everything to the walled Old City declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Here are the most important historical sites.
Immediately behind our hotel is the Palace of the Shirvanshahs (ticket cost 7.50 euros, free under 6). This complex during the Middle Ages was the seat of the rulers of Azerbaijan. For me, the exterior, its courtyards and the small mosque are more interesting. Yes, because we are in a Muslim country even if at first glance it would not seem as the veil is not used much here.
Right in front of the Palace you will find the free museum of the smallest books in the world which has also finished in the Guinness World Record.
Crossing the narrow streets of the citadel you will arrive at the Cuma Mosque where you can enter to see the beautiful decorated vaults around the central dome.
A little further on you will find the Maiden Tower, 29 meters high with 5 meters thick walls, it is the most famous historical icon of Baku. There are various legends that tell of its impregnability and the fate of some girls.
We leave the historic center to avoid tourist restaurants and decide to go to a typical tavern where we taste traditional dishes such as Piti (lamb, potatoes, chickpeas, plums with an exquisite broth) accompanied by Dovga (yogurt sauce with aromatic herbs) , a few skewers of minced meat which here are called Shashlik and a nice basket of warm tandoor bread. Azerbaijani cuisine promoted!
In the evening we go to see what the big lotus flower hides on the sea.
Here we are in a huge shopping center especially dedicated to children. Games and attractions all around, a 5-story slide (under 14s only) and giant go-kart tracks. Ah among other things here in Baku there is the Formula 1 Grand Prix and not in a separate circuit but right in the streets of the city center, very characteristic!
We dedicate the last day to the Yasil market.
If there's one thing we adore and want to live calmly, it's this. The market is the beating soul of a place. They meet, they exchange knowing glances, they speak the same language while remaining silent and I must say that here I have left my heart.
The people we met were a comfort for the soul, they no longer knew what to offer us, from fruit sweets, from tea to spices. But the nice thing is that they didn't do it to sell but to make us appreciate their products, to see our reaction of approval, for a smile from our children. They offered selflessly.
And after buying some typical sweets and some tea, we went back towards the Boulevard crossing Little Venice (perhaps here they exaggerated a little with the comparison), passing in front of the Carpet Museum: one of the most beautiful structures ever seen for a themed museum .
Before leaving this wonderful city we go up to Highland Park where you can enjoy a wonderful view over the whole bay right at the foot of the Flame Towers. (There are two ways to go up, either with the cable car in front of the carpet museum or on foot on the large and innumerable stairways).
We couldn't leave without spending an evening in the name of a good shisha and rose-scented tea, there are many little places and even with the children stop, don't let them be a limit, they will rest and you will enjoy a little of time stopped to observe this city that will have already entered your heart.
Difficult to write what Baku left me.
So much kindness from everyone, so many caresses on the heads of the children. Hospitality, smiles and good food.
Azeris are an amazing people, always ready to help you. There are places that you feel you have entered and you are sure to go back. This is also one of those because this time we only tasted its capital… next time we will explore all of its interior!
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Restare piacevolamente sorpresi nello scoprire una città che coniuga il moderno con l’antico alla perfezione… di certo non una meta turistica blasonata ma a nostro parere dovrebbe esserla!!!
Grazie Fide, concordo pienamente… Baku è stata davvero una bella e gradita sorpresa, nonostante gli studi in fase di pianificazione, siamo rimasti molto colpiti dalla sua architettura, dal suo inconfondibile stile e cultura poi averla vissuta con voi è stata di sicuro il quid in più per conservare un ricordi meraviglioso di questa avventura insieme. Avanti con la prossima!!!